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L C R Panning & Mixing in Mono

Transcript
Hello everybody, hope you’re doing marvelously well.

So you’ll see by the title of this video it’s LCR and mono mixing. I’m combining this in one discussion.

[music]

So as ever, please don’t forget to download the cheat sheet, and of course, subscribe and hit the notification bell for new videos.

Now, some of you may have noticed that I have taken two very contentious and huge topics, and combined them into one.

Why have I done that? Because I really believe it’s the same thing. There’s a lot of discussion about mixing in mono, and there’s a lot of discussion about LCR, which of course, is left, center, right, and mono of course, everything coming out of all speakers at all times equally.

The reason why I’ve combined it is because a lot of the contention, and a lot of the differences in opinion is based around one big thing, which I’ve not yet heard anybody talk about, and that is genre.

LCR is very, very typical in genres that are massive guitar sounds, massive EDM tracks, etcetera. What I mean is if you’ve got a heavy rock track, and you’ve got huge guitars, it’s very typical for mixers and producers and engineers to pan walls of guitar left, walls of guitar right, and when I say that, fully panned, hard left and hard right.

Then the center, entirely reserved for kick, snare, and vocals, and bass guitar.

So you’ve got kick, snare, vocals, bass guitar, down the middle, heavy guitars, wall of guitar on the left, and another set of wall of guitars on the right. That is incredibly common, that technique of LCR in heavy rock, because it’s the best way to get definition.

As soon as you start taking guitars, heavy guitars, and start blurring them into the middle, you’re killing the opportunity, and the chance of that vocal, that bass, that kick and that snare to come through.

Now, don’t get me wrong, there are many, many mixers, that take low level guitars and pan them in slightly underneath. I’ve seen that, and I myself will take guitars on the left hand channel, and then put the ambience panned over to the right, then take the right hand guitars, and put its ambience to the left.

That actually helps with the width, and it helps kind of keep the sides kind of out of the way of the middle.

There’s lots of different little tricks you can do. But for instance, as an illustration, here I have a heavy rock song that I did with a band called Snakebite. A Polish rock band. And if we listen to say, just the drums for instance…

[drums]

You can hear very clearly that that kick and snare is right down the middle.

[drums]

Add the bass.

[drums and bass]

Smack down the middle.

[drums, bass, guitars]

Full left and full right guitars.

So let’s do a little experiment. Let’s take those guitars, which aren’t particularly loud. They’re not like, full blown, and let’s just pan them in a little bit, just for illustration. If I pan them in…

[mix]

Let’s listen to that snare.

[mix]

Panned full out. Panned back in. What you’ll notice is a little bit of that brightness disappears from the snare. Here’s both the guitars panned to the center. There’s two sets of heavy guitars, one set staying far left and far right, and the other now is in the center.

[mix]

Panning hard left and hard right. You hear more ring on the snare, you hear a little brightness. One more time.

[music]

More importantly, and probably just as importantly, there’s width to the track.

Now, many, many mixers, in this situation here, what you could do is you could take just a pair of those guitars and put them maybe 50. 50/50 either side, so that when you come to the chorus, you use — you know, LCR. You go full left, full right, and that is a technique that a lot of mixers use. If you listen to Andy Wallace, who’s one of the cleanest kind of rock mixers out there, listen to the mixes he was doing in the 90’s. He would do that all the time.

He would go choruses, bang. Massive, huge, rhythm guitars far left, far right, and in the verses, you might have just one guitar with a bass, and the guitar would be slightly offset from the center.

So everything is central, but when the chorus comes in, whack. Out it goes.

Now, LCR is a great technique for that, but you can see already, guys that you would assume that do LCR like CLA, Chris Lord-Alge as well, they’re still doing these kind of tricks, so they’re using LCR for choruses, they’re using LCR to create massive dynamics, because it’s dumb and it makes sense.

All the guitars in the left on one speaker, all the other guitars on the right in one speaker, and everything else down the center. It makes a lot of sense because it gets wide, it gets big, there’s no clutter, the center is a lot cleaner to hear, so it’s great for choruses, but it doesn’t mean that the whole mix would always be LCR.

I think that’s another thing that gets a little confusing. You listen to those great mixes, listen to Chris’ work, and listen to Andy Wallace’s work, and even though they are doing LCR, they’re choosing when to do it. So it’s a technique to use and understand, and use at the right time.

Okay, so let’s go to mixing in mono.

Mixing in mono is an interesting one. Nobody that I’ve actually ever sat in a room with, and I’m talking about Chris Lord-Alge, and Andy, and Michael Brauer, Spike Stent, Mark Endert, you know, all of these guys, these A-list mixers, these incredible mixers, none of them actually mix in mono, but they will check in mono. Checking in mono is really, really important.

One of the big things about guitar sounds, for instance, or anything that you’re panning to the left or to the right, is to be very, very judicious in the use of low end EQ.

So what do I mean by that? Well, if I play these guitars…

[mix]

You see, I’ve got a gentle rolloff at about 127. It’s quite gentle here, so it’s high passing, and I’m actually boosting at about 250, just to kind of keep that rolloff not too aggressive.

What is good about that is around about 200 and below starts to become very, very omnidirectional. It starts to just feel like it’s coming out generically out of everywhere. In order for my guitars to feel like they’re very firmly left or very firmly right, I’ll take out that low end gently, and it moves them comparatively more to the left or to the right.

The high mids define them coming out there, but the bottom end doesn’t sort of blur together. Again, very often in rock music, this is because the bass guitar is playing the same part.

[song]

So the bass guitar’s filling in the low end. It’s panned down the center. That sort of omnidirectional, multi-directional, whatever the word you want to use, argument below, whatever you want to use, however you want to do it, is you’re keeping the low end centered.

So kick drum, where it’s coming out at 40 to 60Hz, real super lows, where the basses may be crossing over at 60, 80, 100, that kind of area, that’s being centered.

The guitars, they still have low end in there, don’t get me wrong. It’s just a slope.

[guitars]

It’s not that they don’t have it, it’s just that it’s shaped so it’s less of that low end there, and it keeps them a little further left and right.

So why am I talking about this when talking about mono?

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Well, because you have to be very, very careful with low frequency information, and quite often with the guitar sounds in particular, they can cross over when you’ve got big, big guitar sounds, and you’ve got multiples of them, you get a lot of low end mud, and you don’t — this is a common misconception, and what we encounter all the time with people who are talking about not high passing.

You have to high pass, because you’ll get a buildup of like, four or five guitars, or whatever it might be, multiple guitars, and all of that low end gets together, and all of these waveforms, these big fat waveforms, all very slightly out of phase with each other.

So think about it, four guitars on either side, or two guitars on either side, whatever it might be. In this instance, it’s two double mic’d guitars, each side, so basically, two mics this side, two mics that side, of each pair.

So we’ve got four fricking things playing together.

So you get two of these pairs slightly out of phase with each other in the low end, which is very, very easy to do when you’ve got big, fat waveforms, it’s actually going to feel smaller. It’s not going to give you more low end. All of that stuff that you hear from guys saying, or girls saying that you get more low end by not high passing is absolutely incorrect.

That’s why when you look at CLA’s console, or Mike Brauer’s, or anybody like that, you’ll see a lot of high passing going on. They’re not high passing super high, like 250 or 500, but they’re getting down there in that 60, and 100, and sometimes like, 200 area, and cleaning it up, because you’ll get more low end by doing that.

So back to mono. Why am I waffling on about this? Well, because I want to check this in mono. If I center these over my bass…

[guitars and bass]

Take off the EQ.

It’s interesting.

It’s like, I get more sort of “bleh” mud down there, but I don’t hear the bass. I don’t hear the definition of the bass, I don’t hear it bouncing against it. It becomes a lot of mud.

And with bigger speakers, I’ve got 20, 30, 40Hz, which I don’t need in there. So it’s always a little bit of a battle, but that’s the thing about working in mono.

If you want to check your mixes and your stuff in mono, you’ll see where there’s any phase cancellation, and the phase cancellation you’re going to get most of is always in the low end. Because, I know I’ve said it four times, but I’m going to say it one more time, because it’s huge waveforms. Massive, big waveforms. If you take two big waveforms and slightly shift them away from each other, tons of opportunities for phase cancellation.

So be really careful about it. Some of the cleanest and best mixes I’ve got is when I’m only using a bass DI, because I can take that bass DI and duplicate it, and treat it in two different ways, EQ, the low end, and the high end, and then blend them back together, and also independently compress them, etcetera. Sometimes distort the high end and blend that back into a clean low end.

It’s better for me, quite often, than using a mic, but if I am using a mic with the DI, I’ll always roll off the low end from the mic, and use the mid-range, high mids, etcetera, on the mic to give the bass personality, and the low end only from the DI.

That is specifically why we high pass. High passing the mic, I’ll show you here. High passing the mic cleans up the low end.

Here is — here’s my DI. Look at the EQ. My bass DI.

[bass DI]

Only low end. Let’s take — I’ve got a bass mic here, which I’ve put some SansAmp distortion on. Look at the EQ — opposite.

[bass DI, high]

I’ve got one, another one here that doesn’t have any SansAmp, and I blend them together.

So both of these.

[bass]

High passed. Put them together, you’ve got a great bass tone.

Now, the problem is, if I zoom in really closely, whatever you do, whatever you do with a DI and a bass amp, you will never get exact phase correlation.

Now, what I’ve done here is actually used Time Adjuster. It’s a 214 sample delay, and a phase input. If you can see that this waveform here, just this waveform here is highlighted, actually should correspond to this waveform here. When it was recorded by the band themselves, they recorded this in Poland, it was out of phase.

So this distance is an average in samples. Here, it’s 233, 225. So what I’ve done is I’ve taken an average. I go here, it’s 210. So I’ve ended up with an average of about 214 samples, knocking this here, this DI, knocking it back so that this — this waveform here, and this waveform here are now aligned, and you see here, this little yellow button here, that is the polarity reverse. The phase flipped, if you’d like.

Everybody says it different ways, it means the same thing. It’s common. Polarity is the proper terminology, but when people say the polarity is incorrect, or it’s out of phase, either works. We can talk about the proper engineering and electronic terminology, but it means the same thing to the layman, and that’s all that matters.

So you can see what happened. It’s gone back here, and it’s been reversed. So now we have good phase on the bass, and we’ve got only the bottom end.

Now, whatever I do, I’m going to actually just cut this for a second. Whatever I do, and, not only am I going to cut this to illustrate it, I’m also going to invert the polarity.

And let’s get in a little bit closer. Make the waveform a little bigger, and you’re going to see, no matter what I do, it’s always going to be a little bit of an approximation. You know, it’s like, look at the wave file here. I bring that back so it’s essentially aligned. Here it’s crossing over, and it’s so close.

It’s so close. You can see there, a little bit larger, a little jumbo, there is no correlation where you’re going to get it exactly.

Now, you can manipulate and use pieces of software to time stretch your waveforms all over the place like they match, but you are, remember, manipulating your audio. You’re not recording it the way it was recorded. And that’s fine, maybe, from certain things, but you see my point.

Basically, my point is that when you get multiple sources picking up the same thing, like a DI, and amplifiers, and maybe a SansAmp, or some kind of other device, they’re all going to hear the low end in particular, all frequencies, but low end in particular slightly differently, producing a different waveform, boosting different amount of low end. So you’re never going to get the correct correlation of phase. So that’s why we do the trick.

Also, great mixers, rock guys like Bob Marlette, who is a good friend that’s mixed, you know, Sabbath, and Tony Iommi, and Ozzy Osbourne albums, and Airborne, and all of these great bands, tons of modern rock bands that you hear on the radio, even now will do the same thing with kick drums. He’ll take the low end of the kick drum on a clean kick, and then just use the low end, and use the clickiness from another kick, and then blend them all together, because you’re not getting multiple crossovers of different low frequency waveforms that are slightly out of phase of each other.

So that’s another misconception that I’ve been asked about a lot is that somebody had made a video talking about, you know, don’t EQ things independently. No, EQ things independently, and control them to sound the way you want, because you really want low end from the minimal amount of sources, really super clean, because you’ll actually get a bigger amount of low end.

If we listen to this little piece here…

[bass]

It’s cleaner, it’s more defined, it’s subtle at low levels, but turn it up, it’s super super clean. You’ve got control of all of the low end, and also over different notes, you won’t get different phase cancellation issues.

So simple as that. Just control your low end, and in mono, this is where it becomes an issue, because you get multiple sources, you start putting like, all of the guitars into mono, and all of that low end is slightly out from each other, it’ll just turn into a lot of mud, and not a lot of definition.

So mono is definitely important to check your mixes in. Make sure you check your mixes in mono, because there’ll be low end cancellation, stuff that seems not loud enough might be too loud. It’s not a problem to do it, but remember, you should be mixing how you ultimately want to hear it, but referencing in mono.

I think that LCR as a technique is a really quick and easy way to get a mix up sounding good, because you know you’ve got your kick, and your snare, and your vocal, and your bass down the center. If you’re doing heavy guitars, or you’re doing EDM or something like that and you have big, wide synths, keep them left and right. It’s a quick, easy way to get things balanced. It’s a great way to think, and it definitely moves things along.

However, the subtleties, you know, you’ll want to do verse stuff where it’s narrow, and then the choruses go wider. This is also important, going back to what we first started talking about, is it’s also genre dependent. If I’m doing a jazz band, I’m not panning all of my horns to one side and all of my strings to another.

It’s not like, “Oh, the violin, and the cello, and whatever, the double bass, violin and double bass have to be over there, and the horns over here, and the guitars…” It’s just not the way it works.

When you’re dealing with genres which aren’t quite so loud and slamming as EDM, or like, Hip Hop, or especially metal, you see mixes that are just a big wall of square waves. You know, that’s what they sound like as well. When you’re in that genre, you’re trying your hardest to create space, so it is doing things like panning out of the middle, it’s also about removing specific frequencies so things can fit in it, taking a big wall of guitars, and then scoop — you know, carving out maybe one or 2kHz to drop another sound in there.

These are the things that we do when we’re dealing with incredibly dense mixes.

Now, when you’re dealing with jazz, or even just folk instruments, or classic rock, not metal, but like, classic rock, like an Aerosmith song, things aren’t quite panned so left and right.

Later stuff maybe so, but if you go to like, the Toys in the Attic stuff, and Rocks, or you listen to Queen, or any of these classic rock bands, things weren’t so drastic. They did do hard left and hard right with huge width, but things were spread a little bit more around, because not everything is being pushed so forward.

Once everything is pushed so forward and so limited, that’s when the LCR world started to really start to develop.

However, just to correct myself, it is interesting that early stereo, they didn’t understand about panning. It was Ampex, the company, actually created a three-track machine, and you’d go to movie theaters, and there’d be a left speaker, a middle speaker, and a right speaker. They didn’t understand the idea of mono being a left and right playing at the same time, so literally, they would record on three-track Ampex machines, and have all the things in the left, all the things that were in the middle, and all the things that were in the right.

So strangely enough, LCR actually came out before — well, just right from the get-go.

So anyway, hope that helps you. Have a marvelous time of course, recording and mixing. Please download the cheat sheet, which is going to be around here. There’ll be more discussion about it. And of course, you know, subscribe, hit the notification bell, and go to producelikeapro.com, and download a whole bunch of drum samples and other fun things.

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Warren Huart

Warren Huart

Warren Huart is an English record producer/musician/composer and recording engineer based in Los Angeles, California. Learn more at producelikeapro.com.

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