Stereo Mixing

posted on #1
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Hey guys. What's the secret to panning tracks correctly in a mix. I record mostly guitar, so that's sort of straight center. I also record a bit of vocals and bass, and that's where I wonder how to make more stereo?
posted on #2
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sorry for a late reply slim -

in my experience, its difficult to make a "rule-of-thumb" for stereo mixing when you work stepwise as we do.
I'd always keep single-signal one instrument tracks panned at straight center - then the upfollowing mixers can do as they please.
As soon as there is two instruments, I'd always keep the bass centered. Low frequencies have a tendency not to give a clear left-right impression, so best have em centered.
Same goes to lead vocals, they just belong centered.
Of course, you can use a little panning when recording p.e. a guitar with two mics or with a pickup / mic constellation, but that would never be spread all across the balance range.
True stereo really starts when the drums come in, for the overheads will create a general roomy atmosphere (if placed and panned correctly)- if you have drums in the mix and add on top of that, its easy to hear what panning does help.
Extreme panning will seldom be used with mono instruments - maybe excluding single percussion sounds one might want to have on one side only for the effect.
If you record a stereo-line-out instrument like a keyboard, always pan the channels to full left/right, mixing these on a center balance would create a loss in sound. If you want to place such an instrument within a mix and would like to have the keys a little more on the left, only move the right channel from full right to maybe halfways right, never both to the left.

Generally - do what sounds good, and dont feel bad if there is no big stereo action, most music you'll hear on the radio has very little stereo, also in respect to mono output radios.
"Sorry - had to do it!" - Les Claypool

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posted on #3
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Joined: 18.11.13
Thanks Dick great info!!
Daryl Loucks
posted on #4
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hey Slim ...
i think there is no secret and no big rule either ! as Dick stated in his post there is only real stereo when you record a stereo ! sounds obvious but that is so true !

you mentioned a guitar track ... recording an acoustic guitar in stereo is kinda tricky but not really out of the possible field ... what you need is a couple mics and alot of tries to set them up properly ;) ... i'm usually pointing one at the 12th fret (avoid facing the soundhole absolutely !!) from around 20cm ... and the other pointing at the fretboard from above the head ... ideally i should add a simultaneous take with a couple of paired mic ... and that would be the constellation Dick was talking about :)

for electric guitar this is really a different story for so many effects are returned stereo nowadays ... so i guess a stereo electric guitar take is much less of a prob according to one's setup ...

anyway my point is this : unless you RECORD a track in stereo the panning and thus the stereo building belongs to the MIX ... and that should happen once you have enough tracks at least the ones for the body of the song !

let's say for example you have a basic setup and record an acoustic with only one mic, a bass line, an electric guitar and a vocal track ... what i would do for a basic panning of this setup for a comfortable mix would probably be somewhere in this range :
* bass : centered
* acoustic guit : 8-15% right (or left)
* electric guitar : 8-15% left (opposed to acoustic)
* vocals : centered (this point is highly subject to discussion and would need a full chapter of documentation)

though nowadays like i said there are so many ways to bring in stereo even from a mono track ... but like Dick mentioned it's not because a track is stereo that it should stand right in the middle of the mix for that much ? building a stereo image for a tune is very much a personal thing ! it all depends on what you have in your mix and what kind of effect on the listener you're after ... everything is possible and acceptable between the "all centered" and some tracks opposed 100% left or right (beatles approach ... or even listen again carefully to the early van halen albums ;) )

above all i should add this : trust your ears ;) ... and don't make your panning with headphones but with your monitors !! you can check it with headphones but you have to keep in mind that your headphones modify greatly the stereo impression which becomes kinda fake !

hope this helps !
Edited by OliVBee on January 18 2014 13:03
clusters Clusters CLUSTERS !!!!!!
posted on #5
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Thanks !!! I did not see the replies until now. Man!! what a pleasant surprise. For some fluke reason I figured out when mixing acoustic guitar and distorted guitar together you can pan one 10 - 15 % right, and the other the same 10 - 15 % left. Any more than this and it's too far off to one side. Thanks OliVBee for the advice. I guess a little experimentation is the best way. With headphones and speakers. - Slim.
posted on #6
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Joined: 19.08.13
The most important trick on doing a good mix is to do the recording on one day and the mix a few days later. Do the upload again a few days later after checking it twice.

What happens if you ignore this rule of thumb and what happens, if you do not use proper monitorboxes and earphones and "cheep boxes" the same time...listen to some new recordings of mine. :-)

But, of course, I feel free to do some bad mistakes on Wikiloops, but I do not want to provoke them. So I learned for myself it is better to do less and to accept that the working enviroment is no more as perfect as it has been in a clean, warm, good sounding room with good placed mics and better placed monitorboxes.

You may take a recording and listen to it with your stereo-earphones and it may be "dull" and wrong mixed, then you plug this little bad mp3 in your big mono Amplifier with two 12" Boxes: And there it goes. A real live band playing for you! With dirt and love. Ideal to jam along with your own amplifier crying.
posted on #7
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Joined: 19.10.11
Well, i've readed other people and found a lot of interesting information.

I'm really not a pro for recording but the way i record is this :

Every track of electric guitar is done twice, yep, 2 track for electric guitar panned left and right. If you're too lazy to record it twice you can duplicate the 1 track you have, then move a track by millisecond compare to the other track, just so that they aren't playing exactly at the same time, not to much for echo but they must not sound exactly the same.

I record a track of bass, center panning. Simply.

For the vocal i sometime used the first tracking technique i've told you. This can add more strength/power and re-recording vocal might not sound the same.

For drum i set it differently for example, bass drum middle, cymbal on the side with hi-hat etc.

I don't know if it can help you, but that's what i do !

And take break between recording and mixing, otherwise your ear won't be as functional ...


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