Stereo distribution of instruments

Stereo distribution of instruments and frequencies

A frequently asked topic is the distribution of instruments or frequencies in the mix down and Mastering and stereo image in compliance with mono-compatibility. Often just bad samples are used here too much stereo information contain or rather provide unfavorable stereo information.

To determine whether everything is ok in the stereo image, we use a stereo field measuring device, including a goniometer or Correlation meter called. Here we can see if something is grossly wrong. Another tool for such measurements is a good metering (e.g. Izotope Insight or Pinguin Metering) and a plugin (e.g. BX Control) which enables us to do both Monitor the mono signal and the side signal separately. Almost every reasonable interface has at least one mono button for listening to the mono signal path.

These two plugins (BX Control or something similar and metering) we switch one after the other and can thus take a closer look at the frequency profile of the mid and side signals in metering.

Error in the stereo image

Very often the mistake is made of not properly low-cutting instrument tracks (sometimes with the exception of kick and bass), so that too much bass remains in the side signal. This can be seen quite quickly with the method described above. The problem here is that the kick and bass areas are in the Stereo mix sounds very indifferent.

In principle, however, I recommend to set a lowcut at 20hz on EVERY audio track. Small cattle also make crap and you will hear a noticeable change in total - as long as your acoustics and wiretapping allow this.

Bad kick and bass samples also create too much frequencies in the side signals. As every musician should know, no drum kit has 2 kick drums and no band has 2 bass players. Therefore, frequencies below 100 hz should always be mono. Otherwise you will have major problems on playback devices with only one loudspeaker, i.e. smartphone, laptop or tablet, as this area then simply disappears or loses its performance enormously.

Correct distribution in the stereo image

To do this, you can simply google 2 pictures. For one, a picture of one Drum set, and on the other hand, a picture of a classic orchestra line-up. So you don't risk bad criticism from the classical musicians and principle fanatics among us. 🙂

In general, it should be said that all instruments have the up to approx. 60% in the stereo image panned are still easy to locate in the center signal. Everything that goes beyond that will probably be difficult to locate in the middle. Which doesn't mean that you can't, can't, or shouldn't do this. Only with the lead instruments should be careful here. Either you put the lead instrument in the middle or alternatively you play, you duplicate your lead instrument and either pitch it up or down slightly and then distribute this in the stereo field of your choice and at your discretion. So at least you always have a center signal. You can decide for yourself whether this will bring your desired sound in individual cases. Personally, I haven't had any bad experiences with it. Of course, you can also just play a third or fifth above or below and then distribute it in the panorama. Certainly a very interesting story.

All in all, I would always do that in between Check center signal and also see in the analyzer whether your frequency curve shows the desired values. If so, deal with the side signal. Last but not least - with the complete stereo signal.

There are NO rules in the distribution of individual instruments and frequencies. Only the 2 guide values ​​I have described. Good is what sounds good.

You are welcome to post further questions in the comments below!

Chris Jones

Chris Jones

CEO - Mixing and mastering engineer. Has been running Peak Studios since 2006 and is the first online service provider for audio services. More about Chris

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