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Mono Mixing: The secret to a perfectly balanced mix

You’re looking for tricks to improve the way you mix at home.

Let’s explore why mixing in mono can be a game-changer for balancing your mix. From the science behind the perception of sound to ways of getting the most out of your mono mix.

We’ll explain the differences between mono and stereo mixing and cover the benefits of mixing in mono, like how it adds punch and power to your mix.

What is mono mixing?

Mixing in mono refers to where the sounds are all heard in the center with no panning. Whilst mixing in stereo mixing simply refers to where the sounds are heard across the width of the field.

Mono mixing is a specific tactic to be used alongside mixing in stereo. This tactic is used in a lot of studios by mixing and mastering services.

Mono and stereo affects your audio perception

There is a logic behind our perception of sound in mono and stereo. When we hear in stereo, our ears can pick up the subtle difference between left and right sounds. The contrast, however small, contributes to creating a sense of space and depth in the mix. Yet, when we hear sound in mono, our ears pick up the level as a single sound.

The benefit of mixing in mono is to enable you to hyper-focus on balance and dynamics. Compared to when stereo mixing, where your focus divides between individual elements. The outcome of mono mixing can result in your mix sounding more punchy and powerful.

Setting up your mono mix

Here’s how to get the most out of your mono mix:

1. Start a rough mix in stereo

Mixing in mono is a technique used alongside mixing how you would usually go about it. Before you switch to mixing in mono, make sure you have a good rough mix in stereo as a starting point. This will give you a reference for your mono mix and make it easier to compare the two.

2. Reset your panning knobs to centre:

On your stereo output channel only, reset the panning knobs to centre or zero. Avoid changing any of the panning on individual instrument channels. Mono mixing is only temporary to achieve specific goals.

3. EQ and compression decision making

Now that you can hear in mono, you can really tell how your EQ and compression settings are working out. Hearing your mix in mono with all the elements on top of each other can highlight what is correct or incorrect. You’re now in a better position to make decisions relating to EQ, compression, or level. These adjustments are likely to have more of an impact, now you can hear the mix as a sound block rather than spread in stereo.

For example: If your track has lead vocals, mono mixing should help you make sure the level is correct. Vocals traditionally should be the loudest sound in your mix. Read more about how to mix vocals here.

Check your mix on different systems:

Mono mixing removes the variables of stereo which helps you focus on checking key mix elements on different systems. You should always check your mix on a variety of speakers. This is because different speakers have different sound qualities.

Be it recording studio monitors, car speakers, cheap speakers, or bookshelf speakers. The goal is to see how your mix sounds across these devices, replicating how your listeners will hear it.

Well known examples of mono mixing

Mono mixing is actually still used quite frequently in modern production. In fact, many popular tracks today are mixed this way.

“Shape of You” by Ed Sheeran

Carried by the drums and good bass, which are both mixed in mono. This creates a sense of power and energy in the track that helps it stand out.

“Uptown Funk” by Mark Ronson ft. Bruno Mars

Similarly, the mix is also heavily drum and bass-focused, which are mixed in mono.

Many other genres of music, such as hip-hop, electronic, and rock utilize this technique. It’s a reliable way to add to the sense of power and energy in your tracks.

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Try it at least once!

We’ve talked benefits and the difference between mono and stereo mixing. We’ve also guided you through getting the most out of mixing in mono.

We encourage you to try mixing in mono for yourself and see what improvements you can hear. It may take a bit of experimentation at first, but will eventually become second nature. There is rarely ever a rule of thumb to rely on, so don’t be hesitant to experiment with your own way.