Panning of piano libraries and realism

A German friend of mine believes the panning of a piano library, resulting from how usually pianos are sampled, can get in the way of realism when using such pianos together with other instruments, i.e.: band, orchestra, or other settings where a real piano is not positioned centre stage.

I kind of agree with him, his thinking makes absolute sense, when the piano is not played as a solo instrument in a piece of music. A possible solution to resolve this "issue" would certainly be to mono the piano and pan it accordingly. On the other hand, I have never received a complaint about my sample pianos in the context of tracks where there is plenty of other instruments.

I would like to know what other people may think about this


  • Panned piano seems to work fine with studio setups where there are fewer instruments and the panning is done more manually.

    I use specific piano vsts for orchestral works though, so I've never really had any issue with the placement. I'd definitely want to get a closer micd, wide panned piano further away and more centered if I was going to place it in an orchestral mix. I doubt it would be a huge problem either way; more of a preference for the piece you're writing.

  • Agreed, it can totally boil down to personal preference, too, and what sound one wants to achieve

  • As @superkons says, this is a matter of preference and what suits the track.

    In the world of live keyboards piano stereo imaging is very much an active debate, the default is to hard pan L and R which gives you maximum fidelity but to many sounds less realistic than a more focused image. Some even swear by mono sounds - though the vast majority of options (for "real" pianos at least, Rhodes/Wurlis are mono!) are stereo by default.

    Separating out your stereo piano tracks and panning accordingly is the simple option, there are also some more advanced spatial imaging approaches to move the sound "backwards" or "forwards" as needed.

    For me EQ is a hugely powerful option - I find rolling off the bass on the piano adds focus, rolling off the very high end adds "distance". And don't be shy of experimenting with reverb, a "wetter" sound tends to move backwards.

    Oh - and check your mix on various speakers AND headphones. Some of the more advanced treatments sound amazing on headphones but less so otherwise.

  • Thanks @cyberoctopus for chiming in