Panning is a technique skilled mix engineers use to generate audio images, set balance, generate contrast, and create tension and resolution. They consider that signals panned in the middle, to the extreme left or right, or both, tend to catch our ears’ attention better. Other positions are less clear and more impressionistic. Bearing this in mind, I will show you how to pan instruments in your mix in the following tutorial.
As usual, I have prepared a short sequence in our SoundBridge: DAW, which contains most instruments of the entire mix. Let us listen to it.
~Full Mix – Without Panning
As you can hear from the audio example above, the mix sounds good. However, a few instruments could benefit from panning. I will start from the top channels you see and explain what should stay as is and which we should alter regarding panning.
How to Pan Instruments in the Low-End Category
The top two channels contain the Kick drum and Bassline, which usually remain in mono. For any electronic music that is likely to be played in a club, remember that most playback systems are mono. And, even if they aren’t working as mono, they frequently seem functionally mono due to how sound travels in densely packed areas. This is particularly relevant for instruments that produce a lot of low and sub-frequencies, such as the kick drum and bass. The kick drum is mono in this case. I layered the Bassline with subfrequencies in mono, with the upper layer generating a slightly wider stereo image. As a result, it does not require any panning.
~Kick Drum & Bass Line – Solo
The drum section includes a central drum groove and a couple of channels with shakers that complement the drum group. The drum groove channel sounds quite broad, so no panning is required, whereas the shaker channels could be used to apply panning. To accomplish this, I will pan the shaker channels to the left and right, not necessarily in the same amount, because one has a higher volume. Let’s compare how they sound before and after panning.
~Shaker 1&2 – Without Panning
~Shaker 1&2 – With Panning Applied
How to Pan Instruments Like Guitars
The following channels contain the rhythm guitar in low and high octaves. This is yet another excellent spot for panning. Like the previous example, I will pan the rhythm guitar channels harder to the left and right to achieve a wider stereo image while paying close attention to the volume of each channel.
~Rhythm Guitar 1&2 – Without Panning
~Rhythm Guitar 1&2 – With Panning Applied
Synth Lead and Saz are the last two channels in my SoundBridge DAW sequence. These are already processed with some reverb and delay effects, but we could automate each panning position. This will then result in improved sound positioning. Finally, let us hear it before and after the automation is applied.
~Synth Lead & Saz – Without panning
~Synth Lead & Saz – With Panning Applied
~Full Mix – With Panning Applied
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