How To Mix In Mono – 3 Easy Steps to Outstanding Mixes

How To Mix In Mono – 3 Easy Steps to Outstanding Mixes

 

On my previous post, I talked about one concept that every music producer should know before diving into the world of mixing – which is to mix in mono.

 

It is imperative to understand the psychology behind this concept before anything else. The reason why I am sharing this with you is because I want you to start your mixes right, especially when you are still at the initial stages of your development as a mixer.

New to the music production world, my difficulty lay on training my ears to identify equalization, compression, reverb, and delay. During that time, I somehow had a skewed perception of my mixing ability.  Apparently, my brain tricked me into believing that my mixes had superb sound quality, which resulted into undesirable consequences. A repercussion from this belief that I could easily identify with, and maybe, just maybe, that you could also relate to as well, is negative reception to constructive feedback. Haha!

Since I thought my mixes were up to par with the big honchos of the mixing industry, this thought process greatly impacted my skills as a starting mix engineer. Instead of growing beautifully and gradually in this field, it evidently hampered my progress. For a time being, I was doing the work without any references at all; hence, relying on what I hear alone.

Let me repeat that – relying on what I hear alone.

Why It Is A Problem

Psychoacoustics, the study of sound perception, touches on the physiological manifestations of sound to the human nervous system and how we interpret sound. The brain, as the largest organ of the nervous system, relates to sound in various ways. As mix engineers, music producers, and musicians, we need to have a better understanding of recognizing sound. How so?

It is because you cannot believe everything you hear.

We all have different perspectives when it comes to hearing sound sources. One good example is the difference between loudness and volume. There’s a term called “perceived loudness,” and that is subject to interpretation.  A music playing in the background may be loud to me, but not to you. Notably, volume is entirely different, as it is used to denote the power of a signal or sound source. As an illustration, when you increase the volume knob on the radio, it just means that you are augmenting the amount of power of the sound signal, thus, telling your ears that you can already hear the sound coming through the speakers.

This is how our brain tricks us, specifically when we are mixing.

Let me demonstrate this further. Do this in one of your mixing sessions – listen to a mix using headphones, and then, try to listen to your monitors. Listening on headphones gives you a more pronounced stereo effect compared to listening through the monitors because of the closeness of the sound source to your ears.

Understanding Stereo Separation

Stereo separation can either help us mix or fool us. In the context of mixing, it denotes the spatial attributes it brings to the mix, likewise contributing to the shape of the sound. To achieve width and depth to a mix, stereo separation is the key. However, in this stage of the mixing process, problem areas pop out due to our brain’s judgment. Obviously, at this point, you think that you’ve already achieved clarity and balance because it sounds epic; on the other hand, when you listen to your rendered mix on other platforms, it seemingly sounds dull, dry, and muddy.

mix in mono

The brain uses more processing power when listening in stereo because it doesn’t precisely gauge the truth behind the volume, clarity, and balance of the mix.

In other words, mix in mono.

How To Mix In Mono

To accurately hear the differences in leveling and volume of your mixes, reference your mix in mono. Not only that it works wonders on your tracks, but also speeds up the mixing process.

Here are the steps to mix in mono:

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Check if your DAW has a mono/stereo button. If not, use a plugin that is able to check your mixes from stereo to mono. Insert the plugin on the master fader.

Here are free plugins to use:

It is a complete stereo imaging and analysis tool by Flux

Upstereo by Quikquak

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EQ in Mono – check if you can hear all your instruments in mono. When every track is centered, all the sounds come out from the left and the right speakers. This way, you can concentrate on adjusting the balance, clarity, and level of each track as well as arrange the proper EQ adjustments. If you cannot hear a specific instrument, it tells you that your EQ is not right. This gives you the ability to make the proper EQ decisions. Without stereo separation, you can straightaway identify if there are phase problems, too.

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Adjust accordingly – After making the necessary adjustments in mono, go back and hit the stereo button. Listening to the mix in stereo gives you a spatial context in depth and width. Check the delays and the reverb effects. So, it is extremely important that you go back and forth in listening to the mixes in mono and stereo.

In conclusion, learning how to mix in mono is not just an old school procedure, but a process that allows you and your ears to have laser-like focus and avoid analysis paralysis due to overthinking. After all, our goal is to make your music creations get better each time, right? So, go ahead and mix in mono!

What I Learned to Be Successful as a Home Music Producer

What I Learned to Be Successful as a Home Music Producer

 

Hi, I am Gelot Macaranas and I am the founder of Mixingmastermind.com.

Today, I want to share with you how I became a home music producer, successfully doing my passion at the comfort of my home.

If you also want to know the story about what Mixing Mastermind provides, go to the About Page.

Here’s My Story

THE JOURNEY BEGINS…

In the early 2000s, I, together with my cousins, had the privilege and pleasure to perform on stage. For four times a week, we played at different venues and wrote songs during our days off. Around 5 albums worth of original songs resulted from our weekends. Certainly, the original compositions connected with our audience, resulting to requests for song recordings. They wanted to listen to them on their Walkman, cd player, or mp3 player, which were the popular modes of listening back then. As a result, it prompted us to start recording our songs on a professional level and venture out the mysterious world of the recording arts due to the requests.

To be heard on the radio is one of the ultimate goals of an amateur band. With this in mind, our focus was unimaginable. Armed with determination, we scoured several phone directories for recording studio information and relentlessly drove through busy streets to search for a reputable recording studio that could help us become famous one day. It is not like today that as soon as you type your query in Google and press enter, the list pops up. Not only that it was time-consuming, it surely burned a hole in our pockets. Imagine the countless days of searching for the perfect studio that suited our budget.

After several tries, we found the best recording studio upon the recommendation of a friend. Oh man, not only that it was reputable, and expensive but also far from home. We didn’t have the money to record one full album but a small amount fit for two songs.  However, it was one of the best recording studios for amateur bands. So, we thought, “Oh well, it is a starting point.” Without any sound advice from a professional, we proceeded in recording the songs.

We paid the recording studio a whopping $200 (P10,000) for two tracks. The songs turned out good, but, we still felt that they lack the radio-ready luster we aimed for. Although we still wanted to perfect the recordings, unfortunately, we could not push through because of budget constraints.

How I wished that we had more time to practice, had the freedom to record without worrying about the bill, and had the availability of a recording studio near our area. This experience planted the dream in my heart that one day, I’d own my own recording studio.

How I wished we had more time to practice, freedom to record without worrying about the bill, and had the availability of a studio near our area.

Problems, Issues, and Concerns. Just Name It.

Let me talk about the issues that sprouted from the experience.

First, financial instability hindered us from getting recording time. We couldn’t save money as quickly as we would like to. We couldn’t finance any activities beyond band rehearsals and gigs.

Second, the studio’s accessibility made it harder for us to record. The studio’s location was far from where we lived. The time and money spent for traveling could be time allotted for practicing.

The third concern was the band’s practice time. Had there been a recording studio near our place, we could have had more practice time.

We found it difficult to practice our demo songs at home because we didn’t want to disturb our neighbors.

 

We didn’t have a basement or a sound-proofed room to use since our garage was the only place available.

Lastly, the band consisted of family members who all lived in the same house. Ooooops! Wait a sec? You might want to ask me at this very moment why it became a dilemma. As a matter of fact, that could have had given us a better avenue for practice. We struggled due to personal priorities despite of us situated in one area. Our difficulty lay on our personal schedules, thus affecting practices. In other words, we didn’t have the time.

We kept our chins up under those circumstances. On a positive side, we were all aware of the predicament we faced as a group.

 

 

And yet, we pushed ourselves to discover ways to resolve the concerns we had at hand. After all, our dream to reach the world through our songs burned incessantly in our hearts.

Problems Solving Tactics

Our drive to successfully make it in the music industry resulted to different approaches in solving our issues. We worked on adding more gigs on a weekly basis to gain extra funding for our recordings. Our manager hunted for events, bars, clubs and acoustic lounges that held auditions. Stressful as it was, we took every opportunity that came without having any plan of attack.

As a result, we gained more gigs but lost practice time. Consequently, we never got to write songs like how we used to before. As much as we wanted to rest, we opted to keep taking more events, thus, giving us a steady flow of income. Being profitable became our top priority. Besides, we desperately needed the moolah, as well as the exposure. True enough, as what the great Napoleon Hill said, “Strength and Growth come only through continuous effort and struggle,” held truth in our lives at that time.

We almost had a breakthrough when a record producer gave us a recording stint in an audition we joined! Why almost? Hold your breath. We thought that our efforts paid off because we landed a recording contract with the producer, in which would lead us to stardom. After a few meetings, unfortunately, the news faded like a fleeting moment in time. The contract didn’t push through and it was a major disappointment for the band.

Afterwards, we began to miss gigs and other opportunities as our priorities led us to different paths. As for me, personal gratification led me to miss our band’s first major concert gig. Yes, I am honest enough to say that I also have my own misses.

After the successful concert, we disbanded. We tried to regroup but failed on every attempt. We all lived different lives and for some years, I forgot about my passio

How I Quit My Job And Pursued My Passion

From the bottom up!

I started working in an international call center company back in 2005 as a sales agent. Despite of having no knowledge in selling, it didn’t crush my spirit. I told myself if I didn’t make it in the band, then, I would have to make it in the job.

Armed with that mindset, it took me 8 months to become a sales supervisor. Moreover, the job gave me opportunities including management trainings and leadership events that any person without a college degree couldn’t get a hold of.

As a staunch believer in hard work, I made my way to the top. Promotions came in handy as bigger and more challenging responsibilities started coming my way. Enthralled with the success of my endeavors, I decided to focus on pursuing the corporate ladder, thus becoming one of the top managers of the company, which gave me a 6-digit monthly income, plus huge benefits for me and my family.

Recognizing Top Performers

Halloween Rodeo Party with the Training Team

A Deep Compelling Decision To Make

It was when the family found out about my mom’s medical condition that I remembered who I really was. For years, work consumed my time and energy that I didn’t get to play any instruments nor wrote any songs. When I heard the word “cancer,” I knew it I had to make the decision.

There’s a deep compelling connection between this sad moment and my passion for music. My mom constantly bugged me with a gentle push to follow my heart, but I just didn’t listen to her. I didn’t want anything to do with music anymore due to the failures I experienced from the past. It took awhile but my mom made me realize that I was just wasting my life for nothing. During her battle with cancer, my mother and I gifted the world with three beautiful songs. It was my dearest memory of her.

Fun TImes With Mom and Sis

Before she passed on, I promised her that I’d record the songs professionally. Not knowing what to do, my failures reminded me not to trek the same route again. Recording the songs scared the hell out of me especially knowing that music production was an unknown territory.

Because of my desire and intention to honor my mom by keeping my promise, all the actions I took led me to becoming a music producer and an audio engineer. I enrolled in sound engineering, songwriting, and music production courses. Little did I know, I was building my home recording studio piece by piece, equipment at a time. The dream I thought that was far-fetched, became a reality.

Mom, diagnosed with Cancer June 2012

Audio Engineering Class 

home music producer

How I Started My Journey As A Home Music Producer

Mary J Blige said, “My Journey continues, because I’ve, you know, conquered a lot. And I know how to conquer the rest.”

I definitely can relate to that.

Resiliency and resourcefulness – these are the two attributes that helped me trek the road to where I am now. Let me proceed with my storytelling by taking you on the high road.

One challenge that I conquered was building my home studio from scratch. Yes, on the courses I enrolled in, there were but a few details on how to build one. I also found it difficult to apply what I learned from my courses because I had nothing to reference my learning with.

Learning blindly, I didn’t have any concrete directions or goals. Mind you, It took me years to build my studio as I spent countless hours in the net trying to find the most affordable ways to do it. I also spent endless hours watching YouTube videos to improve my mixing skills only to confuse me with the number of techniques different coaches teach. In reality, not all those who teach in Youtube have certification, which creates credibility issues on the methods they share through the platform.

Reflection and Outcome

 I had to learn the wrong ways for me to know the right ones. I had to go through different routes to learn different concepts for me to realize that there’s just one principle that we need to understand in our lives to make things work for us. Although the journey was long, it was also a blessing. I feel like I have figured out the solution and know the best way to do it, and I’d really love to share what I know to someone who is struggling to record his songs at home and use the needed platform to make it happen.

Today, a recording studio is available to me 24/7. It is where I spend quality hours making music, producing videos and honing my craft. I am a music producer and audio engineer who mixes and masters music at the comfort of my home. This was my dream. I am now living it.

What Can You Get Out Of My Story

This is my story. My utmost desire is to share what I learned with you. All the long years of hunting for information, hours of studying, countless days of training, mixing, and not sleeping are all packed here – just for you. If you want to record your music at home, be the best in what you do and be the master of your music, then take the next step with me today. Here’s to making it all happen for you. Become a Mixing Mastermind today!

 

Make Your Music Creations Better Everyday!

Become a Mixing Mastermind Today.

Learn More

How Mixing In Mono Remarkably Improved My Mixes

How Mixing In Mono Remarkably Improved My Mixes

mixing in mono

One learning I had during my first few years as a home music producer was to mix in mono. Mixing in Mono literally changed my perspective on the mixing process.

Say what?!

I feel you. That’s my first reaction, too. Man, I could hardly stand up from my seat while I watched Graham Cochrane, a freelance music producer in Florida, tackle the subject with gusto. How did I even get ahold of that video in YouTube?

But before we do our deep-dive, I want to point out a few things. This is targeted to:

1. You, who are starting out recording at home, working on your first project

2. You, who have the experience in the recording process.

3. You, who know music production but want to find out how to make your mixes sound better.

You need to know this concept right at the beginning of your mixing career. You’d know why as we move along

The First Time I Heard of Mixing In Mono

My main issue at that time was I couldn’t get my mixes to sound great. Devotion to practice was my number 1 rule. In addition to the hours spent in mixing, I also made sure that I had my attention to every detail. Definitely, I was learning a lot. However, it still didn’t make my mixes sound like the tracks I hear on the radio. The mixes were crappy, and likewise, I was totally getting desperate. Most of the time, I was exasperated figuring out what was wrong.

I knew the different approaches behind the principles of mixing, but it seemed everything was not turning out the way I wanted.

Please do not get me wrong. The learning I acquired from sound engineering school and music production classes were totally great. In fact, they are my core foundation.

You wouldn’t be a music producer unless you’ve gotten the depth of knowledge in the technical aspects of sound production, as well as the artistic and creative prowess in making music. You must possess the passion and understanding in these areas. I absolutely have all of these. However, there’s a perspective I didn’t learn from school. I didn’t know that point of view until I found myself banging my head on the wall, trying to figure out what was missing. Desperately, I searched the net for the answer.

To tell you honestly, I’ve already forgotten how I ended up watching Graham’s video. But, what I do remember is that I saw his channel’s subscriber count and the title of his videos. Interestingly, I began watching his most popular videos. As a result, I stumbled upon his video entitled,    5 Minutes to A Better Mix: Mixing in Mono, which really grabbed my attention. That literally was a light bulb moment for me.

Why Mixing In Mono Is My Aha!

The usual technique that mix engineers do is stereo mixing. Of course, the result of all mixes technically, is stereo. Nonetheless, what we don’t realize is that when we listen to the radio, car speakers, small room speakers, in the club, and even at the mall, we listen to the music in mono. Let me expound on this.

Mono simply means one channel. Stereo just means that the mix has two channels which are left and right. When you listen to music playing in the background inside the mall, you wouldn’t know if what you hear comes the right or the left speakers, and most probably, you wouldn’t even know where the speakers are. Even though that there are two speakers inside your car, if you are at driver’s seat, you are most likely listening to the sound emitting from the left speaker rather than the right, or vice versa. You are almost never in the proper listening position in a club. That’s why most of the time we are listening in mono, except when we are in the middle of two speakers or using headphones.

Most of the time, we are fooled by the stereo separation that we hear from our tracks. Our brain is telling our ears that our mixing is great because it sounds acceptable already. Then, when you listen to your track using a different set of speakers or your phone, you’d find that the mix sounds dull and muddy. This was my problem and it could be your issue, too.

As I listened to Graham explain the concept, it all made perfect sense to me. I immediately went to work and applied what I learned and voila, the result was mind-blowing!

Make Your Music Creations Better Everyday!

Become a Mixing Mastermind Today.

Learn More

The Revelation

Here are the things that I found out while I was mixing in mono:

It reveals phasing issues – phase issues are often not heard in a stereo mix due to stacking of instruments in the track. The instruments will take up the same space in the frequency spectrum, thus, working against each other. This causes the phenomenon called phase cancellation. An example of this is two guitar tracks, one panned to the left, and the other, to the right. Sounds great in stereo, but hollow, thin, and dull in mono. In simple terms, if your recorded tracks sound good on its own but sound bad, flat, and dull together, that could be a phase problem.

mixing in mono

It tells you that your mix is not ready – every producer and mix engineer’s aim is clarity and balance. If it doesn’t sound punchy and clear in mono, it just means you need to work on areas like EQ, compression, gain staging and automation, etc. Mixing in mono reveals problem areas instantly. By this, you would know which area that you need to work on and fix.

It is harder to mix in mono – bluntly speaking, yes, but it’s worth the effort. Why? Mixing this way, your ears work harder to distinguish the differences in leveling and space the instruments are taking up in the spectral context. Separation is much tedious in this process, but this allows you to make the necessary EQ fixes and achieve the right balance. Spatial positioning or panning is what I found tough to execute. Switching the mix back and forth from stereo to mono helps to make sure the panning is correct. Despite the difficulty, once you get used to the process and make it a practice to mix this way, you’d mix better and end up with radio ready mixes.

To Sum It Up

If it sounds good in mono, then it will definitely sound great when you put the mix back to stereo.

So for epic recordings, listening and mixing in mono in the initial stages of your mixing session is good practice that you need to start doing.

Now that I have explained how mixing in mono dramatically took my mixes to the next level, I’d be happy to share the process of mixing in mono on the next read. I assure you that when you start applying this concept to your mixes, all you can say is, “Wow!”

Are you new to this concept? How do you think mixing in mono can help you? Please share your thoughts and comment below! I’d love to hear from you!

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