Creating and maintaining space in a track is a critical component to your mixing process, which can make or break your track.
Space can be perceived in a number of ways throughout the production process. Whether it’s through delay, reverb, and/or level balancing, space is an extremely important part of your mix.
So how do you maintain a tight mix that still carries depth and space? The quickest and most simple solution in EDM Production is panning.
Panning is utilizing the left and right channels of the stereo field. With the combination of balanced levels, optimized panning in both the left and right stereo field, you can create a 3-dimensional space that brings your track to life.
If you start thinking of your volume levels to be the front to the back of your mix and panning as the sides of your mix, panning in EDM prodcution starts to get a lot easier.
First, let’s start with drums. Drums are one of the most simple elements to start panning and spacing out. Spaced drums create a sense of groove and movement that can get your listener moving quick.
Before you start panning out drums, take a look at an image of a drum set. Try to imagine sitting at the drums. How are the elements spaced out?
You’ve got your hi-hats sitting to the left, next is your snare, just above the snare to the left is a crash cymbal, to the bottom right of that is your high tom. Directly in the middle is your kick, to the right of that is the mid tom, top right of the mid tom is your ride cymbal. Finally, you’ve got your low tom all the way to the right and adjacent to the snare drum.
Keep in mind, your snare best sits with the kick in the middle.
There are some subtle nuanced tricks that can be utilized – I tend to slightly pan my snare left of center about 10%. With these things in mind, you can space your drums out to get a nice groove moving.
A great technique to practice with is to create a 16 bar drum loop with some fills after every 8 bars. Work on just placement of the elements in the mix.
Use toms for your fills and focus on how the tom roll would be spaced moving left to right. One method I love to use for my hi-hats is to pan them left-to-right.
A quick left-to-right pan on some 1/16th or even 1/8th note hats can build a good drive to your drums.
Time to move over to some of the biggest elements in your track, leads. Leads can be a bit trickier when it comes to panning.
There’s a lot of occasions where I won’t pan any leads. Usually, when there’s just a single layered lead, I’ll leave the sound in the center of the mix.
Whenever I run into this kind of situation, I’ll usually just utilize other tools like reverb or delay just to give the lead some space and air to breathe.
However, if you start stacking a melody with multiple layers, this is when panning can become extremely effective. Let’s say you have a pluck that packs a lot of punch in transients with a nice rounded out bottom. Your two additional leads, which are made out of a saw wave and a square.
You want these leads to carry space around your pluck to fill it out and make it sound even bigger. The best route to take for this process is to pan one lead to the left and one to the right. However, while working through this process you want to think about how much you’re panning.
Panning in EDM Production in either direction can hurt your track.
You want your track to be mono capable, not only for when your track is being played on a big club system, but also for when office workers are listening to your tunes with one earbud.
So how much panning should you aim for? This is where analyzer tools come in. If you’re unfamiliar with how you can use an analyzer to watch the mid/side signal of your track, check out the video below, by Dan Worrall. Download Voxengo’s SPAN Analyzer, it’s free and will become your new best friend!
Panning in EDM production is one of the most simple ways to create more space and depth within your mix. The biggest thing to remember when working on panning is that there isn’t any right or wrong way to approach it.
A lot of production has to do with personal touch and creativity. Try coming up with original ideas to implement panning.
If you’re struggling to create more space, think about how you can use panning, along with volume, to create the 3-dimensional range you’re looking for. Now that you’ve learned some basic uses of panning, click the link below to go signup for my e-mail list.
Once signed up, you’ll receive a checklist for you to use while you’re producing/mixing. The checklist will go through and remind you how to set up your drums, drum panning techniques, how to pan leads, and lead panning techniques!