The Stereo Field
Using the pan controls is another way to provide separation for instruments so the listener can better identify individual instruments and tracks. The Pan knob works as a balance control for both mono and stereo tracks. The more you turn the knob left the lower the volume gets in the right channel. The more you turn the pan control right the lower the volume gets in the left channel. You can use pan together with EQ to provide separation for tracks during the mixing process. When each track has its own place in the frequency spectrum and the stereo field then your ears can identify everything more easily.
If the ride cymbal is competing with the shaker then try panning the ride cymbal 25 to 30 percent right and the shaker 25 to 30 percent left. This will add to the clarity of these tracks, especially if they are close to sharing the same fundamental frequency. Using EQ will provide even more clarity. You can use the pans to separate the instruments that sit within the same frequency range. You can also use the pans to set instruments in different parts of the stereo field.
There are basically two types of tracks that are recorded, mono and stereo. Keyboards are the only single type tracks that I will record in stereo. Everything else I record in mono. In most other cases I will use two mono tracks two make a stereo image. Using two mics and recording two separate mono tracks to emulate one stereo image works well with most live instrument.
You also have more options during the mix while doing this. I will pan one mono track full right and the other full left to get a stereo image. This allows me to use the faders as a more precise pan control. I can also EQ the left and the right side a little differently. I can apply individual effects to each side instead of the same effect for both sides. This creates the Illusion of an even wider stereo image.
Sometimes while recording with two microphones you may run into phase anomalies. The two mono waves may become out of sync with each other. In most cases this is due to improper mic placement. In this example phase is a term used to describe the position of one mono sound wave relative to the other mono sound wave in our stereo field. Two identical waves are ‘in-phase’ when the crests and troughs of the waves meet. This will also have the effect of increasing the amplitude. The mono waves would be considered ‘out-of-phase’ when the crests of one wave meets the trough of another wave.
These waves that are out of phase have the ability to weaken the amplitude. The stereo image may also be degraded. You can really notice it when you play back the waves in mono. Two identical waves at 180 degrees out of phase will completely cancel each other out in a process known as phase cancellation. These are issues that need to be corrected and fixed in the mix.