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.


As discussed above, I don’t class that as LCR, because the the sound itself (regardless of the actual position of the pan pots) is panned at an infinite number of points within the stereo image. It’s the exact opposite of LCR IMO.

For me, LCR refers to the position of the sound in the stereo image, not the position of your pan pots.


I think most would disagree there. The original proponents of LCR (for example, I’ll namedrop Terry Manning) have talked on forums about how they move stereo mics to get an appropriate stereo field when the mics are hard panned. LCR is about the position of the pan pots, it’s not about precluding phantom images.

It’s just that, most sources will be mono in your typical pop/ rock mix (and don’t argue about THAT :rofl: ) so only one or two things will really have stereo spread anyway.


Interesting. So regardless of the effect on the stereo image, it’s LCR if the pan pots ‘look’ right?


Well, yeah. I think we’re getting into the realm of the theoretical here for what’s essentially a technique designed to practically speed up mixing and help with decisiveness, but if you have a drum kit that’s been recorded in stereo, how could it be any other way? You hard pan the overheads, and you’ve got a phantom image It might be wide or narrow, it depends on where the mics actually were placed. You’d have to go quite far out your way, and really mess up the sound, to have hard panned overheads/ rooms that don’t have some element of phantom image.

Then, of course, there’s other examples like a stereo pad sound, or a piano etc. In those cases, you have options in a typical rock/ pop etc mix. You could pan them wide, you could have one C and one hard panned, you could collapse them down to mono and hard pan… choices. But most of the parts will be mono tracks - vocals, guitars, bass, brass, whatever - in a pop/ rock/ metal context. Pan them hard, or keep them central.

As I say, I tried it for a while but did ultimately start to soft-pan again, for me it was really just a way to get into the habit of using the full available width of the mix.

The thing about soft panning, is that if you feel like your mix needs to be mainly soft-panned, that, say, a trumpet part at 30% left sounds better than 50% left, or that something hard panned sounds wildly out of place, I think it’s possibly you’re worrying about something that doesn’t actually matter. Because what if the listener has speakers that are really close together? Or the mix is collapsed to mono? Or the speakers are really far apart? What does 30% or 50% really matter out in the real world where almost no playback system is ideal?

People say that hard panning sounds weird in headphones, but honestly the only time it’s ever bothered me is when something’s hard panning and there’s nothing in the other channel at all. That’s quite easy to avoid. There’s also the restaurant scenario where the L speaker is in the dining area and the R speaker is in the reception, but honestly, call me extreme but I’m not going to pander to those audio terrorists!

These days, I’m happy to hard pan backing vocals, guitar parts, extra percussion etc, quite often I’ll soft pan less important stuff like pads, or soft pan in a verse to give me some extra room to explode into a chorus. Sometimes I’ll leave the soft-pan position for some new element that doesn’t arrive until the final chorus, so that the mere fact of its arrival in a space hitherto ignored is a novelty in itself. Quite often I’ll soft pan mono reverb and echo returns, too. And, of course, when stereo reverb is used it usually has a phantom image across the stereo field.


For me, it couldn’t. But (for me at least) at that point, it stops being LCR, and starts being a normal mix. I mean, in what way is it different to a non-LCR mix?

What you seem to be saying is that as long as some stuff in the mix is (sonically) hard left or hard right, then it’s an LCR mix. But to me, that’s just a normal mix, which includes some elements that have been hard-panned. It’s just semantics really - same mix, different label.


No, I’m saying that I don’t mix LCR any more. I wouldn’t soft pan things if I was still mixing LCR.


Well, this is EXACTLY what I do…

Basically micing something with two mics that includes NONE of the same information… kinda like perfect mid/side where NOTHING cancels. But the image is still perfectly centered, because the gains are balanced.

If you think about it - optimal stereo SHOULD be like this. Mono should be the exact opposite. Its not ‘just’ a time saver, its an ARTFORM.

Your arrangement will be wide AND focused. I can only post examples of my own drum recordings, on this one there were four individual drum mics, 2 overheads and 2 room mics.

Im trying for as big and wide as possible - Full LCR. Only the Kick and snare mics are centered. The vocal bleed is mostly coming thru the room mics (they are up pretty loud).


wait… if you are micing the same thing with two mics, there’s lots of correlating information, even if the each channel is different.


Well Boz, Im REALLY kinda explaining what im TRYING to do. Mostly the stereo aspect sound comes from the room mics 6’ to 9 ’ away - (the overhead mics are REALLY close to the drums - 12" to 30" maybe). The spot mics are 3" or closer.

I try to make it so I get zero phase cancellation between mics in a pair, or two pairs (that are as close as possible)…which can be hard to do when you record in the same room with NO monitoring, just experience.

So anyway, this is where I’m at. Maybe I need a few more years practice :sunglasses:


Just for completeness, I had flipped the phase of BOTH overhead mics, meaning; i had all my pairs and individuals aligned, without audibly checking, I just preferred my overhead pair in reverse to all the others in the mix… not the worst result.