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The Balance Of Panning

Think how it would sound to be behind of or in front of a drum kit. What if it all just came through a tube pointed at your face as one sound, despite the use of multiple pieces ?

More often than not a simple technique can be applied to give each sound it's own realistic direction, and in the end, all the sounds come together in a simulated surround sound effect.


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If you are sitting behind an actual drum kit, your hi hat is to the left. There are crash cymbals on the right and left. It baffles me as to why not then pan them accordingly?

Not only for realistic purpose, but it's just another sound on top of sound on top of sound all fighting over the same speaker spot at once.

And before I continue,let me say this is why I am a writer and not an artist. Below is an image depicting panning.

You don't want to just crank everything left and right. It is subtle. But will make a huge difference in clarity for your music.

Aside from my terrible graphic a good way to experience this is to dive in and do it.

Open up FL Studio and load a simple no frills

kick,snare, hi hat, 2 toms, and2 crash cymbals.

If you have not played with the panning options, do not fear, images as examples are provided.

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You can keep my little graphic up and for each sound, locate it, and pan the same direction.

For pattern 1 just go back and forth between the crashes a couple of times.

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There are 2 ways to pan. 1 being the knob on the left of the sample.

Using this method is good for sounds like Hi Hats and sounds that are going to stay in that position. If you only want it panned in this one pattern you can right click on the sample and send it to piano roll.

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In piano roll double click on the bar and a window will open up. You can control the panning by using the knob on the left side. Once you are done don’t forget to select Accept to save your modification. I have panned my Crash 1 to the left according to the graph.

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I have panned my Crash 2 to the right according to the graph and its position on a real drum kit.

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As you let the loop play you can watch the meter and watch the sounds occupy opposite spaces.

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From left to right.

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 Now render it to WAV or MP3 and however you can either through USB jump drive, burning it to CD, take it out to your car stereo.

You will actually hear those cymbals hit left, hit right.

The perspective is from behind the drum kit, not in front of it. It gives a realistic drum feel and sound while creating some free space for other sounds.

Now we move on to the hi hat.Since this sound is always going to stay panned the same way, you can adjust it without going into the piano roll.

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Next, load up 2 high toms and a floor tom, apply the proper panning and then create whatever kind of beat you would like utilizing all of the drum kit. Again, let it loop a couple of times, render it, and hit the car. It sounds real, live, and it also helps not having everything pushing to all speakers at once.

For tom rolls a neat trick is pan as a live drummer would play. The higher tom all the way to floor from left to right.

For high end percussive instruments you can pan those hard right or left. However you need a good balance, for every 1 you pan left 1 should be panned right.

Panning can also be used if you double up on the same sound. One can go a little left one can go a little right. You can apply independent effects to either. Just splitting them and panning left and right will give you a slight bump in volume.

Typically you always want your kick,snare,808, bass and low end sounds panned center.

The rules of panning don’t just apply to live instrumentation. Even in the world of electronic music panning can help create space, give the ears a realistic treat, and as you become more familiar with how it works, panning can be used to create some awesome sound tricks into your mix.

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