LCR Panning, top-down mixing

LCR Panning, top-down mixing


Mixing hard L/R doesn’t mean the drums need to sound disconnected or toms need to be hard panned - if you’re recording the drums, you can adjust the stereo width with mic placement. And TBH I think most proponents of LCR would say it’s pretty normal to pan the spot mics to their apparent position in the stereo image of the overheads, rooms, whatever.


Now I’m confused. How would that differ from non-LCR mix?


In that particular aspect, it wouldn’t.

But in the LCR mix, you go on to hard pan everything else that you don’t leave in the middle.

I think it’s best not to get too dogmatic about this stuff, though. It’s an interesting technique to try, I think most people end up soft panning some stuff. I do see people afraid to hard pan though, as if it’s a wild choice, and it’s not really. So LCR is a good way of breaking out of that mindset.


I think this is why I’ve never really given it any thought. I don’t think it’s deserving of a name. If panning wide is something that is needed, then I just call it panning. The moment it’s not strictly adhered to, it’s just panning.

I do think it’s fine to understand and utilize the effect of hard panning and not be afraid to use it. I just don’t think it deserves it’s own name. Sort of like fry sauce


There is some confusion on here about how LCR works.

With drums, I go hard L/R on the toms because the room mics, mono room mic, and overheads are doing the heavy lifting. They keep the image centered while auxiliary data/information like direct tom mics can live on the edges without disrupting the overall coherency of the instrument.

Same with piano. XY config four to six feet from the soundboard, hard panning isn’t problem on your soundboard direct mics because the stereo image is already intact from the piano overheads.

Same with choirs. XY room mic panned hard L/R. Then four Neumanns on the individual SATB sections. Tenors hard left, altos hard right, sopranos wedged down the middle because they carry the melody most of the time. Basses either go center or hard left with the tenors depending on the composition.

Bottom line: To make LCR hard panning work, you need an anchor mic that is responsible for balancing the overall image. When the auxiliary mics are properly phase aligned with your anchor mic, pan has hard as you want, because the hard panned mics are always tucked underneath the anchor mic.

Boz, it needs a distinct name because there is a conceptual foundation to this method that someone needs to understand in order to make it work. That foundation has to do what the mix engineer is required to know in order to maintain balance when everything is tossed 100% left/right.


I think this where the problem is - the definition. As far as I’m concerned, LCR means exactly that - everything is either in the middle or hard-panned. If you’ve got stuff that’s not in one of those three positions, then by definition, it’s not LCR.

I’m not even sure I agree that mics such as hard-panned XY configs can be included. Sure, the pan knobs are turned full, but if the signal is not fully separated into two sides then - to me - it’s not LCR, because the acronym refers to the stereo image, not the position of the pan pots.

I mean, it seems a bit pointless to play something to someone and say ‘hey check this out, it’s an LCR mix’ then have to explain why some stuff is obviously not up the middle or hard panned. That comes under the heading of ‘normal mix’ for me.


I guess to me, this isn’t LCR mixing, unless I’ve completely misunderstood what it’s all about. This is just standard practice for mixing X/Y mic setups.


Under that particular semantic definition I’d agree that the whole concept is absurd and as @bozmillar said, and I agree with both of you that its not worth giving it a label.

Panning anything like toms hard L/R without a primary source to anchor some balance into the extreme pan moves seems like recipe for disaster lol.

I think where the semantic matters is for @Tesgin’s original question about why this technique was very popular, especially among pop-rock genre mixers. (See Mix Engineers Handbook 1st edition, articles by Bruce Swedeen, Al Schmidt, and Ken Scott. Also see CLA interview with Steven Slate on the 1st Audio Legends course material). Their use of the phrase ‘LCR mix’ still assumes there is already a balanced stereo source superseding the hard left/hard right panned drums in most mixes which they consider to be ‘LCR’ mixes. Just a different definition.

My point again, is that I think this is why Tegan was having a hard time making sense of how or why on earth some bigger name guys were outspoken advocates of this technique back in the day.


One more thing I want to point out. The earliest instances of when I’ve seen this term LCR mix used - ALWAYS had to do with a big name engineer answer questions about 'how do you approach panning ( this / that / something )? I can find no other reason that acronym exists - other than it was an easy way for guys to answer what used to be a common question.

Its sort of like ‘Brauerizing’ a mix. You could just call that normal compression. Or Glyn Johns - you could simply call that ‘micing something’. But as @bozmillar rightfully pointed out, its nothing more than a term that summarizes a technical approach to something pretty ordinary.


oh boy,

so much stuff in here to talk about.

  1. How many pan positions can you hear? 200? how about 9? (including LCR).

I dunno, I can’t hear more than about 9 clearly, can you? I’m serious, try it.

COUNT the times the image actually MOVES.

  1. Putting two mics on a single source the same distance away from it and not knowing where to pan it.

Well how about 100% - full L-R. Doesn’t that make it sound RIGHT - panned EXACTLY in the middle?

Think about that, they are the SAME distance from the source, pan them hard, it should sound like its in the middle…

Thats how I do it, at least for (snare) drums with overhead mic pairs.

Same with ambient mics out front or outriggers (in the amp positions). Adjust the GAINS until the L-R positions are even.

Just adjust gains to balance it. My close mics are brutally low passed, good luck with panning that accurately, but who cares cos Im probably brutally compressing that ‘low passed’ son of a bitch into a mono group od DEATH to simultaneously KILL ALL the subwoofers in your car, just for sheer badness.

Wait, don’t we all love the stereo widening effects in our plugins? What do they do EXACTLY (except subtract the difference between left and right and add it back into the mix)?

Maybe Im doing it wrong, but I doubt it.