Lately, Adam and I have been spending quite a few hours mixing tracks as they roll in. This of course, is never ideal, but we gotta make do with what we have.
Why is it not ideal? Well, each instrument has two kinds of “spaces” to occupy, and it’s a careful art to balance them. Without having all the tracks in, it’s near impossible to know how to separate things appropriately. Lucky for us, Adam knows what he’s doing.
One of these “spaces” I mentioned is the frequency space. For example, mandolin and banjo have similar tones, so to make sure each instrument comes through clearly we pan them to opposite sides of the listening space (space #2.) Left and right, in other words. Notice below how we give those instruments the most separation.
Guitar and fiddle have different enough frequencies that we can put them a bit closer together in your ear holes.
I could go on and on about all this theory crap, but let’s have a listen to hear what I’m talking about. Here’s a bluegrass section with brand new banjo and mandolin. In the first track, everything is centered. In the second track, however, we use the separation illustrated in the above graphic. (Use headphones for full effect.)
WHOA, where did all those instruments come from? Panning, my friends…