PAnninG YoUr GUiTAr in The Mix BY RICH TOZZOLI
If you want your recording to sound professional, it’s essential to create space
for your guitar in the mix. One way to
achieve this is through creative panning.
Well-placed instruments can make the difference between a muddled mix and one
where everything is heard clearly. Let’s
examine a few panning ideas you can use
on your next production.
Think of the stereo mix field as a
canvas for sound. And on your mixer—
whether it’s a hardware device or a virtual
one on your computer screen—that canvas spreads from approximately 7 o’clock
(hard left) to 5 o’clock (hard right). That’s
all you have to work with—you can’t go
outside of that box (unless you’re working in surround sound). When you mix
a piece of music, you have to fit every
instrument in there.
With that in mind, the vocal, bass, and
kick drum usually occupy the 12 o’clock
position or thereabouts. You can build the
rest of your mix around that core. Let’s say
in addition to the vocal, bass, and kick, you
have some stereo keyboard pads. Don’t just
and leave the stereo panners intact. Either
way, this puts the guitar direct sound at 10
o’clock with the reverb at 5 o’clock. This
opens up the stereo soundstage and makes
for a nice big guitar sound.
Universal Audio’s EP-34 Tape Echo plug-in
(based on the original Echoplex tape delay
units) simulates a vintage tape delay and
offers opportunities for creative panning.
When panning electric and acoustic
guitars in the same mix, I tend to place
them opposite each other. This helps
differentiate their tonality and create
space for each instrument.
settle for leaving them hard left and right.
Think about moving either the left or right
pan position to create some space—to the 9
or 3 o’clock position, for example. I’ll often
do the same thing with drum overheads—
pan them in tighter to make room for other
instruments and sounds.
In that empty space, you can place a
reverb signal for your guitar. (Hey, that’s
what we really care about—our guitars!)
For example, when I’m working with a
mono guitar amp plug-in, I’ll start with a
pan position of, say, 10 o’clock. Then I’ll
take a send from that to a reverb on a stereo
auxiliary track. From there, I’ll do one of
two things: I’ll either pan the track to the
hard right 5 o’clock position, or if the plug-
in has panning within it, I’ll do it there
Offering separate controls for the reverb
pan and echo pan, RE- 201 Space Echo
goes even a step further. When sending
guitar tracks to the 201, I’ll often pan both
the reverb and echo to the opposite side
of my guitar. However, you can generate
some cool sounds by panning the reverb
and echo to opposite sides of each other.
Sometimes, as in the Altiverb example
above, I’ll pan them right on top of the
guitar track itself, simulating running
the guitar through the 201 and then into
the amp. Every situation will be different
depending on the rest of the instruments
in the mix.
rich ToZZoLi is a Grammy-nominated engineer and mixer who has worked with artists ranging from Al Di Meola to Ace Frehley. A life-long guitarist, he’s also the author of Pro Tools Surround Sound Mixing and The Ultimate Guitar Tone Handbook, as well as a composer
for shows such as Fox NFL, Pawn Stars, American
Restoration, and Gene Simmons Family Jewels.