Tip of the Week 8: Use Appropriate Panning

Panning is the position of the sound relative to the listener. The majority of sound in music is perceived as coming roughly from straight ahead. It is essential to an interesting mix however to pan elements to give them space.

Remember panning isn't just three options (Left, centre, and right) it includes every space in between, use this to your fullest advantage and imagine you are moving sounds into their position on a stage.

Be logical about the process, you wouldn't have one drum to the far left and another on the far right, it's not Mr Tickle on the drums. Having said this, very minute panning is really great for drums, with perhaps a bit more generous panning on the toms to make wider sounding fills.

If you have a wide sounding synth leading the song, it already takes up a lot of stereo spread, keep it in the middle and try and pan the less forward instruments in any gaps in the stereo field.

The best mixes involve automated panning where the best amount of space is used up, without it sounding chaotic, change the pan of a track either slowly or in a break if you want a subtle change but don't rule out really obvious sweeps of sound across the speakers.

Provided everything still sounds good in mono, you've just done a fab job.