One of the most overlooked, yet important, aspects of mixing and mastering is the stereo image of your mix. Panning can be used to literally add another dimension to your music, space.
Panning can also help everything to sit well into your mix, reducing the need for as much EQ. Unfortunately, a lot of resources for mixing and mastering focus mostly on EQ and compression at the expense of panning. So, we thought we’d share some basic tips on using panning to create a stereo image in your mix.
Get The Mix Balanced First
Before you start creating your stereo image, you want to have at least a general balance in your mix with how you’d like it to sound. You don’t have to have it perfect, but it will help a lot for deciding how best to pan. And once you’ve got your panning set, you’ll likely want to make some tweaks to the EQ and reverb again.
Lead Vocals In The Center
Listeners are used to having lead vocals in the center. This is probably thanks to the lead singer usually performing center stage in live shows. It’s also best to have the lead vocals even across both channels so that they can be heard clearly no matter where the listener sits in the stereo image.
Bass In The Center
Low frequency instruments like bass, kick drum and synths typically carry the energy of the track. Because of this it’s best to let them be evenly distributed across both stereo channels. If you absolutely need to put a bass instrument toward one channel, then you can always pan the mids of the sound, while leaving the bass in the center. This will create the illusion of space while keeping the bass balanced.
Use Mono Reverb
This is a general rule of thumb when it comes to working with multiple tracks. Using mono reverb on each part of your mix can help you get a cleaner, less muddy mix. Of course, there are exceptions to this, but recording in mono and using mono reverb can help you maintain focus for each instrument in the mix.
Though often an afterthought, panning has the power to really add depth, space and realism to your mix. A well-crafted stereo image can greatly enhance the listening experience. We hope you’ll use these tips to give more focus to the stereo imaging in your mixing and mastering.