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An easy recording trick to make your songs sound huge

It can arguably be said that the best music is the kind that takes you to another place when you listen to it. For a song to do that, it has to be crafted in such a way that gives it a bit of a magical other-worldly feeling. Put simply, "make it big."

Does it take years of recording experience to do this? No. All you need to know is one thing.

My song Kiwi is something I recorded earlier this year. And I did purposely record it in a way that sounds big, as in cinematic.

What makes it sound the way it does?

Stereo separation

There's the left channel and right channel, but most people are too scared to pan instruments.

"Scared?"

Yes, scared. When recording, most people prefer to have everything centered smack dab in the middle where every instrument has equal volume on both the left and right side. While this is "safe," that kind of recording won't "take you anywhere," so to speak.

Spreading out instruments to the left and right increases a sense of space, and this can be done even if no reverb or delay is used.

How does one spread out sound the easy way?

The easy way is to do it after the song is recorded and not before.

Whether you use a standalone recorder like the Zoom R8, Tascam DP-008EX or software, it's better to have all tracks laid down first before messing around with panning tracks.

In other words, the song should be finished first, and panning should be done later in post-production.

Is reverb and delay required to make something sound bigger?

No. Panning is a better and easier way to increase a sense of space.

Making reverb and delay sound good can be a challenge, but panning is stupidly easy. All it takes is turning a knob or moving a slider, whether physically or virtually in software.

Try it, and you'll probably like it

If you want to try it for yourself, record a simple song using two guitars, then pan one left and the other right. Pan a little or a lot, and use headphones when experimenting. You'll notice that much of the time, your song will sound a whole lot bigger when you stereo-separate the tracks.

And remember, you don't have to be a genius musician to make this work as it's just a sound production thing. Lay your tracks down (even if it's the same thing played twice,) pan the tracks away from each other, and have fun with it.

Published 2014 Oct 22

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