Pan piano from player or audience perspective?

Why am I asking this question??? I guess it's a matter of balancing the horizontal and vertical dimensions.

I've always panned drums from the audience/listeners perspective. Haven't given that any further thought for years ;)

But with the piano in a pop/rock tune, is it better to have the low frequencies (left side of the player) more towards the center where other deep low frequency sounds reside???

If so, then the piano would be need to placed (panned) right of center so the that left side of the player is more to the center and the hi end (right of player) is positioned more to the far right of the stereo image. Otherwise if placed left of center in the stereo image, the low end would be positioned far left away from the center.

Panning piano from the listeners perspective would require reversing left and right and placing the piano in left of center in the stereo image.

Any thoughts on this? Or should I just go take a walk as it's a gorgeous late-October's day?. :hippy:

Pete Thomas

Staff member
I believe that once you are working with multitrack and have to option to pan individual instruments to create an artificial stereo image, then your priority is to create what sounds best to you, irrespective of realism (as far as L/R of piano, drums). Plenty of drummers play sideways on or with differently set out kits, and most pianos I've seen in concerts are on the side so you'd never hear the panning of the keyboard left to right. (unless in a very small club with a piano player centre stage and they would either have to face the audience so you may not see them because of the lid, or they would face backwards!

What often doesn't work for me (and I'm not sure you are meaning this anyway), is a totally wide pan of either piano or drums. In spite of what I said about realism going out the window, I find that instruments panned to wide can be a bit disconcerting. (But then I hate surround sound).

I'm off for a walk!
Great response. Thanks.
I hadn't even considered the sideways orientation on stage. (I'm not gonna reveal that I'm some kinda lunatic by even considering using Logic's Binaural panner to simulate that. Nope, not gonna do it.;)).

So whatever sounds good... that makes sense!

I wasn't asking about unnaturally wide panning of piano or drums which I've done in the past for effect :D. If anything, these days I obsess on trying to give each part a clean space of it's own within the stereo image so that means starting off with dry mono parts.



I totally agree with Pete that too wide a panning on large instruments like drums or piano is distracting and far from optimal. I've never recorded an acoustic piano, but do record lots of drums. And it is for this reason that I am really into using omni directional mics for the drum overheads. They sort of "smear" the stereo image in a really nice way. So, you can leave them hard panned and you get a nice big stereo sound without having the left and right sides of the kit hard panned - like you get with standard cardioid pattern mics. They really help make the whole kit sound like one cohesive instrument.

I also play and have recorded vibraphone many times. This is also a very physically large instrument. It's necessary to position or point the mics towards the opposite ends in order capture the full range of the instrument. But it sounds way too hard panned when playing them back on a stereo track. So, I usually use Logic's Direction Mixer to tighten up the stereo field a fair bit.

Hey, I haven't tried omnis on the vibes yet. I wonder how they would be!!! :D

(I think I'll join you guys for that nice late October fall walk....)
More great information! Thanks Eli.

I rarely have the opportunity to mic any instruments as I have a home studio in the city. (Over the years, think Rockman, Pod, ToneLab, and now amp sims).

The use of omni's for overhead miking is a very timely bit of information as I'll have the chance to record a drum kit at another site within the new couple of months.

Mention of Logic's Direction Mixer is another good reminder of just how many useful tools I tend to overlook.

Enjoy the day! Weather-wise, today is deserving of some sort of Expander algorhithm.

personal preference gets my vote ( and i do it from the audience perspective) .. and i have to plus 1 on the "dont hard pan, because it sounds too wide" preference( way too weird to my piano players ears).. i also use the direction mixer to shrink the mix or pan it.
I think I inadvertently confused folks with my question.

I was asking about stereo placement (and whether the low end of the piano should be closer to the center or more peripheral, player vs audience perspective) rather than stereo width.

Audience perspective it is. But then Pete says pianos are frequently oriented sideways on stage.;)

It's pouring,... so not a good day to walk.