Back To Mono

A producer I worked with quite a lot had a "back to mono" badge such as his devotion to the cult of mono, and its weird haired all knowing banged-up-on-murder-charges God - Phil Spector. I'm of the generation that everything has always been in stereo, and those early "hey, hmm...what are we going to do with this stereo thing" kind of stereo Beatles albums - you know the ones, drums in the left speaker only - well...to me that was and still is just weird. Sometimes it's so weird it's cool if you're going for some kind of retro effect, but that's where it belongs, deep in the bottom of your bag of production tricks. It's best to remember that my parents, and probably your parents generation were total drug fiends, and all that psychedelic experimentation and free love wasn't without consequence no matter how straight they pretend to be. I remember the first time that someone important to me checked the mix I had proudly slaved over in front of me - on their MacBook, through the tiny mono speaker. This person had been very specific about the tiny, infinitesimally minute details that they absolutely had to have making the end of the mix even more complicated than it usually is...and here they were: listening in mono on their MacBook. It didn't sound totally bad, lucky for me, but honestly - not exactly stellar either. Oops. Lots of vocal, kick and snare, but some of the other elements...uh-oh. Yep, those super wide guitars disappeared up their own ass. The downside of super tight doubled tracks of the same thing is unless you're careful when summed to mono...more or less disappear. Same with keys sometimes, or if you process a sound to make it wide. Another client said this: "If anyone is listening in mono these days - f**k them!" - and as we know the client is ALWAYS right. They DO have a point - TV's are in stereo....almost everything else is too...but still, it's best to cover your ass. So the moral of the story as a producer - check your work as you track and make sure your big plans for epic stereo elements don't collapse.

Everything wide sounds super impressive, but the more likely it is to sound lame if it's in mono, so be selective in what you choose to make wide - pick an element, a couple of elements perhaps but be sure they aren't absolutely key to holding the track together - that's how people make sure they have solid tracks and still make some ear candy.

Adam Whittaker