Saturday, September 21, 2019

Pan automation, how to use it and why it matters

Hello everyone and welcome to this week's article!
Today we are going to elaborate more about the topic of panning (click here for the basic article).

Let's start from this assumption: if a mix is 100% stereo all the time, then it's never really stereo.
What does it mean?
That also the space disposition of the mix elements it's part of the arrangement, and we should use it to our advantage, to create dynamics and excitement in our songs as much as with all the other tools.

The use of pan as an arrangement tool is often heard in pop productions, when in the verse the arrangement is minimalistic and the song opens up during the chorus: more vocal lines adds up, maybe more instruments or a distorted guitar, the drums becomes more explosive.

Let's start with this example: we have in our song an acoustic drumkit, and the overheads are two mono tracks which takes more or less the whole drumset, but especially the cymbals.
We can create a pan automation track (in Studio One is particularly easy because it suggests you right away 2 default automation tracks: Pan and Volume) for each of the 2 OH tracks and keep them quite narrow during the verse (40% left one and the other 40% right, for example, or even less), then when the chorus hits we can make them 80% on each side, and same we can do with the left and right guitar tracks.

To create an automation we need to click in the pencil tool and create in the line a point where the setting of the pan needs to change: we draw it at 80% during the chorus, then we draw it back at 40% during the verse, in our example.

Does it work? Does it create some appreciable change? If we want we can try moving slightly also other stereo elements of our mix to create some extra dynamism, but, as always, let's not overdo, otherwise the final results can get a bit confusing.

In order to succeed with a song is we don't need a ton of moves, but some strategic, well thought arrangement element that is noticeable and understandable.

I hope this was helpful!

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