"Wide" drums vs "narrow" drums? What's the difference?

Im interested to hear some opinions or ideas about “wide” vs “narrow” drums. What are the advantages and disadvantages of each approach?

By “narrow” I basically mean when the whole drum kit seems to be in the middle 30-40ish% of the stereo image and usually the guitars are split out wider than the drums

By “wide” I mean when the kick and snare are generally in the middle but the cymbals are spread out wide…either right with the guitars or even out wider than the guitars.

Are these approaches basically the same same except just the cymbals get panned out wide? Seems this would be slightly more complicated to mix…is it? Does this seem to give a wider sounding mix?

Ill give 3 examples of each:


Nazareth, Miss Misery https://youtu.be/UTFM9MmD_Mk?t=13s
Stone Machine, Rock n Roll Star https://youtu.be/-Fa75j2dBog?t=6s
Dynamite (AC/DC clone), Its a long way home https://youtu.be/phCIb1fMbYQ


Chevelle, Take out the Gunman, https://youtu.be/SYV5VKz_U9U?t=1m51s
Shinedown, Sound of Madness https://youtu.be/WGt-8adyabk?t=42s
Charm City Devils, Unstoppable https://youtu.be/yXYTH9Z34qM?t=58s

Which do you prefer and why? Pros, cons?

Thanks, JJ

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We were just talking about that, there are some good points on both sides of the fence. I guess it comes down to preference or what just works withing the song:

Do not let the topic title fool ya ha!

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yeah i saw the word “toms” and it didnt jump out to me until after I started my thread lol.

its interesting because now im listening to some Zep and so far its not symmetrical lol. The few songs I have listened to sort of have Bonzo and Jonesy leaning left with Jimmy and Robert in the right channel and maybe Jimmy has another guitar wide left

No big deal, you are right about finding unique panning tricks that really only come to light when you put your mixing hat on. Listening for pleasure sometimes does not reveal these hidden gems.

I expressed my somewhat hate for a wide kit (not really cymbals, but toms especially), but I do find interest shoving the kit one side , bass git. on the other. Though this is usually found in earlier recorded music.

[quote=“cptfiasco, post:4, topic:383, full:true”]

, but I do find interest shoving the kit one side , bass git. on the other.[/quote]

why u gotta bring the Beatles into this? lol


My personal preference is for the drums to sound “normal”, meaning they are set up such that a regular human drummer could actually play them. Crash cymbals are not way wide of the rest of the kit.

That said, I agree with the Cap’n that whatever serves the song is the way to go. My preference is not a hard and fast rule…

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some of this Zep is tripping me out though. on most of these songs im hearing Bonham only in one channel (headphones) except for maybe a tom of cymbal here and there. Robert is about 20% off center one way or the other and Jimmy way out opposite of Bonham. Jonesy is also rarely dead center.

Its interesting how it generally seems they have about 70% of the sounds in one channel and then Jimmy way out on the other side by himself. hehe, I guess it pays to be the producer

Wider is always better imo. I go as wide as I possibly can without loosing continuity when I switch back to mono. All of my mixes have to work on mono systems.

I use a lot of parallel width processing. All over. Vocals, Kicks, Snares, Bass, Pianos, Guitars… Choruses, doublers, slap delays, early reflection engineers, M/S processing, multi-band imaging…wide is in style right now.

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There are a few things at play with drum width.
1- Too wide drums sound unnatural
2- Too wide drums get lost in mono
3- Too wide drums will tend to sound small
1 and 2 are self explanatory. But for #3 think of this: The farther you get away from a source the bigger it tend to sound because it takes up space. (think Bonham) But the farther away you get, the more mono it gets because everything is blending together in a space. So it’s almost like less mono = less “big”.
All of these can be dealt with depending upon the mix and none are good nor bad. I remember loving some 80’s german metal that sounded like each drum was panned to a different degree in the soundscape.
As for cymbals and such… as I said in the other post. I care more about them being panned than the drums. But it’s not complicated. As long as my right cymbals sound like they are coming from the right and left from left, I’m happy.
I’ll add a #4 to this: If you pan toms out wider than your OHs are actually “hearing” them, you will start to mess with the phase correlation and tone may suffer. This is assuming you have squared away the OHs with your kick and snare. If you throw your toms out hard right and left and they sound “better”, your phase is out of whack. If the only way the drums sound good at all is with hard panning, you’ve got something almost 180 out…
And to answer the last part of your question… no. wide drums don’t make a mix wide. A wide mix makes a mix wide… :slight_smile: But that’s another can of worms…
have fun


yeah, its amazing how, in a sense, “there are no rules”…yet so far I cant get a pro mix lol. Then again, I havent made a massive focused effort yet. I guess thats what 2017 will be

It’s even tripper when you hear Zep in ceiling speakers in an office building or a store. You get a different mix as you wander around…
I actually found speakers out of phase in an insurance office with “your time is gonna come” because there were BGVs but no lead vocals… just vocal verb

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yeah, there is a breakroom at work like that. I sit under one of the speakers and if there is a real stereo mix I might get a really weird sound lol. Like if they ever played Beatles you’d ONLY hear drums or whatever lol

The wonders of 4 track recording… :slight_smile:

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four?? shoot, that was after a while probably lol. I cant remember which early band it was, but when they first got a 4 track, they were trying to figure out how in the world they were going to use ALL FOUR tracks lol

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Yeah. I wish we had less tracks. said no one ever :slight_smile:

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its sort of like the quote by Bill Gates, whether or not he ever actually said it or not, “640k of memory ought to be enough for anybody” lol

Once had a meal in a place in France playing classic rock including some Hendrix, it was a restaurant with two separate rooms. One speaker per room.

Can’t remember which track it was, maybe ‘Little Wing’? We had only the guitar, snare drum and some vocal reverb. The next room had the rest. :joy:


As far as wide vs narrow drums, it just depends on the production for me. Sometimes if the kick and snare are louder/punchier/bigger in the mix you can go wider with the cymbals, if you want the drums to sit further back in the mix but still do their job properly it can help to narrow stuff in so they stay focused, I think.

Most of the time i hard pan overhead, and pan the independant toms not to get it too wide. I do love wide cymbals and more narrows toms (more powerfull to me).

Of course kick and snare centered.

It should be depending on the requirements of a track I believe!

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