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Gratuitous Panning

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George Harrison: When they invented stereo, I remember thinking "Why? What do you want two speakers for?" Because it ruined the sound from our point of view. You know, we had everything coming out of one speaker, now it to come out of two speakers, it all sounded like, very naked.
Paul McCartney: But then finally someone said "Well, you can like move things". So like then everything from then on got panned like mad, you know, everything got moved.
George Harrison: But to get to the point where you do a stereo mix and put the drums and bass in the middle, it took a while... it used to be over on the side!
The Beatles on the invention of stereo

For a long time since the beginning of recording technology, most recordings were monaural (reproduced on a single channel), in spite of explorations by Clément Ader starting in 1881, and in the 1930s at EMI under the direction of Alan Blumlein and Bell Laboratories under the direction of Harvey Fletcher. The first stereophonic disc was released by Audio Fidelity in November 1957 and the technology quickly took off, by 1969 all major record labels having stopped manufacturing monaural records.

This all happened at the same time that rock music was rapidly becoming very psychedelic or garagey, and as a result many people in the studio probably couldn't resist the temptation to show off with their new technology. So, we got many albums from the mid-sixties up to the early-seventies (sometimes) that isolate various tracks on separate channels, or heavily employ fancy panning effects, as if avoiding the center was a matter of life and death.

This description does not mean to imply in any way that this is a bad thing. There are often good reasons to use stereo separation, such as allowing instruments to be heard more clearly than the usual lump-everything-in-the-center approach. It is a sort of musical equivalent to Science Marches On and Zeerust as this sort of production tricks aren't as widespread anymore. Plus, if you're a producer who wants to sample a bit of a song, you'll probably pray for this sort of thing - easier to get a song where the drums are on the right and everything else is on the left, sample it and cut out the left channel, than one where everything is centered and you have to use the extraneous bits as well or break out the EQ.

This is also used to great effect in motion picture sound. It allows sound to be matched to moving visuals. Theater and home surround sound systems have between five and eight channels to play with (and now with new technologies such as Dolby Atmos becoming mainstream, that adds even more overhead channels to muck around with); using multi-channel surround in music is still largely experimental, if only because headphones only have two channels.

The intended effect can be altered by the playback equipment. Two speakers mounted side-by-side in a single cabinet have more crossover than two mounted in opposite corners of a room, and headphones have none at all.

Historically, the decline of the "guitar on the right, bass on the left" type of mixing came about as albums started being recorded on 16 or more tracks, which makes it easy to double-track every instrument. When your mix already has two or more guitars playing the exact same part for the "fatness" this provides, the natural tendency is to spread them out over the stereo field. Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath were some of the early bands to do this, although not all the time as the examples below show. Likewise, when you have enough tracks to give each individual drum its own separate stereo position, its highly unlikely you're going to mix the entire drum kit to one side unless you're deliberately trying to invoke the 1960s.

The visual equivalent of this is a Widescreen Shot.

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  • (See above) In the late 60's it was a trend to pan psychedelic guitar solos back and forth, regardless of the 'static pan' of the other instruments.
  • Capitol Records' "Duophonic" process, which artificially turned a lot of songs recorded in mono into pseudo-stereo. — Amongst others, The Beatles, The Beach Boys and Frank Sinatra underwent this particular form of Executive Meddling. Capitol Records would take a mono recording, delay the right channel by a millisecond, play it through their famed echo chamber, and — presto! — fake stereo. Reportedly, Brian Wilson's father Murry preferred Duophonic, so much so that 8 of their albums were only available in mono or Duophonic. (Brian mixed in mono because he was deaf in one ear.) Many other record companies used similar processes to create fake stereo, labeling these records as "electronically rechanneled for stereo" or "reprocessed." (A few mono recordings from the 1950s actually had the voices and instruments on separate channels; these were somewhat more amenable to stereo reprocessing.) Most audiophiles disliked the results, preferring original mono recordings over fake stereo. The practice faded away after actual stereo recording techniques became widespread. Most reissues of recordings from the '50s and '60s these days use the original mono version if an actual stereo mix isn't available.
  • In the '50s and '60s, there were a number of stereo demonstration records like this one that consisted of various sound effects being panned left and right.
  • During the early 1960s, when stereo on disc was still a novelty, several labels came up with "audiophile" series of exquisitely packaged records with music that emphasized stereo separation. Some labels even specialized in those kinds of releases. The fad mostly died down by the mid-60s, although a few labels soldiered on. A few examples:
    • Command Records, founded by producer Enoch Light in 1959 especially to market those "audiophile" albums. They featured abstract artwork and gatefold packaging with extensive liner notes about the album and each individual track; those would be endlessly copied by other labels.
    • RCA Records' "Stereo Action" series, which featured songs where instruments would be constantly panned from one channel to the other (enough so to disorientate or give a headache!) and die-cut sleeves that revealed artwork printed alongside liner notes onto the inner sleeve.
    • Capitol Records' "Staged for Stereo" series, whose releases were packaged in hinged plastic boxes, kind of a predecessor to modern CD jewel cases.
    • Liberty Records' "Premier" series, which featured die-cut gatefold covers. By 1964, that series had become a vehicle for Tommy Garrett's "50 Guitars" albums exclusively, but it managed to last until 1969.
    • United Artists Records' "Ultra Audio" series, which also used gatefold covers with eye-catching abstract artwork.

  • Don Caballero likes this trope, often splitting two guitar parts between the two channels. Taken to its logical extreme in the intro to "Slice Where you Live Like Pie" (yes, that's the real song title), which bounces between left and right constantly.
  • The Postal Service's "Such Great Heights" has a similar effect to "Before the Storm"; the song contains electronic beeping that alternates channels.
  • Emilie Autumn, just about all of it. Of special note is "Dead Is The New Alive". At the start, the instruments cycle between the two channels. Also particularly noticeable with the background vocals in "Castle Down". In the discussion of "Shalott" on the Opheliac Companion, Emilie and her producer Inkydust cite The Beatles' use of this trope as an influence.
  • For Stereolab's album Margerine Eclipse, every single instrument on every single song was confined entirely to either the left or right channel—as some folks call it, a "dual mono" mix rather than stereo. Muting one speaker or the other can vastly change how the songs sound.
    • On "Analogue Rock" (from the album Transient Random-Noise Bursts with Announcements), the organ is confined entirely to the left channel, while the guitars, drums, and most of the vocals are confined to the right channel. The two channels abruptly flip for a few seconds in the second verse.
  • Frank Black's Cult Of Ray consistently puts the lead guitar in the right speaker, rhythm guitar and bass in the left, and vocals and drums in the center. In fact, the liner notes credit Frank Black and Lyle Workman with "guitar right" and "guitar left" instead of lead and rhythm guitar. Black would keep up this production style with all of his albums credited to Frank Black & The Catholics.
  • Candy Claws did this for their Ceres & Calypso Instrumentals in Dual Mono tape. As implied by the title, it's in dual mono, with all the rhythm instruments confined to the left channel and all the melody instruments in the right channel.
  • Nirvana employed it frequently, with "Breed" being one of the best examples: the guitar bridge has four chord sequences which pan from left to right on the speakers.
  • The Toadies used this to amazing effect in Possum Kingdom, the vocals are in one side and their effected reverb is in the other

  • Leonard Bernstein must have had some kind of deal with Columbia Records to promote quadraphonic sound in the early 1970s. His Mass opens with what is effectively a quadraphonic sound test with four vocal/percussion ensembles operating independently of each other, and also incorporates an unaccompanied oboe solo which moves around all four channels. For the 1974 revival of Candide, the (reduced) orchestra was spread out into four groups of players.
  • Early stereo recordings of opera, most famously Georg Solti's 1950s/1960s recordings of Richard Wagner's The Ring of the Nibelung, made the characters' voices move around to suggest the effect of people moving around a stage; this was accomplished by actually making the singers move from one microphone to another, with a numbered grid on the floor and notes in their scores showing where they were supposed to be standing at any given time. The staging plans could lead to awkward placement of the voices, like having someone sing an aria entirely from the left or right speaker, and eventually this type of staging became restricted to entrances, exits and other important movements with most of the singing placed at or near the middle.

  • Novelty singer Napoleon XIV, best known for "They're Coming To Take Me Away, Ha-Ha!" did a piece called "I Live in a Split-Level Head" where the first round of lyrics are in both channels — and then each channel simultaneously plays different lyrics.note 

  • On Miranda Lambert's "Crazy Ex-Girlfriend" does this with the lines "I watched her for a while but I didn't like her walk / Came across kinda cheap to me, but how's that my fault?" The last half of the first line pans the backing vocals entirely to the left, while the last half of the next line pans them all the way to the right.
  • On Dustin Lynch's "Where It's At (Yep, Yep)", the last repetition of the line "It ain't in a souped-up shiny red new truck, if she ain't to my right" pans left, center, right.
  • On Chase Bryant's "Take It On Back", the last repetitions of "Take it on back, take it on back" before the last chorus pan left-to-right slowly.

  • Giorgio Moroder combined stereophonic panning with synthesisers in many of his recordings between the late 1970s and early 1980s. Among the most notable examples are Donna Summer's I Feel Love and the Chase theme from Midnight Express.

  • Joy Electric:
    • In the spoken-word song "Hello Mannequin", the vocal track abruptly switches from the left channel to the right channel and back again with every single line.
    • On "Like Fools, They Bathed in the Pools", the song climaxes with two synthesizers soloing at the same time, one in the left channel and one in the right.
  • In Propellerheads version of "On Her Majesties Secret Service" the opening trumpets swing repeatedly from left to right.
  • Symbion Project's "the difference between order & chaos is only the distance between your two speakers" has on one channel percussion and a recording of the captain's announcement from an airplane takeoff and on the other channel all the other instruments and the famous "Oh the humanity!" recording from the Hindenburg crash.
  • "Before the Storm" by Joker (off the OverClocked ReMix album Project Chaos) opens with a synth-bell melody that switches between the left and right channels with every single note. It's fast enough that you have to listen to the song on headphones to catch it.
  • The vocals on the final line of the Vocaloid song Wide Knowledge of the Late, Madness use this trope to great effect, even more so when watching the video: the repeated 'watashi, watashi' swings back and forth from left to right, creating the illusion of Miku gradually breaking down until the abrupt cutoff.
  • Leftfield's "A Final Hit". Listen to the beginning with headphones. Don't forget your Dramamine.
  • The Neon Judgement's "Billy Tcherno and the Pretty Petrouchka" has two different sets of lyrics, one on the right and one on the left.
  • Many Fatboy Slim songs. For instance, the end of "Soul Surfing" has the drum track fade from one ear to the other and back again.
  • Animusic does this with the surround mix of Gyro Drums in the electronic drum part to great effect.

  • Satirically used by Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention throughout We're Only in It for the Money.
  • The Residents' song Sinister Exaggerator - Bass to the very left, guitar (?) to the very right, and vocals and violin in the middle.
  • Towards the end of Mr. Bungle's "Dead Goon", the entire song starts panning back and forth in a similar manner to "Interstellar Overdrive", as a creaky swinging rope sound effect stays in the center of the mix. It's pretty creepy in context: The song is about someone dying while practicing auto-erotic asphyxiation, so this section of the song is probably supposed to represent the death itself.
  • Falling Up's Christmas album Silver City does this at the end of "Song in the Air". The keyboards rapidly switch back and forth between left and right channels as the song begins to fade out. It's either awesome or really distracting... or both.

  • The acoustic version of "The Sound of Silence" by Simon & Garfunkel has the vocals on the left channel, with the backing vocals and guitar on the right. The electric version has the drums on the left and the guitar on the right.
  • Danielson's "A Song for Every Speaker" (from the compilation Art Core Volume 2) is literally two different songs played at the same time, one in each channel.

  • George Clinton didn't have much experience as a producer in Funkadelic's early years, and thus employed this trope often ("Mommy, What's a Funkadelic?", "What Is Soul?"), and arguably drove it to its logical conclusion on Free Your Mind and Your Ass Will Follow, with the erratic, disorienting panning of the title track and "Eulogy and Light".
  • The Temptations song "Slave" (from Puzzle People) has been described by one reviewer as having "enough panning to make George Clinton dizzy".
  • The Sly and the Family Stone albums Life and Stand!! love putting the drums on the right channel.

  • Metric's song "Ending Start" plays with this at the beginning.
  • Spoiler Alert by They Might Be Giants has two concurrent melodies, one in each ear, to tell the story of two careless drivers colliding.
  • "Trouble Come Running" by Spoon features the lead vocals and bass guitar in the center, with guitar and backing vocals panned hard right and drums panned hard left.

  • Nine Inch Nails tend to fool around with stereo more subtly, but they have their more obvious examples, such as: "Gave Up"'s outro, "I Do Not Want This" and "Last".
    • On "1,000,000," off of The Slip, about 2/3 of the way through the song, there's a whisper of "A million miles awaaaay..." panned all the way to the right. In a song with zero panning otherwise, it sounds like somebody's right next to you, speaking in your ear.
  • Marilyn Manson's "Fundamentally Loathsome" plays with this: For the first 2:40 of the song, almost everything is panned either hard left or hard right. Then when it transitions to a louder, more rocking section, the mix is suddenly much more centered.
  • Throbbing Gristle's live shows are typically recorded in a fashion where one segment is panned on one side while another is either dead silent or consistently ringing (Or something in between).

  • Esquivel! often used gratuitous panning in his lounge jazz music; sometimes going so far as to have separate bands is different rooms to emphasize the stereo.
  • Miles Davis: Once his albums started being mixed in stereo in the 60s, typically the piano/guitar/bass would be mixed to the left channel, with drums right and horns middle, as was standard at the time. However, in the 70s fusion era the songs became weirder and the personnel lists grew, and producer Teo Macero was given free rein to experiment:
    • In A Silent Way : In the left channel is McLaughlin on guitar, Corea on Wurlitzer and Shorter on Soprano Saxophone, center has Davis and Holland on bass, and on the right is Zawinul on Hammond, Hancock on Rhodes, and Williams on Drums.
    • Bitches Brew : Each track has two drummers, two pianists (three on "Pharaoh's Dance" and the title track) two bassists, and two percussionists, all mixed to different channels. In addition, McLaughlin's guitar is mixed to the right, and on the Title Track, Davis's trumpet has an echo effect which switches between left and right.
    • Big Fun has two extreme examples recorded shortly after Bitches Brew-
      • "Great Expectations/Orange Lady" - On left is McLaughlin on guitar (though it has a delayed echo effect panned to center) an electric piano, Moreira on percussion, one bassist, Grossman on sax, and Cobham on drums (except his high-hat, which is panned to the right), in the center is Davis (though his trumpet has an echo that switches between all channels) and another electric piano, and on right is Sharma on tambura and tablas, Balakrishna on electric sitar, Maupin on Clarinet, and another bassist.
      • "Go Ahead John" - DeJohnette's drums and McLaughlin's guitar switch between left and right channel randomly between beats, while everything else is mixed to center (until the bridge, where Davis's trumpet is mixed to center, with reverb mixed to the right and a very delayed echo to the left.) (Notably, this song was used by producer Teo Macero to test out an automatic channel switcher, which would he used increasingly throughout this period)
    • Live-Evil is less extreme than the proceeding albums, but notably Keith Jarrett plays electric piano and organ simultaneously, with both panned to different channels.
    • On The Corner - Everything switches channels all the time.
    • Get Up With It on "He Loved Him Madly", Mtume's congas switch channels constantly, as do the three guitar tracks, which change places so frequently its difficult to tell which musician is playing.
    • Dark Magus has Cosey's guitar, synthesizer, and percussion all mixed to the left channel; Davis's trumpet and organ and Liebman and Lawrence's saxophones all in center (which makes it difficult to tell which sax is playing) as well as Foster's drums and Henderson's bass, and on the right are Lucas and Gaumont on guitar (and meanwhile, Mtume's percussion switches between channels) (Agharta and Pangea are mixed the same, but omit Lawrence and Gaumont, and replace Liebman with Fortune)
    • The mixing becomes much less extreme in the 80s (even with Macero producing), though typically percussion tracks will still be split between channels, though come Tutu and Amandla (produced by Marcus Miller) there's lots of layered synth patches and percussion programming (and occasionally live instruments) mixed to different channels.
  • On the Al Di Meola, John McLaughlin, and Paco DeLucia live album Friday Night in San Francisco, the tracks with two guitarists would confine one to the left channel and the other to the right. The remaining tracks added the third guitarist in the center channel. Mind you, these guitarists were the only musicians on the album.
  • For Duke Ellington & Count Basie's collaborative album The Count Meets the Duke, all the musicians from Ellington's band were confined to one channel and those from Basie's band were confined to the other.
  • Ornette Coleman's Free Jazz: A Collective Improvisation is recorded with a "double quartet" - two separate jazz quartets improvising both as separate groups and together - panned entirely to one stereo channel each.

  • Blue Cheer's album Vincebus Eruptum invariably separates the drums on one channel (either left or right). On "Summertime Blues" and "Doctor Please" the rest of the instruments are put on the left. "Out of Focus" separates the guitar (left channel) and bass (right channel). "Second Time Around" has an entire bass-and-drum solo entirely on the right channel.
  • Post-Brave New World Iron Maiden does it, since the number of guitarists jumped to 3 (example: in Rock in Rio, Dave Murray's guitar is in the left speaker, Janick Gers' is in the right one, and Adrian Smith is in the middle).
  • Children of Bodom's "Touch Like Angel of Death". Lead guitar pretty much completely on the right channel.
  • Oceanic by Isis has a lot of this.
  • Therion's 2007 album "Gothic Kabbalah" contains a song titled "Tuna 1613" (nothing to do with fish) which does this once, as the only instance on the entire album. It's brief, only done with the guitar, and falls right smack in the middle of the song, but for some reason it really jumps out at you.
  • Helloween uses this briefly in "Kill It", alternately killswitching the left and right guitar tracks really quickly for about a second. It's pretty jarring if you've got headphones on.
  • Machinae Supremacy's "Hero" has two guitar solos playing at once, one for each channel. They're written so that one track is shredding while the other plays more slowly and melodically, switching every once in a while.
  • The beginning of Slipknot's "Psychosocial" and "Sulfur"
  • Xandria's "Soulcrusher"
  • A common trend in metal albums from the late '80s and early '90s, especially Thrash Metal, was to pan the two guitars as far left and right as possible, which leads to strange effects wearing headphones, as each guitar is only heard through one ear. Metal Church did it a lot.
  • Krallice's albums are usually mixed with Mick Barr's guitar in one channel and Colin Marston's in the other, which helps listeners parse their complex instrumental interplay more easily.

    New Wave 
  • The Cars' song "Moving in Stereo" does exactly that with the vocals.
  • Daniel Amos' "Live and Let Live" (from Vox Humana) features chorus vocals that bounce from the left channel, to the center, to the right, and back again.

  • Parodied by Spinal Tap with their 1965 single "Gimme Some Money", the drums being entirely on the left channel and the clapping on the right.
  • On the Coraline soundtrack, the back up vocals move back and forth between the channels. The song? Exploration.
  • "Ectobiology" from the Homestuck Volume 5 album, when it was released, originally had a panning effect added that made the song swoop from left to right and back again, rhythmically with the music for the entire length of the song. When people listening through headphones complained of headaches, the panning version was removed from the album and replaced with a much less gimmicky one.
  • A variation is used in the beatmania IIDX games: Any notes hit by player 1 play primarily on the left channel, and any notes hit by player 2 play on the right channel. In Double Mode, notes hit on the left half play on the left channel, and notes hit on the right half play on the right channel. Notes played on each side are faintly heard on the opposite channel, though.
  • Beat Hazard Abuse
    I am in your left ear.
    I'm now in your right ear.
    Now I'm back in your left ear.
  • You could use "Go Straight" from Streets of Rage 2 to test your speakers. The first few bars bounce from left to right every note.
  • The opening notes of the Chill Penguin stage music in Mega Man X bounce between the left and right speakers a couple of times before transitioning into the main part of the track.
  • On Strong Bad Sings and Other Type Hits, the songs "The System is Down" and "I Think I Have a Chance With This Guy" both use this in parts, with Strong Bad's "DOOOOOOOJ"s in the former and What's Her Face's "Guy, guy, guy, guy" in the latter.
  • The second part of the song "A Man's Gotta Do" from Dr. Horrible has Penny on the right only, Billy on the left and Captain Hammer in both, so you can easily hear all three when they sing at the same time.
  • Occurs in the first two generations of Pokémon:
    • In Generation 1, stereo audio was available only in the later Pokémon Yellow via the headphone jack and tweaking the options menu. All this did was apply each of the audio channels to either the left, right, or both ears, with only the new Yellow-exclusive music getting bespoke mixes that actually moved the channels around. This can sound rather bizarre if you're used to the mono versions that came out of the Game Boy's single speaker, but since this option was so obscure most people didn't even know to critique it.
    • For Pokémon Gold and Silver, the stereo option now included proper mixing that sounds a bit more natural, and thus this trope is played more traditionally. For example, the opening of Cherrygrove City quickly introduces its layers in the right ear, then the middle, then the left ear. Violet City's piece pans one of its background layers from right to left and then back again throughout, while Rock Tunnel is perhaps the most creative use where the left ear is used for a literal echo of the right ear!

  • "Sunglasses at Night" by Corey Hart does this with every keyboard note.
  • Winked at on Aimee Mann's The Forgotten Arm, which tries its hardest to sound like a 1970s album.
  • "Dan Dare" by the The Art Of Noise has an incredibly jarring panning effect partway in that almost spoils the music entirely.
  • "Blasphemous Rumors" by Depeche Mode uses this effect.
  • "Slave to the Rhythm" by Grace Jones largely averts this. However, one track 'Don't Cry, It's only the Rhythm' features very heavy panning. At parts the music is played entirely in one channel, with sound effects in the other. From time to time it switches over, at one point doing so several times a second. Since the rest of the album is otherwise well balanced, it must have been a deliberate decision.
  • The entire first disc of Beyonce's "Sasha Fierce" album is skewed to the left channel. This is most likely due to error in mixing or mastering.
  • The heavily distorted outro to Charli XCX's "Click" features this, along with the intro to "Shake It".
  • Glass Animals' debut album "ZABA" features this throughout, especially during interludes between tracks.

    Prog Rock 
  • "Astral Traveler" by Yes.
    • The guitar solo in "Owner Of A Lonely Heart" pans all over the stereo spectrum.
  • "Supper's Ready" by Genesis twiddles the vocals from left to right for 20 minutes.
  • Pink Floyd is infamous for using the technique:
    • In the breakdown at the end of "Interstellar Overdrive" from The Piper at the Gates of Dawn, the whole thing pans back and forth pretty fast to sound like the music is spinning around the listener. There's a reason most fans prefer the mono mix of the album.
    • The kazoo solos in "Corporal Clegg" from A Saucerful of Secrets pan from one side to the other and back a few times each.
    • Also egregious in "One Of These Days". This was originally achieved live through a device called "The Azimuth Controller".
    • In "Take Up Thy Stethoscope and Walk", both guitar and bass are panned to the left, while the organ and drums are panned to the right. In the middle of the song, they switch for a few seconds before switching back at the end.
    • The song "Lucifer Sam" from the same album also exaggerates the trope in that, with each repetition of the riff, the guitar track moves to a different position in the stereo field. Meanwhile, the drums and the vocals are separated as per usual with a song from The '60s.
    • "Welcome To The Machine" from Wish You Were Here (1975) has a pulsating low synth drone throughout switching from left to right.
    • "Run Like Hell" from The Wall has the vocals switch from left to right with every line Roger sings.
    • Part of "Any Colour You Like" from The Dark Side of the Moon features the guitar switching between left and right constantly.
  • Common in Prog. "Thoughts" by Spock's Beard follows the Queen example by putting alternating lines on alternating channels - the third line goes through the middle.
    • Indeed - common on anything engineered by Alan Parsons or James Guthrie, including Pink Floyd or Pink Floyd later solo artists.
    • Good luck trying to make sense of the first verse of Dream Theater's "The Glass Prison" if one of your speakers is messed up, on that note. The vocals alternate between the left and right channel, giving it a panicked, uneasy sound, which makes sense - the song is about the drummer's battle to recover from alcoholism.
    • Neo-proggers Citizen Cain often use two simultaneous, counterpointed vocals, though it's not always possible to separate them because on some of the songs neither is 100% to the left or right.
  • The fadey outey ending thing Dream Theater has at the end of "Panic Attack" alternates between the left and right channel, which is a bit disorienting when you have headphones on.
  • The final minute of Emerson, Lake & Palmer's "Karn Evil 9" has a techno-sounding beat that slowly gets faster in addition to playing with this technique. It's built so that on a full stereo system it sounds like something running progressively faster and faster around the room, but with headphones it has the effect of sounding like it's running back and forth through your brain. When played live in 1974, the live sound was quadrophonic, and the synth-loop at the end would spin around the audience. A DVD Audio version of "Brain Salad Surgery" where the track originates, remixed in surround sound, was released by Rhino in 2000. Also, the internet claims that their triple live-LP from 1974 was also released in a (now) obscure Quad tape cartridge format.
  • Van der Graaf Generator's "Darkness (11/11)" has most of its vocals on the left, with piano and saxophone on the right. Only the counterpoint vocals ("Wicked little scorpion, doomed to die / A thousand times before he lives") are also on the right.
  • An interesting example in "Hemispheres" by Rush: on the singing of the word "hemispheres", it's played once in the left channel before rapidly coming in on the right as well, making it sound like two Geddy Lees standing on either side of the singer.
  • Cleverly used on "Better Days" by Supertramp, when it uses clips of speeches from the 1984 Presidential campaign; Republicans Ronald Reagan and George Bush on the right channel, Democrats Walter Mondale and Geraldine Ferraro on the left.
  • Dream Theater's "The Great Debate" uses spoken word samples in a very similar fashion to "Better Days": the more progressive, pro-choice viewpoints are panned to the left speaker while the conservative, pro-life samples are panned to the right. James LaBrie's vocals are also panned as such when the perspective arises, most noticeably in the opening verses.
  • In the "finale" of Mike Oldfield's "Tubular Bells Pt.1", each instrument makes its entrance as announced by Vivian Stanshall on the far left, then, as it plays the melody, it gradually moves across the soundstage - sometimes all the way to the far side, sometimes to somewhere in the middle - and stays there as the next instrument enters, so that by the time the title instruments make their entrance, the instruments that preceded them are all playing from different directions. (And if that's not elaborate enough for you, there's a quadraphonic version "for people with four ears", to quote the sleeve.note )

    Psychedelic Rock 
  • Jimi Hendrix:
    • Are You Experienced - "Foxy Lady" puts the vocals on the left channel, whereas "Purple Haze" favours the right. "Manic Depression" has all the guitars on the left. "Fire" separates the bass and guitars to the left and right, respectively. "Are You Experienced" does the same, but with the drums and guitars. "The Wind Cries Mary" does the same, but this time with the vocals and drums.
    • Axis: Bold As Love - "If 6 Was 9" keeps the vocals on the right channel and the guitars on the left... mostly. "You Got Me Floatin'" separates the drums on the left channel. "Castles Made of Sand" puts the rhythm guitar on the right channel, and the reversed licks on the left. "She's So Fine" and "Little Miss Lover" keep the rhythm guitar on the right, before indulging in rapid panning of their own.
    • Electric Ladyland - "Crosstown Traffic" twiddles the panning knobs like crazy (curiously keeping the rhythm guitars on the right channel). "Voodoo Chile" keeps the organ on the left channel. "Little Miss Strange", "Long Hot Summer Night" and "Come On (Let the Good Times Roll)" do the same to the drums. "Burning of the Midnight Lamp" pushes the harpsichord to the left and the wah'ed guitar to the right. "1983... (A Merman I Should Turn to Be)" too engages in heavy knob-twiddling throughout its 13 minute length. The slide guitar solo in "All Along the Watchtower" is slightly panned from left to right.
    • Both the introductions to Axis ("EXP") and Ladyland ("...And the Gods Made Love") apply heavy, disorienting panning to guitar feedback, and phased noise respectively.
  • While producing Fresh Cream, Robert Stigwood decided to put all the drums on the right channel. Then he went overboard on "I Feel Free", where all the instruments are on the right channel, the tambourine on the left, and the vocals filling the gaps.
    • Felix Pappalardi applied the drums on the right technique to Disraeli Gears as well, and restricted the reverb on the vocals to the right channel on "Mother's Lament".
  • Zaireeka by The Flaming Lips: The tracks are spread across four separate CD's, and the listener is supposed to play all of them simultaneously in four separate CD players.
  • Hawkwind's D-Rider features synth parts that constantly zig-zag between left and right. It wasn't the only time they played around with the stereo.
  • Bubble Puppy's "Hot Smoke & Sasafrass" is a knob-twiddling extravaganza. The stereo placement of both vocals and instruments changes after every line.

  • Iggy Pop's supposedly diastrous first mix of The Stooges' Raw Power isolated all the instruments on the left channel and all the vocals on the right (it couldn't have been worse than his last one). David Bowie was called in for a remixing job, which is in itself a near infamous case of divisiveness.
  • The original single version of The Germs' "Forming" has the vocals panned hard left and everything else hard right. It was recorded to two track and all of the instruments other than the vocals were recorded at once with one microphone, so to be fair really any attempt at giving it a "stereo" effect would sound like gratuitous panning to some extent.
  • On the Stranglers' 1980 single "Bear Cage", the keyboard constantly moves back and forth between the left and right channels; the restless, almost circular nature of the riff it plays creates the impression that the keyboard itself is running in circles around the listener's head. On the 12" mix of the single, the first two appearances of the four-chord guitar riff have the chords alternating between speakers (first left-right-left-right, then right-left-right-left); for the rest of the song, the guitar is in the centre.
  • The self-titled album by the Ramones consistently placed guitar in the left speaker, bass in the right, and vocals and drums in the center. When Screeching Weasel did a song-for-song Cover Album of Ramones, they had their version mixed the same way.
  • On the bridge of Agent Orange's Breakdown the vocals are panned back and forth every line giving the effect of hearing voices in your head.

  • Paris' song "AWOL" has the sound bounce around when the narrator of the song describes a confusing situation where his unit was caught in friendly fire.
  • Tyler the Creator uses this effect at the end of his songs "Yonkers" and "Tron Cat."
  • De La Soul's "En Focus", during Posdnuos's verse.
  • "Runaway" from Kanye West's My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy pans the accusation 'who got you?' from left to right, as though the listener is being accosted from every direction.

  • The Beatles: It's worth noting that The Beatles stereo mixing was done by other people and the band wasn't present during these sessions. There's a reason they say that "you haven't heard Sgt. Pepper's if you haven't heard it in mono." Their only album that was recorded directly to stereo and had the Beatles present and supervising the final mix was Abbey Road. It's also worth noting that this trope was the reason why George Martin remixed two of the groups earlier albums (Help! and Rubber Soul) when they were released on CD for the first time in 1987. He also wanted to remix their first four albums as well, but thanks to EMI, didn't have enough time, so they were issued with the original mono mixes instead.
    • Good luck trying to hear the vocals on "Norwegian Wood" from Rubber Soul if your right channel/speaker/ear is broken.
    • "Run For Your Life" puts the rhythm section entirely on the left channel.
    • "Taxman" from Revolver used the "I Feel Free" method, bundling everything on the left channel, leaving tambourine and cowbell on the right, and filling the center with vocals.
    • "Rain" has everything in either one channel or the other.
    • "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" puts the vocals on the left, and the rest on the right.
    • "Fixing a Hole" and "Lovely Rita" put most of the instrumentation on the left channel.
    • "Good Morning Good Morning" puts the guitars and drums on the left, the vocals in the centre, and the saxophones and Title Drop vocals on the right; if your right channel/speaker/ear is broken, the result sounds uncannily like the Anthology version of the song. The cacophony of animal sound effects in the fadeout moves back and forth between the two channels.
    • The Magical Mystery Tour album puts almost everything on the left channel, brass on the right channel, and the vocals in the center. The exceptions: "The Fool on the Hill", "Your Mother Should Know", "I Am the Walrus".
    • "Yellow Submarine" throws the vocals on the right channel, and the rest on the left. The sound fx stay on the center.
    • Most songs on the The White Album and some on Abbey Road separate the drums on one of the channels, and sometimes most of the instrumentation as well.
    • On the opening series of 'Number 9' in "Revolution 9", 'Number' is on the left and '9' is on the right. Makes it even more disconcerting.
    • The opening of "Back in the USSR" has a jet engine noise starting in the left speaker and moving gradually over to the right, designed to create the effect of a plane passing over the listener.
    • In many cases rather than an artistic decision actually they had no other option. For the first album they recorded in a two track tape. Two track recordings were either "stereo" or "twin track". For a stereo recording you did the stereo mixing live and recorded the already mixed down results to the tape, effectively condensing the modern processes of "tracking" and "balancing" into one. That's the reason why orchestral and jazz recordings of the 50s sound so natural even if they are recorded in 2-track - they were recorded already mixed to stereo. For the Beatles recordings, as they were not after a "natural" sound they used twin track - band mixed down to one track, vocals mixed down to the other, so they could balance vocals and instruments in the mono mix. The stereo mix was just the unmixed two track tape with a bit of reverb added to blend both channels.
  • The Who:
    • "I Can See for Miles" piles the drums on the right channel and the guitars on the left.
    • "Magic Bus" throws the backing vocals of "Ride on the magic bus!" on the right channel, and the guitars on the left. Then proceeds to bounce the vocals between left and right.
    • The vocals of "I'm a Boy" are exclusively on the left channel.
    • "Armenia City in the Sky" and "Odorono" stack the guitars and drums on the left channel.
    • "Our Love Was", "We're Not Gonna Take It" and "The Real Me" restrict the drums to the left channel.
    • "Behind Blue Eyes" sticks the acoustic guitar on the right channel, and its reverb on the left.
    • So does "Pinball Wizard".
    • "Young Man Blues" (studio version) puts the guitars on the right channel and the bass on the left.
    • Live At Leeds separates the bass to the left channel and the guitar to the right. As the bass is played with distortion and lots of middle it sounds almost like a guitar.
    • "Who Are You" separates the acoustic guitar into the left channel and the lead guitar into the right channel, with the vocals, bass, drums, and piano in the centre. The synthesiser, meanwhile, is alternately panned left and right on each note.
    • "Eminence Front" puts the lead vocal in the left channel.
  • The Doors:
    • Invariably throughout The Doors the drums are kept on the left channel, and the guitar and organ take turns remaining on the right.
    • The Strange Days gimmick is to keep the bass on the left channel and the guitars sometimes on the right ("People Are Strange", "Love Me Two Times"), or the keyboards.
    • Waiting For The Sun pans the keyboards to the left, and the guitars (or the bass) to the right.
    • Morrison Hotel returns to the technique of the first album - drums left, alternating guitar/keyboards right, with the occasional variation.
    • L.A. Woman combines all these techniques.
    • Weird Al's Doors parody, Craigslist literally inverts this by by placing Ray Manzarek's organ on the left channel.
  • Ted Templeman's main studio gimmick when producing Van Halen was running the guitar through heavy reverb, panning the guitar to the left channel and the reverb to the right, to simulate a "live" sound, which guitarist Eddie Van Halen resented.
  • Velvet Underground:
    • "White Light/White Heat" keeps the drums on the right channel, and separates the two vocalists (Reed, Cale).
    • "The Gift" keeps the instrumentation on the left and the spoken word on the right.
    • "The Murder Mystery" has two spoken word performances by Reed and Sterling Morrison on the left and right channel respectively, and vocals by Maureen Tucker and Doug Yule with the same arrangement.
  • Led Zeppelin:
    • Led Zeppelin I: "Good Times, Bad Times" and "I Can't Quit You Baby" pan the drums to the right channel. "Babe I'm Gonna Leave You" does the same to the acoustic guitar.
    • Led Zeppelin II: "Whole Lotta Love" keeps the driving riff on the left channel, and furiously twiddles during the middle freakout and was made specifically to be appreciated with headphones. "The Lemon Song" keeps the guitars mostly on the left, "Thank You" does the same but on the right channel, and "Bring It On Home" alternates.
    • Led Zeppelin III: "Gallows Pole" puts the acoustic guitar intro on the left channel, and afterwards separates John Paul Jones' mandolin and Jimmy Page's mandolin on the left and right. "Bron-Y-Aur Stomp" pans the percussion to the left. "Hats Off to (Roy) Harper" is the most extreme example, keeping the slide guitar on the left channel and the vocals on the right.
    • Led Zeppelin IV: "Stairway to Heaven" keeps the acoustic guitars on the left channel. "Misty Mountain Hop" has the same riff played by keyboards panned to the left and guitar panned to the right. The disorienting coda of "When the Levee Breaks" was achieved entirely through panning, according to Jimmy Page; Robert Plant's vocals remain in the centre, but the guitars, bass, and drums repeatedly move from one side to the other and back again.
    • Houses of the Holy: "The Rain Song" keeps two sets of acoustic guitars on the left and right channels.
    • Physical Graffiti: "Custard Pie"'s main riff is played on guitar (right channel) and clavinet (left).
  • Black Sabbath:
    • Black Sabbath (album) mostly pans the guitar towards the left channel, either obviously ("Black Sabbath", "Sleeping Village") or more subtly (exception being "Evil Woman"). "Black Sabbath" also pans the the bass to the right channel, "The Warning" puts the guitar solo on the right channel, and "Wicked World" reverses the guitar-left-bass-right panning of "Black Sabbath".
    • Paranoid (Album) mostly shoves the guitar on the right channel and the bass on the left channel, with the exception of "Hand of Doom", where their position is reversed, and "Fairies Wear Boots", "Rat Salad" and "Paranoid", which center both.
    • Master of Reality: "Sweet Leaf" begins with a tape loop of Tony Iommi coughing panned from left to center. "Embryo" uses subtle panning. "Children of the Grave" uses panning on the spooky feedback-drenched coda. Outside of these, the album largely centers everything.
    • Volume 4 continues the trend of centering everything, with the exception of "FX" and "Laguna Sunrise".
  • Wishbone Ash frequently panned each of the lead guitars on a separate channel. It's quite interesting to listen to each one individually, as opposed to both at once.
  • "Talk Talk" by Alice Cooper.
  • The organ in Al Stewart's "Midas Shadow" wobbles prettily - and almost constantly - from channel to channel.
  • Collective Soul used this on a few songs. "Heavy" puts the distorted guitar intro so that it alternates channels between riffs, and "Energy" did the same with the vocals right before the chorus. The same song also put the vocals for the first verse on the right channel and everything else on the left.
  • Queens of the Stone Age tend to do this, at least, to a larger extent than most modern bands do.
  • Queen:
    • "Bohemian Rhapsody" from A Night at the Opera in particular — "Little high" the left speaker is followed by "Little low" in the right.
    • Justified in the canon of "The Prophet's Song", where voices are separated to make the whole thing easier to listen.
    • They actually mostly averted this trope; however, in "Who Needs You", the lead vocals are panned hard right, and in the beginning of "Millionaire Waltz", the bass is panned left and piano right with nearly no crosstalk.
    • Played completely straight with the remixed 12" extended versions of many of their songs in the '80s. Most egregious example award probably goes to "The Invisible Man". Try to see how many times/how long you can listen to this before getting a headache.
  • If you listen to The Monkees' track "Zilch" with headphones on, it sounds like the four of them are surrounding you.
  • In Elton John's "Crocodile Rock", whenever the lead vocals are double tracked, one track is panned left while the other is panned right, as though there's an Elton on either side of the listener. Meanwhile, every "la, la, la, la, la" is on the right channel and the left channel doubles up the melody on Farfisa organ. The song is very wide in stereo, but the chorus is the most gratuitous part of the song.
  • Frank Marino's guitar constantly pans back and forth at the end of "World Anthem".
  • In Powderfinger's "Like a Dog", the guitar is panned almost entirely to one side and then it switches to the other halfway through the song.
  • Foo Fighters' "Stacked Actors" starts with the guitar and drums panned all the way to the left and right respectively.
  • The album mix of "Elenore" by The Turtles uses gratuitous panning as part of its pastiche of mainstream pop. Though it's a justified use, many fans nevertheless prefer the mono single mix instead.
  • In the intro to "Lay Your Hands On Me" by Bon Jovi the "whoosh" sound effects pan from both left to right and right to left. The main song thankfully averts this.
  • Uriah Heep's debut album ...Very 'Eavy ...Very 'Umble is mixed with heavy usage of panning on every track. The opening song "Gypsy" has the organ on the right channel and guitar on the left for the whole piece, for example.
  • Employed for a narrative purpose by Thin Lizzy's "Emerald", which presents a story about raiders attacking some townsfolk. The second half of the song has two "dueling" guitars on the left and right audio track, playing against each other to represent the battle. When one comes out on top, it moves to the center, dominating both channels.

  • The stereo mix of "Good Lovin' " by The Rascals puts the lead vocal on different channels for each verse. This proved to be so obnoxious that almost every Rascals compilation album uses the mono mix instead.

  • The title track from the cast album of Man of La Mancha has Don Quixote and Sancho talking while they ride from one side of your head to the other.

  • "30th Century Man" by Scott Walker.
  • In an early example of stereophonic separation, The Righteous Brothers' "You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'" has the rhythm and melody section biased towards the left channel, and the orchestral section biased towards the right channel.
  • Billy Idol's "Catch My Fall", with the "wiz wiz wiz wiz wiz wiz" sound right before the chorus.


Non musical examples:

    Live Action TV 
  • DVD example: The stereo remix of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (1981) TV series places the narration of the Guide entries completely in one speaker, and the background music in the other.
  • The Muppet Show song "Mah Na Mah Na" (incidentally adapted from a song in a Swedish porno) has the monster singing in the opposite speaker to the backup singers, and during the chorus he switches between the two.
  • All over the place in this demo tape from Sacramento, CA TV station KOVR-13, which was the first in the market to begin broadcasting in stereo and produced the tape for a chain of local electronic stores to demonstrate the technology.

  • Speaking of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (1978), the original radio version had had the speech on middle channel on monologues. And not always then. Also on the radio version, the Vogon voice treatment for the first episode had the voice on the right, and the phasing effect that had been added to it on the left. Rather disconcerting if you take out your right earpiece...
  • More radio science fiction examples:
    • The Foundation Trilogy: This 1973 adaptation of Isaac Asimov's famous work starts with a computer voice speaking over the sound of a teleprinter. To imitate the effect of the machine printing, the voice pans slowly from left to right and then back at the end of each 'line'.
    • In the 1980s serials Earthsearch and Earthsearch II, whenever the two Angel computers are speaking to each other, one is on the left and the other on the right. (Originally, due to the limitations of FM stereo receivers, this tended to cause a slight distortion on the vacant channel. Now that the series is only re-run on the digital Radio 4 Extra, the problem no longer arises.)
    • Similarly, in the 1980s adaptation of Mervyn Peake's Titus Groan and Gormenghast, the voice of the Artist (i.e. narrator) is heard on the left channel only.
  • Son of Cliché: Aired in the early-middle 1980's when the BBC first experimented with stereo radio broadcasting, the radio precursor of Red Dwarf once opened with a parody of The Outer Limits (1963). If you listened on stereo headphones the joke was enhanced.
    Chris Barrie, as the Control Voice: We can take over your stereo speakers. We can do this to your left speaker (sound comes from left-hand speaker only.)
    (Several seconds of total silence)
    Chris Barrie, as the Control Voice: Your right-hand speaker isn't working.
  • Endemic in Big Finish Doctor Who, to the point that sometimes trying to visualise the scene based on where characters' voices are coming from can distract the listener from what they're actually saying.

    Video Game 
  • Every Amiga game soundtrack is hard-panned to the left or right speaker, as the hardware lacks a center channel. This can make them difficult to listen to with headphones unless the panning is rebalanced, as is sometimes the case with unofficial rips/uploads.
  • In some games with a free-moving camera, you can invoke this yourself. Have a surround sound system? Try panning the camera so that sound sources are behind it, and listen to how the sounds are coming from the rear speakers.
  • Many NES emulators have a stereo option that pans select channels to the left or right speakers. The panning can be adjusted all the way up to 100%, which is hard-panned. The NES was originally only in mono so it can be slightly different to listen to in speakers, but turning it off can restore the original mono mix. This stereo function can also be installed in real NES and Famicom hardware with a hardware mod.

    Western Animation 
  • In the 2007 Goofy short "How to Hook up Your Home Theater", when the narrator rattles off the various speakers any true home entertainment buff needs, the soundtrack adds instruments coming from the directions indicated in the picture until both Goofy and the home audience are completely surrounded.
    Narrator: [as Goofy dives headfirst into a box of stereo equipment, the camera pans to the schematic on the side] The modern sound system includes a multitude of speakers to provide a perfectly balanced soundscape. [a silhouette of Goofy appears in the chair in the centre of the picture; a speaker appears directly ahead of him] The centre channel. [saxophone music plays in the centre] Left and right front speakers. [the soundtrack adds piano music, panned slightly left and slightly right] A bit more to the left and a bit more to the right speakers. [trombone music starts playing, panned further left and further right] Surround speakers! [fiddle music starts playing, panned directly left and directly right] Surrounding surround speakers! [more brass music starts playing, now coming from behind both Goofy and the audience] And various overkill, to ensure EVENTUAL DEAFNESS SPEAKERS! [still more sounds are added from all directions; the resulting cacophony suddenly cuts off, leading the silhouette of Goofy dazed]