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Panning vst instruments Utility Plugins
Old 1 week ago
  #1
Here for the gear
 

Thread Starter
Panning vst instruments

Hello I have a question about panning:

In my project everything other than the vocals are vst instruments; drums, synth bass, pads and lead synth.

I'm trying to create "space" with basic panning so that the song don't sound flat in the end.

I have seen people that will duplicate a guitar track and do opposite hard panning on each track and also opposite EQ to achieve a more "3D" sound.
Now, as I said, all my instruments are virtual, I tried to do the technique above mentioned with a vst lead synth and it didn't really work.

In fact it seems I can't move any instrument too far away from the center pan otherwise it sounds out of balance, it doesn't sounds right (you hear it too much just in one ear).

So basically what I am asking is what kind of technique do you guys use for panning when dealing with virtual instruments? Do you ever use hard panning with virtual instruments? if so how? Do you create space mainly with compression and EQ?
Old 1 week ago
  #2
Lives for gear
 

You certainly don't normally create space using a compressor, rather the opposite.

And I personally don't find there's any difference between panning a virtual instrument and a real one. Just pan the instrument to where you want it.

If you find that "it sounds out of balance" and "too much just in one ear" then of course you could be right about that, but you could also just be caught up in that one instrument and not hearing the entire mix as a whole. If you listen to a lot of music - certainly not all music but a lot - you'll hear instruments hard panned 'all the time'. There's nothing inherently wrong about that, it's just an aesthetic. So there isn't a solution to what you're asking about as far as panning goes, you either just like it or get used to it or not.

That's my take on it anyway.
Old 1 week ago
  #3
Gear Guru
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by SlugPass View Post

I have seen people that will duplicate a guitar track and do opposite hard panning on each track and also opposite EQ to achieve a more "3D" sound
the trick here is not the 'duplicate' part but the "opposite" part. It doesn't have to be EQ either. Delays and modulated delays work well. Harmonic saturation and distortion can work. If the duplicate is left unmolested, it will simply sum with the original and sound like it is in the middle.

Quote:
Now, as I said, all my instruments are virtual, I tried to do the technique above mentioned with a vst lead synth and it didn't really work.
you are probably not 'molesting' the copy enough.

also, shouldn't "lead" anything get center panning?

Quote:
In fact it seems I can't move any instrument too far away from the center pan otherwise it sounds out of balance, it doesn't sounds right (you hear it too much just in one ear).
yeah, that's called a mix. The idea is that YES you do hear the piano "too much" in one ear, but there is a synth or something that is "too much" on the other side - and they balance out. Choose instruments that are roughly reciprocal and pan them opposite each other. In most modern mixes, the center is typically taken over for Lead Melody, Bass, Kick and Snare. So your keyboards, guitars, hi-hats, cymbals, toms have to go Somewhere Else. Otherwise your mix will end up being mono.

go and listen to some professional mixes in whatever style you are working in. You will hear instruments "too much" on one side or the other. But they will be balanced out by some other instrument on the opposite side. It's supposed to be that way. In fact, many professional mixes are LCR - Left Center Right - meaning everything is panned full Left, full Right or dead Center and literally nothing in-between.

Quote:
So basically what I am asking is what kind of technique do you guys use for panning when dealing with virtual instruments? Do you ever use hard panning with virtual instruments? if so how?
A virtual instrument is still just an instrument, a element of the mix. It's no different from a guitar or a drum or a vocal. If it is not the lead, kick, bass, or snare, it will probably have to go to one side or the other. It really should not take that long to find 'pairs' of parts that will balance one another left and right.

There is almost always something hard panned in most of my mixes, because I want to establish the limits of the stereo. What's the point of having two speakers if you don't put something all the way out there? You asked for "space" - well there it is. I actually like LCR mixing, where everything not dead-center is hard-panned, and use it quite a bit.

one very common 'issue' with virtual instruments is that they often "come" in stereo as the default. This confuses a lot of beginners who think they must use the stereo on each one of these. The first thing I personally do when people send me these is throw away one channel of the stereo. Maybe I will leave one piano or a pad to keep in stereo. IMO, the more instruments you have, the more specifically they probably should be located in the panning. My feeling is that your mix as a whole sounds more 'stereo' when the individual elements are precisely here, here and here ...and not each 'smeared' over a wider area.

You can 'smear' a few things, but you should limit how many get that kind of treatment or there is no contrast against which such "width" can be felt.

The above-mentioned duplication and panning of a guitar is something that I normally do when my mix is One Guitar, Bass and Drums. Kick Snare and Bass usually want to be in the middle, and if I have one guitar on the right, the mix is truly unbalanced, so a fake duplicate guitar is put on the left.

If I have two guitars however, this trick is often unnecessary! Pan one guitar left and one guitar right, and you are done. I could still use the "distressed duplicate" trick for creating a little 'space', but we are now talking about just a "ghost" of a sound on the opposite side. That's not really about 'panning' anymore, it's closer to a reverb effect.
Old 1 week ago
  #4
Here for the gear
 

Thread Starter
Quote:
also, shouldn't "lead" anything get center panning?
Should it? I don't know! but the main body of the song is basically a bass synth, a lead synth, drums and vocals, if the lead should be panned center then what would I pan elsewhere? I mean, supposedly, bass, kickdrum, snare drum and vocals should be on the center too, or am I wrong? how would I establish the width of the mix, as you said, with cymbals and high hats alone?


Quote:
yeah, that's called a mix. The idea is that YES you do hear the piano "too much" in one ear, but there is a synth or something that is "too much" on the other side - and they balance out. Choose instruments that are roughly reciprocal and pan them opposite each other. In most modern mixes, the center is typically taken over for Lead Melody, Bass, Kick and Snare. So your keyboards, guitars, hi-hats, cymbals, toms have to go Somewhere Else. Otherwise your mix will end up being mono.
I've tried doing a more drastic panning with my pads but for some reason it seems to me this hard panning makes it sound more flat somehow, because it becomes "quieter" and if I turn up the volume on the pad then it's uncomfortable or even, distracting in one ear. Perhaps I'm not being objective?


Quote:
go and listen to some professional mixes in whatever style you are working in. You will hear instruments "too much" on one side or the other. But they will be balanced out by some other instrument on the opposite side. It's supposed to be that way. In fact, many professional mixes are LCR - Left Center Right - meaning everything is panned full Left, full Right or dead Center and literally nothing in-between.
Good advice, hopefully I'll know what I'm listening to.



Quote:
A virtual instrument is still just an instrument, a element of the mix. It's no different from a guitar or a drum or a vocal. If it is not the lead, kick, bass, or snare, it will probably have to go to one side or the other. It really should not take that long to find 'pairs' of parts that will balance one another left and right.
Ok, so are you saying that if I have something hard panned to one side I should have something else also hard panned to the opposite side? always?


Quote:
one very common 'issue' with virtual instruments is that they often "come" in stereo as the default. This confuses a lot of beginners who think they must use the stereo on each one of these.
How do I know if they "come in stereo"? I'm using midi, and I seem to be able to pan everything one side or another.

Quote:
IMO, the more instruments you have, the more specifically they probably should be located in the panning. My feeling is that your mix as a whole sounds more 'stereo' when the individual elements are precisely here, here and here ...and not each 'smeared' over a wider area.
Old 1 week ago
  #5
Lives for gear
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by SlugPass View Post
Ok, so are you saying that if I have something hard panned to one side I should have something else also hard panned to the opposite side? always?
There is no "always" in music, but if you want balance then that's how you could do it.

Since you mentioned bass being prominent, plus vocals, listen to for example "I Wish" (Stevie Wonder). Listen to the drum track and how the high end is panned left/right and balanced, and how the mid range instruments are panned off center and balance each other out.

And it doesn't have to be a thing where things are always balanced in the song. Put on "Fashion" by Bowie and you can hear riff guitar hard left during the verse, but on the far right you then have a louder guitar that balances it at the end of every four bars.

Or heck, move some instruments around continuously, just because you can: "So Have I For You" - Nikka Costa.

Or leave it lopsided at times: "Last Chance" - Jet, "Hey Nineteen" - Steely Dan, "Everybody Loves A Train" - Los Lobos (heck, listen to the whole album for some pretty aggressive panning but really great mixing).

"Plaistow Flexout" - Squarepusher; hihat far right, spacey delay/verb far left.

Quote:
Originally Posted by SlugPass View Post
How do I know if they "come in stereo"? I'm using midi, and I seem to be able to pan everything one side or another.
If it's a mono output it's not stereo. If it's a stereo output (Left/Right) it could still be mono, but it could also be stereo, and you could still pan either.
Old 1 week ago
  #6
Lives for gear
 

Try collapsing the bass to mono. It will tighten it up make it easier to sit in the mix. Don't hard on instruments try to move them slowly away from the center ie piano 40% left pad 40% right. Eqing them so they take away some mud and as clarity. Also, you can try using mono instruments and panning them differently to each side. There's stereo widening plugins that work well but be careful to not go out of phase. Eqing​ is your Friend to add some space we really you can so the pop out the mix along with reverb.
Old 6 days ago
  #7
Gear Guru
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by SlugPass View Post
Should it? I don't know! but the main body of the song is basically a bass synth, a lead synth, drums and vocals, if the lead should be panned center then what would I pan elsewhere? I mean, supposedly, bass, kickdrum, snare drum and vocals should be on the center too, or am I wrong? how would I establish the width of the mix, as you said, with cymbals and high hats alone?
That's a tough one . I think vocals beat synth as far as being in the center.
Drums all the way on one side is not very common in modern music. Neither is bass. Perhaps the duplicating of the lead synth and panning it opposite is necessary, as long as you 'distress' it in some way. I like a slowly modulating delay myself. I used to record some bands that had only one guitar bass drums and vocal. So the exact same issue - nothing there to balance the guitar, but the middle is already loaded up. So that "distressed duplicate" gives you something to pan left, even if that something is just another 'version' of what you have on the right channel. Because the two copies are different, they will not sum to mono.

Putting something in the center IS putting an equal amount of that something on both the left and the right, there is no center. They call it the Phantom Center for a reason.

The other solution is to add another part. I would not add a part just to make the mixing easier, but I would certainly be open to the idea that maybe another part would make the song better. Worth a try.

Quote:
I've tried doing a more drastic panning with my pads but for some reason it seems to me this hard panning makes it sound more flat somehow, because it becomes "quieter" and if I turn up the volume on the pad then it's uncomfortable or even, distracting in one ear. Perhaps I'm not being objective?
well pads often do sound better diffused and backgroundy, so if they are in one speaker only that could be too 'concentrated' for the mix. I am thinking you balance the lead synth with a rhythm synth, or a piano, or a guitar. Something in the same ballpark.


Quote:

Ok, so are you saying that if I have something hard panned to one side I should have something else also hard panned to the opposite side? always?
Well there's no such thing as "always" in mixing. But, yeah, in general that's how you use the extremes of your 'soundstage' - you balance things left and right.

your left and right don't always have to be exactly equal in volume and certainly there is no law that says they have to be equal in "tone".

Quote:
How do I know if they "come in stereo"? I'm using midi, and I seem to be able to pan everything one side or another.
In my DAW, first you make an instrument track (or MIDI track) and then you instantiate your virtual instrument plug in on that track, so you make either a mono or stereo track and depending on what kind it is, that's what version of the instrument you get. Other DAWs maybe they automatically make the track when you call up the plug. You can always tell what you have because a stereo track will have two meters and two pan pots.

If you have two pan pots you can pan both "sides" of stereo instrument to a single point in the stereo field. I prefer deleting one side to collapsing the stereo in this way, because on many stereo instruments the "stereo" is fake - it is just a little positional crossfade and maybe a little phase baloney. When you collapse it to a single point, sometimes the phasey stuff causes cancellation and gives you a thin, hollow sound.

Last edited by joeq; 6 days ago at 09:39 AM..
Old 4 days ago
  #8
Gear Head
 

If you're on cubase you can change the stereo panning characteristics from stereo balance panner (I think that's default) to stereo combined panner which gives you independent panning control over each side of the stereo VSTi. I do this a lot when I have two pianos or something like that. I also do it with stereo guitar tracks. If you want something panned left and another panned right, just move the right panner on the to the left of center and move the left panner on the one you want in the right side, to right of center. This opens up a lot of space. You can also narrow the spread by moving from hard pan towards the center.
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