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How and why to pan and use stereo


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I understand the concept of stereo as sound image creating depth. What I don't understand is how and why to use the pan knob on some tracks, how far left and right to go, and so on. I have Googled away and have not found any good information on how to use panning and stereo artfully. Is there a video instruction program that explains not just how to twiddle knobs for effects, but gives guidelines as to how to mix your compositions to use panning and stereo for artful effects?
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Your mix is your mix. Place your parts where you want them to be, there are no "rules" as such, however there are some general guidelines to be aware of - such as bass heavy things should generally be centered so the sound energy is shared by both speakers, and to avoid unbalanced mixes, if you're hard panning one part out left, you might want to balance that with another part out to the right.


Also bear in mind mono compatability.


Really, just listen to a lot of music in your stylistic area and pay attention to the mixes, you'll probably get a good feel for what works and probably find you already have a good instinctive understanding of what works and what doesn't...

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You use the pan knob to move things further left, center or right in the stereo field in front of you in order to create a stereo image.


Its like image composing: if you want a photograph of a little girl throwing a ball at a dog, maybe you'll decide to go for the little girl on the left, the ball in the center, and the dog on the right. Same in music, where you may determine that you want the drums, bass and singer in the center, but the guitarist on the left and the synthesizer on the right.


The reasons for spreading things left and right in the stereo fields are for artistic preferences but also for separation in your mix, to help distinguish between the instruments. I always think of having four parameters I can affect to help separate sounds in a mix: stereo position (left/right), volume (loud/soft), depth (far/close), frequency (low/high). Sometimes you'll use one parameter, other times you'll use another, or to be honest, most of the time you use all of them to an extent. But if you have, say, a piano and a guitar that play in the same frequency range, if you want them both in the center of the mix, that may require you EQing the piano to make it deep and low and EQing the guitar to make it high and trebly. Or instead, you can choose to not EQ them and leave them both full range but pan the piano left and the guitar right. Panning helped you separate the instrument, avoiding having to EQ them to give them their own space in the frequency spectrum.


Reality is a bit more subtle and I'm over simplifying all of this, but it's for the sake of explaining... hope that helped.

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Thank you both, that was helpful. Is there an online course that you are aware of that might fill me in with examples?

I'm sorry about the delay in thanks. Final exams!

Not that I know of. Your best examples are actual mixes. Listen to mixes close to the genre you are mixing, and listen to how things are panned in those mixes.

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