How LCR Panning Can Lead To Better Mixes And Recordings (Debatable!)

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Finding new ways to help balance out my recordings and get better mixes is always a plus for me.

LCR panning is one of those ways I stumbled across when I first started out.

LCR stands for: Left, Center, Right

Meaning you can only pan your tracks hard left or right, and up the middle. THATS IT!

Why!? That’s stupid…

better mixes
Why Limit Yourself?

Why would you only use left, center, or right when you have all the stereo space in between to utilize?

I understand that way of thinking. It’s fun to spread tracks out in their own little happy places throughout the stereo field.

You can add some excitement and energy utilizing all the pan positions available.

You can also clutter things up fast though.

Back in the “OLD” days on large analogue mixing consoles, that’s all that was available.

There was no in between. You either chose up the middle, or hard left and right.

photo by awtac.com

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Limit Your Options

One positive about only 3 pan positions to choose from is that it limited you options and made you make a decision.

I’m guilty as charged for spending WAY too much time debating in my head where a certain track should be placed in the stereo field.

Too many options in anything can lead to wasted time and not better mixes. Make a choice and move on.

What goes where?

There are a few common instruments that for the most part will go up the middle.

  1. Lead Vocal
  2. Bass Guitar
  3. Kick
  4. Snare

Anything else like guitars, keyboards, background vocals, and Kazoo can go either hard left or right.

Now this is NOT a rule. You chose where you want things to go.

I’ve heard all the drums panned hard left and thought it sounded cool. Depends on the song and your taste.

Balance = Better Mixes

Another plus for using LCR panning is that it can help with volume level issues you didn’t know were there.

For instance, I may have an electric guitar panned at about 3 o’clock and sitting at a nice volume, but when I pan it hard right it’s too loud.

This can help you hear some flaws in your over all volume balancing.

We are essentially balance engineers.

I love little things like this that can help you get better mixes and recordings.

LCR also helps you with arrangement. 

If you had kick, snare, bass guitar, and vocals up the middle, but only a guitar hard left, there would be an empty space on the right side of the mix.

You would then need to decide what you could put on the right side to balance it out.

Maybe record another pass of the same guitar part that’s on the left, and pan the new take hard right.

This can add some texture to the song because even though it’s the same part, it’s not the same take

Because of the slightly off timing of each take, you would create a wider stereo image and different textures on the left and right sides.

The Future

Look, I get it. You may think this is ridiculous and it’s 2016 not the old days.

There’s a reason why they made pan knobs so that you could use more than just Left, Right, and Center.

All I’m saying is try it out. Experiment with it on a mix, and if you don’t like it you don’t have to do it ever again.

This recording and mixing thing is all about experimentation.

You may LOVE it and swear by it. Or it may help you when you get one of those mixes that you just cant figure out and finish.

Leave a comment below and let me know if you like this method or not, and why.

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