BACK TO MONO?
by Eddie Ciletti
updated 22 Novemeber 2010
I have always been a HUGE stereo fan especially when it enhances the
acoustic environment. But when limited to only four tracks there
is often a need to bounce to accommodate overdubs and, equally often, to
sacrifice stereo for mono during the bounce process. Even though
I teach the class, this has been a struggle for me that has slowly been
resolved by the power of the exercise.
I have learned to let go of my 'obsession' for stereo and symmetrical
panning. In mono, only what is necessary should be in the mix, a
'limitation' that clarifies the sound and lays a more solid sonic foundation.
Stereo can be a crutch, or a distraction from, what is important in a mix.
How this applies to how you mix is simple. Try mixing in mono
– analog or digital but with automation - and then listen in stereo once
the mix is balanced. You will soon see that all of the hard work
is done, freeing you to place parts within the space knowing that all the
'masking fat' has been trimmed. Just as submixing forces decisions
to be made early, knowing all the work that went into achieving 'balance'
allows not only more 'panning freedom' but also more space for the signal
processing to work with.
You should give a lot of thought to how a recording can be approached
– from the space itself to where within the space the musicians should
work – like what's best for them to hear each other. Communication
amongst the players is important. The better they communicate, the
easier our job of sonic capture. Similarly, if possible for musicians
to listen to each other without headphones, there is a better chance that
they can mix themselves and play to the acoustic space, the latter acts
like a mirror.
The Fall 2010
recordings are examples of recording without headphones (Bobby
McGee and the Molly Dean Sessions), of 'mono' commitment (Bobby McGee)
and of trying unusual ways for the artists to experience a headphone-like
effect using 'foldback speakers.'