Double tracking and phasing

Double tracking and phasing go hand in hand. Many beginner mixing & mastering engineer and musician stumbles upon this problem. It usually makes them start pulling hair quite hard. It also makes them wonder if there’s some certain professional gear out there they are missing from their arsenal. Or at least some secret trick that nobody talks about, and the pros refuse to share. But is this phenomenon really a problem? Let’s discover the truth about double tracking and phasing!

Double tracking and phasing – how to handle?

So, now that you are ready for the truth, let me give it away right now. That phasing, chorused or flanging sound of double tracked and stacked audio tracks is really the nature of the beast. The real problem is, most people who are new to this thing expect something special. Something that doesn’t change the original sound much, yet somehow gives you that big, fat thing everybody talks about. In reality, what we have are two (or more) tracks that are very similar to each other, but still not quite the same. It causes the same comb filtering that happens in the phaser effect.

double tracking and phasingOkay, so double tracking and phasing are pretty much in the same ballpark. But still, it sounds too obtrusive. You want to keep the fattening effect, but get rid of most of the phasy stuff. How? Well, you can tame this phenomenon reasonably by dulling down one of the tracks. Or all of them except one in the case of stacking multiple takes. You can do that with rolling off both low (shelving below ~200Hz) and high end (shelving above ~5kHz) on it. You can also add saturation to one of the doubles, and/or use more reverb on it to make them sound not so obviously similar. Then you just have to balance their levels to taste again.

Double tracking and phasing – how to handle?

The audible phasing depends on the pan position of the two tracks, and the monitoring equipment as well. If they are panned to the same point or at least close to each other, the phasing will be very audible in headphones. But when they are hard panned left and right, it might not be so obvious, at least not without some crossfeed. On speakers, even if you hard pan the tracks, there will be some mixing of the two happening in the air, so the phasing sound will be there. Especially when you listen from a distance, and the whole thing practically turns into mono. All in all, don’t get alarmed: double tracking and phasing are close friends that don’t cause much trouble if you use them with taste.

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