Got this question from a reader:
I recorded in garageband, which they say records in mono. While playing the music over my two studio speakers it sounds great. When I play it only on one speaker, some instruments are missing, so I mixed again in only one speaker. When playing it on the other speaker now,some parts are quieter or missing. perhaps it has to do with panning, perhaps i shouldn’t tamper with the panning and use the stereo output of my interface to listen to what i recorded?
So my question is, what does one mean by mixing in mono. is it just using
one speaker only no matter which one?
Bam, what an awesome question! Seems like he having some stereo compatibility issues here. This problem has a simple solution.
Check your mix in Mono
Mixing in mono does not mean mixing on only one speaker. Mixing on one speaker would end up sounding really weird since I guess you would end up panning everything pretty heavily towards that one speaker, leaving you with a lopsided mix.
No, mixing in mono means flipping your song into mono, either on your interface(like I do on my Apogee Duet) or simply setting the master fader of your DAW to mono.
Now, I’m not entirely sure how to do this in Garageband but in Logic it’s as simple as clicking the mono switch on the master fader. Also, audio interfaces usually come with some software that allows you to switch them to mono mode.
Once you’ve set your listening system to mono, you should go over your mix again and make sure nothing is missing or sounds different from before.
For instance, a common problem with using cool stereo effects on synths or guitars is that once you listen back in mono all those effects disappear. Once you sum the stereo effects to mono the effects on each side of the stereo spectrum essentially cancel each other out.
Just imagine if your awesome stereo delay for your guitar solo would all of a sudden vanish! No cool solo sound for you!
Pan in Mono
Going back to the question above, there is nothing wrong with tampering with panning. In fact, I would urge you to pan as much as you’d like. Panning creates separation in the stereo field so that all your instruments get a little space between your monitors.
A good trick, and one that I talk about in Mixing Strategies(www.mixingstrategies.com), is panning in mono. Panning in mono gives you a different way of placing the instruments in your mix. Because you’re not really panning in the stereo field anymore since you’ve flipped your mix to mono, but you can definitely hear a difference in the separation of instruments by doing it this way.
Mono is Better than Stereo
A stereo mix sounds great on your stereo system, but can sound terrible if it’s not mono compatible. A mono mix however, will sound just as great on a stereo system.
So make sure to always check your mixes in mono, fix those stereo effects to work in mono, and pan your instrument in mono for better separation.
If you want more mono and stereo mixing tricks, check out Mixing Strategies. These strategies have guaranteed, proven techniques to get a better stereo image, as well as kicking ass with creative panning decisions.
Check it out here:
Image by: Keoni Cabral