Pan Pot Matters – Piano


There is much for a recordingologist to admire in Ben Folds’ Still Fighting It.
– The fragile vocal over a sparse arrangement in each verse.
– The contrasting power in each chorus.
– The string orchestration (real strings!) that wafts in just when you think there’s nowhere left to go on this crescendo.
– The hard panned, doubled, invitations to sing along:
“Everybody knows” “And everybody does” “Let me tell you what.”

But I want to draw your attention to the low end beauty and power in each chorus. The low frequency reach in the mix includes punchy and powerful drums. But notice the potential low frequency pile-up from electric bass, low droning distorted electric guitar (as of Chorus 2), and a thunderous left hand piano part.

These instruments hang out near the phantom center of the mix, but they don’t step on each other at all.
– The electric bass is mono, clean, dead center.
– The distorted, droning electric guitar is pushed a bit left.
– The piano, with the low end power and texture that only a grand piano can produce, lives center and slightly right.

I suspect the piano panning is something like:

likely pan pot positions for Ben Fold's Piano

and that is straight up genius.

It puts the bass in the middle, where it so often belongs. That is, the piano’s contribution to the bass is in the center, with the other low frequency elements of the arrangement. The piano isn’t hard panned. The stereo image of the piano isn’t player’s perspective. It isn’t audience perspective. It isn’t drummer’s perspective — I don’t think they ever even asked him. It is, in fact, panned with a strategic perspective. The very low piano part is coaxed center, placed near the electric bass and electric guitar, where low end power should be. It is the panning the mix needs to have a powerful low frequency core.