Stereo techniques in music recording – part II

Posted on July 3, 2010

Last week I gave a fairly detailed explanation of how to go about recording in stereo, with a general recommendation that you do so (or at least experiment with it).  Today I’ll continue in this vein, but from a slightly different perspective – stereo processing, rather than stereo recording.  My previous example assumed that you were recording some sort of sound with microphones.  This time we’ll look at some ideas for stereofying a sound that you’ve already recorded in mono.

Let’s imagine, then, that you’ve got a vocal performance recorded in mono.  It sounds good, but you want to add some depth to it.  Try some of the following and see what you think.  First, duplicate the sound you want to work with, so that you have two identical tracks.

1.  Filtering.  In your DAW (Digital Audio Workstation – basically your computer recording setup) fire up a pair of multi-band filters, one for each track.  Then pick a few frequencies in the upper bands, with tight Qs, and boost by 6db or so.  Do this for both tracks, but pick different frequencies for each track.  If you like, duplicate the filters and swap them, but invert the gain, so that if track A is boosting X and track B is boosting Y, you cut Y and X respectively.  Put some reverb on the tracks, and pan them hard left and hard right.  If you want, put the original audio in the middle, and you’ll get an interesting image.

2.  Reverb. The easy way is to just run it through stereo reverb.  Works up to a point.  Or!  You can try setting up different, totally independent reverbs in each channel.  So in the left channel, maybe a 4 sec. semi-wet hall reverb, and in the right channel a 2 sec. very wet plate reverb.  Experiment.

3.  Delay. This one is very fun, and actually has the effect of seeming to widen the stereo image beyond the actual span of your speakers.  Set up dual delays, fully wet.  Set them up so that the delays are short and only a few milliseconds off of each other, with limited feedback.  Mess around with this basic setup and you’ll get all kinds of crazy results.

4.  Analog delay. Very crazy potential here.  Run your original signal through an analog delay and tweak the delay time completely randomly.  Repeat.  Pan results hard left and right, and leave the original in the centre.  The TEMOS song “Guide to Edible Flora” employs this technique.

5.  Record the room. Play your original audio through a speaker and mic it.  Repeat.  Simple and straightforward, and can yield a nice subtle image.

There’s a few ideas – give them a try and see what you think.  And remember, each of these techniques can be brutally abused to get off the wall effects (which I highly recommend) that go far beyond replicating stereo.  If you have questions just comment below.

In our next installment I’ll get into some specific things you can do to get bizarre effects / churn up sounds.