The Importance of Panning

The Importance of Panning

The above article is about how bands are mixed on record.  I think it is simple enough to follow that even someone that doesn’t understand recording could get something out of it.

I have mentioned that I am obsessed with AC/DC lately.  One of the things that I love about their records is the simplicity.  I especially love the sound of their guitars and the way that they are mixed.  All of AC/DC’s records feature the brothers Malcolm and Angus Young.  (Malcolm Young just retired, but he is on all of the band’s records except their soon to be released new record.)  On AC/DC records there are very few recorded tracks that the band can’t play live.  When you listen to their records you hear a band mixed like you were seeing them live.  When you see AC/DC live Malcolm’s amps are on stage left and Angus Young’s amps are on stage right.  When you listen to their music on a stereo or headphones you therefor hear Malcolm’s guitar on the left ear or speaker, and Angus’s guitar on the right.  Angus later adds his solos and they are mixed mostly in the middle or only slightly off to one side.

When something is only on one side or the other, or more on one side than the other, this is called panning.  When things were recorded in mono everything was equal in both speakers.  Stereo allows you split what instrument is on what speaker or side of your headphones.  This helps with clarity as everything is not fighting for the same space.

However, like with AC/DC, it can actually make a record more interesting as well.  You can listen to one of their records and tell what each brother is playing and how their guitars compliment each other.  I used AC/DC as an example not only because they are featured in the above article, nor because I am really enjoying them right now, but their mixes are really a simple and clear way to understand panning.  Listen to one of their songs sometime on headphones, and notice how each headphone features a different guitar that is complimenting the other one.  You will realize how well constructed the guitar parts.

If you have even the slightest interest in how a group of musicians can create something that is more than the sum of its parts, these kinds of records are a great place to start.

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