There are several aspects of mixing which can make a huge difference, level being the most obvious. But the position of the pan knob is just as important as the fader level. The fact is, the two are wholly related. If you have a track which can’t seem to find it’s place with the fader, it may be moving the pan a bit may just be what is needed to make it pop through.
You gotta remember that panning is a form of level. It’s something that can be easily seen with an oscillator. Put a 1K tone in a track and put the fader so you get a reading in the master fader. From there pan the track from hard left to hard right and watch the corresponding level change in that master fader. You’ll see it move up and down as you pan. That’s a clear demonstration and reminder of this relationship.
I wrote this a while back and recently found an Q&A video with the famous rock mixer Andrew Sheps who has become rather famous for mixing only with L-C-R (Left, Center, Right) panning. By the way...watch this video. It’s great!
In the video he was asked about this and confessed he does it not because of some mix philosophy, but because of the limitation of the Neve console he uses. (He hates the pan pot insertion) However when mixing in the box, he often pans between those three primary spots.
All to say, listen carefully to great mixes. You’ll hear (almost all) great mixers use all of the stereo space. They don’t just use hard left, right, mono, but use all the available space to find a place each track. So when you mix, don’t’ hesitate to use all that sonic real estate.