Make Your Mixes Wider than Ever
Ever come across instruments that sound narrow, bland, or just plain uninspiring? If you’ve determined that timbre, rhythm or performance isn’t the problem, then what’s left? Why does it still sound flat? If the recording is in mono, that could be your problem, and how many times have you recorded a guitar or voice through a single mic input? There’s no simpler, quicker way to widen your mix than by enhancing mono instrument tracks using simple, yet powerful delay techniques:
1) Using the effects section of your mixing hardware or software, choose & load a mono delay effect. Make sure the return of the delay effect is routed to a new mono channel on your mixer. Using Propellerhead Reason, we selected the classic DD1 digital delay effect, routing it automatically to the first channel by right-clicking on the mixer and selecting “Create>DD1 Digital Delay.” The delay name displays automatically under the first return.
2) Within the delay effect’s parameters, turn down all feedback and regeneration under the delay’s feedback control section. Turn the delay’s mix signal to 100% wet. Pan the mono delay return either hard left or hard right in your mix. If, like us, you’re using Propellerhead Reason, you can achieve the same thing by using the DD1’s pan knob.
3) Take the mono instrument track that needs enhancement and hard pan it opposite of your delay’s pan. Next, send some of the instrument track’s signal into the delay unit via a send/auxiliary bus that is assigned to the delay’s input. Both the send/auxiliary bus knob, and the pan knob can be found on the mixer channel strip. At left are the aux 1 send and pan knob of mixer channel 1 in Propellerhead Reason.
4) Within the delay’s parameters, slowly adjust the delay time starting from 8ms through 35ms. Depending on the nature of the instrument’s signal & tempo of the song, you’ll start to notice the image of the instrument widening from it’s original mono signal into a nice warm stereo spread! Adjust the millisecond amount (8ms-35ms) to achieve the most desirable amount of spread.
5) Lastly, experiment with the newly created stereo image by balancing volume levels between the dry signal’s channel and the wet signal’s channel until you achieve the spread & balance you desire most. Use the channel 1 fader (at left) to adjust the dry signal’s channel, and use the auxiliary effect return from step 1 above to adjust the wet signal’s channel.
We recommend this practice for everything from vocals to keys to synths to environmental sounds! Environmental sounds, in particular, require a deep and expansive stereo field. For example, Sirens have to
sound like they’re bouncing off buildings, waves need a wide beach to crash on, voices in a crowd need to come from all around. Recording using a field recorder that has a wide stereo mic configuration (the microphones make a 120 degree angle, facing away from each other) is one way to capture natural stereo separation. This is also the reason for miking a drum kit or piano with matched condensers or a good stereo microphone. If you recorded in stereo and are dealing with mono tracks that need life added to them, this delay-widening technique is an indispensable remedy!