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How To Mix Live Music Chapter 14 – Pan

How To Mix Live Music Chapter 14 – Pan


We’re having a lot of fun here, learning how to mix live music. We’ve got setup, we’ve tuned the PA to suit the room, and EQ’d all the inputs. Now we’re going to jump down the mixer to the pan and faders. The pan position will normally stay static during a performance, but the fader is the most frequently adjusted control on a mixer. Hence it being the most tactile: put one finger on each, and you can adjust 8 at a time. And unlike a touch-screen, you can keep you eye on the stage while mixing with your fingers! Before we continue, let’s be sure all the inputs are routed to the Stereo Master. Otherwise, we’re not going to hear any panning! On the MGP mixer, make sure the red “ST” switch by the faders is pressed. On the TF mixer, go to the HOME view and scroll up to check the ST indicator is highlighted red. Switch on each channel and bring all faders up to around 0 dB. Now let’s think about the panning. “Pan”: short for “panorama”. When listening to music in headphones, this gives you a 180 degree “panorama” of sound. When listening to a stereo hi-fi at home, you might get a 60 to 90 degree spread of sound between the two speakers. But in a live music event, everyone in the audience will get a different perspective, depending on the position of their seat. Bearing that in mind, you shouldn’t do such extreme panning as you hear on some recordings. For example, if a violin is panned hard-left, it would be too quiet for all the people on the right side of the audience. In some cases the audience is spread out much wider than the stage. In that case, the wider the audience, the more subtle the panning should be. Anyway, as a general rule in live mixing, never pan a mono channel harder than 9 o’clock to the left or 3 o’clock to the right. For stereo channels, of course you can pan hard-left and hard-right if you wish. The reason to use panning is to make a broader sound image. It allows instruments which operate at similar frequencies to be separated a little, giving each one more space in the mix. Sound can also be placed to enhance the physical positioning of the instruments on stage: if a trumpeter is standing towards the right of the stage, as you are looking from the audience’s perspective, then it makes sense to hear the trumpet sound coming from that side of the PA system. But not so far to the right that the left side of the audience don’t hear it! So now is a good time to refer to your stage plot. Again, remember, we drew this back in chapter 3. Start by panning Instruments on the far left to 9 o’clock, and instruments on the far right to 3 o’clock. Instruments and mics in the center, keep them panned centrally. That’s a good starting point, but it may not be musically satisfying. If there are two instruments sharing the same pan position, they could sound crowded, or one could mask the other. In that case, try several different pan positions and check which one sounds better. Now, the keyboard is a stereo instrument, so its sound can be spread wider. Try the right side panned hard-right, and the left side panned to 10 o’clock. That will allow it to be heard through both sides of the PA system, but with a focus towards the right side. Do the opposite with the 2 percussion mics on the left side. This will correlate with the instruments on a stage. Of course this concept of following the stage layout only works if the band is positioned (in the) center of the stage. But that may not be the case in a theater show or a house of worship. In that case, you can feel free to be creative. But remember to spread out instruments with similar frequency ranges and tonal character. If there are two guitars for example, try panning one at 10 o’clock and the other at 2 o’clock. As a general rule, always pan the strongest instruments, or the most important ones, centrally, like kick drum, snare, bass and lead vocals. There are foundations of almost all styles of contemporary music. So keep them close to the center for a stable balance. Arrange other sounds in a balanced manner, as if placing bricks on a see-saw. So for example, if keyboards are panned towards the left, balance them out with another sound panned to the right. An even overall balance will be stable and satisfying. What about the rest of the drum kit? It can be nice to spread the sounds of each drum mic a bit, but not too much: we want to preserve a central focus. So keep all drum mics within 10 o’clock to 2 o’clock. Put the overheads in these positions, then the hi-hat mic to whichever side mirrors the kit setup depending on whether the drummer is left or right-handed, and the floor tom mic to the other side. Then any additional tom mics can be spread within this range. You can have a lot of fun playing with the pan in a studio or with headphones on. Though I recommend you try sitting in various seats around the audience during a sound-check, and hear if the panning is too extreme for certain positions. You need to find a creative compromise, because there may be thousands of seats around the venue all wanting to hear a good mix! It’s definitely worth the time to adjust the pan for each channel. You’ll soon learn a formula that works consistently. Then you can set the positions before the band are even set up. Take a listen to the two examples: one with no panning so everything is central. The next with a modest pan suitable for live sound. You should notice the second example makes all the instruments sound clearer, while giving the vocals more space. So that’s a few good tips about pan. In the next installment, we’re going to learn how to adjust faders continuously throughout a performance to keep a mix interesting and dynamic. See you again soon.

Comments (3)

  1. சூப்பர் super

  2. did you launch rx200

  3. there is not one channel that explains what effects should be used in live shows and how to use it, please do one about that

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