Academy Dashboard Forum Production Mixing Approaches to panning a stereo image changed over time?

  • This topic has 5 replies, 4 voices, and was last updated 1 year ago by David Cook.
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    Jeff Werner

      Hello! This is maybe a history question? Sorry if it’s common knowledge, I’m new to all this!

      There are lots of techniques and general rules suggested on youtube etc for panning tracks to get an aesthetically pleasing stereo image, including things like keeping the bass and kick in or near the middle, putting a dozen mics all over the drums (not in my scope or budget!) and panning it all to give the stereo image of the actual set, duplicating a guitar part and panning each hard to either side, keep the lead vocal in the middle, etc. But, how long have these expectations been standardized and how important are they really to meeting the listener in the right place?

      I ask this question thinking of lots of classic rock from the 60s and 70s where they did wild stuff like recording the entire drum kit on one track mono and panning it entirely to the right. And hey why not put the bass over there on the right too! Or even, put the entire band all just on the right speaker and then put the lead vocal alone on the left speaker. That’s been done! I forget which track it was but i remember recently listening to a song that, when it got to a guitar solo, suddenly the engineer grabbed the pan knob on the guitar’s channel and just started twisting it left and right back and forth throughout the whole solo. Really fun and goofy, and I assume it sounded mind blowing with enough drugs. But I have to imagine today someone would insist that these kinds of things would be unacceptable and perhaps some might say objectively wrong. How did all this change? Were those days just the wild west of stereo mixing and folks were still figuring out what worked better? Or is it that listeners have changed, or is it related to how the ways that we listen have changed?


      Jeff Werner

        I'm new here and just realizing that almost all of the threads in this forum have no replies, so never mind, I guess this is not what the forum is for! Still figuring out how this site works! 🙂

        Arthur Labus

          Hi Jeff !

          Oh yeah, some of the forum areas are cold spots.

          I think you gave yourself the answer already. All your points are valid from my point of view.

          Stereo was hot new shit back the day. So well, anything goes i guess. And that all with 4 or 8 track recording. Limitations ...
          Now, everything is possible at your fingertips and folks are listening comprsssed audio via smartphone speaker ...
          On the other side, the big budgets for recording and producing are history.

          I personally miss the older days too, as i grown up in the 80's.
          My personal reference is still Franke Goes To Hollywood 1st Album produced by Trevor Horn. What a gem. What a art of panning !

          Conclusion: be bold - pan the hell out of the tracks 😀


          PS: you may check the FAQ, we have the answers 😉

          Jeff Werner

            Thanks Arthur!!

            Steven Bennett

              When I pan things ,I always imagine I'm sitting in the perfect spot in front of the band and pan everything according to that. At the beginning of a song nothing is 100% left or right at each chorus I'll make certain things(guitars,bg vox) a little wider, the only things that end up hard panned by the end of a song are guitars and certain synth sounds.

              • This reply was modified 1 year ago by Steven Bennett.
              David Cook

                Yeah, the idea of what is acceptable panning has changed through the decades. One thing that helped me was using the L-C-R method, where you only allow yourself to place things either in the exact center, or all the way to the right, or all the way to the left. It seems extremely limiting at first, but it really opens up your ears and your creativity. I believe this is how some engineers were thinking in the old days.

                Another thing to try is mixing in mono. That forces you to figure out how to separate and define all your mix elements without using any panning - again, a real skill builder...and kinda fun.

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