You may wonder how some tracks sound really in your face but at the same time spacious. Creating a wide, full, and clean stereo image is not that easy. To get your mix as wide and clean as possible, the following tips will help you along the way!
Table of Contents:
1 - Panning
You may be using stereo widening plugins, and these are great. But have you ever thought about using the panning knob in your DAW first? The panning knob will not just give you full control about the direction you pan to, but also about every single instrument individually. This will help you get a more clear and more controlled stereo image because you have full control over each hi-hat, lead layer, percussion, and all the other elements in your mix. If you want a really wide mix you could use hard panning. This means you pan 100% to either the left or the right. This is a method called LCR. It's used by a lot of great engineers and will bring you the widest possible stereo image!
2 - Plugins
As mentioned before, plugins are an easy way to get a bigger stereo image. However, work carefully with these plugins and make sure that the change is good by referencing the sound with the plugin bypassed. Overusing a widening plugin will make the mix sound like it's just stretched to the left and right side. This sounds unnatural and you might get better results with panning most tracks individually at first. The best way is to get a wide sound manually at first and use a stereo widening VST for the last 20%! Also, when you use a mid-side EQ on the master, you could improve your stereo image even more.
3 - The Haas effect
The Haas effect is a phenomenon discovered by Dr. Helmut Haas in 1949. It says that if we hear two sounds within 40 milliseconds, our ears interpret them as one. As it turns out, this is super useful in music production to make things sound wider. Here is how to do it: At first, select the track in your mix that you want to sound wider and pan it to the left. Duplicate it and pan it to the right. On the right side, add a delay plugin and set the delay time to less than 40 milliseconds. Usually, a number between 5-40 milliseconds works best. This will create a wider sound and will be useful to create space. Don't use this trick everywhere. It's great on elements that are more in the background. Sometimes it also creates an unclear sound if turned to mono, due to phase issues.
4 - Doubles
Doubling is the most common method for a wider sound on guitars and vocals. Here is how it works: If you just recorded a guitar or vocal layer, make sure you do a second take. This way you record two separate versions of the same performance. When you hard pan these two recordings to the left and right, the small difference in the recording will create an amazing tonal contrast and a wider and more interesting sound. Especially on acoustic guitar this can sound really satisfying.
5 - Effects
Using stereo effects like reverb and delay works great to add a natural touch to your music. I love using a small amount of ping pong delays on guitar plucks to create a feeling of dimension. This also works great on vocals.
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