The Miracle of Mid-Side EQ: Rock Your Mixes and Masters

by Craig Anderton

Sure, the LP EQ is a great linear-phase, stereo EQ. But it was designed for mid-side processing as well as conventional stereo, so let’s explore what mid-side processing is about, and why it’s so important.

LP EQ BASICS 

You can add up to 20 nodes, and each can have one of the following responses:

  • Low shelf
  • High shelf
  • High pass
  • Low pass
  • Peak boost/cut

 

The LP EQ allows up to 20 nodes

The LP EQ allows up to 20 nodes, which can choose from five responses.

However, there’s some intelligence when adding nodes; for example if you double-click to enter a node close to the highest possible frequency, the LP EQ will insert a lowpass filter. At a somewhat lower frequency, there’s a shelving response (although you can of course change these default responses to whatever you like). Drag nodes horizontally to change the frequency or up/down to vary amplitude; a right-click + drag on a node alters the width, as does using the mouse scroll wheel on a selected node.

You can ctrl+click, or draw a marquee around, multiple nodes to select them, but there’s an interesting twist. Suppose a node is set to boost, and another to cut. If you select both, then click on the one that boosts and drag it downward, the amount of boost will decrease. However the one that’s cut will start boosting. This complementary motion allows increasing or decreasing the overall emphasis easily; for example, if you think you went too far with the amount of EQ and want to pull it back, this reduces all aspects equally.

If all the selected nodes either boost or cut, then their amplitudes vary together.

These basics give a flavor of the features, but there’s much more—so click on the UI to give the LP EQ the focus, then press F1 to call up the comprehensive documentation.

MID-SIDE EQ PROCESSING

Mid-side processing encodes a stereo track into two separate components: the center becomes the “mid” component in the left channel, while the stereo track’s right and left elements become the “side” component in the right channel. You can then process these components individually, with automatic decoding back into stereo.

To get started with mid-side processing, click on the LP 64’s Expert button and under Mode, choose Mid/Side. For best results, set the precision to High. This results in the most latency but the highest accuracy, which is important because with mid-side processing, you don’t want any phase shift or sample misalignment—that will interfere with the decoded stereo imaging.

the LP EQ's Expert Mode access Mid-Side processing

The LP EQ’s Expert Mode is the key to doing mid-side processing with EQ. Also note the Mix control for parallel processing.

Processing can be independent for the mid and side components (as it is for the left and right channels in conventional stereo applications). You assign a node to the appropriate component by clicking on the node, and then clicking on M or S (toward the LP EQ’s upper right corner). Here are a few possible applications.

  • With mastering, you can get “inside the file” to do pseudo-remixing on a stereo track. One typical application is giving a slight boost to the higher-frequency side components to provide a bit more “air” and a wider stereo image.
  • If you’ve been seduced by vinyl’s comeback, remember that it’s crucial to center the bass and minimize bass excursions in the sides. With mid-side EQ processing, you can reduce the bass in the sides, and if needed, increase bass a bit in the center. Even if you’re not mastering for vinyl, taking this technique further can give a super-anchored, “center-channel” bass sound.
  • Drums with lots of room ambience can benefit from a bit of upper mids in the sides for extra definition, and a little bit of lower mids in the center to accent the kick.
  • If a synth bass has a wide image that “steps on” other instruments, you can bring down the bass in the sides.
  • For taming reverb, set a node to Mid, select the high pass curve, and slide it all the way to the right to take out essentially everything. Then you can shape the remaining reverb with the side EQ, while chasing the away from the center, where it can muddy the bass and kick.

THE VALUE OF THE MIX CONTROL 

But…how do you know whether you’re really making an improvement to the sound or not? The LP EQ includes a Mix control (accessed in the Expert section) so you can vary the mix from full EQ to no EQ. Yes, parallel processing for EQ…very handy, and even better, the Mix control can be automated (like virtually all other parameters, including display characteristics and bypass).

You can also switch quickly between two different EQ settings with the A/B comparison function.

Granted, there’s no shortage of EQ plug-ins, but the LP EQ truly brings something new to the party. If you’re not familiar what mid-side processing can do with EQ, there’s no better way to find out than with the LP EQ.

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The Dynamic Gate | A Cleaner Way To Mix Drums

by Daniel Gonz

Gates are wonderful processors that can clean up background noise and bleed in your audio tracks. They’re a bit tricky to understand because the key to successfully using one is often a specific feature that’s hidden or buried in the interface. The feature I’m referring to is called the sidechain. It’s a powerful element of my mixing workflow and I’d like to show you why.

To follow along with this post, you can download the audio examples here.

In its simplest form, a gate allows a signal to pass through it only when its decibel level is above a set threshold. This means the gate is ‘open’. If the signal falls below the threshold then no signal is allowed to pass. This means the gate is ‘closed’. The sidechain becomes an integral part of this entire process because it’s what the gate uses to detect whether or not the signal is above or below the set threshold.

Sonitus Gates On Kick and Snare in SONAR

Top Left to Bottom Right: Kick In Gate, Kick Out Gate, Snare Top Gate, Snare Bottom Gate

(more…)

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HOW The Duke Western USES SONAR TO CREATE MUSIC FOR DUCK DYNASTY (AND MORE)

Here at Cakewalk we are fortunate to have an external team of rocket scientists who help test out SONAR beta releases.  This team is dedicated, passionate and most of all appreciated by all of us internally here at the Cake shop.  Recently I received a general email from one of my esteemed colleagues mentioning that one of our trustworthy beta soldiers was jumping off the beta-battlefield in lieu of another SONAR related activity.  Huh?  This peaked my curiosity and I felt obliged to dig a bit deeper on the subject.  What could “another SONAR related activity” involve?  SONAR Olympics? SONAR CPU Racing? SONAR Academy?

Featured Music Placements on Discovery Channel, History Channel, CBS, Bravo Network

(more…)

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How iLan Bluestone used SONAR Platinum on his new track “Bigger Than Love” (#1 on Beatport)

Just a few short years ago, we learned of a new up-and-coming artist who was using SONAR.  After introducing ourselves and learning more, the one thing that kept resonating were the infectious melodies and counterparts embedded into his tracks.  We were delighted to witness him working in SONAR, but at the same time very intrigued that he was using SONAR 8.5.

Soon after being in touch with iLan, we were able to catch up with him face to face in his studio just north of London for a night where we introduced SONAR X3 to him.  It was a fun night and very interesting to watch a pro’s reactions going from 8.5 to X3 considering that undoubtedly the platforms are truly different.  There were some moments of, “Whooaaah… that will save me a ton of time,” and there were moments of, “Ummm…that will take a while to get used to.”  Leaving iLan to his own devices we were really unsure where he would take it.

 

 

Toggling back and forth from 8.5 to X3 for a while, iLan finally found his stride with SONAR Platinum.  He told us, “After working on both 8.5 and X3, once I was on Platinum there was no going back.  The basic features alone like the smart tool and Mix Recall not only save me a lot of time, but allow me to create things I could not create in 8.5. With the amount of tracks I create and pace of my workflow, the fact that Platinum is rock solid and really fast means everything to me.  8.5 always allowed me to ‘not’ sound like everyone else in my genre, and Platinum just continues that path for me.”  iLan’s first full production in SONAR Platinum titled “Bigger Than Love,” a collaboration with singer/songwriter/artist Giuseppe de Luca was recently released on Anjunabeats and quickly found its way up the charts to the #1 spot on Beatport.

(more…)

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Cakewalk Talk Episode 3 Part 1 – Interview with Daniel Rowland from LANDR

Check out the latest episode of Cakewalk Talk, where Dan Gonzalez interviews audio engineer Daniel Rowland (Adrian Belew, StudioBelew, Accept) about LANDR and his role at the company.

 

We’ve posted a shorter cut below as well.

 

Sign up for LANDR and get 4 FREE WAV FILES. Download it Today
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Artist Spotlight: Eric Hansen—How He Gets Big Pro Soundinig Results at Home

“Is it World Music?”  “Is it Spanish Music?” “Is this Jazz?” “Is this in the Acoustic Genre?”  Fortunately for guitar virtuoso and now-Pro D.I.Y’er Eric Hansen, the simple answer to these questions he faces regularly about his music is, “YES.”  Eric is another longtime SONAR user who depends on SONAR daily for his livelihood.  He is based out of Southern Florida which might just be where his Spanish and Latin influences come from, where at a young age he had a unique fondness for Flamenco infused Pop music.

Eric began studying the guitar at age 14 and was performing professionally with local rock groups by the age 16.  He then attended Florida Atlantic University where he studied Classical and Jazz guitar and was the first actual guitarist to complete the Honors Performance Program at F.A.U.  He went on to graduate with academic honors while simultaneously studying Flamenco and Latin American music with musicians from Spain and Peru.

In his professional career, Eric is no stranger to the Billboard Charts with 6 records under his belt all crafted in different versions of SONAR spanning over 15 years.  Eric is in the final stages of another record, but this one is being tracked, mixed and recorded all in SONAR Platinum.  After Eric getting Cakewalk an exclusive preview to 3 of the new songs on the record, we were interested in finding out more about how all these great tracks are coming together in Platinum [DEMO PREVIEW]:

(more…)

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Mining Gold from PA Recordings with SONAR

SONAR Hero Image

by Craig Parmerlee – SONAR user since SONAR 7

SONAR and other DAWs are used heavily to produce high-quality recordings, while other people use SONAR as part of a compositional process.  I find that most of my SONAR usage is a little different, processing live recordings tracked in a concert or club setting.  This usage presents various problems that aren’t as apparent in a controlled studio setting.  This blog will present a workflow and various SONAR features I have found valuable when processing live recordings.

Objectives

  1. In most cases, my primary objective is to produce a recording that the musicians can study in order to improve their performance.
  2. In some cases, the performance and production quality will be high enough to serve as demo material to promote the group.
  3. I try to deliver a mixed and mastered copy to the musicians within 48 hours, while the event is still fresh in mind, so speed and efficiency are very important.
  4. Often a musician will ask for a further edit on one of the songs, for example, to include in their personal résumé.  Flexibility and ability to recall settings are important.

Changing Expectations

Tascam DR-40 Field Recorder

Years ago, I did such projects using Audacity, which seemed adequate at the time.  However, expectations have changed radically.

Today many musicians have a low-cost stereo field recorder such as the TASCAM DR-40.These recorders are the equivalent of point-and-shoot cameras.  For around $100, they can produce remarkably good quality under ideal circumstances.

This has become the baseline against which many musicians judge other live recordings.  Even though I want to produce quick results, if I can’t do substantially better than a TASCAM DR-40, for example, then I am wasting my time (I should note I love those small field recorders and often use them too, but that is not the subject of this blog).

Fortunately, with SONAR I have found a work flow and a set of “go-to” features that allow me to do much better than a stereo field recorder almost every time, using only the microphones that are already placed for the live PA system.

A Word About My Background

(more…)

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panup: Studio Session & LANDR Test

by Panu Pentikäinen (panup at Cakewalk forums)

Alex PortraitAlex ja Armottomat (Alex) visited my recording studio in February. We had five days total to do a fully mastered CD, make promo photos of the band, and record live video footage in the studio for later editing. I’ll describe here how one of the six songs was recorded and mixed.

Drums, bass and the electric guitar were recorded live with one to three takes. Acoustic guitar and demo vocals were recorded, too, but they were re-recorded later over the backing tracks. The drummer was the only one to hear the metronome (standard SONAR audio metronome, time signature set to 1/4); the others had eye contact with the drummer. Although the guitar amp was in another room (the bass was recorded direct), there was no spill other than a faint demo vocal in the drum room mics.

Time is always an enemy when you have to record many songs in a limited amount of time. I decided to make decisions before pressing the R (record) button rather than leaving everything to the mixing phase. I applied EQ to kick drum, drum room and the acoustic guitar before A/D conversion. One of the phrases I hate is: “This sounds like crap now but it hasn’t been mixed yet.” Some people really think that everything can be fixed in the mix! (Although to be fair you often can, because in SONAR we have VocalSync, built-in Melodyne, built-in drum trigger, and AudioSnap).

And although it sounds incredible, now it’s even possible to upload songs from SONAR to the LANDR online mastering service and instantly hear a preview of how the song would sound as mastered. Hearing the demo master may help you to improve the project’s mix. (more…)

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5 Ways to Widen Your Mix

5 Ways to Widen Your Mix

At some point, nearly every mixer has experienced this:

“My mix sounds great, but this mix by (Bob Clearmountain, George Massenburg, Joe Barresi, etc.) sounds so much wider… How do they do that?”

Aside from the highly classified mixer voodoo magic that they still swear isn’t real, there are a number of techniques you can employ to get a little more width out of your mix.

PANNING

I already know what you’re about to say: “But I pan my parts hard left and right, and it still doesn’t sound wide enough.” I struggled with this for a long time myself, but trust me, panning is listed first because it’s the first step toward a wide mix.

If you’ve got things hard-panned, you’re already halfway there. One trick to making this work is contrast; if everything is hard-panned, there’s no point of reference for what is narrow or wide.

EXAMPLE: In a rock or metal mix, it’s fairly common to find extremely wide guitars. What many folks don’t notice is that the drums are not always quite as wide.

A pretty standard template for me is: guitars panned hard, drum overheads panned at about 50%, and if applicable, the drum room track at about 60-75%. This makes for a full stereo field and helps isolate the parts, creating a very wide image of the guitars while still having good stereo separation for the drums. It also helps prevent distorted electric guitars from eating up all that gorgeous drum ambiance you worked so hard to track perfectly.

Widen Your Mix With Contrast Panning

“Contrast” Panning

Contrary to the above, I’ve heard a lot of folks swear by what’s known as “LCR Mixing,” or Left-Center-Right mixing, where – you guessed it – everything is either panned, hard left, center, or hard right.

I personally am not a major advocate of LCR Mixing, but I highly encourage everyone to try it out. It might work for one song or one style, but not another. If nothing else, it’s an excellent starting point in helping you quickly decide the rough stereo placement of each mix element .

Wider Mixes with LCR Panning

“LCR” Panning

And of course, never forget about automation–the most important part of any mix, in my opinion. Try panning a stereo track to about 80% width, and then at an appropriate point in the song, bump it up to 100%. I guarantee this will add apparent width to your mix.

Utilizing Pan Automation to Widen Your Mix

Utilizing Pan Automation

This goes back to contrast — you’re listening to the song and at its widest point, it’s at 80% width. Your ears believe that everything is as wide as it can be. Suddenly, everything gets wider and the apparent stereo width seems enormous! I’m not saying go crazy and use this trick all the time, but try it out and hear the effect for yourself.

EQ

Counter-Balanced EQ can add Stereo Width

Sometimes EQ can help you make your mix sound wider. And you’re probably thinking, “how is adjusting frequency content going to expand stereo width?” Well, technically it’s not…

It’s a psychoacoustical phenomenon that causes a bit of separation of the parts, making their perceived width much greater. That’s right, it’s not real. But we can fool our ears into thinking we’re actually adding width.

Here’s what to do: take a look at your left guitar track and find a place in the midrange where you might like to boost. Let’s say just for example’s sake, that we’ll add 2dB at 600Hz. Now we’re going to find another frequency and cut it: -2dB at 2.8kHz (again, just for example).

Now, go to your right guitar track and do the opposite: -2dB at 600Hz; +2dB at 2.8kHz.

Be careful — I wouldn’t add or subtract any more than about 2 or 3 dB here lest altering or totally destroying the tone (trust me, the guitar player will hear it and reveal his or her darker side very quickly). Make an adjustment that’s just enough and you’ll trick the listener into hearing an expanded stereo width.

Delay

This is how you get a mix to sound like it’s actually wider than the speakers themselves. It became ubiquitous in the 80s, but much like gated reverb, it’s used more tastefully in modern mixes.

First, a word of warning: this can completely dismantle the mono compatibility of your mix — proceed with caution!

The technique is quite simple, and is another one of those psychoacoustical tricks (come on, you didn’t think you could actually get your mix to be wider than the speakers themselves… did you?).

Insert a stereo delay plugin on your stereo track or bus (IMPORTANT: make sure the delay plugin has independent controls for the left and right sides) and set the mix to 100%. You could also use the Channel Tools plugin, which has this sort of functionality built in. Just add a few milliseconds of delay to one side of your stereo track or bus, and you’ll hear quite a difference right away.

Delay Can Make Your Mix Wider

Delay on One Side

Of course, there’s always the question of how much is enough. Here are some tips:

  • Does it sound like one side is playing before the other? Too much. You’ll definitely want it below 20-25ms, or it’ll start actually sounding like, well, a delay.

  • More delay time will not always make it wider. The effect is caused by the phase relationship between the two sides, so you may find a sweet spot with hardly any delay at all.

  • Collapse the track/bus to mono. Does it sound terrible? Try making it a little narrower.

  • Does the tone change too much? Move the delay time up or down a little bit and see if that helps.

  • Remember, phase can truly make or break your mix, so again, tread cautiously when applying this effect.

Reverb

There are a few different ways reverb can help increase the apparent stereo width of your mix.

The first way is quite simple: Applying reverb to an already-wide signal can make it sound even wider. This has to do with those phase relationships we were just talking about.

Wider Mix with Opposite Pan on Sends

To take things a step further, try panning your reverb sends to the opposite side (Hard Left Audio w/ Hard Right Send; Hard Right Audio w/ Hard Left Send) to see if it makes any difference. If nothing else, it makes for a pretty cool creative effect.

The second way is also quite simple. What is reverb but a few thousand delay signals right after one another? What we’ll do is apply reverb to only one side of the stereo track or bus.

What this is doing, in addition to the delay trick mentioned above, is making one side sound slightly more distant. It’s ultimately creating a distinction between the left and right side (again, in your mind) that creates the illusion of greater width.

Mid/Side Processing

This is a bit of an advanced technique. There are plug-ins out there that will do all the thinking for you (The Hoser XT, for example) by allowing you the option to make separate adjustments for the individual “mid” and “sides” channels.

Mid/Side EQ Can Make Your Mix Sound Wider

However, there are a few ways to make this work, even without a “smart” plug-in… I’ll keep this as simple as possible.

The best way to set yourself up for Mid/Side processing is to use the Mid/Side microphone configuration when recording. This is what I consider a true Mid/Side configuration, and I feel it balances better, has better mono compatibility, and is more “true to the source” when it’s being modified than its “fabricated Mid/Side configuration” counterpart.

If you don’t know how to do Mid/Side recording, I’ve provided you some resources here, here, and here.

Now, as for converting a standard stereo track or bus to Mid/Side tracks, you’ll have to do a bit of extra work…

  1. Clone your stereo track or bus.

  2. Collapse the original to mono with the interleave button. It should look like this: [mono interleave button]. This is now your “Mid” track.

  3. Insert a plugin like Channel Tools, or any comparable plugin, on the cloned track.

  4. Flip the phase on the left side (or the right side; one may sound better than the other). This is now your “Sides” track.

What we can do from here is process these tracks individually. A good starting point would be to apply some fast compression to only the “Sides” track, somewhat eliminating the dynamic peaks and valleys and making the sides seem louder, thereby increasing the apparent stereo width.

Similarly, you can add some upper-midrange frequencies to the “Sides” track, increasing their presence, and/or reduce the same frequency range in the “Mid” track.

 

Try all these techniques and take note of the qualities that each impart. Remember, the more techniques you have in your arsenal, and the more practice and experience you have with each of them, the quicker you’ll be able to make creative production decisions.

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Anatomy of a Project: A Nontraditional Approach to a Commercial Recording

By Jimmy Landry

Last summer, Peppina—a young female artist from Finland— plunged herself into the NYC music scene for two months. With the help of renowned NYC entertainment attorney Steven Beer who discovered her, she managed to head back to Finland with a major-label sounding EP. The project was recorded in different ways, in different locations all over the city—and with budgets being slashed, these days it’s pretty much hand-to-hand combat when making a low budget recording where anything goes. But the upshot is yes, you can record a commercial-sounding record on a budget—so here are some of the techniques we employed to accomplish that goal. SONAR Platinum was instrumental in saving time on this EP. Between the Drum Replacer, VocalSync, onboard Melodyne, Speed Comping and general speed enhancements, I got to the finish line a lot faster than previous records. I highly recommend anyone who’s on SONAR XX to take a close look at what the program has brought to the table in the last year.

This all started when Steven Beer called about an artist he’d heard sing at a film festival, and invited me for a meeting at his office. Interestingly, there were two other producer/writers there as well—a bit unorthodox, but pretty much anything goes these days, so nothing really surprises me anymore. We discussed the artist’s interests, influences, and other variables, and then listened to some of my reel as well as music from the other producers. It turned out the lawyer’s master plan was to bring the three of us together to co-write, record, and mix a five-song EP before she went back to Finland in 45 days.

Peppina already had some momentum in Finland from a loop she wrote and uploaded to a site called HITRECORD (owned by actor and director Joseph Gordon-Levitt). Her upload was so popular that Gordon-Levitt flew her to California to perform the piece at the Orpheum in LA during one of the show’s TV episodes. This all sounded good to me, so I signed on to a production team that would share in the production duties and heavy lifting. As to budgets…well, there was enough there for us to take it on as a challenge.

(more…)

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