Does mixing in mono really help? – 3 Reasons to Mix In Mono

      In a simple word… YES. One of the best tips I have ever recieved was to mix in mono.  I’ve come to find out that it can help you discover some real gremlins that like to hide in mixes. So here are three of the many reasons why you should be mixing in mono.

      One of the best things about mixing in mono is that if you get it sounding great in mono you know even in the worst scenario, it’s going to sound good. That means it will even sound great at the grocery store! This is one of our jobs as a mixer. To make a song soundS good in worst case scenarios. Mono mixing helps you to be sure that you’re achieving this.


Phase Issues

Another reason to mix in mono is that phase issues become exposed quickly in mono. Sometimes there are things we don’t hear in stereo, but flip to mono… Whoa! What happened? That sure sounds thin! Good thing you checked that in mono. Without fail you will always be able to tell a phase issue when summing to mono. Panning can even cause phase masking issues that aren’t as noticeable until… You guessed it.. You check it in mono. Sometimes stereo reverbs can create phase issues as well as overusing stereo widening techniques. Be mindful to listen for these issues in mono, too.

When You EQ In Mono

I have also come to notice that when you EQ in mono it forces you to really listen to what element is competing with what. At the end of the day I end up making much better decisions based on what got masked in the frequency spectrum when summed to mono. Mixes really get clearer for me after making my EQ choices in mono. Having everything summed to the center really makes you key in on the thing that really needs to be removed or added from an element in the mix.

Volume Automation

The third great advantage to mono mixing is that it helps you to achieve more accurate volume automation. I turn my monitors to a low level (I keep it marked on my volume control… I’m a firm believer in have multiple volume settings to keep my references at the same volume while mixing), and listen to what I want to ride. I get a static volume set and then if the element slightly gets buried I’ll ride it until you hear it just enough. Almost 100% of the time when I listen back in stereo the track sits exactly where I was hoping it would. This has been invaluable to achieving clarity in my mixes.


All of these great advantages of mixing in mono have helped me to develop better mixes, in a shorter amount of time. The great news is that it can for you too! We are big believers in mono mixing here at MixCoach Member. So, go and try some mono mixing!

Did it help? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below! As always, happy mixing guys!

 

By MattButler

Matt is a tracking and mixing engineer at Backporch Studios and Pathway Studios in Tennessee. He and his father run a music business called Butler Music Group in Nashville, TN where Backporch Studios is located. He is also a talented multi-instrumentalist who gives private lessons from home. He prides himself in being a technical geek and has a passion to help the community of MixCoach in any way he can.

15 comments

  1. Yes, for luck I learned early that good mixers know and use mono to mix, I downloaded a free MONO BUTTON ten years ago when I began studying mixing.
    Only one thing I do not know: DAW producers do not know that, do not read such articles?
    DAWs should have a stock mono button or built in. It cannot be so complicated to solve:)
    So far I have not met even one containing a mono switch among some 8 daws I tried.

  2. Hi Tassy, if you haven’t come across a DAW, which has a
    mono switch built-in, you haven’t tried Reaper yet. It’s master
    track has a button, which allows you to switch between mono to
    stereo. On right-click you can even select the mono mode you like:
    L, R, L+R, or L-R. Sounds great? Indeed! Like the rest of the DAW.
    😉 I heard about mixing in mono so often. Numerous podcasts and
    blog articles talked about it. But here’s the problem: considering
    you need to know, how good mixes sound on your monitor speakers, in
    order to make great mixes with them, you’re definitely not used to
    your monitors with listening to those other mixes in mono.
    Listening in mono rarely happens, when you are sitting in front of
    your monitors. Wouldn’t you agree that mixing in mono doesn’t mean
    to mix in mono for the biggest part of the time? I see a huge
    benefit in shaping the frequency spectrum of the various
    instruments in mono. But there is a point in time, when you will
    switch to stereo for further steps. You might want to switch back
    to mono from time to time, just to make sure you’re not introducing
    problems as described above. But you won’t mix in mono all the
    time. It has its uses, but it’s not a black “or” white thing, resp.
    a mono or stereo decision. It’s one of the tools we should use, but
    only where it makes sense. 😉 In fact these reminders about using
    mono in the mixing process are great. Little techniques like this
    one are easily forgotten about. 🙂

  3. Yeah, just for this easy switching between mono and stereo makes it necessary to have a simple (always on top) knob to do the task.
    Reaper I found hard to handle for me some years back, maybe I should try again if it has practical fetures.
    You are quite right on little things we may easily forget:)

  4. Yes I should mention I always reference in and out of mono and stereo especially when dialing in my reverb sounds. I vote we pass a law that all DAW’s must have a mono button on the master fader! lol

  5. I keep everything panned up the center while mixing then the very last thing I do in a mix is setup my panning. is this the same thing or do I need to actually switch it to mono while mixing.

  6. I stil tend to believe that the concept is better referred to as “eq-ing in mono. “This practice, when used is priceless. Mono is dead, so says Dave Pensado, jokingly… Consider the “Panning Law” when switching to mono, the +3db change in volume is quite dramatic, especially when our mixing skills are keen up to 1/2 a db… Just my thoughts…. More on the Panning law:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pan_law

  7. Awsome blog Matt, I must admit, I don’t mix in mono as much as I should, but after reading your blog, I liked the second reason, in refference to Eq ing a mix in mono, and the audomation in Mono, so all in all just getting in the habit of Mixing in mono, two things I want to be more consistent, useing my short cuts and Mixing in mono, actually I was just thinking, I have templates for certin Mixes, and I’am going to put a plug-in I use to mix in mono in my template. thanks again Matt

    1. I use all my templates with one at the end of the chain on my master buss to swap in and out of for reference.

  8. I mixed a song yestarday, for hours long in mono, when I’m done mixing background vocals, panned LR each harmony (in mono), and then eq-d that way, I clearly heared every vocal track, the mix sounding so good, that I have almost forgot to pop it to stereo, than it sounded awesome, maybe the vocal was a bit quiter, but riding it in mono will take care of that.

  9. Oh and using stereo delays and verbs, mixing in mono, sounds much clearer than the other way, because of the eq moves, I create based on phase relationship.

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