Experienced engineers don’t resort to sweeping changes of the panorama. Instead, they uniformly fill the mix broadwise. Extreme values should be left for reverberators and chorus. If you have any tracks recorded in stereo, set a separate sounding zone for each of them. It’s done by defining panorama values for left and right channel individually.
In case of guitar double-tracks or synthesizer pads, such a zone can be fairly broad and even reach maximum values.
Some particular sounds respond well to a 20-50 % deviation from the center during sound mixing. For example, piano sounds in a rich arrangement or other instruments that need stricter panorama borders fall into this category. Percussion and other elements of rhythmic parts should be uniformly placed across the panorama. Many music mixing and mastering services face a problem when two instruments with a similar spectrum give different rhythmic patterns. If you place such instruments on different sides of the mix space, it will prevent their frequency conflict and enliven the rhythmic texture of the track you are mixing.
Same technique can be used if you are dealing with two synthesized sounds, as well as with a rhythm guitar or a piano.
Stereo field center
The stereo field center should be occupied by the main instruments. They include lead vocals, solo instruments (keyboard, stringed, wind and other instruments), kick and bass.
A snare can play a primary or a secondary role in the mix depending on the particular genre.
That’s why sometimes (though rarely) it can be moved a little left or right relative to the center. However, you should avoid master volume contortions in two channels of the mix. Don’t forget that snare is a loud and energetically rich instrument, so by moving it even 10% to the left, you significantly lower the right channel RMS.
The main rule of panning
While building a panoramic music pattern, try to follow the rules given below. The instruments that mostly sound in the low register should be placed closer to the center, high register instruments belong to the “sides”, and the instruments of mid-frequency range should be placed between the center and the “sides”, depending on their pitch (the lower is the pitch, the closer to the center the instrument is put).
Of course, you can ignore this rule, but the result can be surprisingly unpleasant. The engineers of mixing mastering service invented this rule for a reason, as it takes into account the physical characteristics of the sound and acoustic systems as well as the specific features of the human ear. Long waves (low frequencies) possess a large amount of energy compared to the short waves (high frequencies). They can cover long distances and easily go through walls, fences and other similar obstacles without fading after reflection.
Here we come to two conclusions, which are recommended for all studios:
1. The energetic base of the composition is comprised of low-frequency sounds
2. It’s pretty hard to localize the source of low frequencies in space.
Therefore, when shifting the bass you will face a disbalance and a lack of energy in one of the channels, which will lead to a loss of the tonal characteristic. And it still won’t help to localize the sound in the panorama, because our ear doesn’t have the ability to clearly identify the source of low frequencies in space.
That’s why it’s recommended to all studio engineers to follow on the rule mentioned above. The space near the center should be occupied by low frequency arpeggiators and sequences, lower back vocal parts and any other filling instruments of low registers.
Conversely, string parts, high frequency sequences, high wind instruments, high frequency percussion and other filling instruments with high register parts should be positioned further from the center.