BACK TO MONO?
by Eddie Ciletti
updated 22 Novemeber 2010

I have always been a HUGE stereo fan especially when it enhances the acoustic environment.  But when limited to only four tracks there is often a need to bounce to accommodate overdubs and, equally often, to sacrifice stereo for mono during the bounce process.  Even though I teach the class, this has been a struggle for me that has slowly been resolved by the power of the exercise.
I have learned to let go of my 'obsession' for stereo and symmetrical panning.  In mono, only what is necessary should be in the mix, a 'limitation' that clarifies the sound and lays a more solid sonic foundation.  Stereo can be a crutch, or a distraction from, what is important in a mix.

How this applies to how you mix is simple.  Try mixing in mono analog or digital but with automation - and then listen in stereo once the mix is balanced.  You will soon see that all of the hard work is done, freeing you to place parts within the space knowing that all the 'masking fat' has been trimmed.  Just as submixing forces decisions to be made early, knowing all the work that went into achieving 'balance' allows not only more 'panning freedom' but also more space for the signal processing to work with. 

You should give a lot of thought to how a recording can be approached from the space itself to where within the space the musicians should work like what's best for them to hear each other.  Communication amongst the players is important.  The better they communicate, the easier our job of sonic capture.  Similarly, if possible for musicians to listen to each other without headphones, there is a better chance that they can mix themselves and play to the acoustic space, the latter acts like a mirror.

The Fall 2010 recordings are examples of recording without headphones (Bobby McGee and the Molly Dean Sessions), of 'mono' commitment (Bobby McGee) and of trying unusual ways for the artists to experience a headphone-like effect using 'foldback speakers.'