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Tips for turning a mono track into stereo?

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  • Tips for turning a mono track into stereo?

    I'm pretty new to using a DAW.   I'm using Studio One and mixing some multi-track recordings of a live performance of my band.

    I'd like to take the mono guitar and keyboard tracks and turn them into stereo to 'fatten' them up.   What are some good suggestions for doing this?  Making a copy of the track and using different EQ settings?   Adding some delay to one of them?   Is there a simple plug-in effect people use for this?

    Much thanks in advance for any and all suggestions!


    RobRoy: "There is an "honest grit" to his lying."

  • #2

    First a few basics. A guitar doesn't produce a stereo signal so you cannot make a mono track into a stereo track. If a guitar had a a pickup with 6 strings and a stereo output, and some strings panned left and some panned right and you recorded two mono tracks or a stereo track, then you would have true stereo with different strings playing through each speaker.

    Many keyboards have this. They have stereo outputs and the low notes come out of the left speaker, high notes out of the right, and middle notes out of the middle.

    Live drums using stereo overhead mics and multiple tom, snare and kick can be panned left and right as well, but each individual mic is mono.

    Even If you use two guitar amps and use two mics, the sound is essentially mono with some tonal differences between the speakers.

    To get stereo, you really need to record two tracks playing the same (or different) parts. The human delays in timing, touch dynamics etc are what make it sound like two people playing.

    What you can do with a mono track is create a "pseudo" stereo track (which is what you are inquiring about) is to use trick that emulate these human differences in playing parts. You copy the track and apply different effects to each, or apply effects to one and leave the other alone.

    The tools you can use that work well are often time based effects like chorus, reverb and echo. 

    Others can be more frequency based like Wah, Phase shifter, EQ.

    Then you can also alter dynamics using a compressor or limiter.

    Then you have gain plugins like distortion, overdrive, Saturation and a few others

    And you can use a unique ones like pitch shifter/pitch tuners.

    There are others but they fall mainly into the other categories. The trick is to use these plugins to create a sense of space and time to fake peoples ears out and create an illusion that there's more than one person playing. Something like reverb can place the sound farther back in the mix, in the back of the room while the other instrument is up close. This creates a room effect with reflections, but its not really stereo. Its just moving the sound source and reverb around. If ones panned hard left and the other hard right to would be like watching a band from the side of the stage. You hear the direct sound in the right ear with the amp on stage, and the left ear picks up the sound bouncing off the back of the wall in back of the audience.

    Putting pre delay helps change it a little more because the reverb playback is delayed and then it starts sounding fatter as the dry notes start having trails. Its still not great because all the notes are the same and its essentially flawless, unlike two separate tracks recorded that have different emotions in back of the notes.

    Chorus is another good tool. It creates motion by shifting time and phase and can add allot of separation between the parts. I use an old plugin called Classic Chorus that free to download. It works great on making two cloned tracks sound thick and full.

    Echo is another cool plugin for creating different spacings and timings happening. If you know the tempo you can set it at different multiples so its set for whole notes, half notes, quarter notes, triplets etc. Many can even ping pong a guitar side to side. Oh, and I missed another tool. You can download auto panners which will pan a guitar side to side automatically (or just use automation and record the pan knob movement)

    A auto tune program can do cool things too. How often do you come across guitars that are in perfect pitch and timing? I've never played two different guitars with exact same pitch and tone. An auto tune program can be used to keep one guitar in perfect pitch while the other has notes that twang out f pitch as notes are played or delays changing pitch as notes are bent. You can also tune notes up a few cents, 1/3, 1/4th, 1/5th, 1/7th or even a whole octave for chorus like effects.

    To fatten a single track you can make two clones. Pan one clone left and one right. Pitch one up say 5~10 cents and the other down the same amount. Leave the original track untouched and mono center. This can make for a fat sounding guitar with no other effects but using additional effects can do all kinds of things.

    Use your ears and experiment till you find what sounds cool. There no short cuts and no rules. You can even download a Leslie cabinet simulator and make it sound like a guitars spinning around the room or get a Doppler shifter and make it sound like the guitar is passing by like a race car when you slide down the neck. The combinations are endless. Over use them and completely mangle a guitar track then see how it sounds the next day. If it still sounds good, keep it. If not start over.

    Don't be afraid to save presets. You may find a signature tone you want to use again and that sound that took you a month to tweak in to perfection can be used again. Other times you want a clean slate like a blank canvas for a painter and do everything from scratch and let the music tell you want it needs. Between the choices in plugins and all the knobs the plugins have the combination possibilities are virtually endless.

    Start off using the effect in the same order as you use guitar pedals in a chain. Wah>Compressor> Phaser> Overdrive> Chorus> Echo and Reverb is a normal chain. Use it when mixing and its hard to go wrong. The only thing you can do is use too much and you can always back it down. The golden rule is If you hear it working and it draws your attention away from hearing all the parts ina mix as a whole then its likely too much.

    On leads you want to have the attention drawn so that when you may want to give those notes being played as boost or a crutch depending on how you look at it. A blues player wouldn't like allot of chorus and drive to mask the notes. A heavy metal guy can't stand clean notes, A Jazz guy uses no overdrive and few harmonics, and s **** kicker loves twang and overtones. Use the tools to get what you think the music composition needs and after awhile its as easy as dialing up your guitar tone playing live.  


    Good luck


    • #3
      Another trick, is to take one of the copied tracks, and actually offset the time a few ms so it starts after the original.
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      • #4
        ^^^ That does introduce a phase issue that can cause problems when the tracks are not panned hard left and right. You're better off using a reverb or echo pre delay to get the same thing but it leaves the dry sound in phase like a room reflection, direct sound blend has.


        • #5
          There's a lot of cool and interesting suggestions there, everyone. Thanks! I'll mess with some of that stuff. And yes, I fully understand the difference between a mono and stereo track. I guess I worded the thread poorly.

's an example of what I'm working with. The keys and guitar are mono tracks and all I've done is pan each to opposite sides a bit. But I'd like to find other ways to widen the stereo soundscape. What would any of you specifically do if working with these tracks?

          (Also, pay no attention to the video. It's just a raw "recorded for band-use only" video I take of all our gigs. I'm just using it here so there's something to look at while listening.

          RobRoy: "There is an "honest grit" to his lying."


          • #6
            I usually double mic cabs with different mics to separate tracks and pan. It'll also work to duplicate the track and pan. I'll add different delays/reverbs/slight modulation etc to each one also.

            A really easy and great sounding tool is BX Stereomaker. If you've already got BX Rockrack you can grab Stereomaker for $50
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            • #7
              The video track sounds like its 100% mono to me. I'm only listening on computer monitors at the moment though.
              The techniques you'd use to create some widening are going to be unique to the tracks you have to work with and the type of music.

              If you only have a mono track to begin with, what I'd do is copy and paste it so you have 2 mono tracks. I'd pan them left and right between
              50~75%. I never use hard left and right because it creates an unnatural hard edge way out there.
              I'd then decide which side I'd want the instrument to be mainly focused on, IE the right side.
              I'd use a short ambient effect like a chorus with a very mild blend and slow turn. Just enough to give that side body but not enough to
              give it any kind of twisting/turning from the LFO. I use this one allot on guitars (and vocals)
              Kjaerhus has a whole set of free plugins that are pretty good for freebees. The reverb has a nice retro 80's tone that sounds decent on snare.
              Phaser is pretty cool and the echo is very tape like.

              With a very mild chorus on the right, I'd add some reverb on the left and turn that channel down as well.
              What you want to create is a dry amp on the right pointing at the left side of the room where you hear the reverb off that side of the room.
              With the right side being nearly dry it will still stand out in the mix and the mild chorus will give the sound some live movement.

              I'd try the same thing for your keyboard except equal and opposite the guitar. Put chorus on the left and reverb on the right.
              Try using the exact same settings at first.

              Then send all 4 tracks to an Aux buss, and have the aux bus sent to your mains.
              There are several cool things you can do here to adjust the stereo expansion.
              I have a tool called Channel Tools that comes with Sonar. It allows you to adjust stereo and mid side width.
              You can put a different delay on the channels and dial up a room size and have it expand the width and the strength of
              the instruments you have in the aux buss. If you use another DAW, you can find several stereo widening tools on the KVR site
              that do similar things. You only need a tad of this kind of tool, but you may not need it at all. Again it depends on the mix.

              There's also another tool that can be used. I use it on drums allot when I'm going for a wide sounding set, but I want to keep the
              bass frequencies centered so I don't have problems with the bass kick from the monitors. Its called Basslane.
              This nifty plugin can be adjusted to keep your bass frequencies in the center and let your other frequencies remain in stereo.
              When placed in a stereo buss you can mono the lower frequencies and let your treble frequencies expand out. Very useful RX tool
              for fixing a bad mix too where and instrument had too much bass and was hard panned to one side making the mix sound unbalanced.
              It can put the low frequencies center and leave the mids and highs expanded.


              • #8
                One trick you can try is to pan the track's reverb or delay on the opposite site of the stereo spectrum from where the instrument is panned. It's simple, and as long as the effect is 100% wet, there is minimal danger of phase cancellation. Mono does not bug me at all for guitar, especially for the type of music you play. You should find other ways to make the sound fatter if that is your goal. For the keyboards, the very best thing you could is to record the stereo outputs from the instrument. Anything else is a compromise.