Panning With Drum Samples
by Brenda Nadic
Sequencing drum samples is very important, but of the same high importance is panning drum samples for palatability in a music scene where packing instrument upon endless instrument is becoming the trade of many seasoned producers and amateurs.
Panning is, after volume, the most obvious step in the mixing process. Mixing can be extremely complicated to master, especially during the beat making process, but when starting to get into the hang of things, it does become easier with time.
At its essence, panning is distributing the volume of an instrument over the stereo field in a decisive manner. You can pan an instrument or drum samples 'hard' (all the way) to the left or to the right, meaning that the opposite channel no longer contains any information about that instrument or sample loop. You can also pan slightly or moderately to either side of the stereo field, and this is the most common way to pan.
You would pan drum samples to ensure that each has their own space! For instance, the snare and kick could be in the center (I'll show you soon why you shouldn't pan these), the center being 50% on each channel, while supporting drum samples, such as the hi-hat and other rhythmic percussion, could be panned with different degrees of intensity on either side, left or right.
Why is it important in most cases to leave the kicks and snares in the center field, unchanged? Well, that is because if you are making pop, hip-hop, RnB or rock music that you think might one day play in clubs or get popular, and want them to offer the best sound on all platforms, the center channel must contain the bulk of the main instruments. This is especially true of club music situations. Usually, different mono (single channel) speakers are peppered throughout a venue, and if a song with a bad distribution of instruments is played, half of the club could, for example, miss out on the snare altogether if it has been moved to just the other channel. You could see how this could be devastating. This is why it's best to only push non-essential or supporting instruments to the sides.
The frequency of drum samples can also play a big part in the way that you may want to spread out the different sounds. For instance, a cymbal that occurs once every four bars can be moved all the way to the right of the stereo field as it does not occur often, leaving room for instruments that are more active. It could also be the other way, though, with common sounds occupying the far-reach corners of the stereo spectrum and gaps being left with no drum sounds for creative effect.
This music article was written for my drum samples, the number 1 site for hip hop drum samples.
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