Strings are important in any genre of music. Knowing how to mix them is very vital to the success of your end product which is the final mix or master.
In my experience, Strings can be panned for multiple reasons and one of those reasons is to make them wider in order for the mix to sound bigger. In other situations, strings may obstruct a vocal due to conflict in mid range frequencies. in such a situation panning the strings may help you reduce such conflicts. Also, strings can easily get in the way of vocals that are not prominent such as backing vocals, in which case panning them would be the best course of action for your mix to avoid clashes in frequencies.
What influences whether strings will be panned or not:
What I’m referring to as the frequency concentration in relation to this post is the basic coverage of the frequency spectrum by the strings. This is in short the area that shows you where most of the string frequencies actually are.
Once you determine this, your decision whether or not to pan strings will be based upon this and the amount of equalization that has to be employed.
Because sometimes we pan strings in order to free up the low, mid and high range, this will depend on the texture of the string which will be determined by its frequency concentration.
Elements within the song
Another key factor that determines whether or not I’ll pan my strings is the basic structure of my composition. By this I mean each and every element in my mix.
What I’m looking to achieve is a clean mix that is well balanced with all elements given room to break through and be heard.
If your strings are too bass-y and you have other bass instruments like a bass synth or something. You can EQ your string, and further add some slight panning to ensure that the low end of various elements isn’t clashing.
Panning has the ability to provide room within a mix.
The End Goal
Another key factor that determines whether strings will be panned or not is basically what is being hoped to be achieved.
This should actually be at the forefront because it will dictate what your options will be and your basic course of action.
Type of Song
Another key element is the type of song that is being mixed because not all songs will call for strings being all over the stereo image.
In orchestral compositions alot of elements are involved and most of them are string-y elements at most.
Which means they all can’t be in the middle because they’ll simply be in conflict.
In a situation like this you’d have to follow a certain path to panning that can accommodate all the elements party to the composition.
Therefore before you even consider panning your strings you have to know what exactly is being hoped to be achieved and why you’re actually panning plus what you want your stereo image to sound like at the end of the day.
This should be the guiding principle.
How i go about panning.
One thing to understand from the jump is that the introduction of strings into the stereo image will affect how you go about mixing other elements.
Once this understood you’ll also need to know how to go about using other effects on your strings to make them sound better.
A summary of my process when panning is basically having my violins left, violas centre and bass to the right.
But when you consider this approach and try to bring it into the context of modern pop music, you’ll realise that some other elements in your mix may clash with the string elements I explained above.
Therefore it will be very much help to you to pan your string sections only so slightly in order to maintain good balance especially if they are virtual strings.
Real live recorded stereo strings would call for a different approach because you’d have to monitor the frequencies, apply equalization and see if panning can help widen your strings.
Panning can also be a great way to handle strings that are recorded with two microphones because you can easily be able to create a great stereo effect with more depth.
I’d advise going for an average of 25 to 50% panning to a side that won’t further complicate the mix.
Also, adding some reverb to your strings can help you add some depth to your mix that would in turn allow for space for some other instruments.