Drum processing using Middle and Side - M/S

An advanced tutorial that details how to use M/S (Middle and Side) processing to shape and colour drum sounds.

Beat Construction


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Producers have been using Middle and Side (M/S) processing for years and the most popular application is to balance the various components (middle and side information) of an acoustic drum kit. The idea is to span the acoustic drum kit across a sound stage that is both natural and controlled. Being able to extend the sides to achieve stereo width, or to narrow the sides and pronounce the mid information, makes this process extremely attractive to modern day producers. With recording drum kits the M/S process is often used to manage the overheads and the direct signals to achieve a more natural stereo spread. However, to fully exploit this wonderful process it helps to understand what it is and how it works.

Middle and Side

Basically, the stereo sound is split into middle (M) and sides (S) using a process we call ‘Matrixing’. Once the signal is in M/S we can treat the sides (known as the difference) and the mid (known as the sum) separately. After the processing the signal is encoded back into the standard stereo format. This process may sound complicated but when you see it in action you will realise how simple it is to use and yet so powerful in action.

Most stereo wideners use Mid/Side processing to allow the user to work on either component in isolation. By inverting the phase of each channel and adding a small amount of this phase-inverted signal to the opposite channel, you can add spaciousness to any stereo sound. Some stereo widening plugins incorporate this exact process and the results can be both pleasing and solid in control.

But what do you do if all you have is a stereo recording of a drum beat? How can you apply M/S processing to a single stereo file?

This tutorials covers all the steps you need to extract the mid and side information from a stereo drum recording and then to process each component to create new drum textures.

In the video I import a drum loop of an acoustic drum kit recording. I show you, step by step, how to extract the middle and side information onto separate channels in the DAW using Voxengo’s MSED ( Mid-Side encoder/decoder) plugin. I then show you how each component can be processed separately to give you different results in how the stereo image is perceived.

Plugins used in this video:

Cockos Reaper

Xoxengo MSED

Topics covered in this video are:

  • What are Middle and Side
  • How to create Faux M/S
  • Managing and manipulating both the Middle and Side of any drum sound
  • Manipulating M/S in Layer Mode
  • How to create M/S from a single Mono sound