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No more weedy mixes. Check out these techniques to add width to your music.
Feel like your track is missing something? Lacking a certain lushness? It could need a bit of width. A wide mix creates drama and an epic, immersive experience for the listener.
Achieving width in your music is a game of contrasts. Your ears will perceive the difference between sounds as if they were physically further apart. Abolish thin weedy mixes and open up your sound as you produce by widening the stereo field, to fatten up your track.
Try out these suggestions and see if you notice the difference in your music producing.
Panning is your pal
Try panning elements to the hard left, centre and hard right and listen to the difference as the sound is opened up. Bridge the gaps and place some instruments half-way, as panning all of them to the far edges can create a muddier sound, so always make sure you’re trusting your ears above all else.
Be generous with effects
Chorus, flanger, delay and reverb can all have a widening impact. A little can go a long way, barely noticeable in individual sounds but making a subtle difference to the whole. Reverb for example is designed to make signals sound like they’re bouncing around deep in a three-dimensional space, not just recorded in a stuffy box.
…Or show favouritism to one sound
Choosing just one sound in your mix and adding effects can give the impression of the whole mix being processed. Try selecting one element of your mix to add reverb to. Using delay in the same way is the same concept. You can also apply both effects at the same time.
Double trouble with double tracking
If you’re recording live instruments, try double tracking for a wider sound. Record a second version of your instrumental audio track. There’ll always be natural differences even though it’s the exact same instrument, player and notes. Now give hard panning a go, whacking one track to the far left and the other to the far right. You can process each track slightly differently, too, adding effects. See how it opens up the sound.
Beware of losing punch
Adding effects such as chorus will give a soaring feel, but you might well lose a bit of attack in a sound. Be mindful of the balancing act between seeking a wider stereo field and keeping clarity in each sound. Don’t neglect individual elements.
Don’t forget about separation
Create separation within a bus by boosting and cutting EQ. For example in backing vocals, boosting signals that are panned to one side, and then cutting on those panned to the opposite side. A subtle difference in the frequency curve between the left and right ears creates a widening effect.
Always check your mix in mono after applying effects to widen the stereo field, to make sure they haven’t messed with the sound quality, and that instruments haven’t dropped out entirely.
Every producer has their own techniques, tips and tricks to add width to a mix. There’s no one solution. Try out different ways and see if you notice your track sounding wider, bigger and better.
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