Mixing in mono

There are several different approaches to panning and stereo width in mixing.

Personally I leave panning until the end of the process. While I’m recording and mixing I have everything panned centre. The only exception to this is tracks where the stereo component is a key characteristic of the sound, such as stereo synth pads or double-tracked guitars. It’s only when I’ve finished adding parts to the mix that I then pan the parts.

What this does is artificially make the mix more dense as I’m working. This forces me to pay careful attention to how each part interacts with all the other parts (and the whole context of the song). It also helps me to use foreground¬†and background more effectively. Being unable to pan means there is only a limited sonic space available for the foreground, so I can’t use the left-right space to jam more sounds in (which ends up sounding mushy and crowded anyway).

It’s almost always critical that mixes hold up in mono. Sometimes a mix might be summed to mono in playback (low quality streaming websites, poor FM radio reception, some television), or sometimes a listener will only hear one side of your mix (imperfect listening position, speakers placed in different rooms, shared earbuds). Even in the right listening space, most people don’t pay much attention to panning.


  1. interesting advice, gonna keep that in mind!
    could also help for better balancing before harmonic distortion & limiting the material.

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