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How To Make A Wider Stereo Sound

Your stereo sounds keep getting thinner and have no usefulness in your mix. I understand what you're going through, I was in that world before, and I will show you how I got out of that misery.

I will be showing you a simple trick (not a trick anyway) to make your sounds come to life, sit better in the mix, and also mono compatible. This is what the Pro's call "Widening", how do we achieve a wider sound, or better still, a wider stereo sound?

A wider lead sound can be achieved by:

1. Eqing

Every instrument or audio source takes up the whole frequency spectrum, but each instrument or audio source has its key frequency, e.g. Vocals -> Mids, Bass -> Lows, Hi-hat-> Highs, Guitar -> Mid, to mention a few, this depends on the kind of instrument or audio source you are using anyways. Place instruments in the right frequency position, remove unwanted frequency and things should get on its own, if not independent.

Note: Instrument may have its key frequency, but I bet you that frequency overlap will still occur, the best thing to trust in this case is your ear, and a little adjustment will make things sound great, but overlapping frequency will still occur (That's how it works, don't be deceived by frequency chart)

2. Stereoising Plugins

This uses Digital Signal Processing (DSP) to analyse and modify a signal to optimise its performance. A perfect example is the Voxengo Msed (free tool), this plugin analyses your stereo sound into two modes (Mid & Side), then it allows you to manipulate the middle part of the sound or the side, meaning it allows you to only turn up the middle gain, side gain, middle pan and side pan, it doesn't cut or boost frequency, it only works with the gain in the middle frequency and side frequency.

3. Reverbing

Reverb is an effect for widening a narrow sound in a stereo field, using reverb is like placing an instrument in acoustic space or as an enhancement to liven and widen up the sound. Subtly use reverb to widen up a sound, or route your sound to a mixer bus, subtly add reverb to the bus, then you have a widen sound.
Note: This depends on the audio material you're using.

4. Modulation Delay

Modulating delay takes the characteristics of flanger and chorus effect, it takes an input sound, delay it for a few milliseconds and immediately manipulates it to create a thicken vibrolo or metallic comp filtering effect.

Modulation helps in creating motion in a track and as well as liven the sound, it can also be used to control waveform of a different type. A good example of modulation delay is Mondomod by waves, Mondomod is three modulation effect in one plugin, it helps in widening the sound, Mondomod includes Amplitude Modulation (tremolo). Frequency Modulation (Vibrato) and rotating(panning) effects for creating a wider sound.

5. Layering Sound

This method involves stacking two or more sound together to achieve a solid and a widened sound. This method is interesting when you follow the principle. The principle is to use a thinner sound, e.g thinner1 thinner x2, thinner x3, thinner x4, then you have a big and wide sound (think you got the concept). A sound that is already wide, stacked with multiple wider sound will create frequency clashing, and masking can easily muddy up your mix. Go for multiple thinner sound, make sure they sound similar, add more if not enough and remember to check back if it's mono compatible or not, Flux has a free imaging and analysis tool for checking phasing issues and mono compatibility, give it a try and I assure you, it's gonna work out for you.

6 The 80's Microshift effect

One of the biggest effects of those time (and still is), is the Microshift effect, from the word micro -> small amount.

This is an effect that is similar to modulation, in its own case, an audio source followed by another audio source is separated or duplicated by a small time delay (just as how some modulation effect work), this effect trick your perception to perceive a lush stereo sound and not the duplicated audio file.

The reason why Microshift is so powerful is that it can process the shifting of one's pitch higher or lower without affecting the timing of the track. Soundtoy has one, its called Soundtoy Microshift, Eventide has one as well, called the H3000 Series. Both plugins come with a price tag.

You can create your own Microshift effect by creating three copies of the same audio material (sending into three different mix insert), Keep one of the audio file centred, hardpan(100% left and 100% right) the remaining two copies left and right. Slightly raise the pitch of the right signal, and slightly lower the pitch of the lower signal.

This trick the ear and you perceive it as a lush sound, to get the most out it by adjusting volume knob to make things balance in the field.

Bonus Tip

Panning audio source around: Panning involves moving a sound left and right across the stereo field by a defined amount.

More tools can help in creating a sound wider, this is just the tip of the iceberg, the best to do right away is to start learning, and you will gradually move to greater success.

Thanks for spending your time reading this tutor, happy creating good music, and do not forget to share this with your friends, bye.

Team Horlaes