The Intro is King
The Intro of your song is your main opportunity to impact the listener. Here is a simple tip on how to make your song intros better using imaging. We are going to play with using stereo image to give the listener the feeling that the track explodes into life when the main section hits. All you need is the simple Utility plugin and a quick bit of automation.
How to improve your Song Intros using just Stereo Imaging
Step 1 – Choose the right material
Identify a prominent stereo sound (or group of sounds) in your song’s intro. In this example I used a group of two tracks (fig 1 below). This group contains a reverse guitar sweep and a vocal pad which were both increasing in volume. Find a musical element in your own track intro that also has a stereo image which you can manipulate.
Step 2 – Utility plugin
Add an Ableton Utility plugin (fig 2) to the group or channel which you selected above to experiment with. Once you have the plugin loaded, click on the width parameter dial to highlight it.
Step 3 – Switch on automation
Once you’ve selected the width parameter on the Utility plugin, hit the ‘a’ key on your keyboard so that the automation lane for that channel highlights in Ableton’s arrangement view (fig 3 below).
Step 4 – Automate
Now draw in an automation ramp from low (more mono) to high (more stereo) over the intro section of your song. You could also try this over a longer section too. In the example below you can see that I added a final notch so the image jumps in the last beat from 70% to 100% over one 8th note for extra impact.
This is a really simple music production trick to help you make your song intros better and more exciting for the listener using simple stereo imaging. Although simple, it is a technique that can be very effective when used creatively.
For more on Stereo Imaging and Panning I highly recommend you check out Bobby Owsinki’s book ‘The Mixing Engineer’s Handbook’, Chapter 4 ‘Panorama’:
Playing with stereo image is one of the most powerful yet simple tools you can work with. If you want to carry on with more simple mix tricks have a look at this post. Have a go and comment below to let me know how you got on or if you’ve any questions.