A wide stereo field is the key to making your music a transformative experience. When listening to music, we want a sound stage of stereo sounds dancing around our head. We want an immersive sonic journey. But what's the secret to achieving impressively wide mixes?
>> Learn how to mix and master your music in 10 hours.
This article will explore what a wide mix is, what makes sounds wide, and give you three tips for impressive music width.
Let’s dive in.
What Is A Wide Mix?
To understand what a wide mix is, let's first explain what mono and stereo are.
Mono, also known as monaural or monophonic sound reproduction, means audio coming from one sound source.
When you play music in mono, you cannot make a distinction between left and right. All sounds will play from the center. If a mono speaker plays a stereo track, it will squeeze all information into one source.
Stereo, or stereophonic sound, means audio coming from two or more independent sources. A great example is traditional stereo speakers, one left and one right, which allows a wide sound stage.
So, what is a wide mix? A wide mix is taking full advantage of the stereo field, pushing sounds as far right, left, or both as possible.
What Makes A Wide Mix?
Many audio effects can create a wide mix, including dedicated stereo enhancing tools and effects like delays and reverb. The most powerful stereo enhancement tool of them all, though, is your panning slider.
By making your sounds play hard left to the hard right and everywhere in between, you can spread your sounds across the field and take advantage of the entire stereo spectrum.
There is also something called the Haas effect – a psychoacoustic phenomenon discovered in 1949, which is very effective.
The effect says this. With two copies of the same sound playing 35 milliseconds or less apart from each other, your ears will judge location depending on where you hear the first sound.
How can you use it? Go to a sound you want to make wider and a simple stereo delay. Use the millisecond setting on zero feedback and full dry/wet.
Use a setting of 1 millisecond on your left delay and 25 milliseconds on your right. The result is an extremely wide sound that can work well in any mix.
3 Tips For Impressive Music Width
When mixing, there are three things to keep in mind when it comes to music width. Without them, you run the risk of making a muddy mix with far too many wide sounds.
1. Don’t Make Everything Wide
Balance and contrast are two elements that make up a professional mix. And in musical width, it’s about using two extremes to create the best results.
If all sounds in your mix are wide, your listener will have difficulty determining exactly how wide it is. But with a narrow or mono reference point, your listener has something to put your sounds in relation to.
Commonly, you put lower frequencies in mono, meaning no stereo effects or depth techniques. You do that to build a foundation for which your higher frequency sounds can dance around.
Use a mono low-end, narrow low-mids and wider in the mids and extreme highs. That ensures your track has balance while it's still wide enough to impress.
2. Widen Your High-End
Lower frequencies sound better in mono. And for most electronic music, it’s about your kick and bass. With tight and centered low-end, you ensure that your foundational elements in your music hit with full force.
By using stereo enchantment tools on your lowest frequencies, you disrupt that power. And the result is a weaker sounding kick and bass.
Instead, widen your high-end. Higher frequencies love a wide stereo image and don’t suffer the loss in power as the lower frequencies do. Instead of widening all frequencies, aim to show off contrast and the relationship between your sounds.
Widening your high-end frequencies can also mean widening the higher frequencies of your kick and bass. Some plugins have the power of applying separate stereo imaging to different frequency bands.
You can also split your sounds manually into two and apply the stereo enhancement to your highs that way.
3. Change Between Narrow And Wide
Fantastic mixes aren’t always wide. Instead, they change from narrow to wide, dynamically changing and spreading their wings when the energy is high.
Automation is a great way of changing your stereo imaging as your music track progresses. If you use the Haas effect, you can automate the dry/wet knob to switch between narrow and super wide.
How can you apply the changes in your music?
A great way to introduce width changes is by making your verses narrower than your choruses. This technique sets them apart and automatically tells your listener that the chorus is the ‘bigger’ musical section.
However, there are many ways to apply width automation to your arrangements. Only you set the limit. But remember to change things up occasionally.
Bonus Tip: Always Check Your Mono
Stereo enhancement tools can destroy your mix. But if you only listen in stereo, you might not hear it. That’s why we check our stereo compatibility by listening to our master track in mono.
All stereo changes you make while listening in mono will get heard. And if your track starts sounding off or a particular sound lacks volume, you know there’s an issue in your mix.
One of the keys to a professional mix is the width. We want to hear sounds spread across the field to immersive ourselves in the lively stereo soundstage. But as you’ve learned, it’s not as simple as making everything wide. We want to leave our lowest frequencies alone from any stereo change while focusing our widening efforts on the higher frequency spectrum.
But by reading this article, you’ve learned how you can think about width when mixing to create the best mixes possible.
Learn Wide, Professional Mixing And Mastering In 10 Hours
Mixing and mastering is a true skill that takes years of intense focus, training, and hard work.
Knowing what decisions to take to bring out the best in each sound while making all sounds work together is tricky.
You want to give your music that sweet signature sound and style to stand out.
But what if you could learn the exact process of what to do in different situations to achieve your desired mixing and mastering results?
Mixing and Mastering Bundle, containing five complete courses with life-time access, shows you precisely what to do.
In the complete, online courses, which includes:
- Mixing And Mastering A Melodic Techno Track (masterclass)
- How To Mix A Track With The Best Plugins Available
- Mixing A Track From Start To Finish (using stock plugins)
- Mastering From Start To Finish
Plus a complete masterclass for mixing and mastering future bass…
You will learn the complete process to mix and master your tracks, making your sounds powerful and loud, like the radio tracks.
You will also learn how to give your tracks their signature sound while keeping balance and finesse to make them sound as good as they can.
Learn The Complete Mixing And Mastering Process
And with a complete walkthrough of the most-used mixing and mastering tools and effects, like compressors, equalizers, multiband, and limiters, you will have invaluable knowledge, serving you well for the rest of your music career.
Mixing And Mastering Bundle
Thanks for reading, and see you in the next article.
About the author
Pelle Sundin is a Swedish music producer and writer, active with his chillout project PLMTRZ. He also produces psytrance. When he's not producing, he surfs, skates, and chugs coffee.