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Back in the days when a drum kit was recorded with only a few microphones drums were recorded in mono, and sometimes even on a single track. Today with most drum kits and drum loops tracked in stereo the entire mix is built upon the idea that the drums will take up a lot of space in the stereo field. In this video, I am going to show you a couple of different concepts that you can use for your drum panning. First of all, there are two ways to pan the drums: from the audience perspective-- or how you're looking at the drums--or from the drummer's perspective--how he's looking at the drums himself or looking out at you, the audience.
90% of most mixers that I know pan from the audience perspective, and that's very comfortable to them, although it might work from the other way as well. First of all, let's listen to this track with just the drums in mono and listen to what they're like. They are powerful as is, but they don't have a sense of spaciousness. (music playing) Now the first thing we will do is we will pan out the overheads, and the overheads usually are left and right and they work very well if they are panned hard left and right.
They are also the most dramatic. It might not be the best way to put them, but at least to start you can really hear it well. So let's go up and pan the left overhead and the right overhead and have a listen. (music playing) All of a sudden you get a sense of spaciousness from the drums, and you can hear that crash cymbal on the left-hand side.
Later on, it goes to the ride cymbal that's on the right-hand side, which is just the way you'd be looking at it. Now the next we are going to pan out is going to be the toms, and if we listen to the tom fills right now, they're all up the middle, every single one of them are at the same level, but they fairly boring as is. And the way you we are listening to them live, if we are standing in the room six feet in front of the drummer, that's not the way it's going to sound. So let's start by just panning this out a little bit, and we will pan too much. We will go about 30% to the right, 30% of the left on the rack toms, and the floor tom will take a lot wider because that's going to be at the edge of the kit.
Now let's listen to the drum fill. (music playing) Now I can go even wilder with that, and some mixers will do this: They will take one rack tom and pan it all the way to one side. I will take the other one and I will put it up in the middle, and we will take the floor tom and put it all the way to the left, and let's listen what that sounds like. (music playing) That doesn't sound quite as real that way because that's not what you hear if you are standing six feet in front of the drums.
The other thing that doesn't sound real is the fact that now all of the ambience coming off those microphones sound unbalanced. It doesn't sound like the real drum kit would sound. So what you are trying to do most of the time is trying to make it sound as real as possible. Now there are times when you don't want it to sound real; you want it to sound unique--and those are the times when we go a little radical with your panning. But most of the time we just want it to sound like it sounds. So we will pan this left and right just a little bit and pan this out.
The next thing that we are going to pan is the hi-hat because the hi-hat now, if we are looking at the drummer, is going to be to the right-hand side, and it's going to be at the edge of the drum kit. So we are going to pan that out to here. First of all, let's listen without the pan. (music playing) Now let's listen when it's panned out to the right. (music playing) Now this is more like you would hear from a real drummer.
Sometimes you would pan it in a little less than that, but most of the time it's sort of on the outside here. And again, you can get wild and you can pan it 100%. (music playing) Usually with drums, when you start to pan things either hard left or hard right, it doesn't sound quite as natural. The only thing that does sound natural on drums as hard left and hard right are the overheads, and there are times when you might not want to do that as well. Remember, the more space you have usually the less power you have as well.
So sometimes if you want the drum sound more powerful, you will bring these overheads in, and you bring it to somewhere in the middle between the hard left or hard right and the center, and this will give you a bit more powerful-sounding kit. (music playing) Going back to the hi-hat, something you should remember, we are talking about a real kit here, but if we're talking about samples, everything would sound a lot cleaner , and it would possible for us to really pan everything hard left and hard right and that would work most of the time, but there are certain times when that won't work, and I will give you an example. That would be if you are doing something that's intended for a club, where you have to remember that anything that's panned hard left or hard right might not be heard by half the audience, because in a club anything that's panned hard to one side isn't coming up on the other side and that's where half of your audience is going to be.
So you always have to keep that in mind that sometimes you have to sacrifice the wide stereo field for the enjoyment of your audience. So you always have to keep that in mind when panning drums. So that's couple of ways to pan the drums. You can pan them from the audience perspective or the drummer's perspective, but remember that you don't have to always pan the kit wide since the kit may sound a lot more powerful if panned more to the center.
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