Often, we’re mixing in a church with a mono speaker setup, but that’s no reason to ignore panning when sending a stereo signal out to a recording device. With the popularity of smart-phone usage, there are a number of people who listen to a live/recorded service with headphones. And of course, if people are watching on any type of home system that supports stereo audio, then let’s give these people spatial separation as well.
Whether it’s a stereo mix for a video or simply audio, using spatial separation will improve the sound of the music mix. So let’s hit some guidelines.
1. If this is for video, then use visual cues for panning, such as if the piano is on the left side of the stage, pan the piano a little left. Keep this in mind when reading further down.
2. Keep lead vocals and speaking channels centered. You might even take leads slightly off-center to help with spatial separation.
3. Center the bass and kick drum.
4. Put the toms to the left and right from about the 10 o’clock position to the 2 o’clock position. Space these out for the number of toms, but don’t put any dead center.
5. Drum overheads should be fairly far left and far right if you have two.
6. As for guitars, it depends on your level of control. For people with a separate console for mixing recordings/livestream, then you have a lot more you can do. In the case of any rhythm electric guitars, pan those hard left and hard right (opposite of each other) and use the Haas effect to delay a copy of the signal (up to 35 ms) and pan it the other direction for a nice fat sound. If you can’t go to this length, pan slightly to the left or right according to the location on the stage. Somewhere between 9 and 10 o’clock will work—and this can be used for acoustic guitars as well.
A final note: Watch where you are panning as you don’t want everything to be left heavy or right heavy.