When adding a track’s final touches, a very important and often forgotten step is making sure your creation sounds fuller and/or wider. What exactly is widening when it comes to audio production? Well, there’s no set definition for it as far as I’m aware, but a simple explanation would be separating out your sounds and instruments across the speakers or headphones to create a fuller and more present sound. Here are some ways to edit for a wider sound if you’re having trouble:
- Reverb and Delay- I made the decision to group these two together because in audio production, you’ll find it rare to see one without the other as they balance each other out very nicely. Reverb widens the mix by adding more noise around the track to expand its presence. Delay has a similar effect, but does it in its own way. It creates that noise by repeating the sound moments after the previous sound at decreasing volumes to create an echo effect.
- Double the Audio Track- While this trick works on any track, it’s most commonly used on vocal tracks. Simply right click on the track header and select ‘duplicate’. This alone will give you a bigger sound, but many like to spice it up with some of the other tactics below to give it a better effect.
- Panning- This one specifically is best used with tactic number 2, but can also be used on its own for specific tracks. Panning is when you move a track left or right in the output of a song, either to prevent crowding, make a track wider, or just as a special effect to emphasize a certain part. It is usually available under the track heading and will have two boxes, one for left and one for right. Use these to direct the sound in the desired direction. When doubling a track, pan each to a different side to stretch the sound across the speakers. Rename tracks if preferred.
- Detuning- This method is always executed by doubling the track, so if you’re going to try it, start by doubling the track as stated in number 2. Once you have both tracks, find detune in your DAW and detune your double ever so slightly. This will cause cognitive dissonance and make the tracks stand out from one another as the brain tries to accurately perceive the distance. Just make sure not to detune more than a few notches as it will make the mix start to sound off if the difference in tuning is too great.
- Chorus- The only reason that this audio effect isn’t grouped with reverb and delay is that many people will specifically double the track and chorus only on one side to create dimension and a wider range. However, this one can also be used in increments without doubling the track. Chorus adds layers upon layers of harmonies to the vocal to give it the effect of containing multiple voices, whether that’s guitar, piano, voice, etc. It’s similar to delay and reverb in that it creates extra noise and uses the original audio, but it changes that audio with the correct timing so it is over the original instead of after.
- Plugins- You might not think that there would be many plugins for this specific type of thing, but in the same way that there’s pretty much an app for everything, there’s a plugin for everything as well. The one I recommend, and personally use with almost every track, is called Wider by Polyverse Music. It stretches out your instruments for you with a spectrum that you can pull and push the audio on for the perfect effect. Like detuning, this effect can also be easy to go too far with, so watch out.
Try some of these tips out to find your favorite, and try mixing and matching them for the fullest sound possible! Also, combining them in different ways can really help to give you your own unique sound. Keep all of these tactics in mind while you’re mixing a track and you’ll never have a flat mix again. But above all, make sure you’re enjoying yourself while you’re doing it!