Using the Stereo Field in Home Recording - dummies

By Jeff Strong

When you’re at a live concert and you close your eyes, you can hear where each instrument is coming from onstage. You can hear that certain instruments are on the left side of the stage, others are on the right, and still others seem to come from the center.

You can also generally discern whether an instrument is at the front or the back of the stage. Put all these sounds together, and you have a stereo field.

The stereo field consists of placement from left to right and front to back. When you mix a song, you can set your instruments wherever you want them on the “stage” that’s created by your listeners’ speakers.

You can do this with panning, which sets your instruments from left to right, and you can use effects, such as reverb and delay, to place your instruments from front to back in your mix. When you mix your song, try to visualize where on-stage each instrument may be placed.

Some people choose to set the panning and depth of their instruments to sound as natural as possible, while others use these settings to create otherworldly sounds. There is no right or wrong setting when panning and adding effects to simulate depth — just what works for your goals. Don’t be afraid to get creative and try unusual things.