tricks to make stereo pads more interesting in the mix?

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joninc
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tricks to make stereo pads more interesting in the mix?

Post by joninc » Fri Aug 16, 2019 10:58 am

I am mixing an album where there's a bit more pads happening then on most projects that I work on and we tried to track them with as much expression and dynamics as possible (in terms of part/volume/filter/tone) but I am still trying to make them a little less static in the mix.

They are typically more low mid rich and darker textures as opposed to more airy and high endy/bright...

but looking for some fresh input on tricks and plugs for shapeshifting and keeping things more "alive" sounding.... and making more room for the guitars and vocal layers.

I've been playing with some subtle auto-panning but wondering about the best ways for carving out some of the thickness - especially in the center (they are tracked in stereo L and R). Playing with M/S eqs for this ... and wanting to add a bit more of a sense of motion/movement to long held chords.
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Re: tricks to make stereo pads more interesting in the mix?

Post by A.David.MacKinnon » Fri Aug 16, 2019 12:04 pm

Are they drones or are they moving with the chords? I'm mixing an ambient record at the moment with lots of synth drones. To spice things up I've been making tape loops based on the drones. I cut a super long loop, put a big wad of masking tape over the erase head on my tape deck and run the drone into the tape loop for the length of the song. If that isn't drastic enough I'll feed the left channel playback into the right channel and the right channel into the left and dial it in so it's feeding back but not running away. Then I hit record and walk away for 15-30 mins. You never know what you'll end up with. It usually retains the tonality of the original sound but develops tons of movement and weirdness.
Sometime i do this process for chord pads as well but that involves making a loop for each chord and then either laying them into the session by hand or sampling them and playing the changes. It's crazy time consuming but frequently rewarding.

Here's a production with all that stuff applied -
https://xnightterrorsx.bandcamp.com/releases

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Re: tricks to make stereo pads more interesting in the mix?

Post by kslight » Fri Aug 16, 2019 1:22 pm

One thing I like about Unfiltered Audio’s plugins is that they have a modulation area where you can bring in LFOs and sequencers and envelope followers, etc...and patch those into any parameter in the plugin. Sure, kind of like automation, but probably faster to do a lot of things or where you don’t necessarily need a specific drawn in movement at one point in time.

In your scenario, trying to add movement, I might reach for Fault, or Sandman, or Triad. Triad is pretty cool because you can shape L M H independently as well...


For creating space, I’m sure you’ve tried sidechaining against other stuff, and also Trackspacer is useful for this.

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Re: tricks to make stereo pads more interesting in the mix?

Post by joninc » Fri Aug 16, 2019 1:32 pm

A.David.MacKinnon wrote:
Fri Aug 16, 2019 12:04 pm
Are they drones or are they moving with the chords?
not really drones - this is a rock band - think Ryan Adams meets the Killers .. mostly moving with chords
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Re: tricks to make stereo pads more interesting in the mix?

Post by joninc » Fri Aug 16, 2019 1:34 pm

kslight wrote:
Fri Aug 16, 2019 1:22 pm
For creating space, I’m sure you’ve tried sidechaining against other stuff, and also Trackspacer is useful for this.
Assume I know nothing and tell me what kinds of things you like to sidechain (compressor i assume?) to

I'm coming out of a more "real instruments" kind of production style and moving into a little more electronic territory these days and would love to hear any and all tricks for this kinda stuff.
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Re: tricks to make stereo pads more interesting in the mix?

Post by markjazzbassist » Fri Aug 16, 2019 1:35 pm

have you tried some simple modulation? slight chorusing or phasing can usually help it to move (you can keep the rate slower so it moves but not wobbles) and give it more shimmer. i'm guessing these are sawtooth brassy type patches from synths?

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Re: tricks to make stereo pads more interesting in the mix?

Post by joninc » Fri Aug 16, 2019 4:04 pm

think gooey and dark stuff - juno 60 and nord electro mostly.

What phaser or choruses do you like to use for something like this?
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Re: tricks to make stereo pads more interesting in the mix?

Post by Nick Sevilla » Fri Aug 16, 2019 5:00 pm

I sometimes:

1. Make a pad MONO. Then pan it about.

2. Make it MONO, then put some chorus / flanging / phasing on it, see which one works best.

3. If several pads playing at the same time (MFR!) then pan each one opposite each other.

4. Make certain sounds belong only in certain parts of the song. MUTE them elsewhere.

5. Make them come in SUPER EFFING LOUD, then back them up. Make them a feature, not a backing thing. Think the black girls choir on that Lou Reed epic song "Walk On The Wild Side". Make them awesome.

6. Filter out the GUITARS AND BASS. You know, the OPPOSITE of what you would normally do. Treat the guitars and bass as if they were the pads. Because why not.
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Re: tricks to make stereo pads more interesting in the mix?

Post by losthighway » Sat Aug 17, 2019 4:53 am

Agreed with some of the ideas so far.

If you send it through modulation, or even a fuzz pedal and then follow that with reverb. The modulation effect changes things but then maybe some reverb/delay creates echoes of the tone in different states. Or if you have a clean/dirty through a fuzz and tweak the knob to send more fuzz the pad can start to get spitty and nasal and then you can pull it back again pulling down the aux send. The echo effects leave a memory of the crescendos of fuzziness. More like mixing a dub record. Or shit, do like a dub record and send stuff through a delay unit while you play with the settings as a performance.

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Re: tricks to make stereo pads more interesting in the mix?

Post by markjazzbassist » Sat Aug 17, 2019 5:11 am

joninc wrote:
Fri Aug 16, 2019 4:04 pm
think gooey and dark stuff - juno 60 and nord electro mostly.

What phaser or choruses do you like to use for something like this?
standard ehx small stone slow the rate down, try an mxr phase 90 as well. for chorus the Juno has a chorus built in, or you can forgo that and just do something in the mix. i am all analog so i don't know what plugins but i'm sure there are basic Boss CE-1 ripoff plugins, just slow the rate down so it moves and ripples without wobble.

also you could treat it like a leslie where say on the chorus of the song you kick in the modulation (phase/chorus) to give it more effect. you can also you phaser and chorus together for a lot of movement and spacey vibe.

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Re: tricks to make stereo pads more interesting in the mix?

Post by joninc » Sat Aug 17, 2019 10:51 am

lost of good thoughts here ... keep em coming!

a few more details: we didn't use the Junos built in chorus as it's super hissy... we mostly tracked through my strymon Decco pedal to add modulation and we did do that on most songs so there's already chorus happening..

I think my current issue is maybe more about creating space - riding volumes and notching out some thickness - it's just often a constant that's eating
up too much room in the mix and I am not used to burying stuff so my instinct is to turn it up too loud. I probably just have to also accept that it's a more subtle glue element and not be worried if it's tucked way back into the mix.

Also wondering if maybe in future I should play around a bit more with using amps as opposed to DI's for this stuff - that might create a little more natural depth... but then what if you want to track in stereo - just use 2 different amps?
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Re: tricks to make stereo pads more interesting in the mix?

Post by drumsound » Sat Aug 17, 2019 11:24 am

If you have an actual console/mixer it might be worth it to do a pass where you (or maybe a band member who is less 'intimate' with the part) to do an on the fly pass with the faders, routing it back into the computer as a new audio track. The idea of a purely instinctual level manipulation, reacting to what is heard. Then mute the 'static' original. I know you lose a generation, but that might not matter. You could add outboard at that time as well.

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Re: tricks to make stereo pads more interesting in the mix?

Post by losthighway » Sat Aug 17, 2019 3:43 pm

joninc wrote:
Sat Aug 17, 2019 10:51 am
lost of good thoughts here ... keep em coming!

a few more details: we didn't use the Junos built in chorus as it's super hissy... we mostly tracked through my strymon Decco pedal to add modulation and we did do that on most songs so there's already chorus happening..

I think my current issue is maybe more about creating space - riding volumes and notching out some thickness - it's just often a constant that's eating
up too much room in the mix and I am not used to burying stuff so my instinct is to turn it up too loud. I probably just have to also accept that it's a more subtle glue element and not be worried if it's tucked way back into the mix.

Also wondering if maybe in future I should play around a bit more with using amps as opposed to DI's for this stuff - that might create a little more natural depth... but then what if you want to track in stereo - just use 2 different amps?
Some good ideas here. Two things come to mind:

For such static tones you can often thin them out A LOT. Like high pass up to 600hz, or put a really wide notch dropping everything on either side of 300hz a lot. Sometimes just a taste of those synth pads is all that is required without much of the fundamental even.

Also, don't be afraid to reamp those if you're wondering how it would've sounded through an amp. If you have a gadget to reamp that's best, but sometimes just sending something out with mismatched impedance could make something interesting happen.

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Re: tricks to make stereo pads more interesting in the mix?

Post by vvv » Sat Aug 17, 2019 5:03 pm

Re-amp as m/s, and then move it forward and back.

Re-amp and run parallel - say a distorted amp, that comes in and out ...

Re-amp some but not all thru room-mic'd amps.
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Re: tricks to make stereo pads more interesting in the mix?

Post by kslight » Mon Aug 19, 2019 8:29 am

joninc wrote:
Fri Aug 16, 2019 1:34 pm
kslight wrote:
Fri Aug 16, 2019 1:22 pm
For creating space, I’m sure you’ve tried sidechaining against other stuff, and also Trackspacer is useful for this.
Assume I know nothing and tell me what kinds of things you like to sidechain (compressor i assume?) to

I'm coming out of a more "real instruments" kind of production style and moving into a little more electronic territory these days and would love to hear any and all tricks for this kinda stuff.
Yeah some kind of dynamics, compressor or gate depending on your goal.

I would start with any compressor plugin that has a key input, put that on your pad. Then you can send a bus track from say the bass drum, line up the bus track to the key input on the compressor. Set your threshold and ratio so it’s doing something (I usually start at -6 dB of compression, depending on how far I want to push it back), and adjust attack and release to taste.

Trackspacer takes the idea a little further, it works more or less like above, but you use filters to dial in a frequency range to get pushed back...so you could then send like vocals or guitars or whatever you want to come out on top of the pads, but maybe only the midrange gets pushed back, etc... Or course this can be accomplished in different ways with other compressors and dynamic EQs as well.

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