Have you ever felt like your mixes sound jumbled? Narrow? Crowded?

We’ve all been there, we just feel like everything is clumped together in a cloud of sound and that when your compare your mix to a your favourite record, it just isn’t wide enough!

Your guitars aren’t jumping outside the speakers, your cymbals feel like they wash down the middle etc etc.

Here’s a simple technique that will enable your mixes to feel wider, without any plug ins.
It’s called LCR Panning.
Back in the day, consoles only had three settings for panning the position of your element on a particular channel. Left, Right, and Centre. That was it. Unlike the DAWs that we have today (i.e. Pro Tools, Logic, etc.) where we can manipulate the position of our instruments down to the nearest digit, these consoles had limitations. And this limitation is the reasoning behind why LCR panning will help you get larger, and wider mixes.

I used to be a guy who would worry about the positioning of every instrument to make sure they sat well in the mix, but I after fidgeting with many numbers and making my process even more complicated, I end dup with results that sounded crowded and cloudy, and definitely not wide.

The idea of LCR panning is to take your tracks, and pan them ONLY with these three positions in mind, Left, Right, and Centre. That’s it. No, don’t do 50% for that one backing vocal, and 100% to the right for the other one, no. Just 100% Left, 100% Right, and 100% Centre. You’ll notice right away that the mix sounds more focused for elements in the middle (such as vocals), and much wider for elements on the side (such as guitars and cymbals).
I’ve made you a little sort of guide to get you started on LCR Mixing. We look at taking a typical rock mix and applying LCR panning for each element. Wherein, (L) means 100% left, (R) means 100% Right, and (C) means 100% middle. This is only meant to be suggestions for your elements, and are positions that have worked for me in the past. perhaps you have different preferences for some, but start with LCR panning and try to stick to the rule of hard panning your elements. Let’s take a look:

LCR Panning for the Rock Mix

Drums​
Kick Drum (C)
Snare Drum (C)
Overheads (L, R)
Hi Hats (L,R)
Toms (L,R)
Mono Room Mic (C)
​Guitars
Bass Guitar (C)
Electric Guitars (L,R)
Acoustic Guitars (L, R, C depending on what the mix calls for)
Lead Guitar Solo (C)
​Percussion
​Shakers (L,R,C)
Tambourine (L,R)
​Vocals
Lead Vocals (C)
Background Harmonies (L,R)
Vocal Double (C)
​And that’s my little road map for you to get started on LCR panning. Try it out, and listen to how your results will turn from crowded, to wide and focused! The key to mixing is to forget all the technical stuff like numbers and ratios, and just focus on the sound you are hearing. Panning values can get really daunting and frustrating, so keep it simple, try LCR panning and get back to focusing on the music.

Thanks to Mason Dayot  from http://www.masondayotproductions.com for the article.