PANNING and GAIN STRUCTURE
 
BALANCE

IMPORTANT NOTE:  Working on the same song for several weeks will be a challenge if you do not find a way to listen deeper and develop a curiousity for how these techniques make the song sound better.   Every tool you experience will have a profound effect on your mix.  If I were to change up songs every unit, you would not have the opportunity to hear the changes over time. Your ears need to develop.  Avoid listening on the surface.  Being an audio enginner is not an easy task.  Find your curiousity and be persistent.  -NF

SETTING THE INTIAL BALANCE

Some engineers will raise all the faders up then being to mix the parts together, this requires a great ear and much experience.  For now, we will build from the most important part, any layer additional parts by ear. 

 

ASSIGNMNET 1:

ADJUSTING FADER LEVELS FOR VOLUME BALANCE

 

1..Pick on of your chorus sections, or a place that has the biggest hook.

 

2.  Determine what track or part is the most important... this is often the vocal part. 

 

3.  Lower all your faders and bring up the most important track first.  This will be the loudest track.  

 

Note that he most important part is not always the lead vocal. It is that element that makes the song, or section of the song unique and identifiable.   It might be that funky bassline, or a really hip drum groove.

 

4.  Next, add the next most important track and balance to the one before it.

Make sure it is ever so slightly underneath the first track.   

 

5.  Continue to build the mix, adding one track at a time.  (remember, this is just one section.... chances are you will eventually need to automate your volume settings based on each section.  For now, just get one chorus to have a volume balance.

 

Bounce out a version of this section and post as VOLUME BALANCE ONLY. 

 

You will soon notice that there in not enough space for everything to be heard.  It is very easy for a song to become muddy if all the tracks are stacked directly on top of each other.   Your ears may think this mix is good, but I can assure you that it could be much better. 

 

We need to pause to learn how to prevent this.... 

 

 

Global Panning Concepts for your Mix.

 

As you bring in each part, consider the stereo field very carefully. To achieve clarity, the use of Panning will be extremely important.

 

Panning or imaging positions are referenced according to clock positions, with center being twelve o’clock, hard left panning being around seven o’clock, and hard right around five o’clock.

 

 

First Step: 

Be sure your headphones and/or Nearfields are setup correctly Left to Right.

 

Use this Web Tool to check. 

 

Ideally, you would be mixing and mastering on speakers, not headphones.  If you were, your speakers should be positioned to form something akin to an equilateral triangle with your listening position. This means that the distance between the two speakers should be approximately equal to the distance between either speaker and your listening position and that your listening position should be along the median plane between the two. 

 

 

Last Step:

Playback a mono track below. When seated at your marked listening position, confirm that the phantom image appears directly between the two speakers. If the image seems skewed to one side, either you are not positioned exactly equidistant between the speakers, or one speaker is louder than the other. Make the necessary corrections.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • Mono Track
  • -
  • Taylor
00:00 / 00:00

EAR TRAINING TIME

 

" Gaucho" is the seventh studio album by the American Jazz rock band Steely Dan, released in 1980. The sessions for Gaucho represented the peak of Steely Dan's recording studio perfectionism and obsessive recording technique. To record the album, the band used at least 42 different musicians, spent over a year in the studio, and far exceeded the original monetary advance given to the band by their record label. 

 

Gaucho won the 1981 Grammy Award for Best Non-Classical Engineered Recording.

 

This song Babylon Sisters,  is a great tune to deconstruct because the quality of the mixing and mastering is very high. All of the elements seem to flow smoothly through the track. 

 

 

ASSIGNMENT 2:

Your challenge is to identify all the different instruments that are present in this recording.

Make a list.  If you struggle or don't know many instruments, go here.

 

 

 

TIP:

If you load it into logic, you can alter the EQ to isolate different instruments.  There are over 20 parts especially if you count the parts of the drum kit.    Download

 

List all of the instruments in your ePortfolio.

Once you are done, check your work against the liner notes.

 

 

ASSIGNMENT 3:

 

Create a panning chart, spread from left to right, or on a dial, with the instruments or parts you hear.

Distinguish between mono and stereo sources or instruments. For stereo tracks, try to represent their individual stereo spread within the larger stereo mix  (for instance, a stereo guitar might be panned between seven and eleven o'clock.)

 

Consider using an Excel or Numbers Spreadsheet.

Merge Cells that represent the acoustical span.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • Babylon Sisters
  • -
  • Steely Dan
00:00 / 00:00

I offer you a different song to analyze for this section.  There is a benefit to doing the same exercise with your song as well but... your ears might want a break. -NF

POST YOUR  PANNING CHART IN YOUR eNOTEBOOK 

MONO vs. STEREO

 

I once thought that mono tracks were bad and stereo tracks were good.  We all wanted to hear music in stereo!  Left and right signals being different gave a sense of space.  Come to find out, most tracks are recorded in Mono.  Guitar, Bass, Vocals, etc.  But what if you wanted that spatial effect from your mono tracks?  What could you do?

 

One can't simply duplicate the track and pan one copy left and the other right. That sends the same signal to both channels, so the result is effectively mono.  A stereo track has different audio information in the left and right.  This difference gives us the sense of space and location.

 

It is possible to fake people out however and simulate a stereo sound.   

 

Some Tricks to Try:

  • Place reverb on one track hard panned and combine with the dry track on the other. Explore panning widths

  • Nudge one duplicated track forward in time, the phase shift will give a simulated stereo sound.  

  • Change the phase on the duplicated track, you may need to nudge one a bit to avoid phase cancelation.

  • Eq the duplicated track differently than the original- similar to a cross over.  Highs on one side, lows on another.

 

 

 

ASSIGNMENT 4

MONO TO STEREO EXERCISE:  

Try taking the lead vocal part and mult it.  Then apply the different stereo tricks to see what one produces the best results.

 

Post your findings on your ePortfolio.

 

 

 

SCORING - A tool for balancing parts. 

 

 

 

Find the most important section first:

 

Start with the section of the piece that will be the most important. That section that serves as the high point of the climax of the piece. Usually, this will be the last chorus.

 

If it is the final chorus, be sure to make it pop! Add all instruments and get an approximate balance between each part so that clarity is achieved.

 

At this point, you are really just determining what instruments or voices are going to be used.

 

Once that biggest chorus is completed, work backward to find the other chorus sections in your arrangement. Consider thinning out earlier chorus sections so that as the piece develops over time, and intensity is achieved.

 

Listen again to the original mix of your song,  Are all the sections scored the same?  

 

Note:  If you were using the original stems from a song, you may need to keep the instrumentation the same.  If you are mixing a new song, building up the chorus, like stated above, is an important step. 

 

Connect the sections:

Work on the verses. Apply a similar principle as above. Can you make the repetitions of the verses build over time? Can instrumentation be added for additional color over time? Start with the last verse then work backwards as before.

Be sure to remember your listener. Do not pair down a verse or chorus to a point that the music is lifeless. You must find a way to hook your listener and retain their attention over time.

 

 

PANNING YOUR DRUMS CORRECTLY

Listen for the Hi Hats.

Placing audio information to the left or right of the stereo image creates acoustical space. Producers and mix engineers have a decision to make with respect to drum panning: 

 

AUDIENCE PERSPECTIVE or DRUMMER’S PERSPECTIVE.

This presents the drum image as if the listener were the drummer: hi-hat on the left, high tom left of center, low tom and ride cymbal on the right, kick and snare still dead center.

Great Video on Drum Panning

The drums are spread across the stereo sound field, as if you the listener were in the audience facing the drummer: hi-hat on the right, high tom right of center, low tom and ride cymbal on the left, kick and snare dead center.

A variation of audience perspective, more common in jazz, particularly in classic recordings, present a narrower, sometimes even mono image of the drums, perhaps panned off to one side to represent where the drummer might physically be set up on stage.

Back in the day, I had students look for recordings 

of different drum pannings.  I will spare you that

experience, but ask you to listen carefully whenever

you are listening to music... how are the instruments

Panned in the mix?

Just a Guide

 ASSIGNMENT 5:

 

Once you have posted your panning chart. Go back to your Mix.

You may want to research a bit more how engineers pan their mixes.

Once you are good with the information, pan your mix.

 

After you Pan your mix, reset the volume levels for each part.

You should now be getting closer to a decent product.

 

BOUNCE OUT THIS VERSION and call is added PAN.  Post to your eNotebook

 

Review the actual mix of Lucky star and see if there is any noticable panning used.

 

 

ASSIGNMENT 6:

Before you move on, go back to the Theta Trainer and try this.

 

Engage in addition research into Panning Techniques and Mono to Stereo Techniques.

 

 

Post on eNotebook and submit to OnCampus!  Thanks!

ASSIGNMENT  7:

APPLY YOUR SKILLS

 

Go back to your song and set your panning for every track. 

Determine if any tracks would benefit being multed for a stereo effect.

 

Once the Panning is set, set all of your levels for every section.  You should start to hear a difference in the mix.

 

Bounce it out and post it.  Compare this bounce to the previous one.... what do you hear that is different?

 

Let your instructor know when you are finished. 

BONUS TIPS!

  • Pressing “P” toggles the Piano Roll editor.

  • Pressing “N” toggles the Score editor.

  • Pressing “O” toggles the Loop Browser.

  • Pressing “F” toggles the Browser.

  • Pressing “Y” toggles the Library.

  • Pressing “I” toggles the Inspector.

  • Pressing “X” toggles the Mixer. 

  • Pressing “B” toggles the Smart Controls.

  • Pressing "C" toggles the cycle mode

  • Pressing "U" creates a cycle the length of the highlighted region

  • Pressing "A" turns on and off the automation

  • Pressing "G" toggles the Global Tracks window

 

  • Option-K opens the key commands window.

  • Forward slash, then type a number to move playhead to a specific bar

  • Semi-colon - moves highlight region to playhead

  • Shift spacebar plays from beginning of highlight region

  • Command T - Splits the region at the playhead

The skills that you are learning in these units are profound and essential to any type of music production.  You may not see it now, but you will be grateful to have these skills if you are ever going to mix, compose or produce music.  At the very least you will get a new respect for how much goes into a single song and you will sound more intellegent at the cocktail parties you attend when you are 30.  -NF

 

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