The A-Z Of Music-Making: The P’s – From Panning To Publishing

We’re getting into a rather meaty edition of the A-Z as we explore 10 essential P’s of music-making. Missed some letters? Check out our other A-Z entries.



(For the best of each definition click the title)

1. Panning

Moving the audio signal between the left and right channels by changing the volume on each side. Panning elements of a mix is very useful for creating space and interest. Make sure all very low frequencies are panned centrally, otherwise this can cause problems when played back in a club context – the needle may even jump off the record on a vinyl pressing.

Assign an LFO to the pan to create a rotary effect; this works great on Rhodes piano and organs. Check out some Beatles records from the mid 60s (in particular, their 1967 opus Sgt. Pepper’s…) when stereo recording first arrived. George Martin and his engineers were fearlessly experimental – they would pan drums hard right and vocals hard left.

2. Parallel Compression

This process involves heavily compressing a signal and then mixing some of the original unprocessed signal back in. It’s an often-used trick that can work superbly to bring an energy to drums or vocals… even a whole mix, adding punch while preserving some of the quiet-loud dynamic of a part.

3. Patch


A sound stored in a synth, FX plug-in, DAW channel strip or device. Patches are great for inspiration. If you make a synth sound or effects process, store it in a patch for future recall.

4. Phase

The difference in degrees between two audio waveforms. 0 degrees is in phase, 180 degrees is out of phase. When one side of a stereo recording is out of phase a lifeless hole appears in the stereo field. A phaser uses an LFO into a delay, altering phase to create its classic modulation sound.

5. Phono

A type of unbalanced audio connection commonly used on hi-fi systems, home cinema and DJ gear.

6. Pitch Correction

Also referred to as Auto-Tune, Vari Audio, Melodyne and Revoice, pitch-correction is a process that measures and alters pitch in vocal and instrument recordings. Pitch-correction technology can take the form of hardware units or software plug-ins, and was invented in the 1970s by Eventide, with its H910 Harmonizer, the first fully digital effects unit.

In 1997, Antares came out with the groundbreaking Auto-Tune plug-in. The intention was to correct out-of-tune vocals and instruments, adjusting their pitch to a set scale. The music industry changed overnight. Before, singers had to be able to pitch in tune, now anybody could sing into a mic and, with a sprinkle of software magic, could yield a good (if occasionally artificial-sounding) vocal.

Producers started experimenting with extreme tuning settings on Auto-Tune, resulting in the robotic sound that is now a vocal style in its own right and is best exemplified by Cher’s Believe.

7. Polyphony

How many notes a keyboard, synth or plug-in can play at the same time.

8. Preamp

A preamp is a device to amplify and bolster the signal from a microphone or instrument, ready to be sent to the mixer or interface. A simple preamp would just be an amplifier in a box with an input and output. Preamps can also have multiple features such as gain, EQ, compression and valve-amp stages.


A ‘producer’ brings all of the elements of making a track together. These may include:

  • Overseeing the sound-recording process
  • Selecting session musicians
  • Coaching singers and musicians in the studio
  • Co-writing or gathering ideas for the track
  • Supervising the mixing and mastering

On a big music project, a producer is one part of a large team of creators, but is generally relied upon to oversee and manage all steps of the recording and mixing process.

10. Publishing

Songwriters and composers are the copyright owners of songs. A songwriter may assign the copyright rights to a publishing company, which will collect payments made when the compositions are used commercially. Income can be generated from radio, TV and live performance.