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Drum panning

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Drum panning

Postby Danny_79 » Mon Oct 07, 2019 9:26 pm

Hello everyone! There's something about panning drums i can't quite figure out. Say it's the hihat and/or the crash that are panned a bit to either left or right(depending on if it is from drummers or audience perspective). Won't that create some unbalance in the mix? I mean, when the hihat or the crash is hit, unless you hit something else on opposite side of the drum kit simultaneously, the mix is gonna be a little louder on one side, yes? Or do some people double track these drums to make it balanced? I know that's often done with guitars, but they are also often panned further than drums are. I searched the forum and couldn't find this issue adressed. Thanx in advance.
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Re: Drum panning

Postby CS70 » Mon Oct 07, 2019 10:05 pm

Welcome Danny!

Nothing to worry about. It's just the same in the real world, if you are sufficiently in front of the drummer, the hi-hat will be on one side and say the big tom on the other.

However "panned" doesn't mean that the sound will be heard only on one side, partly because there will be reflections and that sound will merge with all the other reflections to provide a "glued" experience (either a room mic or a space reverb you set up on purpose), partly because some of the natural filtering occurring in the room will be captured by the close mic, and mainly because our brain and ears are very well attuned to use all that information (filtering and delays) to provide location information but also synthesizing an illusion of overall space - and without us getting crazy because of that.

Sure you can get a guitar as wide as the room if you double track and hard pan but you'll notice that it's not great when mixing. Or maybe it's great - in the end it all depends on the emotional effect you want and nobody says things gotta be realistic.

In any case, the two stereo channels won't ever have identical levels at any given moment - but in a busy pop mix, with strong centered information, they will look very similar. With very sparse arrangements (say drums and voice and guitar, a-la-White Stripes), the stereo positioning will be much more apparent - but it would be the same in the real world. Our brains cope perfectly fine.

The only issue with hard panning is when people hears only one channel (say sharing earbuds, or being on the far side in a room with a large PA)... that's why the main info (vocals, bass, kick, snare) is most often left in the center.
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Re: Drum panning

Postby gingertimmins » Mon Oct 07, 2019 10:11 pm

I’m only just getting to grips with mixing myself but in my mind it’s all about balance if the stereo field so whilst the hat and snare are busy doing their thing on the left, I may fill the gap on the right not with the drums but accentuate a nice rhythm guitar part or lead melody or perhaps a reverb on a guitar to the left.
I don’t think the stereo spread on drums should be as wide as guitars so in comparison to them the drums appear relatively mono.

Of course I may be talking gibberish so wait for the experts to come along!
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Re: Drum panning

Postby The Elf » Mon Oct 07, 2019 10:54 pm

I begin by panning overheads fully L/R, then panning all the other mic's to match what I hear in the overheads. Contrary to what some people seem to believe, doing this does not create an unnaturally super-wide drum kit - at least not one recorded with sensible overhead mic placement.

The trick is to open up the overheads fully, then fade the close mic's in slowly and hear where they seem to be poking into the mix. Using this method, tweak the close mic's pan control to make them sit naturally. At a rough guess most of the close mic's will sit in the middle third of the stereo spread. Often a floor tom may sit out at 80-90%, but that's fine.

Don't worry about balancing up the mix. A well-recorded drum kit will sound naturally 'balanced', even if some of the drums pull to one side. The important thing is to get the kick and especially the snare bang centre.

Not panning the overheads out fully leads to a narrow and uninvolving kit, IMO. In some contexts (e.g. jazz), this may be a benefit, but it's not my norm.

Others (as usual) will disagree - and that's fine! :D
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Re: Drum panning

Postby DC-Choppah » Tue Oct 08, 2019 4:32 am

In order for your fans to play 'air drums' to your music, you are going to have to pan the drums from the drum player's perspective!

When you sit, as the player, so close to the kit, the panning is much more extreme than from the audience perspective. So making it sound like you are the player will be more involving for your fans!!

I mean, unless you want it to sound like a live performance on a stage.

I like drums that involve the listener as the player. Floor tom all the way over to one side. Drums go around the circle from the player's perspective. Panning is very localized and goes all the way around like you are at the center of a full arc.

Hi hat is 45 degrees to your left, snare is right and front and bass drum too.

Well, now you have to duplicate the actual drummer's kit arrangement. Maybe he was left handed!

Do it different every time. Keep it interesting. Keep it real. But have a geometry in your head and try to duplicate that real arrangement. It helps to sit at the kit and listen how it sounds from the drummers perspective. Then pan it there. So good sounding when you get this right!
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Re: Drum panning

Postby Moroccomoose » Tue Oct 08, 2019 9:24 am

Putting the drums to one side, and just a comment on balance...

I think it is a good idea to achieve a stereo balanced track, but that balance is achieved over the duration of the track and of the whole performance. The momentary imbalance in the pan field gives interest. I doubt most listeners will be so critical to realise the drum is slightly louder to the left or right... lets face it, the Beatles had their drums panned hard to one side which didn't do them any harm.

Anyway, my point is momentary imbalance is fine, its just another dynamic to the piece. Though overall balance might be desirable so you might want to fill a space with some thing else, not necessarily even drums.

Stu.
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Re: Drum panning

Postby The Elf » Tue Oct 08, 2019 10:01 am

Moroccomoose wrote:the Beatles had their drums panned hard to one side which didn't do them any harm.
It was realised as being a 'mistake' and was later corrected in new mixes. In the early days of stereo engineers were unsure what to do with their options!
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Re: Drum panning

Postby Martin Walker » Tue Oct 08, 2019 10:44 am

DC-Choppah wrote:Do it different every time. Keep it interesting. Keep it real. But have a geometry in your head and try to duplicate that real arrangement. It helps to sit at the kit and listen how it sounds from the drummers perspective. Then pan it there. So good sounding when you get this right!

Now I know we're primarily talking about an acoustic drum kit here, but expanding on the 'do it different every time' approach, if you're working with electronic drums all real-world rules go out of the window.

You can not only pan each sound wherever you want (although I do still tend to opt for a cohesive 'mainly central' stereo image rather than opt for extreme pan settings), but where elements of balance occur you can also turn to effects such as echo, to ping-pong (for instance) one sound between left and right.

As others have said, sometimes having a sound 'stick out' of the stereo image in this way adds interest, especially if it only happens occasionally. I've found it can add a 'What the *$^@' moment that grabs the listener momentarily.


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Re: Drum panning

Postby MOF » Tue Oct 08, 2019 11:33 am

lets face it, the Beatles had their drums panned hard to one side which didn't do them any harm.

It was the limitation of the technology, stereo was an afterthought, the group only attended the mono mixes and left the engineers to mix the stereo version later (except Abbey Road which never had a mono mix).
Most Beatle LPs were mono, so original stereo versions are worth more to collectors.
I for one am very pleased with the new stereo remixes as I like listening on headphones a lot, so hard panned drums were a pain, literally.
Our ‘stereogram’ had built in speakers that faced sideways and forwards I seem to remember, so the overall stereo image was more diffuse, so having drums, vocals etc not panned to the centre was less of an issue.
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Re: Drum panning

Postby The Elf » Tue Oct 08, 2019 11:39 am

MOF wrote:Our ‘stereogram’ had built in speakers that faced sideways and forwards I seem to remember, so the overall stereo image was more diffuse so having drums, vocals etc not panned to the centre was less of an issue.
As a replacement for our 'stereogram', in the 1970s my parents bought a Ferguson 'separates' stereo system, which prompted my dad to place one speaker in the living room and another in the front room. I heard some strange versions of songs on that system, I can tell you!
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Re: Drum panning

Postby MOF » Tue Oct 08, 2019 11:43 am

if you're working with electronic drums all real-world rules go out of the window.

I’m not sure that I agree with this statement, if an electronic sound is clearly representing a snare, bass drum or hi-hat etc, then the listener has expectations that it should be panned to the same place as its real world counterpart.
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Re: Drum panning

Postby MOF » Tue Oct 08, 2019 11:53 am

MOF wrote:
Our ‘stereogram’ had built in speakers that faced sideways and forwards I seem to remember, so the overall stereo image was more diffuse so having drums, vocals etc not panned to the centre was less of an issue.
As a replacement for our 'stereogram', in the 1970s my parents bought a Ferguson 'separates' stereo system, which prompted my dad to place one speaker in the living room and another in the front room. I heard some strange versions of songs on that system, I can tell you!

My parents did the same after I’d left home to start work as a sound engineer, when I saw their new system I was horrified to see one speaker by the TV and one on the floor behind a single seat of the three piece suite.
Some might argue they were ahead of their time with early surround sound, but they weren’t, and wouldn’t move that speaker to placate me. :D
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Re: Drum panning

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Tue Oct 08, 2019 12:17 pm

MOF wrote:...if an electronic sound is clearly representing a snare, bass drum or hi-hat etc, then the listener has expectations that it should be panned to the same place as its real world counterpart.

Is that a right- or left-handed real world counterpart drummer? Or an orchestral percussion section?

Sound sources can be positioned physically or electronically anywhere that the composer, performer, and/or producer thinks appropriate.

Just look at the myriad variations of instrument placement in 'classical orchestras'...

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Re: Drum panning

Postby MOF » Tue Oct 08, 2019 5:58 pm

MOF wrote:
...if an electronic sound is clearly representing a snare, bass drum or hi-hat etc, then the listener has expectations that it should be panned to the same place as its real world counterpart.

Is that a right- or left-handed real world counterpart drummer? Or an orchestral percussion section?

Sound sources can be positioned physically or electronically anywhere that the composer, performer, and/or producer thinks appropriate.

Just look at the myriad variations of instrument placement in 'classical orchestras'...

I was talking about the basic drum instruments Hugh, it was the "all real-world rules go out of the window" bit I was referring to, e.g. an electronic bass drum on the right, snare drum on the left and a hi-hat in the centre would be somewhat disconcerting to most listeners, what Sir Humphrey Appleby would have said was a "brave decision". :)
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Re: Drum panning

Postby Danny_79 » Tue Oct 08, 2019 6:54 pm

CS70 wrote:Welcome Danny!

Nothing to worry about. It's just the same in the real world, if you are sufficiently in front of the drummer, the hi-hat will be on one side and say the big tom on the other.

However "panned" doesn't mean that the sound will be heard only on one side, partly because there will be reflections and that sound will merge with all the other reflections to provide a "glued" experience (either a room mic or a space reverb you set up on purpose), partly because some of the natural filtering occurring in the room will be captured by the close mic, and mainly because our brain and ears are very well attuned to use all that information (filtering and delays) to provide location information but also synthesizing an illusion of overall space - and without us getting crazy because of that.

Sure you can get a guitar as wide as the room if you double track and hard pan but you'll notice that it's not great when mixing. Or maybe it's great - in the end it all depends on the emotional effect you want and nobody says things gotta be realistic.

In any case, the two stereo channels won't ever have identical levels at any given moment - but in a busy pop mix, with strong centered information, they will look very similar. With very sparse arrangements (say drums and voice and guitar, a-la-White Stripes), the stereo positioning will be much more apparent - but it would be the same in the real world. Our brains cope perfectly fine.

The only issue with hard panning is when people hears only one channel (say sharing earbuds, or being on the far side in a room with a large PA)... that's why the main info (vocals, bass, kick, snare) is most often left in the center.

Thanx man! About panning the guitars....it seems to depend on the style of music. In metal, it seems fairly common to doubletrack and hard pan rythm guitars. Often by recording it twice.
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Re: Drum panning

Postby Danny_79 » Tue Oct 08, 2019 7:04 pm

gingertimmins wrote:I’m only just getting to grips with mixing myself but in my mind it’s all about balance if the stereo field so whilst the hat and snare are busy doing their thing on the left, I may fill the gap on the right not with the drums but accentuate a nice rhythm guitar part or lead melody or perhaps a reverb on a guitar to the left.
I don’t think the stereo spread on drums should be as wide as guitars so in comparison to them the drums appear relatively mono.

Of course I may be talking gibberish so wait for the experts to come along!

I'm something between a beginner and a pro when it comes to mixing. Possibly we are on the same level sorta :thumbup: Interesting thought about having one of the guitars panned opposite some of the drums. But perhaps i would use an envelope to change the panning of that guitar when the drums are silent.
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Re: Drum panning

Postby Danny_79 » Tue Oct 08, 2019 7:18 pm

The Elf wrote:I begin by panning overheads fully L/R, then panning all the other mic's to match what I hear in the overheads. Contrary to what some people seem to believe, doing this does not create an unnaturally super-wide drum kit - at least not one recorded with sensible overhead mic placement.

The trick is to open up the overheads fully, then fade the close mic's in slowly and hear where they seem to be poking into the mix. Using this method, tweak the close mic's pan control to make them sit naturally. At a rough guess most of the close mic's will sit in the middle third of the stereo spread. Often a floor tom may sit out at 80-90%, but that's fine.

Don't worry about balancing up the mix. A well-recorded drum kit will sound naturally 'balanced', even if some of the drums pull to one side. The important thing is to get the kick and especially the snare bang centre.

Not panning the overheads out fully leads to a narrow and uninvolving kit, IMO. In some contexts (e.g. jazz), this may be a benefit, but it's not my norm.

Others (as usual) will disagree - and that's fine! :D

I actually came up with the thought to pan the individual drums the opposite way to how they are positioned in the overheads. That way, the panned drums will sound double tracked sorta. But kick and snare will still be centre. Perhaps it's a crazy idea :D Don't know if anyone have ever done that.
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Re: Drum panning

Postby Danny_79 » Tue Oct 08, 2019 7:25 pm

DC-Choppah wrote:In order for your fans to play 'air drums' to your music, you are going to have to pan the drums from the drum player's perspective!

When you sit, as the player, so close to the kit, the panning is much more extreme than from the audience perspective. So making it sound like you are the player will be more involving for your fans!!

I mean, unless you want it to sound like a live performance on a stage.

I like drums that involve the listener as the player. Floor tom all the way over to one side. Drums go around the circle from the player's perspective. Panning is very localized and goes all the way around like you are at the center of a full arc.

Hi hat is 45 degrees to your left, snare is right and front and bass drum too.

Well, now you have to duplicate the actual drummer's kit arrangement. Maybe he was left handed!

Do it different every time. Keep it interesting. Keep it real. But have a geometry in your head and try to duplicate that real arrangement. It helps to sit at the kit and listen how it sounds from the drummers perspective. Then pan it there. So good sounding when you get this right!

You're right. When i'm at concerts, i can't localize the individual drums. They sound quite mono to me. Perhaps that depends on how close to the stage you are tho.
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Re: Drum panning

Postby Danny_79 » Tue Oct 08, 2019 7:35 pm

Moroccomoose wrote:Putting the drums to one side, and just a comment on balance...

I think it is a good idea to achieve a stereo balanced track, but that balance is achieved over the duration of the track and of the whole performance. The momentary imbalance in the pan field gives interest. I doubt most listeners will be so critical to realise the drum is slightly louder to the left or right... lets face it, the Beatles had their drums panned hard to one side which didn't do them any harm.

Anyway, my point is momentary imbalance is fine, its just another dynamic to the piece. Though overall balance might be desirable so you might want to fill a space with some thing else, not necessarily even drums.

Stu.

The listeners probably won't notice it to much. But the mastering engineer might have opinions. I sent mixes to an engineer once and he narrowed them down a little. He thought it was to unbalanced. But that may not have been because of the drums. I had two guitars panned quite far from each other and it was not like double tracked guitar. It was more like rythm to one side and lead to the other. And i went by ears instead of the meter when i adjusted their volume levels. Perhaps that was a mistake, haha
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Re: Drum panning

Postby Danny_79 » Tue Oct 08, 2019 7:38 pm

Alot of interesting answers and thoughts here. Thanx Fellas! :)
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