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Topic: OT:Stereo Panning question

  1. #1

    OT:Stereo Panning question

    I've had this question on my mind for a couple years and am just finally getting around to posting it in this forum.
    Over the last few years, I have read various articles about the importance of panning and stereo placement. I have observed several authors saying that the stereo spectrum as well as the frequency spectrum is a limited commodity and not to clutter it up with redundant items.
    My dilemma is that I will produce a basic song and get all of the mono items sitting well in the mix, but when it comes to recording a guitar signal through a POD or a soft piano through Gigastudio I'm not sure how to proceed as far as stereo placement. One of the claims to fame on hardware like the POD is the excellent stereo reverbs and delays built in. So in my mind, it's important to record it as a stereo track. But when it comes mix time, panning a stereo track doesn't work too well. I could split the track to dual mono, but then won't I be negating the optimal stereo reverb and delay arrangements in the Pod?
    Do you all split all your stereo tracks to mono and process them individually?
    Thanks Travis

  2. #2

    Re: OT:Stereo Panning question

    Hi Travis,
    There are many different ways to achieve realistic results, but I always record single instruments, (most of them) to a mono audio track. If we are talking orchestral stuff, every instrument is "somewhere in the room" so all these instruments need to be in a stereo environment.

    If we are talking about a flute, you would record this into a mono audio track, then you would use your ears and the pan (panerama) knob to determine just the right place where you want the flute to sound from. You would do this for all the instruments. If you are using samples, or other "fake" devices to create your sounds, it is even more important to pay close attention to the detail in this part of the mixing process.

    If the sounds are "section" sounds like strings, organ, and other various percussion instruments, you would want to record any of those to a stereo audio track and again, you decide where you want these instruments with the pan. If it is a stereo sound, and you pan it all the way to one side, you have essentially eliminated the "other" mic or channel in that stereo sound. If this is the case, you would want to insert a plugin in that stereo channel that would allow you to minimize the stereo spread. Some mixers have a "width" knob or control "widget" in addition to the pan knob, so inserting a plugin in that type of mixer would not be necessary. This way, both channels could be panned hard left or right, without sacrificing players that were closer to one side or the other.

    I hope that clears up some of what you were asking.


  3. #3
    Senior Member Bruce A. Richardson's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 1999
    Dallas, Texas

    Re: OT:Stereo Panning question

    You can also use stereo panners, like Waves S1, which use processing tricks to pan the entire stereo picture to one side or another.

    Depending upon the genre, you may not need to worry about realistic width or placement on all instruments. Anything goes, as long as it is a compelling sound.

  4. #4

    Re: OT:Stereo Panning question

    stereo spectrum as well as the frequency spectrum is a limited commodity
    So true. The thing to remember about 'pods' and such is that the presets are designed to get you to buy them... the sounds, cool as they are, will usually clutter your mix. Synths and even our beloved 'sampled pianos' have also been optimized to sound great on their own. When I mic a grand piano, I'm miking for treble and bass control... not stereo width - the only person who ever experiences the 'stereo' effect of a piano is the pianist - I still find it odd to hear the treble out of one speaker and the bass out of the other (I suppose it's find if as the listener I want to imagine that I'm playing an 8 foot wide grand!). My rule of thumb is that all instruments are mono - one virtual mic for the signal, and two for the room (ie. stereo reverb). This gives you control of both left/right and front/back placement when mixing for each instrument.

    cheers, mts

  5. #5
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Dec 2005
    Traverse Bay

    Re: OT:Stereo Panning question

    Here are some random notes on the subject of panning. Kind of an alternate point of view.

    One problem always seems to be that the listener is not going to sit at the sweet point all the time. So any panning that is drastic can throw things out of balance depending on the position of the eventual listener.

    I still follow a worst case scenario to some extent. Stay somewhat close to the middle. Also, reflective sound is one thing on a stage and another from speakers. In many halls if you close your eyes it seems as if much of the sound is coming from above below or behind you (this of course in natural acoustic... not amplified). So From a more simplified model it seems like putting the instruments right where they physically are on stage makes sense, but it might not be the best placement for the music. Or not necessarily the most "realistic" in the long run.

    It matters a lot what it will be played back on, and how much variation there will be in the listening environment.

    I still like to put the listener sitting at the piano and let the rest kind of work around that, as if the piano were in the conductors position facing the orchestra. Kind of egocentric I suppose.

    Many of the recorded works in classical catalogs are recorded with overhead Mic's blended with close Mic's on the piano and various configurations around the orchestra.

  6. #6

    Re: OT:Stereo Panning question

    Recording with omnis is a killer way to get the most natural imaging and flatest frequency response possible. But not so good if you have to manipulate the stereo imaging, because you'll be prone to comb effects. The Sweetwater article talks about using a mono center to even out an X-Y recording... X-Y recordings being prone to center slump. Odd that he doesn't mention using figure-8 at all... isn't that his big smiling face in all those Royer ads?

    The latest trick I've been experimenting with is using 3 point-sourced omnis in a mid-side matrix. Got the idea from the scematic of a $50 paia kit. May very well be the best of all worlds.


  7. #7

    Re: OT:Stereo Panning question

    hey there,
    here is my 2 cents when it comes to my time to mix. When I mic an instrument, say an acoustic guitar, even though some people treat it as a single sound source, hence mono, I don't think we hear in mono, so I usually always record everything in stereo, except vocals. Some things I will record in mono like a bass guitar or something. I find that it sounds fuller and more realistic to what I was hearing in the room. A mono instrument usually sounds thin to me. So, when it comes to mix time, I use panning to get competing sounds out of the way, and not take up the same sonic space. If there is a stereo bass sample, a stereo pad, a stereo piano, etc, etc, chances are these will have competing frequencies sucking up or masking each other. So, I will usually either make the bass mono, or reduce its hard panning effect cause lower frequencies are less positionall. I also try eq to make each instrument fit in better, so Lets say the bottom notes on the piano are sounding muddy over the bass, then I will roll off some low end on the piano track , and the bass will not have more definition in the low end. While it won't sound as good by itself now, it will fit in the mix better. If the piano is getting muddy, I will try to bring it in a little towards the center, rather then hard panned stereo, and this will cause it to stand out more. If there are several synthy parts, I play with the stereo placement, sometimes creatively, or I try to keep things moving and not stagnant in one place, so at different times sounds can pop up and move. with things like a guitar, you can record it in mono if you want, but then add stereo effects to make it fatter, or double up the part and hard pan them. I don't think there are any hard rules to panning, unless you are trying to keep a proper placement such as an orchestral mix. I find I have to take each mix differently, and just move things around till they are not getting muddy, masked or competing less. I find myself using panning more creatively too, for ear candy. hope this helps get another perpective

  8. #8

    Thumbs up Re: OT:Stereo Panning question

    I'm getting good results narrowing down the stereo field with the free Gpan that comes with this:
    Very handy little plug that saves a lot of time.

  9. #9

    Re: OT:Stereo Panning question

    The best thing you can do with something like a POD is immediately defeat all the effects, and start with the basic amp and speaker tones.

    It's my opinion that people who are having a hard time with panning are actually battling frequency clutter. For example, a preset from a POD etc sounds ok by itself, but in a mix with kick, bass, and vocals, you need to make a drastic cut in the low end. In fact, when recording a real amp, sometimes it's best to just turn the bass all the way down. If you listen to top notch mixes, the guitars aren't actually beefy at all, it's just the arrangement that makes it sound that way. There is a catch here... when you have a "no bass" or "solo guitar" bit, with no backing, you can dial the beef back in for that section. Setting and forgetting only works for songs that don't change. Think of all those songs that start with piano or guitar solo, then the band comes in.

    Naturally anything can be ignored for artistic effect, with some music having the bass a barely audible sludge kinda works.

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