(RESOLVED) Should You Pan Vocals?

SOS contributor Mike Senior replies: It depends why you’re double-tracking! If you’ve used two different mics to enhance the tone (combining the two mics’ characteristics to create a fuller timbre), the balance of the mics determines how much of each sonic character you hear 👍 Regardless of tonal issues, though, there’s the question of how many voices you want the listener to think they’re hearing 😎 At one extreme, if you edited the double-track to match the lead extremely closely and balanced the double-track lower in level, the listener would likely perceive a single singer with a kind of organic chorus-style effect 🔥 The looser the editing and the more even the fader levels, the more the two parts will separate perceptually to give an impression of two vocalists singing together. The former scenario tends to make the sound more emotionally intimate, whereas the latter gives more of that ‘communal sing-along’ energy, which can work well on high-energy hook sections. Neither is ‘better’ — it’s horses for courses. [1]
Anyone who has ever been in a band knows that, for better or worse, the vocals are the star the music. Of course there are bona fide rock star guitarists, bassists, drummers. But there’s a reason that John Fogerty has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and the rest of Creedence doesn’t. There’s a reason that karaoke bars exist. When it comes down to it, the vocals are the face of the music. They are the element of the music that most people connect with strongly. They present the personality and the “face” of the music. In fact, vocals are so important, that I would argue that music’s genre often depends on vocal style. The same song with the same instrumental could be classified as pop, country, indie, or soul based on the singer’s accent and vocal tone. Case in point, a couple of years ago Kane Brown jumped on the country charts with What’s Mine Is Yours.https://youtu.be/udnGW3E1vxY But without his baritone twang, this instrumental could have appeared on a Savage Garden of Backstreet Boys album circa 1999! (last edited 5 days ago by Schneider Hall from Port Au Prince, Haiti) [2]
Image #2
Panning offers one of the most powerful methods for achieving greater depth in a mix. As we’ve discussed before, depth is all about space, both left and right, forward and back. While volume handles the back and forth of the auditory dimension, panning determines the side to side. In the early days of audio production, recordings could only be panned hard right or hard left. Today, we have the whole stereo field to work with; we’re able to control the distance between both sides incrementally. However, with so much going on in a mix, how can one decide how far left or right a mix element should go? What is the philosophy behind these decisions? Well, in truth, there is no mathematical formula for panning instruments. (last revised 55 days ago by Kati Clinton from Nurenberg, Germany) [3]
So, I like the big, full sound I’m getting when I double track a lead vocal and pan hard left & hard right. (Is this considered an acceptable thing to do, by the way?) My question is: I’m recording a song that has a backing vocal track that consists of two harmonized voices. (Think *Abbey Road*: “She’s comingming In Throught the Bathroom Window,” etc.) If my double-tracked lead vocal is panned hard left & hard right, then how would I want to pan the backing vocals so as not to confuse the ear, but to still get the lush, full effect I’m after? (last emended 75 days ago by Jerrell Ruiz from Venezia, Italy) [4]

Article References

  1. https://www.soundonsound.com/sound-advice/q-how-should-you-pan-vocals-when-double-tracking
  2. https://rangeofsounds.com/blog/how-to-pan-vocals/
  3. https://www.masteringbox.com/panning-instruments-vocals/
  4. https://homerecording.com/bbs/threads/panning-vocals.257477/
Kelly-Anne Kidston

Written by Kelly-Anne Kidston

I am a writer of many words, from fiction to poetry to reviews. I am an avid reader and a lover of good books. I am currently writing my first novel and would love to find some beta readers who are interested in getting an early look.

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