BALANCE IN MONO
We can aid the balancing process by making our mix mono by use of a utility plugin on the master.
To help us make this task even easier we can now turn off one of our nearfield monitors.
By turning one of our monitors off, we are hearing the entire track in mono, through one speaker. This technique can help us to judge the level of instruments relative to each other better because we now have fewer variables to focus on.
A second reason is that monitoring in mono may cause level differences due to phase and panning that will make us re-think our balance decisions. These level differences could easily go unnoticed if we mixed our whole track in stereo without using any phase correlation meters.
THE THREE DIMENSIONS OF A MIX:
- Height (amplitude & dynamic range)
- Depth (reverb or distance from listener)
- Width (Stereo image & panning)
By reducing the mix to mono, we have now removed the element of width which allows us to focus on the task in hand rather than all 3 dimensions.
Having to deal with height, width and depth can make the balancing process tricky. If we are taking the ‘fresh sheet’ approach to mixing we will also have removed any reverb or delay plugins used in the composition stage of the track, which ultimately means that for this first stage of the mix process we only have to deal with the single ‘height’ dimension of the mix.
We also have the ability to alter depth by adjusting the volume. Psychoacoustics dictate that the further away a sound is from the listener, the quieter the volume will become. (high frequencies are also dampened faster than lower frequencies as they travel through a medium such as air)
By employing this technique we will be able to balance the elements much quicker than if we were also panning them at the same time.
A mix that has been carefully balanced in mono is far more likely to translate to a well-balanced mix in stereo. Whilst doing this the other way round is not necessarily the case.
Ensure to remove the utility plugin from the master channel and turn both monitors back on to avoid spending hours of frustration trying to suss out why the mix lacks any sense of stereo image, or why audio is only coming out of one speaker later on in the mix process.
BALANCE IN MONO TO CHECK FOR MASKING ISSUES
Balancing in mono forces the listener to work harder to achieve clarity between separate sounds.
The easy option would be to apply panning to a sound to move it to a less cluttered area of the stereo spectrum, which would appear to resolve the problematic frequency domain issues. Whilst this solves the situation when listening in stereo, the mix will still have underlying clarity issues due to masking when played in mono. For this reason it can help to regularly test these sorts of decisions in mono.