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Help me with Panning

Discussion in 'Recording/Live Sound' started by Lennox Lewis, Nov 29, 2005.

  1. Lennox Lewis

    Lennox Lewis Member

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    Hello. I'm a novice recorder, using an old Roland VS 840. I always just sort of "wing it" when I record, but I'd like to know some strategy on panning. Is there an old fashioned standard for each instrument? Like what normally would be panned in the middle, what to the left, to the right? Hopefully this makes sense to someone.
     
  2. MichaelK

    MichaelK Member

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    I always pan the bass dead center, as do many people. Usually kick as well, but sometimes off to one side just a hair. If it's a "straight" solo lead vocal it's usually dead center as well, but sometimes I mess with equal-volume delays and double tracking in which case I play around with panning.

    Eveything else is just where I feel it. I usually keep the most up-front mono instruments from being way far off center, but percussion or little background twiddly bits end up more toward the edges. Rarely is anything other than a stereo track or effect panned 100% to one side or the other... but it happens.
     
  3. mccreadyisgod

    mccreadyisgod Member

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    My general rule of thumb:

    Kick drum - Center
    Snare drum - 10% right
    Hi Hats - 30 to 60% right
    Toms - panned across a 50%L - 50%R field
    Overheads - 60% L and 60% R

    Bass - Center. If you use two sources (DI and Mic, etc) I pan one 50% L and the other 50% R, just to fill out the sound.

    Guitars, keys, etc. - This is the harder part. If you have one guitar, you can pan it across from the bass, keeping both close to center. If you have multiple rhythm instruments, pan them harder (40-60%). I rarely pan anything hard (80-100%), unless it's a stereo source (keyboard, turntable, etc) or for an effect. Generally, you pan the rhythm instruments outside and your lead instruments closer to center, unless you have opposing leads (interleaved guitar leads, keyboards, etc).

    Vocal - Keep the lead centered and pan the backing vocals around it. You can try the chorus method of tracking two takes of the lead and panning them apart at equal volumes, or copying the main track and delaying it a few milliseconds and panning that. It gets old if overused, but it can be nice periodically, in the right song in the right amount.

    If you only have one backing vocal, you can pan the lead slightly to one side during the harmonies and pan the harmony the other direction. Or you can leave the lead centered and use the chorus method on the backing vox. If you have multiple backing vocals, pan them apart and leave the lead in the center.

    Generally speaking, you want to use panning to separate similar sounds. It creates a wider image and reduces the muddiness. For example, if you have two rhythm guitar tracks, you pan them apart so you can hear them better individually, and so they blend better into the rest of the mix. Or, if you have a drumset and a shaker, pan the shaker away from the hi hats so you can tell them apart. But the best method, above all, is to play around and find methods that work for you, your music, and your ears.
     
  4. MichaelK

    MichaelK Member

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    That's a good way to sum it up (no pun intended). You don't want one side bass-heavy and the other side all treble-y.

    As a rule I like to mix in mono and do my panning last. A mix that sits right in mono can play back on anything at any volume and always sit right. I don't feel that panning is the best way to clean up a cluttered, crowded mix.
     
  5. elambo

    elambo Member

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    If there are any real rules, they've already been mentioned. Keeping a mix balanced, for example - all bass on one side and all treble on the other is just plain odd. Although people have pulled that off, too. They've certainly experimented.

    I like my mixes very wide, so I'll tend to throw a couple things hard left and hard right. Complimentary rhythmic guitar parts at the extreme edges of the speakers can be a nice bed for the rest of the track to sit in. I'll usually put some kind of percussion out there, too, or maybe instead of the guitars, depends on the composition, of course. These things set the boundaries.

    If things are sounding too mono for you - not spaciously interesting - you can add a very quick delay to a mono part, then pan the original part in one direction and the delayed part in the other and you'll get a perceived width that wasn't there before. I'm not sure if the VS840 will allow for this type of FX panning, but it's something to consider.

    In the end, I'd be careful of considering panning rules at all. Let your instincts tell you what sounds right and what's wrong.
     
  6. mccreadyisgod

    mccreadyisgod Member

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    That's the most important part...

    Since you seem lost without direction, you can use our methods as starting points. But once you get comfortable with what panning can do, throw all the rules out the window and try some funky stuff. Find your own method for using the stereo image to make a mix interesting and lively. Play around and commit to nothing, figure out your own gospel of panning.
     
  7. TAVD

    TAVD Guitar Player Gold Supporting Member

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    Check out Izzy Stradlin's CD for some great use of panning. You'll hear things like effects decays panned away from the dry signal.

    If you want to go old school, record everything mono and do a few hard pans L & R.
     
  8. EVT

    EVT Member

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  9. Big Boss Man

    Big Boss Man Member

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    I like to record two takes of the vocals, pan each slightly off center (5%), and add a little reverb. It can really help a sub par vocal performance, like my own. :eek:
     
  10. gtr777

    gtr777 Supporting Member

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    A great way to find the sweet spot for panning is to put the track in mono, sweep the pan back and forth on the track you are trying to place and see where it pops out in the mix. Switch back to stereo and adhust the level to taste. Works pretty well...
     

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