When hard-panning a lead guitar it folds to mono, doesn't it? How is that using the whole stereo field then? Can someone help me out? What am i not getting here?
It will fold to mono when you hit the "mono" button. Just like everything else would. Let's say you have a mono track with the lead guitar. It does not have any stereo width on its own. It never will have any, wherever you pan it. But the stereo width of the mix increases when you pan it out of the center (provided that the rest of the mix is in the center). But mono lead instruments are often kept in the center anyway, so this scenario isn't the most common.
Of course it makes no sense at all to (hard) pan two exact copies of the lead guitar left and right. It would stay mono, because you are doing what a (un-panned) mono track is doing anyway: sending the same thing to the left and right speaker.
You would need two takes of that lead guitar. THEN you can pan them both hard opposite each other. The little sonic differences between the takes will make it "stereo". Same thing with backing vocals and everything else.
Beatnik, you write sth. similar: "(...) panning elements hard left and right creates a more wide stereo image." What has panning hard to do with the width of the stereo image?
A lot actually. Just take two different (mono) tracks and pan them both center. Now pan one 50L and one 50R. Now pan one hard left and one hard right. Obviously, listen in between.... - Exactly.
Hard panning makes (most) sense with doubled parts (mono tracks), or sounds that have a similar function playing at the same time.
A "true" stereo sound coming from a stereo recorded (acoustic) instrument or a stereo sound created for example by a stereo chorus is actually very different from just having two mono tracks panned hard (or not) left and right - for example a doubled guitar part. It is both a stereo sound overall, but the guitars are just two mono sounds that give you a stereo feel when played together, while the stereo recorded instrument or the stereo chorus gives a single sound source a stereo width. The ear is pretty good a differentiating this (part of the reason why it always sounds fake when you try to create a double guitar part from a single performance...)
Maybe you are just over-thinking all of this? Just grab some tracks and pan around a little. It should make perfect sense. All you have to do is think about what you are actually doing to the track and check back with what you're hearing.
Here is my current project for you to listen to.
The vocals are still missing.
In the verse it is: kick, bass, snare, hihats, pad, synth-melody and vocal sample. In the hook a second synth-meoldy is added. Everything is panned center.
Now, if i'd want to go with the l-c-r-approach, which elements would you consider for panning hard right/left?
With a sparse arrangement like this, it makes a lot of sense to keep most stuff in the middle. You are getting the stereo information from the delays and reverb. Now, with most (software) synthesizers, chance are they give you a stereo signal to begin with (sounds like your hook melody is such a case) If you'd pan them hard to one side would just make them mono. I find in most cases it's better to give just them "a direction" by panning i.e. the L channel hard L and the R channel in the center or between the center and R. Or simply just leave them be.I
wouldn't pan anything hard in this particular case.