Page 1 of 1

notes on stereo

Posted: December 28th, 2021, 7:23 pm
by oskr
I thought I had already posted this but I can't see it so apparently not... This is not remotely specific to breakcore but here goes anyway:

If you listen to enough electronic music (etc) you will probably notice a few things:
* Wide audio sounds close, right inside your ears. Mono audio sounds far away.
* Stereo tracks sound louder than mono.
* It’s common to mix different instruments or sounds at different places in the stereo field (they are more clearly defined like that)
* Vocals are often the widest part of the mix.
* Very low frequencies are always mono. Subbass is always mono. Kick drums are just about always mono.
* Sometimes you will hear instruments panned at different places in the stereo field ie left or right, this was done more frequently in the funk era, contemporary music not so often.
* Synthy pads are often quite wide, huge growly basses tend to be fairly wide.
You probably want to keep these things in mind before you start to write tracks. If you deviate from some of these guidelines your tracks will probably immediately sound weird (possibly in a good way or maybe not).

You don’t need to know all this stuff to make good beats but imo it is useful.

a) MID/SIDE? Stereo is made up of left and right audio, but it may also be broken down into “mid” and “side” audio. Mid is the audio which is identical in both left and right channels. Side is the audio which is different in left and right channels. Therefore a mono signal has no audio in the side channel. When the left and right channels are completely different there is no mid audio. It’s possible you may want to add an effect to only the mid or side channel, probably not very often though.

b) STEREO KNOBS It is common for software/samplers etc to have a “pan” knob and a “width” knob, however they don’t usually explain what operation is actually taking place. You should therefore understand the following before you go using those knobs for extremely technical shit like making hard nasty breakcore:

c) PANNING can be done in two ways: i) by cutting the volume of the alternate channel, or ii) shifting all content to one channel (sometimes known as “dual pan”).

d) REDUCING WIDTH can be done in two ways: i) Cutting all stereo content (generally what you get with a garden-variety width knob), or ii) Summing the left and right channels to mono (depending on your source material this could be much preferable).

e) INCREASING WIDTH can be done in two ways: i) This could be by increasing the volume of the stereo content (and keeping the mid channel at constant volume), or ii) cutting the mono content.

f) DIY ACAPELLAS Many hip hop (etc) tracks feature wide vocal tracks and narrow backing tracks. This means you can sometimes strip the vocals using stereo operations. If you find acapellas online that are labelled DIY they are usually made in this way. Firstly you would reduce the mono content (ie mid channel) as much as possible. You now have a stereo track that consists of mostly vocals, but unfortunately it sounds like garbage because it is far too wide. Finally you flip the polarity of one of the channels. It becomes a centred audio which consists of essentially the stereo content of the original material.

Often you will want to create stereo from mono audio, or make narrow audio much wider. There are quite a few ways of doing this and there is no “best” technique - different approaches work with different material.

a) INCREASING STEREO CONTENT You can usually only push the stereo content so far before it sounds rather strange. And obviously you can’t do this with a mono signal.

b) DIMENSION The signal is delayed by a few milliseconds (ie size) and the polarity of one channel is flipped before adding it to the output. This is commonly used on wavetable basses (and generally sounds poor on drums etc because there is an audible delay).

c) STEREO CHORUS Again, the signal is delayed slightly, the polarity is flipped and then added to the output. However by chorus the delay size (ie depth) is modulated by lfo. Plus there may be other variables which you could use to make things sound less horrible.

d) PITCH CHANNELS Some samplers (ie ableton) will allow you to pitch the audio slightly differently on the left and right channels.This sounds ok on single drum hits. Obviously you could also use a pitchshifter (by grains etc) to pitch the audio very slightly differently on the left and right.

e) PHASE SHIFT You can phase shift one of the channels, aka all pass filter. The surround feature in Renoise phase -shifts the left channel.

f) EQ You can eq the audio differently on each side. With many eq plugs etc you can put a different eq on the left and right channels. A series of notches or bells etc may work (maybe).

There are many fancy VST plugs that will use some of the above to make stereo from mono - often they will give the process a fancy name but not actually explain what technique is “under the hood”.

f) PAN FX You may rarely want to use an lfo to send a noise from side to side (occasionally heard in glitch-hop or dubstep). Pan fx may occasionally appear in jungle/breakcore tracks on the snare repeats, there's many ways to do this.