The example below is based on two electric guitars, but the trick also works with other instruments. So this is not about mastering, so we are done with it.
Before we get started, I just want to mention one basic detail that may be good to know. Let’s say you have just two guitars, one that you panned all the way to the left and one all the way to the right, this creates the illusion of width, nothing new there. But… If the guitars sound similar, it may be the same guitar recorded twice and playing identically, or an electric guitar through the same amplifier. Then you do not use the illusion of width and separation to the max. Why? Well, if the left and right channels sound the same, the mix simply does not feel as wide. It is therefore often a good idea to spread instruments of different character throughout the stereo field. For example, if there is a light organ on the left, then the dark piano can be on the right and so on. This is the basic idea of today’s tips. That being said …
1. Take your two electric guitar tracks, advantageously recorded with different amplifiers, and pan them out completely to the left and right respectively.
2. Place any eq on both tracks. We will now work so that the two guitars complement each other in terms of frequency, simply by digging out frequencies.
3. Start with one guitar and look for its sweet spot, that is, the frequency at which the guitar really bites. On an electric guitar, it is usually somewhere between 900–1600 Hz. Let’s say that 1000 Hz sounds good. Boost 3-4 dB here with a q-value of 2-3, so not too wide, but not too narrow either.
4. Then continue and do the same with the other guitar. Hopefully you can find a sweet spot that is not around 1000 Hz. For the sake of simplicity, we choose 1500 Hz. Here, too, you boost 3–4 dB with a q-value of 2–3.
5. Some of you have probably already figured out what is to come. Just. The guitar that you boosted at 1000 Hz, you now lower by 3-4 dB at 1500 Hz and vice versa on the other guitar.
The picture shows the guitar which boosted 1000 Hz and lowered 1500 Hz.
The picture shows the guitar which boosted 1500 Hz and lowered 1000 Hz.
6. What happens? Well, the difference between the guitars is now 6-8 dB at selected frequencies. They simply complement each other and the soundscape automatically feels wider and fatter. This is a very good way to work in general when you eq, not just with guitars.
BONUS TIPS: Light high-frequency instruments feel good when panned far out to the sides, while darker, low-frequency instruments thrive better in the middle.
Feel free to ask questions or comment on the article in the comment field below, and we will spin the topic together. Or if you prefer to discuss mixing in the “Mixing and mastering” section of the Studios forum here!
Fredagstipset is a recurring series where Studio writer Jon Rinneby shares tips every Friday in, among other things, recording and mixing. Here you will find all Friday tips.