Tips on panning


I need help… I always adjust everything equally left and right, but understand that different instruments sound better panned a little left or right, to keep instruments separated a tad… I don’t really know where to start, if someone could explain the basics to me I could improvise from there.


This could be a long post but I’ll keep it to a few major things that have worked well for me.

1) Picture the group you are recording on stage and pan the individual instruments to reflect that physical arrangement. The exception to this rule is that bass should always be panned in the middle. If it’s a four piece rock band, for example, you might pan one guitar at 70 left, the singer and bass in the middle, and the other guitar at 70 right. Drum panning depends on how many microphones you use and how wide you want the drum sound to be. I usually put the kick in the middle, the snare at 20 right, the floor tom at 25 left, the rack tom at 10 left, and the two overheads at about 40 left and right.

2) If you are overdubbing guitar parts to add fullness to the mix pan the guitar parts quite wide left and right, say 80 or 90 on each side. This will add a huge amount of depth to the mix and make the recording sound big.

3) For backup or harmony vocals I usually pan them a little to one side and add a deeper sounding reverb for greater depth.

4) If there are a bunch of different parts, such as a couple of guitar parts, a piano, a few synth parts, a full drum kit, main vocal and harmony vocals, I often try to keep similar instruments gouped together on the sound stage. I don’t like it when say the piano is on one side and the synth is on the other side because I like to imagine that the same musician is playing both instruments (they are probably the same keyboard).

If you want to take a couple minutes to hear if I have any idea what the heck I’m talking about, you can go to my web site and click on the song “Wish”, about half way down the page. This song has quite a few instruments so it is an interesting one to listen to from a panning perspective.

The link is:

Mudshark Samples Page

…hope this helps

Keep the big four right in the middle. Those are snare, kick, vox and bass. Then move everything around them and try to find a balance, like one acoustic guitar left and one right, or your dull-sounding keyboard part against a more bright part.

For this to work there are no strict rules, experiment and remember to have you speakers well-positioned, forming a triangle with each speaker on two corners and your head in the other.

Look in Google for near-field monitors positioning and maybe you can find a good diagram.

Good luck,

I’ve heard it explained this way…

Imagine that you are at the apex of an inverted equateral triangle…

At thie point the included angle is 60 deg. Then, at
this position, anything panned beyond 30 deg. would be outside the stereo image… Unless, that’s where you choose to position that track… So, in sumation… the pan-pot should not be panned more than say, 10 o’clock and 2 o’clock… or, something like that…


I think all that needs to be said has been said, but as I’m fighting insomnia at the moment (guess who’s winning? :D), just a few thoughts…

The main reason for putting bass guitar and kick in the center of the sound stage is one of practicality.

Producing those low notes really is hard work for the speakers, so if you can share that load between them it really does make things easier.

Vocalist, lead instrument in the center, well that’s more an aesthetic thing, they are the centre of attention, so should therefore be in the centre of the soundstage too.

Bill, what the f**k are you whiffling on about? LOL

I know what you’re saying makes sense, but now I’m gonna have to contend with equatorial triangles whizzing around my head as I try to seduce Morpheus! (polar triangles are bad enough, all that penguin crap and stuff!) :D


ok, ali. you didn’t help the confusion, you must made it worse!!! HAHAHA! :D

sudden switch to innocent confused look

I just don’t understand…



There are many valid reasons for keeping the bass centered …all of which I have forgotten…but they made sense at the time so I have come to except it as law. They have to do with the Physics of sound.

The lead vocals are centered because they are the focal point of the song. Everything else should frame them.

If you need an engineering-type response as to bass placement, I can dig back in my archives and find it for you.


Quote (Don Gaynor @ Sep. 21 2004,09:57)
There are many valid reasons for keeping the bass centered ...all of which I have forgotten...

I guess one of the main reasons comes from the vinyl age: strong un-centered bass signals could cause the needle to skip.

If you put the main elements of your mix about the center, then they're readily audible for all listeners, regardless their position in the room. If you're sitting next to the left speaker, then the stuff hard-panned to right might be barely audible and/or sound disconnected.

For the most part, I follow these guidelines when panning:

0...+-10: Lead vocal, kick drum, bass
0---+-30: drums ans percussion, backup vocals
+-10...+-40: rhythm and (other) lead instruments
+-40...+-100: effects, effect returns and effect-like instruments (like crash cymbals)

(of course, I merrily bin the guidelines if the song tells me to :p )

There si nothing wrong with hard pans I have to add. Hard pans are done all the time. Heck, listen to stuff from the 60’s, they were hard pan crazy then.

’Nuff Said… :)

Limey’s pyramid or translation is too hard for me to understand.

Try this article - much simpler - Mixing Made Easy by Michael Laskow (

Toker, your article doesn’t tell me where to put the flutophone!!! What do I do with the flutophone!!!

melt down


Seriously, basic panning is soooooo easy. Listen to some commercial CDs and you are golden. The same formulas pop up over and over. Think about the mix as though you are standing watchin a performance. Where is everyone on stage? Where are each of the instruments? And maybe some day, pan things differently for different effects. A snare part hard panned left and right for ghost notes can make some crazy effects.

Great read HERE


Toker, your article doesn't tell me where to put the flutophone!!!! What do I do with the flutophone?!?!?!?!

Don't be silly Bubba.

The term "panning" comes from the name of the Greek god, Pan, who of course, played a flute.

So flutes (or flutaphones) should never be panned, (or is that, should always be panned? Hmmm).

Anyway, the word "panic" also comes from that hooved deity, so the panic button can be used to automatically set up the ideal pans for your mix.

I 'spect.



Are you a flutist or flautist? Who the h*ll knows how to pan a flutophone (and who cares I ask :laugh: )?

They’re called flutophoners (or “flutofonodores” in Spanish) you ignorant twerp! Don’t you dare degrade my art! :p :D :laugh:

EDIT: Um, okay, you can your thread back now. We’re done being silly. Um, yeah, panning.

One word: Zamfir

OK that’s all I know about Pan-Flutes.

:D :D


Are you a flutist or flautist?

I consider myself more of a flatulist ...

Good advice above, all of it. About hard-panning, it can be used very well, and it can be used very poorly. I prefer enough balance in a mix so that it sounds good in headphones. That's usually enough of a check. If there's something high and tingly panned way left, it's usually good to have something else fairly high and tingly (though not necessarily same instrument or exact same freq range) panned way right, just to avoid an annoying imbalance. -- And like all "rules", there are times to violate this one.

So have fun playing with hard panning to build a soundstage -- a stereo image. It is the first tool for the purpose. However, keep in mind that it's only the first tool! Once you get the hang of panning alone, here are some things to think about.

- Don't just pan a bunch of mono tracks and expect a nice stereo image to result.
- It's nice to have some tracks with stereo images to start with; either recorded that way (hard and not usually necessary, but nice) or else by adding imaging FX
- You can put a mild stereo reverb on an aux bus and feed a bit of many (not all) of the tracks into that to help build an image
- Other FX that help build stereo imagery are
== stereo comb filters
== pitch shift doubling
== use of delays (e.g., duplicate the track and drag the dup a little in the timeline, then pan them apart, to taste.)

It's a big subject and amounts to almost half of what we do when we mix, so there's plenty to learn!

Here are some tips I've collected, but not yet organized:

Another thing worth knowing is that our minds use three kinds of info to determine the direction to a sound: relative volume (panning), EQ (mostly for up/down, but also behind vs. in front), and phase relationships due to delays. Interestingly, the phase info is more important to image location than the relative volume is. Most of the techniques mentioned above use phase relationships and therefore cause stronger and more realistic imagery than panning does. Fussing with phase can also cause problems so you need to double-check your mix in mono when using pitch-shift doubling or delays.


Yeah. You need to not only think of your image as “2D” (that is, volume being height and panning being width), but 3D as well. Depth is created by delay, reverb, etc. (all of which effect the phase, which can be adjusted directly, but I don’t know if I am man enough to try it yet). That is why you put more verb on drums than you do on vocals. It pushes the sound father in the mix. you add a bit of verb to the vocals so that they do not sound like they are being sung right into your face (unless that eminence and immediacy is important for the song, of course). So lay out your sound like it is a 3 dimensional stage, and you will be on the right track.

(all of this was borrowed/paraphased from “recording and producing in the home studio: a complete guide” by David Franz. I posted about it here)