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Hey Guys,

I was wondering if anybody has any tips or tricks when it comes to creating the illusion of height and or special placements for instruments and vocals within the realms of a stereo mix. I thought it would be interesting to see what angles you have on this subject.


RemyRAD Sun, 08/24/2008 - 22:10

Sure, when dealing with stereo, and you recorded your vocal as a single source (mono). Your ability to create width, height, depth relying upon manipulating different types of reverberation. Most reverbs give you a pseudo-stereo effect from a single mono source. In combination with your mono centered vocal provides width. While taking that reverb, collapsing to mono and then taking that to an out of phase dual source can make your source appear to move from front to back. Various other manipulations utilizing these techniques can create a sense of movement & motion. Height is a misnomer when it comes to sound. Most speakers are on the same plane as each other. And we don't quite have a top & bottom speaker configuration yet. At least not in the normal living room sense. That's why you have to become a competent engineer and try to fool the ear. Because everything that we've done throughout time has been pretty much, phony. Simply because it doesn't play out in real life as we have to create it electronically. That's why we get paid the big bucks.

"Will record for food"
Ms. Remy Ann David

Codemonkey Mon, 08/25/2008 - 08:55

There was a tip posted somewhere else here about pushing things back in the mix.
Rolling off the HF/LF and a bit of light compression were mentioned.

Yes, I'm being fooled into things but when I play music out of my headphones the whole height thing becomes apparent. Usually higher frequencies seem ... higher, and lower frequencies seem lower.
It could be to do with the way my headphones sit though.

anonymous Wed, 08/27/2008 - 08:05

I once read that the ear perceives sound from behind slightly differently than from the front, and that with proper EQ and delay the ear can be fooled into thinking a sound is coming from behind.
I don't know whether something similar might be applied to give an illusion of height. But if you've ever heard a train go by you've noticed the apparent change in pitch as a function of distance. So I wonder if a dynamically-changing EQ/delay algorithm could fool the ear into thinking a stereo mix is moving from front to back.

anonymous Wed, 08/27/2008 - 08:32

They totally have this tech.
It's used in fighter planes to give an audible signal that is perceived by the pilot to be coming from the direction of a threat. This is in headphones though. So there is a bit more control.

The timing of reflections from your chest and shoulders are key. Like, if a sounds is coming from a high angle in the air, our ears will hear it then a long(ish) delay until the reflection from the chest/shoulders. If the sound comes from below the ear line, the sound and reflection are much closer together.

Our brains use these tiny shifts in phase of reflections to work out where a sound came from.

anonymous Thu, 08/28/2008 - 21:22

Re-read Tom's first post. He's not asking how to create the appearance of an object moving back and forth, he's asking how to create the illusion that some instruments are farther away from the listener and higher up or lower down on the soundstage.

When I listen to a song I visualize the voices and instruments positioned from bottom to top and also from front to rear. This is the 3 dimensional illusion the AE has created to enhance my enjoyment of the music. My understanding of how to achive this is with EQ, REVERB, DELAY, RELATIVE VOLUME LEVEL, COMPRESSION, etc. IOW, all the tools we have at our disposal when correctly used by a skilled engineer will create the illusion we seek. And lately I've been reading how certain components in the electronic circuitry of our gear provide a greater sense of depth and space around an instrument. Certain brands of capacitors and opamps for instance.

BTW, Google DOPPLER EFFECT for an understanding of the pitch change in train horns.

Codemonkey Thu, 08/28/2008 - 21:30

The subject (horn) doesn't change pitch. The observer percieves a change, which is dependent on his position relative to the subject and the environment.

If an observer moves sideways, while looking at a subject in front of a static surface (a lamppost in front of a brick wall) the subject (lamppost) will appear to move. It doesn't actually move, it is only perceived as moving. (This is called a parallax)

My apologies, I'm feeling philosophical and also reading through an interesting book called "A New Kind of Christian" which has a philosophical feel to it.
Or rather, I perceive it to have a philosophical feel :lol:

BrianaW Fri, 08/29/2008 - 00:48

I'm tellin' ya man... tweets. Try drawing an automation on a pink noise track to sweep a band pass filter (or an EQ with a bump and a narrow Q) from bottom to top. It will start at the woofer, then move up to the mid, then to the tweeter. Then try it on a cymbal crash or whatever... it works... but not on my monitors because the tweeters are on the sides. :)

anonymous Sun, 06/14/2009 - 12:45

Codemonkey wrote: The subject (horn) doesn't change pitch. The observer percieves a change, which is dependent on his position relative to the subject and the environment.

I know this is an old thread, but just to clarify for people who do as they should and search before posting...

You're right, the horn doesn't change pitch. The observer IS, however, actually getting a different pitch than what the horn is at. It is either a higher or lower pitch depending on the horn's velocity relative to the observer. Not position as you suggested.

As others have mentioned, google doppler effect to learn more about this.