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Mixing In Stereo: How To Mix The Stereo Image

Mixing In Stereo: How To Mix The Stereo Image

One of the things a producer should have in mind when producing is how their song/beat/remix (or whatever it is that you are doing) ought to sound in space. What do you want for your listener and how do you want them to experience your music?

In this article, you will learn a little bit more about mixing in stereo and how to get the results you aim for. The stereo image is defined as a difference between left and right or mid and sides. Mid is the center aka the center of the mixing space and the sides are, naturally – left and right.

People listen in stereo. A simple example of this is that you have two ears. Left and right. Not every song has symmetrical sound on the left side and the right side. Sometimes, in a song, you might hear some vocal only on the left, or a guitar only on the right etc.

If something is a bit louder on one of the sides, you might get an impression of the sound coming from that side, or if the volume is the same on both sides, you will get an impression of the sound coming from the center. So, to conclude – by placing different sounds on different sides you will get a much wider image.

The easiest way to achieve this is through panning! Move the knob to the left or the right to move the sound – it’s that simple! Of course, there is a proper way to mixing in stereo. If you listen closely to most of the songs, they all have something in common, and that is the panning of certain instruments.

Low Frequencies

Low frequencies (such as drums or bass) are placed in the middle of the mix. That way you make space for other high and middle frequencies on the sides, so your mixes won’t sound distorted. For example, if you are recording your drums and you are using kicks, snares, and toms.

Center kicks and snares as they are the parts that enhance the rhythm and energize the listener the most. Depending on how many toms you are using, do them justice.

Always center one of them and play around with other ones as it depends on how wide you want your mix to be. Other drums such as percussions or overheads are intended to give to a listener the effect of the ambient.

Just imagine the real drums and their position. Kick is in the middle; the snare is beside the kick. Hats are on the sides, crash as well. Toms are not strictly in the middle, but little bit moved etc.

mixing in stereo instruments panning

Higher Frequencies

With other instruments, you are able to experiment much more. Let’s use a guitar as an example. The guitar is a great way to add depth to your mix!

Also read: 3 Steps For A Wider Guitar In The Mix

Doubling instruments like this will enhance the sound and add the richness you are looking for. Try and record the same part with capo on it or a different microphone (if you are recording other instruments, try and adjust the velocity etc.), center original recording and pan others to sides – you will get a perfect blend of the instrument in a song and more professional sound.

Another way to do the same, instead of recording with two instruments of the same kind, is to run tracks through different amps or settings. So to summarize, use the same melody, place the original recording to the center and use different variations on the instrument (change velocity, add different compressors etc.) on the sides.

That way you are getting that stereo effect you want and avoiding the phase cancellation. If two parts are exactly the same and you pan them (one right, one left) you will end up with a mono sound.


At the end of this, some instruments might act the best in mono! Not everything has to be panned and stereo-ized. If the mix is too wide, you might end up getting a muddy track. Do the justice to your mix and treat it the right way. If you have a strong feeling about the pad being mono, leave it mono!


When it comes to mixing vocals, they have a humongous part in the song. They are the part of the limelight and something the average listener is paying the most attention to. Lead vocals are ALWAYS centered! But things get interesting with background vocals. Don’t go too wide, but spread them across the field. One of the best ways to achieve this is by adding effects to them. Reverb or Chorus make wonders!

Also, try and add a panned delay on the vocal if you want to experiment a little bit when you mixing vocals. The most common way to mixing vocals is: Lead in the center, backing left and right. But again, it’s your song – experiment!

Also read: 5 Ways To Create Depth Within Your Mix


It is not easy to explain this with a simple theory, but it will be much clearer to you when you start listening and moving all the knobs around. Of course, you don’t have to follow these rules ALWAYS, but it is the standardized definition of the music mix and something listeners are used to.

This kind of mix is what seems to be “working” as of right now in the industry. But, as always, do your best to play around with everything and you might discover exactly what you are searching for. Let your ears be your guide!

What is the method that gives the best results for you? Leave us a comment in the bottom section!



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2 thoughts on “Mixing In Stereo: How To Mix The Stereo Image

  1. Gary Shore says:

    Just read your Mixing in Stereo article and would be interested in any more similar articles/info you have available, specifically focusing on the use of mono/stereo tracking, using buses etc in the context of a multitrack mux….

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