panning on drums

what’s your prefference?

So I was just listening to a couple songs of a group that I’m in and noticed the “sound guy” (not me in this case, hard to play at the same time and i have little experience it’s probably a good thing :p) had the panning different on different songs, which I like since these are demos and it means trying out different stuff to see what we like.

Anyhow, as a drummer I prefer hearing the set in the speakers the way I play it (highat pretty hard left, snare towards the left, low tom right along with the ride cymbal etc). However if you are observing the band that is backwards (well unless you are behind me for some strange reason). If I was watching a music video I definitely would prefer it from the stage perspective so the sound field matches what I see.

It seems to vary a lot from album to album in my music collection (pearl jam vs. seems to be drummers position, while sound garden superunknown seem to be stage perspective, well most of it, it varies).

What’s your guys/gals opinion?

Interesting one this. I’ve thought a lot about this over the years.

I don’t think the choice of which way round the kit is matters too much - I don’t think the average listener notices the difference, and anyway, what about Phil Collins and other lefties?

However, I think it does pay to be consistent across a whole album, (but then again that’s a producer’s choice). On the last major project I did, I mixed all the drums from the audience’s perspective (hat to the right, floor tom to the left - assuming a right-handed drummer).

Be careful with hard panning on drums - it makes the kit sound too disjointed which is distracting. Realistically if I stand more than a few feet from a drum kit I am not going to hear hard-panning.

When mixing on nearfields that are two ft apart, or on headphones, hard panning is cool, but the stereo speakers in my lounge are 6-7ft apart. When I listen to songs that have hard panning of the kit then it sounds bizarre.

This is what I tend to do nowadays unless the song calls for something different:

snare & kick: 12 o’ clock
Hat: 1.30 - 2.00
Crash: 2.00 - 3.00
Hi Tom: 11.30 - 12.30
Mid Tom: 10.30 - 11.30
Floor Tom: 9.00 - 10.00
Crash: 10.30 - 11.00
Ride: 10.00 - 11.00

…or there abouts.

This leaves room at the further pan positions for percussion which doesn’t sound so weird when panned out further.

Anyway, that’s my £0.02


actually now that you mention the snare center I have notice a lot of recordings that do that. Although just as many soft pan left or right. I did hear a few that seemed way out (floortom and snare to one side, which i’ve never seen done, even with drummer with multiple snares). I personally love a pretty good pan on overheads to get a wash of cymbals across the speakers (i run a splash, fast crash, heavy crash and ride (hats too of course)). Of course that assumes running matched overheads in some sort of a stereo configuration.

Do what ever fits. In certain arrangements in songs, wide drums can work, in others, a more narrow approach woks best. It all depends on how you imagine this performance happening. If it is an orchestral peice, I will put the snare off to one side because when I go to see the symphony, the snare is always off to one side. In a rock song, the drummer is almost always in the center of the stage. But that is not to say you have to mix true to a live performance. (Now don’t groan at this) There are several Phil Collins tracks where he has hard panned the snare and it is an amzing effect in these cases becuase the stereo width really fits the tune. In real life, you would never have such a thing, but it works in that situation. The best thing you can do is study and listen to what others have done and analyze what they did, why they did it, and what effect they got. The goal is not to be acookie cutter, but to do whatever suits the song best. If you have the knowledge of many of the methods out there, you can best judge what o use in a given situation and maybe modify those methods to best fit your situation.

Snare and kick right up the middle, then I pan the ride toms and floor tom from center to right, using the drummer’s perspective. I used to pan the overheads hard, but lately not so wide.

I think that there are two main perspectives when panning.
By example:
1-suppose you are working in a piano solo music. It will be nice pan every note to make that the listener heard the same that a real pianist feel when performing, bass notes to the left, middle to middle, and treble to right,
2-But, if you use this panning with an orchestral/band music, it will give you a un-real spacement, since this stereo separation is not the real thing. You will pan it to center or maybe to the left, but not distribute it.

The point: if your music is mainly drum, or you know that the public that will hear it is drummer guys, use the first panning: distribute it like you hear a real drumkit when you perform on it. If drums are only a part, pan them like only a part of the stereo space.

Well, my 0,50 pesos.

I’ve been using the overheads as THE panning source. Then pan the individual drum mics so they are in exactly the same place. Overheads are not just cymbal mics, but are the main source of the drums sound.

I have stereo overheads arranged so that the kick and snare are dead centered naturally when the overhead tracks are hard panned. Use a tape measure to make sure the snare and kick are both exactly the same distance from the two mics. The snare and kick don’t need to be the same distance. For example, the center of the snare batter might be 48" from each mic and the place where the beater hits the kick might be 60" from each. This will usually put on mic up and over the mounted toms and the other behind or over the floor toms.

There’s a diagram on

The toms and cymbals naturally fall into place in the stereo field. The direct mics are brought up so the attack is in the same place as they sound through the overheads.

One the panning is matched phase and delay is checked. Each track is very slightly delayed so the attacks of the relevant drums are sample aligned to the overheads. This is a give and take exercise since there is bleed from other drums, etc. Sometimes the phase is obviously flipped on a track or more compared to the overheads. This needs to be done for each individual track compared to the overheads, and each tracks is a little different, as is each song. You got to zoom WAY in to see the attacks.

After all that, bring it all up and listen. If the phase and delays are all right then the whole thing will just open up. At that point it back to mixing as usual - EQ compression, gating (though I find the need to gate goes WAY down when this is done right).

wow lots of great info. The diagram is great phoo, i’ll have to give that a try. And your mention of gates brings up the question of how much should drums be gated? I know it’s another preference thing… my main concern would be cutting out buzzin on a snare or a squeak from a bass pedal, but some don’t want one tom to bleed into another’s mic at all etc…

“Pretty When You Cry” by VAST actually has the pan on the snare changing depending on verse/chorus.

I normally go stage perspective.