How to pan drum instruments?

In my recent post, I have mentioned that the whole drum instruments can be panned somewhere -12.5 to +12.5 settings.

There is a commenter on the post asking how to pan snare in the drums. In this post I will give my approach on how to pan drum instruments and parts (snares, toms, cymbals and hi hats). Panning properly drums can create a very realistic drum sound in stereo.

Revised Drum Panning Settings

Revised Drum Panning Settings

Below are the most important components of a drum kit and it’s panning settings :

a. Kick drum: “0”, this means it is panned to the center. The reason for this is that the drum set is placed in the physical center of the stage and kick drum is in the center of the drum set. Below is how the band looks like playing live on the stage and take note the drum set is in the middle.

Live soundstage panning settings

Live soundstage panning settings

b. Snare: “+6.25 right”, this means it is panned very slightly to the right. It is because looking at the real drum; it is located in the physical center between the hi-hats and to the center of the kick drum. Some engineers pan the snare to the center, but I do not recommend this since a significant frequency response of snare can drown the vocals.

c. Pedal hi hat: “+12.5 right”, this the farthest right of the drums.

d. Crash cymbal: +9.375 right”, it is located in the physical center between the snare drum and the hi hat.

e. Toom right: “+3.2”, again very slightly off center to the right.

f. Toom left: “-3.2”, the pair of the other toom but this one panned to the left.

g. Floor toom: “-6.25”, panned to the left and located in the physical center of the ride cymbal and the kick drum.

h. Ride cymbal– “-12.5” panned to the left, this is the leftmost part of the drum set.

The above settings works best for programmed drum loops (e.g. software-based such as from different drum sequencer). It is because they can be individually panned. A real drum recording with several microphones in the stereo field does not necessary to be panned individually. As long as the microphone placement and phase issues are considered.

Example drum panning techniques and calculations

I received an inquiry from a reader about drum panning: “I use GarageBand and the panning knobs only range from -64 to 64, not -100 to 100. In this case, do you know what the panning calculations would be.

The main problem is that instead of having the usual -100 to +100 panning units settings as illustrated in this tutorial which is common in most audio mixing software; Garage band software is using -64 to 64 panning units. So how are you able to implement the drum parts panning settings for the image below in garage band?:

standard drum panning in audio mixing

standard drum panning in audio mixing