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How to Create Better Mixes by Panning in Mono


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( 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:

www.mixingstrategies.com

Image by: Keoni Cabral


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About me

About Björgvin Benediktsson

I’m Björgvin Benediktsson. I’m a musician, audio engineer and best-selling author. I help musicians and producers make a greater impact with their music by teaching them how to produce and engineer themselves. I’ve taught thousands of up and coming home studio producers such as yourself how to make an impact with their music through Audio Issues since 2011.

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LEAVE A COMMENT

  • What I usually do is to simply trust the correlation Meter.
    If there is no minus value… below 0, it should be ok.
    Is it enough to make sure it’s mono compatible?

    • Björgvin Benediktsson

      Yeah, that works as well. But it doesn’t hurt to listen back to it because the meter doesn’t understand your mix, you do. Maybe the correlation meter gives you a phase thumbs up but it doesn’t mean your effects haven’t shifted around when summed to mono.

      Also, like I said in the article, panning in mono is really fun and a good way to hear how your instruments interact.

    • Dave

      The following is an incorrect statement, Björgvin:

      “Panning in mono gives you a different way of placing the instruments in your mix”.

      It doesn’t, it’s a myth. I recommend you research this properly, perhaps via some professional forums, and understand what it is you are really hearing. You have a responsibility, if you are presenting yourself as knowledgeable and so-say qualified individual, to avoid posting misinformation.

      • Björgvin Benediktsson

        Would you mind elaborating on what you mean? I’ve often flipped to mono in order to pan. You definitely hear things differently which can help you hear how the different instruments respond to each other.

        So I guess I’ve done my research if I’ve come to the conclusion that it helps my mixes and I can hear a difference. Also, it’s a technique that I first read about in Bobby Owsinski’s Mixing Engineer’s Handbook so I hope that qualifies as research in your all knowing mind.

        As for professional forums? Forums are inherently unprofessional and usually riddled with idiots that have nothing better to do than troll each other and tell you how much better they are than everyone else. There is no professionalism left in audio forums.

  • What I usually do is to simply trust the correlation Meter.
    If there is no minus value… below 0, it should be ok.
    Is it enough to make sure it’s mono compatible?

    • Björgvin Benediktsson

      Yeah, that works as well. But it doesn’t hurt to listen back to it because the meter doesn’t understand your mix, you do. Maybe the correlation meter gives you a phase thumbs up but it doesn’t mean your effects haven’t shifted around when summed to mono.

      Also, like I said in the article, panning in mono is really fun and a good way to hear how your instruments interact.

    • Dave

      The following is an incorrect statement, Björgvin:

      “Panning in mono gives you a different way of placing the instruments in your mix”.

      It doesn’t, it’s a myth. I recommend you research this properly, perhaps via some professional forums, and understand what it is you are really hearing. You have a responsibility, if you are presenting yourself as knowledgeable and so-say qualified individual, to avoid posting misinformation.

      • Björgvin Benediktsson

        Would you mind elaborating on what you mean? I’ve often flipped to mono in order to pan. You definitely hear things differently which can help you hear how the different instruments respond to each other.

        So I guess I’ve done my research if I’ve come to the conclusion that it helps my mixes and I can hear a difference. Also, it’s a technique that I first read about in Bobby Owsinski’s Mixing Engineer’s Handbook so I hope that qualifies as research in your all knowing mind.

        As for professional forums? Forums are inherently unprofessional and usually riddled with idiots that have nothing better to do than troll each other and tell you how much better they are than everyone else. There is no professionalism left in audio forums.

  • Interesting, I never tried my mixes in mono. But isn’t there a risk that you start fixing a crowding of instruments in mono that you’ve panned to different sides in stereo?

    • Björgvin Benediktsson

      My experience has been, is it works in mono, it’ll work great in stereo. You should check both mono and stereo to see if everything sounds the way it should in mono while keeping the effects and panning you’ve done in stereo.

  • Interesting, I never tried my mixes in mono. But isn’t there a risk that you start fixing a crowding of instruments in mono that you’ve panned to different sides in stereo?

    • Björgvin Benediktsson

      My experience has been, is it works in mono, it’ll work great in stereo. You should check both mono and stereo to see if everything sounds the way it should in mono while keeping the effects and panning you’ve done in stereo.

  • Pingback: Mono Panning And Compatibility()

  • Pingback: Mono Panning And Compatibility()

  • “The Gearslutz forum, for instance, is the internet equivalent of a post apocalyptic hellscape.”

    This has to be one of the truest statements ever encountered on the Internet!

    You’re doing great Bjorgvin. Keep up the good work!

  • “The Gearslutz forum, for instance, is the internet equivalent of a post apocalyptic hellscape.”

    This has to be one of the truest statements ever encountered on the Internet!

    You’re doing great Bjorgvin. Keep up the good work!

  • Pingback: My Misinformed Music Mixing Madness()

  • Pingback: My Misinformed Music Mixing Madness()

  • Some D..A.W. don’t have a mono switch I think.
    But REAPER does. 🙂

  • Some D..A.W. don’t have a mono switch I think.
    But REAPER does. 🙂

  • JD

    Thanks Bjorgvin for your awesome advice.

    After reading about this trick, I went back to a mix I’d previously worked on, and found I had phasing issues I didn’t pick up the first time, and could quickly identify where the phasing was happening. I also found I made better panning decisions, because I could hear how each instrument were responding to each other better than I could in stereo. Definitely worked a treat for me.

  • JD

    Thanks Bjorgvin for your awesome advice.

    After reading about this trick, I went back to a mix I’d previously worked on, and found I had phasing issues I didn’t pick up the first time, and could quickly identify where the phasing was happening. I also found I made better panning decisions, because I could hear how each instrument were responding to each other better than I could in stereo. Definitely worked a treat for me.

  • Allen Rana

    your article is just juggling around the title does not have much info.. not a very good article. sorry to say.. looks like you care more for site visit than helping people. “earn loyalty you will automatically earn money”

  • Allen Rana

    your article is just juggling around the title does not have much info.. not a very good article. sorry to say.. looks like you care more for site visit than helping people. “earn loyalty you will automatically earn money”

  • Keith Holden

    Whats this paining in mono business if I flip my mix to mono how do I hear the guitars if they are panned hard left and right? can you explain this better?

    • Sm0keytheband1t

      You can almost see it as volume control on the “Left/Right” of the guitar or synth you pan.. as you pan the sound in mono.. the left or right will become more dominant.. kinda as if you are tinkering with 2 volume faders one for the leftside and one for the rightside of the stereo image… makes it quite easy to balance drum elements out.. so they don’t cancel each other out etc ..

  • Keith Holden

    Whats this paining in mono business if I flip my mix to mono how do I hear the guitars if they are panned hard left and right? can you explain this better?

    • Sm0keytheband1t

      You can almost see it as volume control on the “Left/Right” of the guitar or synth you pan.. as you pan the sound in mono.. the left or right will become more dominant.. kinda as if you are tinkering with 2 volume faders one for the leftside and one for the rightside of the stereo image… makes it quite easy to balance drum elements out.. so they don’t cancel each other out etc ..