Mid/side EQ is a powerful mixing technique that can help you bring focus and clarity to dense mixes. But aside from its traditional use of rebalancing instruments in busy arrangements, it can also be used to enhance almost any track in your session. In this blog, we’ll share some of our favorite tips for using mid/side EQ creatively in a mix.
Using Mid/Side EQ In a Mix
For a quick primer on the basics of how to use mid/side EQ, check out this blog. In short, mid/side EQ is a multi-band equalizer that treats the center and sides of a stereo channel independently. Isolating each channel gives you more control over the frequency balance of your mix.
Some of the more common uses for mid/side EQ in a mix are to focus the low-end by using a high-pass filter on the sides, widen the stereo image by boosting the highs on the sides, or bring forward certain instruments in a busy mix.
Mid/side EQs are very versatile tools and can be used to enhance individual tracks or full mixes in any genre. MIXROOM comes pre-loaded with dozens of presets to help you get started. The user interface was designed to give you an immersive experience when dialing in the mid-side balance of each band.
Now that you know the basics of how to use mid/side EQ in your mix, let’s talk about some more creative uses for each instrument.
Mid/Side EQ Techniques for Bass
Mid/side EQ can be a great tool for making sure your bass track fits properly in the context of the mix. In addition to high-passing the lows to focus the bass frequencies in the center of the mix, there are also some more creative uses for mid/side EQ, depending on the style of bass in your track.
For a chill dark pop track, you can use MIXROOM to roll-off the highs in the center channel of the bass track to help push it back in the mix for a lo-fi vibe.
For an aggressive, gritty rock bass, boost the upper-mids in the side channels. This will help accentuate the string noise, helping the bass cut through the mix. And since you’re only boosting the sides, it shouldn’t clash with the lead vocal.
For synth bass and 808s, mid/side EQs like MIXROOM can be a great tool for bringing out the attack of the sound without compromising low-end power. Try boosting the highs in the mid channel around 6-7 kHz for a tight, snappy sound.
Mid/Side EQ Techniques for Drums
With multiple instruments spread all across the frequency spectrum and stereo image of the mix, the drum bus is very well-suited for mid-side EQ.
If you’re going for a tight-pop-kit kind of sound, try using MIXROOM on each individual drum track to help create separation. For tracks like kick and snare that fall in the center of the mix, boost the fundamental frequency in the center channel. And for tracks that are panned to the sides, like cymbals and toms, boost the side channels.
For more of a vintage vibe with lots of “glue,” try using MIXROOM on the drum bus to keep the kit sounding natural. Boost the side channels around 400-500 Hz to make the room sound bigger. Just be careful—too much can cause your mix to sound muddy or boxy.
Mid/Side EQ Techniques for Guitars
Personally, I love using mid/side EQ on guitars. It can be a great way to add sparkle to clean guitars without getting in the way of the lead vocals. Use MIXROOM to boost the highs with a shelf on the side channels, and make a subtle cut around 4-6 kHz on the center channel to make room for the vocal track.
Mid/side EQ can also be great for adding bite and bark to lead guitar tracks. To help make guitar solos jump out of the speaker, I like to boost the midrange around 1 kHz in the center channel. This allows plenty of space for the rhythm guitars on the sides, while pushing the lead guitar right up in your face.
Most of all, I love using mid/side EQ to create huge distorted guitar sounds. MIXROOM makes it easy to dial in clear, detailed highs and powerful, chugging lows by boosting both ranges on the side channels and scooping the mids in the center.
Mid/Side EQ Techniques for Effects
One of my favorite uses for mid/side EQ in a mix is making effects like reverb and delay sound larger than life. For instance, try using MIXROOM to boost the highs on the side channels of your reverb returns, and cut the lows in the center for a huge reverb sound. Or take your parallel compression and distortion techniques to the next level by driving midrange frequencies in the center channel.
Mid/side EQ can also be useful when trying to prevent your kick and bass tracks from competing. If you’ve tried side-chaining the kick and bass and you’re still not happy with the way it sounds, use MIXROOM to carve out space for the kick drum by cutting low-mids from the center channel of the bass.
Another great way to utilize mid/side EQ in your mix is to automate different settings throughout the song. Whether it’s on the mix bus or individual channels, using automation to change the pitch, gain or stereo placement can be a great way to add excitement.
Use these tips during your next mixing session to help carve out space for each instrument, rebalance levels, and give your track that professional polish.