mixing in mono – it’s not all bad

I hear what you’re thinking – you’re thinking ‘why should I mix in mono? – what’s the point? – in this day and age that just seems so backwards’. 

I thought the same when someone suggested it to me so let me just take five minutes of your time and just read this and see what you think afterwards.

The idea of mixing in mono for me is similar to mixing on small little speakers (some people call them grot boxes), in the sense that rather than it sounding great on big speakers it sounds rubbish – you’re limiting your choices and if you can get it sounding great in mono then it’s going to sound great in stereo. When in mono, the track just sounds flat and coming at you from the speaker. You can’t hear the song in all its ‘fantastic-nous’. It makes the track sound less desirable but making this part of your mix process will help you for lots of reasons.

EQ and Volume

Mixing in mono forces you to use other tools to make the track sound better instead of reaching for pan or stereo spread to get the separation and make it sound awesome.  You’ll be forced to use the individual faders of the tracks and even the channel EQ to make tracks sit together and give them their own space in the mix. You simply don’t have the luxury of being able to use the stereo field and the track is just coming at you straight down the middle so to distinguish the parts you need to use these tools to get them to sit right together. This helps you gain an overall balance and coherence between all the tracks regardless of whether it’s in stereo or not.

Phase

Another advantage to mixing in mono is the minimisation of any phase issues which may be present in stereo recordings. Rather than having a separate left and right channel both are summed to mono. Therefore if either of the channels are out of phase, a cancellation will occur. That means you could for instance have a glorious piano part that sounds great in stereo; put the track into mono and the piano disappears due to the summation of the two channels and their phase relationship.

Mixing in mono

There you go two reasons – (AND VERY GOOD ONES) as to why I mix in mono. I don’t mix the whole track in mono though. It will generally be for about 80% of the mix process and then I will look to move to aspects of the stereo mix – as a general rule of thumb get it sounding good in mono first and then look at the stereo imaging. But always be mindful of mono and keep swapping back to the mono even during the final stages.

Most DAWs tend to have plugins that do the job but one that I really like (and it’s free so that makes it even better) is the brainworx bx_solo below and available to download FOR FREE here.

bx_solo

The reason I like this plugin so much is that it is so flexible (and I’m by no means a paid endorser of their products – although that would be nice 🙂 ). You have the ability to have the mono source (with the M solo) but you can also choose the individual L and R channels as single sources too which is great. Another great feature that this little plug does too is the S solo. It’s another topic I want to save for another posting but essentially it allows you to hear the ‘sides’ of a stereo recording. I’ll touch upon it in my next post.

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A step by step guide on how to get a ‘proper’ email address…

markmidwinter: Some good thoughts in here.. I’ve recently got my domain and email sorted (markmidwinter.co.uk) for this very reason!

The Sentric Music Blog

By Pursehouse – Follow me on Twitter.

Here is a fact which no one might want to openly admit to due to the “Oh FFS, really?!” response it usually generates, but I’m not here to sugarcoat the harsh realities of this shallow, aesthetically obsessed world in which we find ourselves so here you go…

You will be judged on your email address.

Now this said judgment may not hold any meaningful severity of course, but it’s definitely something that you can avoid by sorting yourself out a ‘proper’ one. And what do I mean by ‘proper’? An email address which is
[name/word]@[bandname/recordlabel/managementcompany/etc].com

Receiving an email from [info]@[bandname].com appears far more professional than [bandnamewhichisslightlydifferentfromtheoriginal]@hotmail.co.uk. I think this is something we can all agree on?

Someone recently emailed me from a [name]@fsnet.co.uk address the other day. I thought I’d woken…

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Looking for inspiration? Stuck in the rut?

Last week I went back to school to study at a drum academy. The week was awesome I got to meet a whole load of great people and great drummers whilst also learning a whole load of stuff and brought back a whole load of stuff back to work on. There were so many ideas and techniques been thrown at you that I nearly filled my notebook in a week!

I’ll more than likely be writing more posts on my experiences from the camp in later posts but today I want to challenge all my fellow drummers out there to try this out.

I’ve been using this technique for a months now and it has opened up my creativity to a whole new level – not to mention improving my independence and sight reading and you can tailor it to what you want to get out of it. New sticking patterns, new rhythm ostinatos or fills or even to improve your independence and it’s such a simple technique using….a pack of playing cards.

Sounds bizarre but with a pack of cards you can work on almost anything you want to with a little bit of creative input. I’ll give you an example of where you can take it.

I want to come up with a new hi-hat pattern as I want to get away from the standard 8th note groove. So to make it interesting I’m going to come up with a new two bar groove. So I’ve marked a few of my playing cards with different rhythms each totalling a quarter note which means that I’ll need a total of 8 different patterns to fill my two bar groove. To make it interesting I’ve marked sixteen cards with different patterns some of which are below as an example but again you can come up with anything you want here and apply the same techniques – that’s where your creativity comes into it.

Ok so we have as some ideas for rhythms that make up the quarter notes which I’ve written onto my cards. There’s only four here and not shown on my actual playing cards but written down on manuscript but hopefully you get the idea?

Music 1

With a quick shuffle of the playing cards with some of these rhythms on we get the following groove for the hi-hat.

Music 2

To start with we can add a basic kick/snare pattern with the kick on 1 & 3 and snare on 2 & 4

Music 3

To make it a bit more interesting we can add some accents to the hi-hat pattern

Music 4

We could even exchange some of the hi-hats for kick,snare, ride or even toms. Check out this idea below:

Music 5

With a pack of cards and a bit of creative input this can really take you to new levels giving you fresh ideas and giving you new challenges to make your playing better and improving your independence.

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Attack of the compressors

After last weeks blog I’m continuing this week on the mixing side of life.

I recently came across this little golden nugget of information which has changed the way I look at the humble compressor and how it works to shape transients within the mix. For me I tend to work them at a ratio of 4:1 and adjust the threshold until there’s roughly 3dB gain reduction – generally

There’s a quote from top engineer Bruce Swedien who worked with Micheal Jackson on his Thriller album once said ‘the groove is in the transients’.

Take the drums and the bass for example, these are the general rhythm section setting the groove along with the rhythm guitarist be it acoustic or electric depending on the genre.

It makes sense that these elements amongst themselves share the ‘transients’. It may be one has more of a share than the other or a combined sharing but again it will generally depend on the song itself and its genre.

Other elements within the song not making up the groove can have their transients manipulated with no detriment to the song itself.

But how can you manipulate the transients – ENTER the attack knob of the compressor

Have you ever thought about using the attack of your trusty compressor to change the attack of the transient in such a way as to preserve the transients that set the groove and modify the others such that the groove stands out..?

Try it – it really works!!

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The one and only mixing tip??

The other day someone asked me if I was to give one bit of advice to people mixing their own music what would it be?

I sat there for a minute or so pondering my response – would it be a specific dynamic or modulation plugin? Neither! The one bit of advice I would give is use a Low Cut Filter.

A low cut filter is something I use on EVERY TRACK! If it’s an instrument in the mix that isn’t present (or needed) in the bottom end then I’ll just cut it. Even if it’s a bass or kick drum then I’ll do the same on these but the cut will be alot lower in frequency.

All that bottom end holds alot of energy and some of this is inaudible – take background rumbling for example. Without these cuts that stuff is left in the track and onto the master bus. Think about those inline compressors having to deal with it.

It’s the first thing I do on all my channels before anything else!

Have you ever seen this symbol below on audio desks?

LPF

Yeah ok badly drawn but that’s your Low Cut Filter folks! It’ll clean up all that low end nastyness!

Try it out on your projects and see if it makes a difference. See if your mixes sound any clearer after doing it and let me know if it helped.

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I’m no Web Designer!!

So I’m starting to get my act together and try to get my website up and running for my music.

I’m looking at the website to sell my music and also tap into some of the production libraries which I would really love to get into and get involved with. I also want to use it to bring a bit more presence onto the web so that I can start getting some more awareness of my music – but to be honest this Web Design malarky is really hard stuff!

I’ve been talking to a few people about using WordPress (hey that’s how I stumbled across this site) and started my ‘blogging days’ but I have probably spent in the order of a couple of days (48hours +++) trying to get this stuff up and running and I’m still not overly happy with it!

The basic design is there but there is still much to do! Although I have learnt a lot about the whole web design side of life I take my hat off to you all the Web Designers out there! You’re obviously a lot lot smarter than me! 🙂

A new addition to my growing family

I’ve just recently made this purchase to add to my family of synths (and music stuff) and am really looking forward to making some awesome bass lines on this little beaut! I don’t think there are many in the country yet so not sure when I’ll finally get my little pinkies on it but am so excited! Will post up some stuff when I finally do get it!