You are here

Panning French Horns

For everything after the recording stage: hardware/software and how you use it.

Moderator: Moderators

Panning French Horns

Postby Rokas108 » Mon Apr 19, 2021 8:31 pm


I have 8 separate recordings tracks of french horn. These tracks will be used in a Orchestral Rock piece. I tried to find how to pan each of the separate horn tracks online but I am having hard luck. The reason why I am asking is because some of them are playing same notes while others are playing different notes essentially making chords. Because of this I am having a hard time of realizing where to pan each track. Should all of them have there separate spot with in the stereo field regardless of what note they are playing or should I pan horns that play lower closer to the center and the higher horns further away from the center ?

Kind Regards
Posts: 27
Joined: Mon Jul 15, 2019 8:25 pm

Re: Panning French Horns

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Mon Apr 19, 2021 10:40 pm

There is no 'should'. Do whatever works musically and sounds right in the context of everything else.
User avatar
Hugh Robjohns
Posts: 31097
Joined: Fri Jul 25, 2003 12:00 am
Location: Worcestershire, UK
Technical Editor, Sound On Sound
In my world, things get less strange when I read the manual... 

Re: Panning French Horns

Postby CS70 » Tue Apr 20, 2021 8:31 am

Hugh is spot on. Orchestral Rock - not sure what that means, but if you think of a "classic" position, google up orchestral position schemas - I see that horns are usually grouped and centered in front of the conductor, behind the violins, flutes and clarinets (guess the things are bloody loud) and before the trumpets and trombones.

So if you want to follow that "standard" you don't really want much panning at all (assuming the listener is where the conductor would be).

But the point of rock is (should be) _not_ to do the standard, so just move them around and do as you please!
User avatar
Jedi Poster
Posts: 7799
Joined: Mon Nov 26, 2012 1:00 am
Location: Oslo, Norway
Silver Spoon - Check out our latest video and the FB page

Re: Panning French Horns

Postby soundproofed bob » Sat Apr 24, 2021 1:40 pm

If they are playing solo in orchestra then you can pan 2 single voices L/R, chords in middle and all else in middle to taste, making sure 1 strong voice is always centered. See I panned them all for you...
soundproofed bob
Posts: 37
Joined: Tue Apr 10, 2018 7:02 pm

Re: Panning French Horns

Postby forumuser840717 » Sat Apr 24, 2021 8:23 pm

CS70 wrote:Hugh is spot on. Orchestral Rock - not sure what that means, but if you think of a "classic" position, google up orchestral position schemas - I see that horns are usually grouped and centered in front of the conductor, behind the violins, flutes and clarinets (guess the things are bloody loud) and before the trumpets and trombones.

There are loads of ways of laying out an orchestra, the chosen method usually being arrived at though one or more of historcal precident, regional tradition, size/characteristics of venue/performance space, programme requirements, composers' specifications, soloist preference and/or, most commonly, conductor preference.

In a symphony orchestra, the layout of the string sections can vary a lot but the most common layouts all have the woodwind centred directly in front of the conductor behind strings (in whatever layout the conductor chose for those), normally with a row of clarinets and bassoons tiered behind a row of flutes and oboes (going left to right as the conductor/audience looks at them). Actual instrumentation and numbers of players vary according to programme requirements, which can also impact a little on layouts but as a general theme the above is normal.

In Europe, for most orchestras, the horns usually go to the left and trumpets, trombones and tuba to the right of the woodwind block (again all as the conductor looks at them). Some orchestras have traditionally sat the horns with the other brass in a group on stage left or swapped horns and trumpets and I can think of one which often puts the horns in a line centred behind the woodwind, in front of the timps but, in general, it's a horns left, brass right split.

Percussion typically get shoehorned into whatever space they can be given. In an ideal world this normally means timps centred at the rear of the stage, furthest away from the conductor, with other percussion on either or both sides of them. However, they're the most disparate in instrumental composition (there may be none, or just one player, or a vertiable mobile scrapyard requiring a whole team of players each covering multiple instruments, within the same piece so needing to move around), and most mobile in terms of where they end up on stage. They could be arranged in a line around the back of the stage, or all be set up in a block on one side or the other, or be split to separate blocks on either side of the stage, or somewhat scattered about, or anything in between.

In orchestral setups needing reduced forces, particularly woodwind, e.g. only single players of each instrument or, more commonly, just a couple of pairs of maybe oboes and bassons, or oboes and horns, then horns often move to the 'woodwind block' in the centre, normally sitting to the left (conductors viewpoint) of, and/or behind, the wind simply because the wind generally like to sit on the opposite side of the horn player from the bell of the instrument as it makes for a quieter life! Doesn't always happen like that though.

One other 'standard' worth mentioning is that on sections to the left of the centre line (conductor viewpoint remember) the parts normally have the principal players seated towards the centre. So in the strings the principals are in the front pairs, 'desks', nearest the conductor (double bases complicate that rule a bit). So, string sections normally increase in rank towards the centre andother sections do the same. e.g. Horns: 4, 3, 2, 1 (a fifth player is normally (though far from always) there to support the principal and sits to conductor right of the principal) ) , Flutes: 2, 1, Clarinet 2, 1, etc. (Piccolo usually goes at the left of the section, as does Bass Clarinet). The same applies when moving right of the centre line - principal towards the centre - so Oboes: 1, 2; Bassoons 1, 2 (Cor Anglais and Contra Bassoon usually go outside (to the right) of their respective sections) Trumpets: 1, 2, etc. Trombones 1, 2, Bass, etc., Tuba.

All of this is hugely generalised and layouts can be pretty much anything which can be fitted onto a stage but, as a (now lapsed) horn player over maybe 500+ concerts, I'd say that about 70-80% (maybe more) of the time I was to the conductor's left of the centre line and on the rear half of the stage in an orchestral setup.

For horns, there are a few other really detailed things to do with very loose conventions in how their parts are disposed among the section but these vary enormously according to things like period of programme and composer practices and are probably going too far for this thread.

Of course, all this is only really relevant for music performed/recorded as full ensembles, perhaps where an overall stereo picture exists from some sort of dedicated stereo array, into which spot/sectional/area mics favouring specific instruments or areas of the stage have to be slotted without creating a confused and tiring to listen to overall stereo perspective. Anything where multiple mics are arranged to record a performance by an ensemble and where constituent parts can spill and be picked up to varying degrees on multiple mics in different locations, will need attention paid to 'correct' panning if weird things are to avoided in the stereo balance.

On pieces made up from isolated sources, such as sample based 'orchestras' or where individual parts/groups of parts are overdubbed in isolation so each exists cleanly, with no spill into other parts, then panning can be completely free, with no worries about corrupting a stereo image by causing parts to become positionally vague or jump about in the stereo image. Then it just comes down to musical taste, creativity, and/or how far the producer wants to conform to any accepted or expected genre specific norms.
Posts: 301
Joined: Thu Jun 16, 2016 5:20 pm