Music Production Tutorials

Maximum Stereo Width TricksMay 21, 2013

Ever wanted to make a sound jump out of your speakers? .One way to do it is to have the left and right contrast dramatically. This tutorial will cover two quick and easy techniques to give a sound maximum stereo width.

Technique 1 - Stereo Offset

First, pick a sound in mix that you want to use. This trick sounds best on the main instrument, but it's often used on everything from grungy guitars to hip hop hi-hats. I'll use the sound from the club synth tutorial.

This technique is fairly straightforward. Just make a copy of the synth or sound file, and pan one copy hard right and the other hard left. Then shift the timing of one of the copies ever so slightly.

The time offset trick is also effective even when the left and right instruments are exactly the same audio file.

Technique 2 – Two Different Instruments Left and Right

Another approach is to use two completely different instruments for the left and right side. In this example, I’m using a wind-up music box sound.

The trick is to pick out a similar sound and have it play the same notes. Since my starting sound has a short, pronounced attack on it, I’ll pick a harp and layer it.

Pan one sound all the way left and another all the way right. The instruments sound unified because they have a similar attack and decay. The trick is to find sounds similar enough to sell the idea that they are part of the same instrument.


Technique 3 – Used as a Mixing Technique

Do you already have two similar instruments burying each other in your mix? One solution is to use the above technique.

Here is another example using smoother sounds. One side features a wispy vibrato synth, and the other side features a mellow synth. The stereo trick works in this example because they have similar smooth attacks and would bury each other if panned in the middle, yet they are different in timbre and are playing different octaves, which means they will both be audible and complement each other when panned dramatically.

Audio Sound A

Audio Sound B

Audio Sound A plus B, panned left and right


For Maximum Effect:

Use these techniques sparingly! What will make it really jump out is if there is one stereo pair and all other sounds are mono. As with most mixing techniques, it’s the contrast that sells it.

I advocate for panning all the way left and right in these scenarios because many listeners will hear the song in a car or on a boombox or in other situations where it might be difficult to pick up on the difference between the left and right speakers.


Author Bio: Sean Duncan is an electronic music producer and freelance writer from Seattle, WA. 

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