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In Logic Pro 9 Essential Training, Scott Hirsch explains how to harness the power and flexibility of Logic Pro, Apple’s popular songwriting software, to record, edit, and mix music. The course includes instruction on how to compose in Logic Pro, and spend more time being creative and less time dealing with technical uncertainties. Scott focuses on setting up a workspace, recording with both live performers and digital instruments, editing and arranging, and mixing and mastering a composition. Exercise files accompany the course.
Track panning is an important part of mixing. Before Stereophonic Audio was invented, and everything came out of one speaker, mixing was a lot more difficult. Now, it's possible, through panning, to create spaciousness and find more places for the element of your mix across an imaginary sound stage. You can use panning techniques to do this. All audio software and instrument tracks routed to a Stereo Output have a panner. The panner controls how much of the signal is sent to the left or right, or in other words, Channel 1 or 2 of your final output.
To use the panner, you can click in the center of the circle, and drag up to pan right, drag down to pan left. When the panner is turned all the way to the right, the signal is sent only to channel 2 of your Stereo Output. When it's left, it's only sent to channel 1. Think of your mix as a stage and pan all the tracks as if they were actors performing on the stage. You wouldn't arrange actors to stand in front of each other, and you don't want to do that to the instruments of your mix. Some common conventions of panning are to put deeper instruments that ground the mix, like the Kick Drum and the Bass, in the center, and other lighter elements, like Guitars, Shakers, and Percussion, towards the periphery.
The lead vocal is usually centered as well. But there are no rules. You are allowed to pan your mix the way that sounds the best to you. Just remember that you can use panning to help carve out sonic space for the elements in your mix. You might notice here that some tracks, like the OHL and OHR tracks, are panned away from one another. This is set because this is how the mics were used to record. These are drum overheads and a stereo pair system of microphones was used to record them. The mic technique used involved the special relationship of the mics to one another.
In this case, 90 degrees. Then when we play them back, panned hard away from each other, we get the effect on the mix. You will notice the Rhodes track and the Background Vocals track also have that type of arrangement. If you look in the bottom of these tracks, underneath the track meter, you will see a little icon. This tells us the output format of the track. In this case, this is the left part of our stereo pair, and the one over here is the right part. Some other tracks, like the Snare Drum and Kick Drum, are just set to Mono. If we scroll down a little bit, we can see the bridge section actually has a double loop.
That tell us that it's a Stereo track. That means the information on this track is a file with a left and right information already embedded in it. Let's solo this up and take a listen. We'll hear it in its stereo track format first. (Music playing.) Now if I were to change this track format to Mono, we'll hear the left and right information summed together. (Music playing.) Let's go back to Stereo.
A single-click does it. (Music playing.) So, you always want to make sure, if you have stereo content on your tracks, and the track output is set accordingly, in this case, it should be Stereo. There is one other option for panning stereo tracks in Logic. It's called Binaural Panning. Binaural panning uses a different algorithm than simple level between left and right output. By doing this, it emulates more of the way humans perceptually hear sound spatially around them.
Let's put the N_Beat 1 track into Binaural panning. Remember this track has stereo information on it, since it's a software synthesis instrument. Put it in Binaural Mode, click where it says Stereo Out, and choose Binaural. And notice we get a different panner. We can double-click on this to see a larger view. This is our Binaural Panner. We can alter the width and direction around the listener's head. Let's Solo this track to hear it. (Drums playing.) We should note here that this effect is optimized for stereo headphone listening.
So, when you bring this out into speakers, the image kind of breaks down. Logic has a special plug-in to help with this. It's called Binaural Post-Processing. We can insert it on a plug-in in the track. Go up to our plug-ins, click and hold, choose Imaging > Binaural Post-Processing > Stereo. This is just a utility plug-in, but it can help optimize a binaural mix to work over loudspeakers. Now that you understand how to set up a sound stage using panning, you're one step closer to getting that final mix.
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