A Quick Tip for MUCH BETTER Mixes!

I really want to share a tip that I learned a while ago that has made my mixes better, and has taken quite a bit of time off from start to finish.  Does that sound good?

It's a tip that at first can be extremely frustrating.  It takes a while to get used to doing this, but in the long run it really pays off.  And it'll pay off on your first mix doing it!

Mix in mono.

Thats the tip, mix in mono.  Get everything sounding good, everything coming through in the mix in mono before moving things around and getting your stereo image.

I told you, it's weird and frustrating.  We all naturally want to start hearing things where the will be in the final mix.  It makes sense, it's just not the best way to do it.  Why?  Because it's easy to say "I can't hear this guitar that well, I'll pan it to the left and this guitar to the right...now I can hear them both really well."  Unfortunately, not everybody listens to things in stereo.

Yep, I'm sure there are at least a few people commenting that I'm an idiot right about now.  Have you ever walked into a gas station or a restaurant that has speakers in the ceiling?  Almost always, those are in mono.  Why?  Because they want you to hear everything no matter where you are.  They don't want the speaker in the mens room playing the right side of a track while the ladies room is playing the left, that would be crazy.

Live Church Dilemma

Yes, another church story.  There's a church that I help out quite a bit as far as sound is concerned.  Many churches have now gone to a stereo setup, or alway had been and just never really panned anything.  This church is setup in true mono.  It doesn't matter if you pan something, it's going out every speaker no mater what.

Big deal, right?  Well it is a big deal when sound techs don't know how to use EQ that well.  They constantly couldn't get a good sound if there were more than 3 instruments playing.  Again, why?  Because many instruments frequency ranges intermix, and so a lot of the sound gets lost in the mud.  Seriously, it took me almost 2 1/2 hours of frequency sweeping and solid EQ work to get things to sound good and cut through the mix the first Sunday (really Thursday rehearsal).  But let me tell you, we had a lot of comments and complements that week.

That's why mixing in mono is so important.  And the church experience really cemented that thought into my head.  

Mono forces you to hear everything right up the middle at one time.  So if a guitar isn't cutting through the mix, mess with the EQ.  Again, remember to do subtractive EQ; pulling more frequencies out than you put in.  But try sweeping around and finding a sound that really shines and bring that frequency up a little bit.  You many want to pull that frequency out of the competing instrument and find it's sweet spot too.  But once you get them to shine, they'll cut through just fine.  And once everything sits in place in mono, have fun moving things into position in stereo.  And what's cool then is that everything sounds it's best already, so it's just like adding frosting to the cake!

Now in your DAW, there might not be a mono button.  Some interfaces have a mono button (if you're using the headphone out or monitors out - which you should be), but not all do.  My Focusrite system has a software application that I run that has one, but again, not all will have that.  If you don't have a mono button, and Google doesn't help find the answer; you can pan all the pan knobs straight up.  Ever single one, even the two on each stereo track.  It's annoying, and for some odd reason I don't think it works as well as a true mono bypass, but it's better than nothing.

I hope this helps you out, I know it helped me a ton.  Go and make something you love. - Drew