Today you’re going to learn how to get wider stereo tracks and enhanced stereo width in just five simple steps.
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Today you’re going to learn how to get wide stereo tracks and enhance their width in just five simple steps.
So, keep watching if you want your mixes sound wide and professional without the need for expensive plug-ins and without making your mix sound awful in mono.
But first, be sure the grab the free stereo width cheat sheet. There is a link in the bio or on screen now.
Okay, so step number 1 is LCR Panning.
Now, a lot of videos you’ll seen in YouTube about stereo width might talk about stereo enhancement plug-ins that mess with the phase or something like vocal doubler where it duplicates the track, and then shifts the pitch and the timing and that kind of stuff.
The problem with those sorts of effects is that they can really screw your mono track and when you sum the mix to mono it’s going to cancel each other out, it’s going to sound poor, and especially the plug-ins that mess with the phase they can make your track sound really weird.
A big mistake would be to use one of those on your mix buss, so if I went into Logic and I go to imaging stereo spread and let’s just try spreading the entire mix using one of these phase altering plug-ins.
Let’s just see how this sounds. So, this is without.
And this is with.
So, you can hear how odd and weird it sounds. The mix only sounds unbalanced. It’s kind of lopsided to the right. It sounds all phasy.
So, just be careful if you are using these. Sometimes they work really well on individual channels or on group busses and I’m actually going to show you that later, but if you’re going to use something like this in your mix buss just be very careful and make sure if you’re going to do it use it very subtly.
What I’m going to do instead is show you five steps to add stereo width that are more musical, more subtle but still adds so much width and will make your mix sound really modern.
The first step is LCR Panning, so let’s go ahead and remove this.
At the moment I’ve got some panning going on. You can see some of these backend vocals that pan left and right, and quite often when I am working with my students I see panning like this.
They are avoiding hard panning. They’re just doing quite far 38, 40 maybe around here, but this is the limit and we do have some stereo with it. Have a listen again.
So, you can kind of hear those backend vocals, but instead I recommend you use LCR Panning which stands for left, center, right. So, you’re going to pan things either hard left, center or hard right. So, let’s start by taking each of these. They’re already panned a little bit and let’s just pan them all the way.
Okay, so now everything that was panned half way is now panned hard left, center or hard right, and we’ve got one or two things that I’m going to come back to in a second that aren’t panned left, center or right, but now just listen to the difference.
So, straightaway the mix sounds so much wider and this is where most of the width of a modern sounding track will come from.
It’ll come from this act of hard panning, so don’t be afraid to hard pan.
Now, I have a slightly different approach to panning that I call 50/50. It starts with LCR like that, but then we’re going to pan a few things half way to kind of fill those gaps.
So, this part here we can pan half way. I think I’m actually going to put this guitar half way instead, maybe some of the strings will go half way and we add one or two things here so that can go half way left, that can go half way right.
So, we’re using LCR Panning, and then we just got one or two things panned half way on either side to fill those gaps.
So, we’re getting there that’s a good start.
Now, we can move onto step 2 which is adding stereo effects.
Let’s just start with a stereo room reverb, so I’ve already set up a room reverb buss here just using Eventide Stereo Room or Evenside I’m not sure how you might say that, and then what I’m doing is using sends, so this is 28 and you can see on here we’ve got 28 going from the vocals, from the backend vocals, from the lead vocals, from the guitar, and the piano, and the string. So, everything is being sent to that buss. Let’s just listen to how it sounds in solo.
So, because it’s on a stereo buss and I’m using a stereo reverb it’s adding more stereo width to those instruments and channels that have been sent to it. So, let’s bring this up in the mix now.
So, you don’t want it to be too over-the-top. I’m just getting it to that point where it’s noticeable it’s there, but it’s not sounding too reverby.
Now, just listen to how the stereo width changes as I bypass and mute this channel.
When I bring that back in as well as adding depth and space to the mix is making it sound a little bit wider.
Now, it’s pretty subtle. It’s nowhere near as noticeable as when we started hard panning those channels, but it’s doing something.
When we combine that with stereo delay on the vocal.
And I’m just using a different time on the left and the right to get that stereo spread, and then also a plate for a couple of instruments.
So, that’s just using a shorter decay time to create a bit more depth, so you’ve got this plate going on and it’s merging with this room sounds to create more depth in the mix and we can balance those in.
So, now let’s mute all of those channels, so this is without any stereo effects.
And this is with.
So, mostly what we’re hearing is lots of space and depth being added to the mix, but it’s making it sound wider too because we’re using stereo effects there.
And you can go crazy with this. You could use a stereo chorusing on the guitar, you could use some stereo phasing on the backend vocals, and we could also make this a bit wider as well on the room reverb which I’m going to show you in a second.
There were just so many techniques that I’m going to keep talking through these, but if you want an easy way to remember all of this then be sure to grab that cheat sheet because it walks you through these steps and will give you some of those tips and tricks for making the mix sound wider.
So, now let’s move onto step number 3, which is EQ.
So, we’ve got quite a wide mix now, but we can try and create more separation between the left ear and the right ear using EQ to make it sound wider.
Now, the best example I can give you here is on the backend vocals, so if we solo the backend vocal group buss here. Have a listen.
So, we’ve got quite a lot of processing going on just to give them that sound. I’m actually using the vocal doubler too which is adding even more width, so this is without the Waves vocal doubler.
So, there’s an optional step there, I actually do have this and it’s a really cheap plug-in. It’s premium but it’s not expensive and that’s great for adding width to these more backing parts that’s aren’t as important.
I tend to avoid using this on the lead vocal and if I do it’s going to be really subtle but it works well on this buss.
But what we’re looking at here is how we might be able to use EQ to create a bit more separation.
So, to do that the easiest way is to go to your channels and anything that’s panned left you give one curve, so we could add a bit of EQ here and we could find somewhere where it sounds quite nice in the upper mid range to boost.
And what we’re going to do then is on the other side we’re going to cut it. So, let’s find a frequency.
Let’s try that around 5 k, so if we do a relative narrow boost and quite subtle and let’s make that a little bit wider.
So, I’m going to just copy this in Logic. We can hold alt and I can move this to all the channels in the left ear like so, so that’s left, left, left, and then we’re going to copy it into one of the right channels and just flip it. So, we’ll cut by 1.5 dB.
So now, we just got a slightly different frequency curve on the left to the right, and that separation that that’s going to create is going to make the track sound wider.
So, let’s solo that whole backend vocal group again. Grab all of these shift, select and this is with.
And this is without.
So, really focus on how far to the left and to the right it sounds like they’re going.
When I bring those EQs in it just pushes it a bit further out to the left and right.
And also it cleans up a bit, creates a bit more separation between those two sides.
And now the next step, step number 4 is to enhance the stereo width with some mid-side processing.
Now, that sounds complicated, but it really isn’t.
I use a free plug-in from Plug-in Alliance called BX Solo and this is by Brain Works.
Now, there are a number of ways to split stereo audio. We could split it into the left channel and the right channel or we could split into mid and side, so everything down the middle is panned dead center, and then anything that’s panned to the left or right we can separate it that way instead.
So, it’s almost like separating it into three channels; left, mid, and right and then combing the left and the right, so then we have mid and side.
So, down the mid we’re going to have the vocal, the kick, the snare.
And a lot of the bass, and then on the sides we’re going to have loads of backend vocals and more of the supportive instruments.
And a lot more of that reverb and ambience too.
So, what we can do with this plug-in, and this is all that mid-side processing is, is turn up the side.
So, we’re not messing with the phase, we’re not doubling it and de-tuning it or anything like that. It’s literally just turning up the sides in relation to the middle.
So, as I increase this control what you’ll hear is gradually the side gets louder, so that reverb, that ambience, the backend vocals anything that’s panned to the sides gets louder whereas the lead vocals, the bass, the kick, the snare everything down the center gets quieter.
Now, of course that’s way over-the-top, but on this first setting here 150%, I love this plug-in because it’s subtle. It doesn’t do any weird phasing but it just really expands the stereo image and we’re using this on the mix buss. So, this is going on the whole mix and this is without it.
And this is with.
Pretty cool, right?
So, I find myself using this on the mix buss quite a lot when I want something to sound wide and modern, and we can use it other places.
So, I mentioned before that we can make the reverb sound wider and that’s exactly how we do it. We use that same plug-in, but on the reverb buss instead and we just add to the width.
So, if we solo that this is how the room reverb normally sounds.
But then we can just increase the width with this plug-in.
And then finally step number 5 is check the mix in mono.
So, I’ve got a gain plug-in here in Logic on the master output. The mono switch is engaged, so as soon as I engage this plug-in suddenly the mix is going to be in mono.
You’re listening out for any instruments that suddenly drop out or get much quieter because we’ve messed with the stereo imaging and make sure the reverb, the stereo delay doesn’t sound weird in mono and we just compare to few references now just to check that it still sounds good in mono as well as stereo.
And pay attention to the balance as well, because sometimes it can make things sound much louder or quieter than they do in stereo. But to me that sounds pretty good. I’m very happy with that.
So, let’s do one final comparison. This is before we applied any of those stereo widening techniques.
And now listen to how it sounds after going through those five steps.
Pretty crazy, right?
There is a huge difference.
So, there you go five simple steps for adding stereo width to your mixes. Really easy to do, really simple but you’re going to get a nice modern sound.
So, the next step is to actually go and apply this in your mix. But there are quite a few steps involved there; there are various plug-ins that you can use, and a number of tips and tricks.
So, I put together a free stereo width cheat sheet that you can download and use when you’re mixing to make sure you get this right every single time to make sure your mixes sound nice, and wide, and professional.
So, it’s completely free. There’s a link in the description below or a link on screen now just head to that page now to get the free PDF.
And now I want to hear from you, which of these techniques do you find yourself using the most.
Do you use LCR Panning?
Do you use stereo widening plug-ins?
Leave a comment below and tell me how you make your mixes wide, because I’d love to hear from you and I’m sure everyone else would too.
So, that’s all from me. I’ll see you next week and remember Create Regardless.
Audio professional, musician and founder of Musician on a Mission.