Production Technique - Audio Panning

Panning gives instruments their own space in the stereo field. It can be used to eliminate masking by moving sounds out of the way of other sounds so the listener can clearly define them.

Don't Pan Everything

Some producers believe that everything needs to be panned. Panning is a very delicate process and should be adjusted gradually for each track. One rule of thumb is try keeping the lower frequency sounds central in the mix. Trust your ears, listen to the different elements and try panning them. If it doesn't sound right, bring them back to the centre. 

 

Panning Drums

Panning drums is essential for a full sounding mix. This is key as drums tend to be the driving force of lots of tracks. However with lots of different elements this drive can become lost which sometimes results in muddy mix. Panning is a fantastic way to create space within the mix.

 Panning the kick drum is easy since it will stay in the centre. The snare can also be left without panning. Although most people like to place the snare, toms, cymbals and other percussions right or left from the centre. So simply use the frequency spectrum as an indicator and a great guideline.

 

 

Panning Vocals

Widening the stereo image of your vocals can have a tremendous impact on where the vocals sit in the mix. Often used with multiple backing vocal tracks which are subsequently panned either left or right which creates a full sounding mix. A quick tip would be to try keeping the lead vocal in the centre of the mix as much as possible and allow other less important vocals to be panned.

By panning vocals and doubled lead vocals effectively, you can seriously level-up your producer game and create professional-sounding tracks.

 

 

Conclusion

Like most things in music production, you have to try things out. What sounds good? Spending time learning which instruments should be panned and which ones certainly shouldn't is crucial. But remember less is more! Be creative and experiment!

 

Q. Should I always pan my vocals to the centre of the mix?

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