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Author Topic: How to apply L-C-R-panning?  (Read 2563 times)

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May 01, 2013, 05:34:56 PM
Greetings!
I've been reading Mixerman's "Zen and the Art of mixing" and now i am confused about panning. He is talking about LCR-panning (i.e. panning most of your stuff either hard left, center or hard right) but there are
two problems that often occur when i try to use LCR-panning in my mixes:
1. Stereo turns to mono when panned hard. This means i would lose all my stereowidth when panning a melody hard left or right.
2. The second problem is the balance between hard left and hard right. If i pan sth. hard left, i need sth. similar panned hard right, otherwise the mix seems unbalanced.

So it seems the best candidates for being panned hard right or left would be percussions that are already in mono. But then i would need two percussion elements so that one can be panned right and the other left for the balance of the mix.
But what to do if i don't have percussions in my track or only one percussion-element?

How can i make full use of hard right/left panning but still keep a wide stereo-panorama and still keep the mix balanced?
How would you pan these kind of mixes?

1. (drums, bass,) vocals, melody
2. (drums, bass,) vocals, two melodies
3. (drums, bass,) melody
4. (drums, bass,) two melodies

5. my current project: (kick, snare, hihat, bass,) pad, vocal sample (a oneshot with lots of reverb and delay on it; used like a pad in the background), two melodies and rap-vocals

I'd be happy to get some help from you! Thanks!


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May 01, 2013, 07:52:37 PM
My only question would be "why?"

If the goal is to create a wider stereo image, pan things where they sound good, then adjust as needed. Maybe panning isn't the answer. Maybe it is delays or reverbs? Or doubling some of the vocals? Or giving your pad some stereo motion?

If you're trying to mix LCR because mixerman said so, I'd suggest following his other advise also, which is "mix with YOUR ears, not someone else's." Roughly paraphrased, of course. He's a lot more eloquent than I am.

Of course, I still suck at this, so take my words with a whole jar of sea salt.....
I became insane, with long intervals of horrible sanity. During these fits of absolute unconsciousness, I drank - God only knows how often or how much. As a matter of course, my enemies referred the insanity to the drink, rather than the drink to the insanity.
          -- Edgar Allan Poe

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May 01, 2013, 11:13:52 PM
First, I'm not convinced that a mix always needs to be left/right "balanced" such that you must have "two percussion elements so that one can be panned right and the other left".  Listen to Santana, or Prince.  Van Halen records often have the guitar on one side.  Bauhaus' Go Away White is a particular fave with just one guitar, hard panned; a startling idear on that record that I love.

That said "balance" is often achieved by other instruments in the mix, guitar vs. bass, or bass vs. floor tom, etc.  But there are numerous records with tambo all over one side of the mix only.

In this day and age, also, mix-effects are the norm, and so many are stereo, particularly reverbs but also delays and chorus, etc., that when something's up the middle (ex., lead guitar or vocal) it's spread by the effect; that can also be the case with hard-panned tracks, especially when (as is a neat and well-known trick) you hard-pan its effect (ex., delay on a guitar) to the opposite side.

I think of books like that one, and many others that I have read (I'm still reading Mixerman's first, haven't read the cited) as great sources of inspiration, and explanations of what has been done, that you might want to be inspired by, or re-create, but not, as crtjstr states, that you necessarily have to ...
« Last Edit: May 01, 2013, 11:27:59 PM by vvv »

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May 01, 2013, 11:24:44 PM
"How would you pan these kind of mixes?"

Generally, I want bass and drums up the middle, such that if they are mono they are between 11:00 and 1:00 (12:00 being the middle, and the slight pans working almost as EQ to make the parts mebbe not mask each other, ex., bass at 11:30 and kick at 12:30), or in the case of a stereo submix of drums, so the snare and kick are there.  But not always - I have, for example, put the bass left and the guitar right, when there's but one of each.

After that, for me, it depends on the track, with a kinda general rule of the main melody up the middle, but I'll use the whole stereo field for strong secondary melodies (ex., hard-pan a lead guitar, or opposite doubled BV's)

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May 02, 2013, 02:47:06 AM
Not sure, but I think the LCR thing came into fashion because some consoles were limited to those options. On the other hand, Dave Moulton (Whom I greatly admire) concluded that we can't really here the 'in-between' positions anyway:

http://www.moultonlabs.com/more/principles_of_multitrack_mixing_the_phantom_image/P1/

Personally, i think it's a good starting point, but I'd rarely put things like Toms or OHs hard left and right. Two guitars get panned hard, but with a cross fed reverb for each (so the R gtr goes to a reverb panned hard left and vice versa.) Bass kick and snare go up the middle, but I sometimes feed some of the bass gtr to a chorus/flange/doubler type thing, to make it wider. And I've had good results with that sort of thing on snare, too. And lead vocals, in some mixes.

There aren't really any rules, other than make things sound good. Learning what sounds good is the whole game, I guess, after learning the technical side of it.




May 02, 2013, 06:23:21 AM
Hi Pachakuti,

I'll just answer a couple of things.

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1. Stereo turns to mono when panned hard. This means i would lose all my stereowidth when panning a melody hard left or right.

This will only ever happen when you are recording an instrument in Stereo. Try recording it in Mono. Some synths, even virtual ones, have "fake" Stereo, by just chorusing the left output and putting it out the right channel. Use the left or right, whichever you like best. And if you need it to "fill out" the soundscape a bit, add an effect to it, and pan that effect to the other side, or down the center. there are no rules, really.

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2. The second problem is the balance between hard left and hard right. If i pan sth. hard left, i need sth. similar panned hard right, otherwise the mix seems unbalanced.

One thing you can play with is having different sections of a song be balanced, and others be unbalanced. This WILL GIVE the missing part so much more emphasis when it does come in, it is shocking! For example, you can have the rhythm percussion down the middle, lead voice on the right, and a rhythm guitar on the left. When the guitar and voice are together, just mix them so the mix sounds somewhat balanced, but then when there is no voice, just turn up that guitar, and maybe put an effect on it that is where the voice was. And vice versa... Just make it so there IS an unbalance going on. That can be cool too. Not every single mix HAS to have some sort of "balance" of level between the two speakers. That is just plain boring.

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May 02, 2013, 10:44:12 AM
Not sure, but I think the LCR thing came into fashion because some consoles were limited to those options. On the other hand, Dave Moulton (Whom I greatly admire) concluded that we can't really here the 'in-between' positions anyway:

http://www.moultonlabs.com/more/principles_of_multitrack_mixing_the_phantom_image/P1/

I tend to disagree with that slightly. I find I can use 5 positions definitively: LCR, and about 30% left or right. For me, any panning more detailed than that is useless, just like Moulton concluded.
I became insane, with long intervals of horrible sanity. During these fits of absolute unconsciousness, I drank - God only knows how often or how much. As a matter of course, my enemies referred the insanity to the drink, rather than the drink to the insanity.
          -- Edgar Allan Poe

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May 03, 2013, 09:39:14 AM
TL;DR Don't use L-C-R panning. It's a bad idea.

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May 03, 2013, 10:19:29 AM
as many other techinques, sometimes works, sometimes doesn't. it's all about how the song is produced. one thing is sure, 99% of the mixes need at least one element hard left and one hard right.

i totally agree with vvv about left /right balance in mixes. there is totally no point in making a mix completely l/r balanced throughout the song. it's boring. i like mixes that bounce and move in the stereo field, they are much more exciting.

again, panning elements hard left and right creates a more wide stereo image. but that's not always good for the song. always depend on how is produced.

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May 03, 2013, 05:33:20 PM
JohnSuitcase's link (he has posted it to this forum before) was an eye opener for me. After I learned deal with the LCR-panning, it has become such an easy way for me to get clear mixes. Since the stereo field gets set so easily, it almost feels like cheating ;D

I guess the main point is that one cannot create in-between positions with a pan pot alone in a dual speaker situation. Something panned into center is still coming from two speakers, IT IS SIMPLY OUR BRAIN BELIEVING IT'S COMING FROM ONE PLACE (that's why it's called phantom center, since there is no real center there :D). Once you start spreading out things just a little bit, your brain still wants to position the sound to the phantom center. Therefore the mix starts to feel little confusing (also pretty easy way to deceive oneself not to fix any EQ/compression problems since she can't make anything out of the stem). One of most effective and simple ways to "blend" the stem to another speaker is to pan it fully to one side and add little bit of reverb/delay to it, which can be heard on the other side.

I don't understand the OP's question (confusion) about the LCR panning losing the stereo information. I'll throw the good ol' CLA card here: does his mixes sound mono? ;D

Although it must be noted that some music genres can get away with "looser" pannings than others. Rock music certainly likes LCR (especially the electric guitar), with it's wall of sound. Some sparsely arranged R'n'B can sound little funny if most of the stuff is in the center and perhaps some extra stems that appear only once or twice throughout the song comes straight from the sides. Although that can be applicable: Christina Aguilera's track "Ain't No Other Man" is so sparsely arranged, that almost everything is in the middle, some backing vocals are spread out just a little bit.
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