I wanted to cover this a bit because it is a segue into my next video project.
M/S processing is also referred to as Mid/Side processing. So in order to not confuse people and also to not embarrass myself, I’ll be giving a pretty basic explanation. Another reason is because I don’t like to complicate my mixing with way too many complicated terms and jargon. It really does make the process of mixing less enjoyable, at least from my experience. M/S Processing gives us the ability to manipulate the side information (Left and Right) and the middle information (Centre) separately, within a stereo track. Now before I continue I must admit that I don’t use this technique a lot, but I’d say it maybe pops up once every mix and I use it more of an effect than anything else
What are The Benefits?
Lets say you have a stereo track where the middle information sounds perfect the way it is, but maybe you wish that you could turn up the sides, compress the sides or even EQ the sides. Well good news because you can. But I must repeat, I would rather do all this in the mix and not leave it to a point of needing this type of technique.
It works great when your given stems or loops inside the mix and you don’t have access to the individual parts. It might not be ideal but at least its better than not having it at all.
Another benefit to this, leaning more towards the side of effects, is that it gives you better control over the stereo spectrum of a particular sound in your mix. In a nutshell it gives you the ability to make something wider, are something more mono. I personally tend to use it more on sounds that are not quite as important that lean towards the background in on a song. I would make them wider and try to get them away of my most important information to the song (usually the vocals)
How Can This Be Applied?
I can give you the three common ways that I would use M/S processing and then from there, you can explore this on your own and see how it might work in your mix.
First of all, my go to plugin (which sounds VERY good) is Variety of Sound’s “Rescue”. This plugin is simple at its core but is pretty powerful. If you look at the picture above there’s basically two sections with a border around it. One says Mid and the other says Side. So to achieve a wider sound I can either turn down the gain on the Mid section or I can turn the Width knob in the Side section. I wouldn’t say they each do the exact same thing, but the achieved goal is definitely the same. Just remember that there has to be stereo information for this to work. If its a pure Mono sound then trying to make it wider will do nothing.
I would commonly use this on stuff like reverbs, delays and backing sounds like background vocal/harmonies or strings. There really isn’t any rule, ultimately its your painting and you decide which colours work the best.
More Mono Please
Another way to approach this is essentially the opposite of making it wider. You may have a sound that has too much L and R but not enough in the centre. An example of this would be a stereo drum loop that sounds fairly washy where its hard to determine where the drums are between the speakers. Now I’m not saying this is a fool proof method of getting it to be more mono sounding but you could try it out and see if it works. The best way I have found to do this is to turn down the gain in the sides section as opposed to turning up the gain in the mid section. The reason is because I most likely have already found my balance with the drum kit and don’t want it to be louder, I just want the sides to be quieter or not at all. Once I turn down the sides and if the drums feel a bit lifeless or seem to have less energy, at that point I could turn up the gain in the mid section. I might also play with the punch knob as that tends to add a nice bit of character as well.
I need more options
Another thing that you might want to do is EQ or compress the sides and middle separately. But this plugin does give me that option, what’s the big deal? On the contrary, even though more expensive units allow for these types of things you can still do it with this plugin and in fact you can do much MUCH more. You just have to know the technique and use your imagination. So what I would do is make a duplicate copy of Track A so now I have Track A and Track A (copy). They both contain the exact same loop. On the original I would push the yellow button right beside the word Side. Completely turns off any of the side information. Now on Track A (copy) I would push the yellow button beside the word Mid so it completely turns off all of the middle information. Now I have two separate tracks, one containing all the middle information and one containing all the side information. I don’t have to do any more explaining after this, I’m sure your brain is firing off right now with all the cool things you can do. So get to it!!!
Remember, automation is useful with this stuff too 🙂
YouTube Video Source: M/S Technique – ModernMixing.com (FREE plugin)