When I sit down to make a new track I want to insure I have the cleanest and most professional sound out there. On my quest I have found out some techniques to really get a great sounding mix. I haven’t shared these before, but wanted to finally let the knowledge be known about how I really take control over my EQ and panning of my sounds.
Most people get the idea of Panning a Signal Left and Right, but might not ever hear of Mid/Side Mixing. In this article I am going to explain the basics of Mid/Side Mixing as well as show how to use it in Ableton Live. These techniques will apply for any DAW though.
Definition of Mid/Side Mixing:
Mid/Side processing works by decoding a stereo signal into two components. The ‘Mid’ channel contains just the information that appears in both the left and right channels. In other Words it’s the Mono signal. The ‘Side’ channel contains all the information that differs between the left and right channels. In other words, this is the sounds only on the sides and no where else. Once encoded into M/S, these two signals can be processed completely separately. They are then summed together and you can use the normal Panning Left and Right.
Think about it this way, You can change the quality of your stereo field separate from the menu. This will give you a lot of new ways to manipulate the sound.
What and Why Use Mid/Side?
Let’s say you have a kick. The kick is mono and in the center. If I add a slight reveb to i,t I will then get a unique sonic effect on the left and right channels. That reverb makes the sound feel like it is in a room. Now lets say I wanted to eq the reverb sound and not the original Mono Kick sound. This is where Mid/side comes in. I can then use Ableton Live’s EQ 8 and EQ just the side signals. This gives you a unique control.
Here is another reason to use it. If I wanted to make a sound be persevered behind me in my mix, then I will want no Mid Sound. In essence, I can get just the outer edges of a sound and take out the center of it.
Mid Side Mixing In Ableton Live
The example I put above showed us a glimpse into editing with Mid Side in Ableton Live 9. I find the best way is to use the EQ 8 in the Mid Side Mode. What you do is drop in the EQ 8. Now you can choose the Mode to set it from stereo to M/S, meaning Mid/Side.
Once you have that set you can use the Edit to change from Mid to Side and change the EQ for both of them separatly. As I said earlier, this will give you a unique control over your sounds with in Live.
In that first image of an EQ 8 was in a Rack. I did this so I can see the eq simultaneously. All I did is have two instances with each effecting the one parameter and not the other, letting it pass on to the next one. This was just easy for me to see what was happening. I then made some macro knobs I like.
Overview of Mid/Side Mixing
Now that you know the basics of what Mid/Side is you can experiment with how it can be used to improve your mix. There are a lot of possibilities that open up. Try using Mid Side to cut out frequencies in the Bass, or making a more mono mix of a sound. You can also add some air and breath by scooping out some of the mid-range frequencies from the Mid channel on your reverb return. Or add delay to just the Mid signal and not the Side. The sky’s are the limit.
I’ve also created some nice Mid/Side Presets and Effect racks as part of my Mixdown Toolset. Check it out and grab it for a massive collection of tools to level up the clarity of your mix.