Concert Band Panning/Mixing

• Jun 26, 2022 - 07:09

I've been looking around for a bit, but I can't seem to find any forums discussing how to pan/mix the instruments for a concert band. There are plenty for orchestra, though.

All I need is a list of values for each instrument's panning so I can tune them to their stage positions. This also includes instruments not included in Musescore's concert band template, namely the contrabass clarinet and english horn.

Please, and thank you.


Is there a standard layout for concert band? I have played in many bands over several decades. Each MD has their own ideas about seating and those ideas are very varied. Also consider that concert bands play in many different types of setting: stage, park band stand etc. with their individual constraints. When I dep in a new band, my first question is where do I sit? So, I think first you need to decide what layout you want. Then you can play with the mixer settings to get the effect you want.

Orchestras are slightly more standardised. Most I have played in have violins on the left, cellos and basses on the right with violas behind. But some have the violins split 1st on the left, 2nds on the right with cellos and basses behind 1st violins and violas behind 2nd violins. And then there are differences in where the brass go. Woodwind seems fairly settled in the centre.

I found a layout on the Internet and placed the Pan numbers (L:0, C:64, R:128) used by the Musescore software on it. I set the pan numbers in two different ways, in the center of the stage (linear) and relative to where the Conductor is standing (semi-exponential).

According to center of the stage:

In terms of Conductor's hearing angle:

You can place the Contrabass Clarinet on the right side of the Bass Clarinet and the English Horn on the right side of the Oboe.
If there are keyboards and bass guitar in the group, think of them as percussions and place them accordingly (Near the drum-set.)

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Concert_Band-Seats.png 195.7 KB
Concert_Band-conductors_hearing.png 228.68 KB

In reply to by BRM Music

Yes, you need a starting point. Instruments need to be panned. I'm just not sure how carried away you should get with exact numbers. Try an experiment.
If you mix in headphones, go ahead and set it up just the way you want. Then listen to the result on different systems. Through a speaker system. In ear buds. In your car. Even different speaker systems or different car systems. Each one will sound different. The trumpets (for example) might be too loud on one system and too soft on another. That timpani roll you worked so hard on (because rolls don't sound great) gets lost. You don't know what someone is going to listen on. Professional studios have ways to deal with this. Notation software does not.

In reply to by bobjp

This is pretty much for me and me alone because I think copyright prevents me from posting most of my projects.
What you say is true, though. The mix won't translate perfectly between different speakers, headphones, et cetera. But I'm not too worried since I'm just doing this for fun. I may be a hardcore perfectionist, but even I understand that I can't win 'em all.
That being said, your advice is sound. I'm curious to hear more, so please continue if you wish.

In reply to by BRM Music

I, also, do this for myself for fun. But that doesn't mean we don't want the best result. And there's the rub. What is the best result? Recording studios have set standards they use for their productions. What they produce is what we are used to hearing as far as recordings go. But is the standard accurate. Recordings are how most of us listen to music. But then we go to a live concert. What we hear is different. And part of why it is different (along with dozens of other factors) is based on where we are in relation to the group playing. Recordings place us front and center. Great. But is that realistic?
More than that, just listen to the oboe player in the live concert. The player blends their sound just so, based on what they are hearing around them. The beautiful solo is totally dependant on what else is happening around them. With a few thousand dollars worth of samples and a DAW, you might be able to approach this. At least enough to convince most listeners. There is nothing like live music.
On the other hand, there is nothing like the music we are producing in MuseScore. I have been a member of a form of composers. The members that worked in a DAW often pointed out how unrealistic notation software output was. They are right. But what is realistic, and how do we achieve it? There have been those that think that adding delays or pitch variations are the way to do it. After all, real players don't play perfectly all the time. Maybe so, but introducing "mistakes" doesn't seem realistic to me. The goal of musicians is to play with, and in, and around all the other players. It is the job of musicians to blend with each other no matter what degree it is that they are placed at in the group.
I think that the job that we have as composers is to write good music. After all, a Bach fugue sounds good no matter what instruments are playing it.

In reply to by bobjp

Okay, this may be a bit much.
I get that it'll never sound completely realistic. Hearing this makes me doubt myself, though, like all the effort I put into making it sound better is pointless.
This is a hobby of mine, a place of comfort. It's not supposed to be stressful.
I know you aren't trying to stress me out, so I'm not upset with you.
Just remember that we have different philosophies; I'm not striving for absolute perfection.

In reply to by BRM Music

Sorry. I think you might misunderstand me. I'm not trying for perfection either. There is no such thing. All we can do is set things up in such a way that we enjoy what we hear. I think that this is the miracle of software. We have the chance to hear what we are writing in real time. Works for me. Have fun.

In reply to by bobjp

Of course, my mistake.
It's certainly a joy to hear a composition come to life, so I agree with you there. And Musescore 4 is a very special piece of software for what it is. I was initially displeased with Muse Sounds, but it's really grown on me. I have a feeling it could be an unbeatable software for its price bracket once everything is mostly ironed out.

In reply to by BRM Music

Gladly, more general:
Given: Old_max (here: 127), Old_min (here: 0), New_max (e.g. 75), New_min (e.g. -75), OldVal.
What is being searched for: NewVal.
Then calculate:
With this equation, you can map each range a...b to a second range c ... d.
Using the numbers above for OldVal 110 and 33:
NewVal = 150/127 * (110-0) - 75 = +54.9
NewVal = 150/127 * (33-0) - 75 = -36.0

I hope I did not make a mistake, I'm a little out of practice ... :-)

The factor 1.575 in my equation above is the result of dividing the total new range by the total old range.

In reply to by Jojo-Schmitz

The panning range in 3.6.2 can be set between its minimum value (0, Old_min; left) and its maximum value (127, Old_max; right).
The panning range of Muscores 4 is between -100 (New_min; left) and +100 (New_max; right) - at least this is what BRM Music has stated.

In reply to by Jojo-Schmitz wrote:
What is max and min there? (Fahrenheit and Celsius)

Okay, as HildeK wrote:
The panning range of Muscores 4 is between -100 (New_min; left) and +100 (New_max; right)...
In 3.6.2. you can set between 0 and 127; just numbers with no senseful background; except they represent a binary 7 bit value.

So, min. and max. are used to establish comparable ranges in which to convert values from one scale to the other.
So, for liquid water, these min. and max. values can be used in the equation to convert water temperature:
(Who said math is not needed in music? ;-)

In reply to by HildeK

"There is a lot of math!"
Maybe, but were those applied after the fact? Or used to create the intervals?
Mathematical relationships may exist, but that doesn't always mean anything. I've never understood why it is so important to link the two.
We play the instruments and music that we have. Using the tunings that are the norm right now. Just like they did in the Renaissance. Which was much different than today. And in 3 or 4 hundred years who knows what the scale will be like. Math or no math. Math might explain it, but not create it.
Notation appears to be math. But if we never wrote anything down what would our music be like? Indian ragas are far more complicated than anything in Western music. They are passed down by rote. African drum rhythms can not be accurately notated.
I know this can be a hot topic. Sorry. I'm just having a little fun.

In reply to by Jojo-Schmitz

@Jojo... ...just some known reference points
My max. and min. refer to liquid water - just ask a glass of water. :-)
Though it's true that known reference points could be, for example, 10°C/59°F and 800°C/1472°F.
But that upper value is well beyond the max. for my poor glass of water. R.I.P... :-(

In reply to by HildeK

I must apologize and say I'm not a math person, so you'll have to hold my hand and walk me through this.
What I'm confused about are your example equations. Where did the 150 come from? Also, it looks like you subtracted where your equation says to add. I may just be stupid since it's math, but I'd like a little more help if it's not too much to ask.

In reply to by BRM Music

The 150 come from New_max - New_min = 75 - (-75) = 75+75, you asked for that example. Remember your math exercises :-). It is simply the total range width.

The old equation works only for mapping 0...127 to -100...+100. It is a special case for these two ranges.

If you want to map e.g. to a new range like -75 to 75, you need to adapt this factor 1.575 and the source must also start with zero. If you have an old range not going to 127, you must adapt the value 63.5 too, this is the midpoint of the old range.
My second equation works for all mapping variants, from any range to any other range.

In reply to by HildeK

So I went ahead and kinda did that without your permission lol

Basically, I did the same step of subtracting the 63.5 from the old value. But when it came to the new -75 to 75 range, I used 1.181 (the number I got from dividing the new range by the old) instead of 1.575. I'm not sure if that's what I was supposed to do, but I did it anyway.
Whatever the case, I applied that new range to my score and it sounds absolutely beautiful. I'm grateful for all the help you've provided.

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