Panning  

 

       What the heck is panning and why is it so important to audio production? It’s adjusting the apparent placement of a mono track in the stereo (or surround) field. By doing so in a cohesive manner, you can take a mix that is difficult to listen to and allow the listener to pick out each instrument and nuance of the mix. You can also use panning as effect to move an instrument in space to create movement.

       First of all, certain instruments and elements of a mix are always panned to the center because that’s where your brain likes to hear things. Lead Vocals, kick drum, snare drum and bass guitar are always put in the middle. Bass frequencies have a characteristic of seeming to come from everywhere so, in theory, you could pan the kick drum and bass guitar anywhere but since they have harmonics and other components of their tonality that aren’t in the bass range, your brain gets confused. It hears the bass components coming from all directions and the other components coming from wherever you panned them and it just can’t compute. Lead guitar solos should also be panned to the middle as they take the place of the lead vocal.

       The rest of the drum kit can be panned in several ways. You can pan it as though the listener is facing the drum kit so the individual drums are panned accordingly. You can also pan the kit as thought the listener is the drummer and have the kit panned as though he was playing it. Drum overheads should never be panned hard right and left as this leaves a hole in the middle of the kit.

       Guitars, Guitars, Guitars. This is one of the most difficult elements of the mix to deal with. A lot is going to depend on what kind of music you’re mixing. If you are doing an acoustic group that relies heavily on the rhythm guitar, you’ll have to keep it pretty close to the center . If you’ve got several instrumentalists, you’re going to have to consider where the other instruments are going to be. In a typical rock mix, where you have two guitarists, pan one hard right and the other hard left. Then take the return from the reverb for each guitar and pan it to the opposite channel. This will give you a really full sound. Bands with a single guitarist have it more difficult. On Van Halen’s first record, the producer put EVH in the right channel and panned his reverb to the left. You can also record two tracks of the single guitarist and pan them right and left.

       The rest of the instruments are going to be a matter of taste with the exception of piano and keyboards. They have to fill up the area behind and around the other instruments so pan them hard right and left and then use the reverb to the opposite channel approach.

 

       Next Month—Preamps, and Direct Boxes

 

 

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Mackie Onyx 1640 16-Channel Mixer
Mackie Onyx 1640 16-Channel Mixer

JL Cooper CS-102 Control Station
JL Cooper CS-102 Control Station

Steinberg Cubase SX3 Recording Software
Steinberg Cubase SX3 Recording Software