Stereo Spreading and Panning
Within the stereo field, although there’s only 2 speakers, there’s actually 3 positions where you can place the sound, as well as anywhere in between. The 3 positions are Left, Center, and Right. If the left and right speakers and playing an identical signal at identical volume, that signal will sound like it is coming from the Center. If the signal is not identical on each side, you will be able to notice that it is more to one side, or it is spread out to the sides.
Let’s talk about the difference between stereo spreading and stereo panning.
Panning is adjusting the volume balance of the left and right. You can hard pan left, or hard pan right, or anywhere in between.
Spreading is to take a sound, manipulate it so the left and right signals are slightly different, so even if it’s volume on each side is the same, you can tell that the sound is coming from the sides, not from the Center. Examples of this are the Haas effect, logics imager plugin, xy recording technique and doing 2 separate recordings of the same part and hard panning the takes left and right.
This lesson is going to focus on the mixing aspect, but check out lesson 3.2 for stereo recording techniques.
Spreading parts out is an important step of the mix process to create space for for all the individual parts to fit together into one nice sounding song.
Let’s take this song Reckless by Justin. Do you hear how the vocal harmonies are hard panned. There’s only 2 harmony parts, but it feels like a lot more.
Here’s an example of a song where I did it differently, open house by Irelan. There were several takes of harmonies and they were hard panned left and right to give more of a chorus feel.
Now on this song, there’s only 1 harmony, and only 1 track. I decided to use the Haas effect to spread it out. The Haas effect works great to turn a mono part into stereo. Simply add a tiny bit of delay to one side, anywhere from 10 milliseconds to 30 milliseconds. When I use this several times on a song, I alternate the side which has the delay added, and I use a different amount of delay each time.
In this song, there’s acoustic guitar and piano playing in the same frequency range . They’re kinda muddled together, and I want to be able to distinguish each one a bit better. I can hard pan them left and right... that gives the distinction, but now the song doesn’t feel balanced, because the parts are too different.
I could try the Haas effect on the parts, here we go, ok, they’re spread out, but they are still muddled together. For this task, I’m going to use the imaging plugin that comes with logic. It separates the sound out into frequency bands, and sends alternating bands to each speaker. Here’s how the piano and guitar sound with this. Notice, I’m using the same settings, but in reverse for 1 sound.
If you have 2 separate recordings of the same part, you can get a really nice stereo spread by hard panning them to the left and right.