I would like to mix one of my compositions with a sixties mood.

To better understand what I'm trying to explain, I would accomplish a sound like Gene Rains' Hana Maui. I know that it could be pretentious, but it can be an opportunity to learn something about mixing.

In particular, I love the drums on the right side and the other instruments (piano etc.) on the left. Until here it seems easy, but if I listen to Hana Maui only left channel I still hear drums: so it isn't "all drums on the right" and "all the other instruments on the left!"

I've tried to pan a little less (drums and instruments) in my song but the result are absolutely not the same.

I've also tried to add some reverb (on drums and instruments) but still it isn't the same effect.

Could someone explain or link some stuff where I can find information?

2 Answers 2


Pan pots were not generally implemented on 60s' consoles – panning a signal would require sacrificing a precious entire extra channel, which explains rather well why you seldom find anything but center / hard-left / hard-right on such old recordings: if there is an actual "continuous" stereo image, it'll usually be a proper stereo-mic setup.

However, very often you still hear something on the other channel even if some instrument is panned hard to one side. This is due to a combination of effects:

  • They certainly didn't start with drums-on-clicktrack back in the day... at least the rythm section was traditionally done in one take, and in one room, and everything was recorded with microphones; so some bleed is inevitable. The result is that you can hear a distant/delayed version of a left-signal on mics on the right, which actually sounds very natural to th ear, because this always happens for actual sound you hear coming hard from one side. You might say, they didn't pan instruments, they just used an ultra-wide stereo mic pattern!
    To simulate this sensation, just route a hard-left-panned effect to an ordinary reverb by an aux send patch.

  • Old analogue recording technique can at some points have difficulty keeping the L and R signals separate. Capacitive bleed, magnetic coupling, imperfectly stabilised ground feeds, and perhaps most importantly finite-width tape tracks mean at least some frequency components of one channel will normally find their way into the other, no matter how hard the signal was panned and the mics placed.
    You can simulate this by adding a little bit of a channel-swapped copy to your master, with some weird EQing on it (and perhaps a bit of lo-fi gating nonlinearities or something like that).

  • Last but IMO not neglectable: the "correct" way to listen to such records is from vinyl. Recall that vinyl does not really store to seperate channels for L and R, rather it uses the horizontal track of the groove for the "main" / "center" signal, i.e. L+R, while the differential side info is in the vertical movement. (You might equivalently say that both L and R are at a 45° angle to the surface; but since the physical character of up- and side directions is different the M/S stereo view describes the response better.) In neither of these directions can the signal be perfectly reproduced, there's always some nonlinearity, pretty asymmetric. Now, for a hard-panned signal, the M and S channels are the same (except on one pan-side they will be in opposite phase), but if you slightly distort them in different ways they won't quite cancel on the opposite channel if you take the difference to go back to L/R stereo. Yet another kind of bleed, and quite different from the other sources (a lot of transients, sometimes pretty strange intermodulation artifacts).
    To get such an effect, I'd emulate the actual physics as close as feasible: use a pair of L/R⇌M/S matrices, and on at least one of the channels in between put something like a tube-saturation plugin (but not the same on both channels).

  • your answer is more complete and it extends the jyelton's one..i admit the last part left me mumbling (what are a pair of L/R⇌M/S matrices??) (do you have notice i'm a novice?) but this is another question.. ;) thanks a lot. It seems i have to study before applying this advice.
    – kindaska
    Sep 25, 2014 at 7:51
  • An M/S to L/R matrix is a standard tool, mostly used for the M/S microphone technique (but actually useful for a lot of less known subtle stereo tweaks). Many engineers will improvise such a matrix with two stereo channels, one of which has one side phase-inverted... but really, it's much more efficient to use a dedicated FX plugin. I prefer using my own custom-written one (closed-source VST, Windows-only: shame on me), "LR->MS" preset. Sep 25, 2014 at 11:48
  • sorry, but i cannot +1 your answer! i'll give a try to your vst. i really appreciated it. Thanks you!!
    – kindaska
    Sep 25, 2014 at 13:17

You can "position" sounds in the stereo field. When you listen to music and a particular instrument seems to be left, it may be the result of microphone positioning, or pan adjustment on the mixing console (whether real or virtual).

Setting an instrument fully left or right creates an awkward feeling, because in real life even when you listen to an instrument played to your left or right, acoustics in the room cause your other ear to hear a delayed (and reflected) version of the sound. Your brain processes the sound and "knows" its position. The absence of sound from that instrument on the opposite ear is unnatural, unless the sound was so quiet that you can barely hear it in the first place.

When setting the pan for an instrument, try to think of it as a position in an arc around the listener (rather than simply "left" or "right"). All instruments set to center will feel as though they are overlapping, but instruments set too far right or left will start to invoke the unnatural lack of sound on the opposite side.

If your mix is dry, that can also explain why slight panning doesn't sound quite as you'd like. Adding reverb to the final mix will make the separate tracks or instruments "blend" better, and sound as though they're in the same room. An instrument panned left will have acoustic reflections added to the right channel by reverb, and improve the perception that the instrument really is positioned where it's intended to be.


Per comments and the other answer(s) I attempted to provide enough information that the OP could arrive at a similar result to the track in question. I am not familiar with the equipment or techniques used in the '60s, so I was working from the position of what I would do in a modern DAW based on what I heard.

That said, I'll leave my answer here because I believe it is still accurate in the respect that the portion of audio heard on the "opposite" channel from the intended position of the instrument comes from acoustic reflections and other artifacts, rather than "hard panning" alone.

  • hi JYelton, thanks for your answer. I've tried to pan instruments, let's say 70% right(drums) and 70% left(piano) but is really difficult to achieve this sound: link. Any other hints? Maybe it isn't only about the panning...:/ thanks in advance
    – kindaska
    Sep 24, 2014 at 7:40
  • Listening to the sample, it's hard to say what percentage left the piano is, but listening to the right channel only, I definitely think it's reflections rather than dry signal from the piano. The right channel sound of the piano is slightly delayed compared to the left, so it is definitely reflections creating that effect. (Plus some low percentage of dry signal, perhaps.)
    – JYelton
    Sep 24, 2014 at 15:55
  • 1
    This is pretty good advice for modern stereophonic mixing, but doesn't adress the question about sixties sound well (or indeed at all... "set the pan, but not to hard-left or hard-right" is just wrong in that context, since pre-70s recordings seldom have any pan but center / hard-left / hard-right). Sep 24, 2014 at 22:46
  • Well, i acceptd his answer because no one gives me a better one..and yes the pan is a part of the total answer i think.. but i'm pleasantly surprised that the conversation is firing up!
    – kindaska
    Sep 25, 2014 at 7:45
  • @leftaroundabout I updated the answer based on comments; but defer to your knowledge and experience. Thanks for the more accurate response to the OP.
    – JYelton
    Sep 25, 2014 at 17:27

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.