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One of the most taken-for-granted elements in mixing pertains to the placement of the sound element in the stereo field, otherwise known as panning. In this video, I'm going to show you how panning can create excitement by adding movement within the stereo field as well as adding clarity to an instrument by moving it out of the way of other sounds. The first thing is a stereo provides a sense of spaciousness, and that's what panning is giving us. It's giving us the spaciousness and as a result, we're also getting some clarity out of it as well. The thing about panning though is there are three main fields that we have and that's hard left, hard right, and in the center.
Now what happens when we pan something in the center is the sound is coming out of both speakers at the same time, in an equal amount, and that gives us a solid feel to the track. So what we try to do is anything with a lot of low end we try to put into the middle. So for instance, listen to one track of the bass, which is the DI track. So if we put it in the center, it sounds very, very solid. As soon as we move it to the left or to the right, now we get the sense of spaciousness, but it doesn't sound quite the same anymore.
And we can use this to our advantage, but usually we do that in other instruments rather than the bass. Now let's just listen with the track for a second, with the bass panned at the middle. (music playing) Now, if we were to add the second bass track, the bass cabinet in, and listen to them both and solo them both-- (music playing) --it sounds pretty good.
Now as soon as we begin to pan them though, all of a sudden we lose some power. (music playing) It still sounds good, but there's just enough difference between the two tracks that we've gained some spaciousness, but we lost some power. Let's listen with the track. (music playing) That's one of the reasons why we don't pan things like kick drums and basses.
In the early days of stereo, you might find some records where that happened, where on the left channel you might have the bass and on the right channel you might have the drums. But that was only because they had limited panning positions-- they didn't have pan pods back then--and they were learning to trade. So you had a few of The Beatle records for instance that did that, but not many. Where panning does come in handy though is when we do something like panning the vocals or panning other instruments to stay out of the way of certain instruments.
Now let's just solo up our background vocals for a second. (music playing) Everything panned up the middle. And just listen to it for a second. It sounds pretty good. (music playing) Now if we were to pan these background vocals hard left and hard right, have a listen to what it sounds like now.
(music playing) Now what we get is a sense of spaciousness, but what also happens is the vocals detach from one another. And what we want sometimes is we want all three vocals, in this case, to sound like a section. If we pan everything hard left, hard right, and up the center, then there's a detachment that doesn't actually quite work really well.
But what happens if we just pan them a little? Well, let's pan 20% to one side, 20% to the other side. Now have a listen. (music playing) Now what that does is it gives us the best of both worlds. It gives us a space in the middle for that lead vocal. It moves the background vocals a little out of the way, plus it gives us some spaciousness.
So that's the beauty of using the spaces in between hard left and hard right and the center, where we can get the best of both worlds. We can get the clarity plus we can get spaciousness. So sometimes just a little bit of movement to the left or to the right makes a really big difference. The other thing that we can do is listen to some guitars as well and how that works with guitars. So I'll come over here, and there's two guitar parts especially that we can listen to. Let's play it for a second and take notice, they're panned up the middle.
(music playing) Now this sounds pretty good, and we can hear the difference between both of them. But now if we pan them just a little bit left and right, you can hear a big difference. All of a sudden, there will be some clarity between them. Now once again, we'll just go to 29. And Guitar number 1 is actually in stereo, so what we'll do is we'll pan the left way far to the left and the right-hand channel just a little bit.
Now here's the beauty of a stereo instrument. We don't always have to pan it hard left and right. We can just pan it a little bit, and we can get the same spaciousness. And take a listen. (music playing) And now you can hear that there's a lot more clarity between both. This also happens with stereo instruments, and let's listen for a second to the organ.
This is a Hammond B3, and with the B3 it's being played through a Leslie Tone Cabinet, which has a rotating horn on the top and rotating horn on the bottom. And what that does is it gives us a very unique stereo perspective. Let's just listen in mono for a second, and let's solo both of them and have a listen. (music playing) Now let's pan them hard left and hard right, which is what a lot of people think right off.
Well, I have it stereo. Let me pan it hard left and hard right and have a listen. (music playing) Now sometimes you can go too far with your panning, and in this case this is one of those things where it's a good example where when you pan it so far apart all of a sudden the low end and the high end sort of detach from one another.
It gets so far--and that happens with pianos a lot too, where the low keys feel like they're detached from the high keys. So sometimes a hard left/hard right pan doesn't really work well for a lot of stereo instruments. In fact, it sounds better if we do a modest pan, and let's just take it to 32, and we'll take the right-hand side to about the same thing, 33. Have a listen now. (music playing) Now the beauty of that is there's no detachment between the high and low end, plus we get this sense of spaciousness, which is what the panning is all about anyway.
And that gives us this beautiful feel of hearing the player play right across the stereo field, and yet we still have the spaciousness without any kind of detachment. So one of the reasons why it's important to stay away, a lot of times, from the hard left and hard right areas is the fact that you'll get a very, very wide stereo field, but sometimes it will just feel unnatural. And by being a little more modest with your panning, it will feel much more natural. Let's listen in the track now. (music playing) Now you can hear it where we still feel that spaciousness.
It's still sort of up the middle, but it feels really good. So to sum it up, stereo provides a sense of spaciousness and panning allows us to create excitement by adding movement within the stereo field. The most prominent music element is usually panned to the center, as well as the kick drum, the bass guitar, and even the snare drum, because this makes the mix feel strong and anchored.
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