Compose in Mono – Produce in Stereo
Today I have a quick tip for you that will greatly improve the clarity of your final music productions. And that is to keep all instruments panned in the middle during your composing process. Perhaps with the exception of tracks that are going to be double-tracked, like rhythm guitar.
The main point here is that panning is a way to increase separation and clarity in a mix. That is true. And you should of course use that to your advantage…but use it when you produce your music, which includes mixing.
Think about it:
If you compose, arrange and transpose all parts in your music so that you will have good separation and clarity, even while all tracks are still panned in the middle…when you start panning tracks out to the left and right, you will end up with a crystal clear mix.
So this is something I have personally started doing. Composing in Mono, and then Mixing in Stereo. And I have found that it has really taken the separation and clarity of my mixes up a notch in quality. Because since I do not allow myself to “push the dirt under the carpet” so to speak…I am forced to focus more on creating separation in the composition stage first.
You have many ways to do this as you compose your tracks: Making sure no octave is too cluttered, removing parts that clash, re-writing parts to be more like “layers” and “doubles” to other instruments instead of doing their own thing. Meaning making individual parts into unison doubles, octaves or harmony lines if I choose to even have them left in the composition.
It is always tempting to keep adding more parts to your music, because we all want our compositions to sound big and full. I have made this mistake myself thousands of times. But by composing completely in mono, you will hear how quickly you can end up with a cluttered muddy sound in any octave by having too much going on at once. Instead of simply reaching to the panning knobs. Question your composition. Transpose parts up or down, remove parts that clash too much, choose lighter articulations (like staccato, or palm mutes), make the part less busy, reduce note lengths to add space in that register…and so on. You have so much power, as a music composer.
Use your Power Wisely
So what’s the lesson apart from composing in mono, and mixing in stereo?
It is that you have the most power and control, in the very composing stage. Make sure you use that power wisely to tell a story that has focus, direction and is clear at all times to the listener.
PS. I truly believe the power of the composing stage is so great, and so important to have your full focus, that I am working on creating an online course on this very subject right now. Your composition is what will create your music story. Production, Mixing and Mastering is only polishing that story. So make your story great first! =)