Tips for Increasing Stereo Width of Synths in a Mix
Just finished up an EDM mixthru, and these couple of stems are from that. They are a lead synth for the hook and an augmenting synth for the hook, and I’m going to play them together right now.
And now I’m going to quickly play them in solo, just so you can hear what each one is doing.
[bright synth lead]
[gritty saw synth]
Right, so we’ve got our lead, which is this very tight, focused square synth that is giving us the main melody, and then we’ve got a stacked synth that has a lot of frequency content and is very wide, and is playing a chord structure that’s helping it along, right?
So what this tutorial is going to be about is about creating a bigger stereo field in a couple of different ways that we can do this.
So if we’re thinking of our lead as our front and center kind of thing, then we can think of this not only as something that is going to harmonically and melodically support the lead – the secondary synth – but it can also give us the low end of the frequency spectrum, it can give us the super high end of the frequency spectrum, and it can give us the side information to create a big stereo field.
So that’s what this is really going to be about, and I’m going to show you a bunch of little quick techniques that you can do to make that happen.
The first one I’m going to show you is just using the Waves Center plug-in, which is a mid/side processor which allows you to control the level of the center and side information independently.
So what I’m going here is I’m pulling the center channel – everything that’s living right in the middle – down two decibels, and I’m pushing the side channel – which is essentially everything that’s not in the middle – up two decibels. So it’s going to have the effect of spreading the sound out.
Here is the before and after.
[synths, before and after Waves Center]
So that’s pretty cool, and that’s a very straightforward way of doing it. It works well. You can use it in conjunction with other techniques. It’s just a good way when you know that something is really meant to fill out the stereo spectrum, it can just help it along a little bit.
Okay, now I’m going to show you another pretty basic technique. This one is going to be using a reverb. This is just a dash of plate reverb to help sort of spread things out and give it a little depth. Here we go.
[synths with reverb]
So this one is not as dramatic as the Waves Center one. I’ll turn up the wet to dry ratio a little bit so we can hear it a little more clearly, but it gives us a feel of width more than necessarily a direct increase in width.
So, exaggerated before and after.
[synths, before and after reverb]
Alright. Next one, this is sort of like the “poor man’s reverb.” It’s a delay. Very fast delays. The left and right side are timed differently, so before…
[synths with delays]
Right? It kind of sounds like reverb in a way, but it’s a nice, wide reverb, and so I dig it.
The last one I’m going to show you is a chorusing effect, and what I’ve done is I’ve timed the chorus to actually make it feel like the stereo panning structure is moving around a little bit.
Here’s before and after.
[synths play, dry, then with delays]
That’s kind of a cool effect, because it actually creates a sort of sense of movement, and this rate and depth knob are really what’s going to influence the sound of that.
So let’s say I turn up the depth…
[synths play with delay]
That just sort of feels more like an artificial stereo spread, where as if I were to turn the depth way down…
We feel a little bit more of that movement, and now here is our rate control. I want to turn that way up.
Once again, it’s kind of feeling like… more of like an ambiguous spread rather than a specific movement.
Okay, especially when it starts turning up. You hear an almost rippling effect to it.
[synths with delay]
I like that.
So now just for funsies, I’m going to put them all on here in order – in this order. I’m going to do the chorus first, the delay second, the reverb third, and the Center plug-in last.
[synths with effects]
[laughs] That’s kind of cool, actually. So I’m going to go just to the Center plug-in real quick, and I’m going to show you one other neat little thing that you should think about.
So on the lead verb, or sorry, on the lead synth…
I have this delay, right?
So right now, the different delays are panned hard left and hard right.
Watch what happens when I mute the delay in context.
[synths without delay]
We kind of get a bigger sense of stereo field, which is sort of weird, right? Because we’re taking side information away, but it’s because we’re unclouding the sides. The delays are no longer interfering with what’s going on hard left and hard right, and so our spread synth, we hear that more clearly, and in a way, it creates the illusion of a wider image, even though we’re actually taking width away.
Kind of weird, but here’s how we can reconcile that idea. I have my panning positions for my two delays. Instead of panning them hard left and hard right, what if I tuck them in a little bit here and here, and I’m just going to make a copy of this so that we can switch back and forth here.
So here’s hard left and hard right.
[synths, hard panned delays]
Here’s pulled in.
[synths, pulled in delays]
Kind of cool, right?
So now, let’s do some kind of combination to really exaggerate it.
Let’s put on the chorus and the reverb, and we’ll pull in the sides.
So yeah, experiment with that kind of stuff. You know, part of – I guess the reason why I wanted to show you the thing with the delays on the synth that’s supposed to live in the center is because part of this isn’t just about making everything out on the sides. Then you can get that big mono thing.
Sometimes it’s about assigning things to a solid center or getting things closer to that, and then letting things be clearer on the sides.
So food for thought, I hope you learned something. Until next time, guys.