Well, if you crave an IMAX-styleaudio experience you’ll have to jettisonconventional methods and startscrewing up your mixes big time. After all, drama is often achieved by introducing an antagonist, and,depending on the style and vibe ofyour music, that adversary can evokeanyone from Scooby-Doo to HannibalLecter. Let’s explore four options fortransforming a mix from a static, onedimensional“sound portrait” into at hrilling animated sound scape ofwonder and delight.
When stereo appeared on poprecords in the ’60s, the “new” listeningexperience was often boldlypresented with extreme left/rightmixes, such as vocals on one side andinstruments on the other. Panning gotpretty nutty in the psychedelic era,and, after that, many mixes seemed to settle into faux concert perspectiveswhere sonic elements weresomewhat evenly distributed acrossthe stereo field. An animated mix,however, has no patience for balanceor subtlety. It is like a loud, boisterous guest at a dinner party who is constantlycalling attention to himself. Soto animate your stereo spectrum, you should experiment with jagged perspectiveshifts that snap a listener’shead around. Take some cues fromearly singles by the Beatles, PaulRevere and the Raiders, and justabout any band from the Nuggetsanthology. Always pan hard right orhard left, or ping-pong from one sideto the other. Put selected instrumentssolely on one channel or the other.Splitting layered guitars right and leftis almost a cliché these days, but areyou brave enough to put the electricson one side and the acoustics on theother? Never employ stereobackground vocals, just toss ’em overto the left or right. Getting the idea?Your mix elements should stand outboldly and demand that you noticethem. When the listener doesn’t knowwhat to expect, then you’ve truly animatedyour music.
Messing with spatial relationships isalso critical to animating a mix. Acompelling balance of things movingfront and back is as valuable as shiftinga listener’s focus left and right.This may be painful for reverb anddelay hounds, but in order to intensifyyour track’s dimensional interest,you’ll have to leave some mixelements totally dry. Of course, you’llalso get to bathe some elements inambience, as well. (Feel better?)Thinking in cinematic terms, your drysounds will be foreground elements,and your wet sounds will becomebackground elements. It’s critical,therefore, that you resist all instinctsto make nice with reverb, and let oneor two broadly ambient environmentsdefine your mix. There’s nothingwrong with a big, juicy wash ofreverb, but it won’t animate yoursound stage. Here are a few ideas toexperiment with as you develop yourown dimensional sleight-of-hand:
• Leave the kick, snare, and tomsdry, but add a medium reverb to theoverheads.
• Leave rhythm guitars dry, but addreverb to solos and/or riffs.• Try putting pre-fader “ghost-style”reverbs on a selected instrument. Thisis where the source sound is not audible—just th...