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Using Reference Tracks For Mixing (So your mixes sound great everywhere!)

mixing reference tracks Feb 28, 2020

Using reference tracks can be an incredibly useful way of checking your mix for mistakes before you call it done.


Nothing is worse than after spending hours on a mix, pondering over every move and finally having it sound great in your studio, to then hear it on a different system and it sounds horrible.


We’ve all been there and felt the frustration that goes along with it, so how can we ensure our mixes will sound great, everywhere?


Far from using references to “copy” ideas or constrain our creativity, references are used to check a few basic areas of a mix for consistency and prevent making simple mistakes.


It’s true to say that with experience there will come a time when needing to check reference tracks becomes less and less necessary, particularly as your experience and confidence grows and I see no harm - no matter what mixing level you’re at - taking a couple of minutes at the end of a mix to carry out a quick comparison to highlight any areas in your mix that aren’t quite sitting right.


This need only take a few seconds to a few minutes, whatever feels right and can be tremendously helpful for your confidence and to know you are growing as a mixer.


In the video, I talk about the main mix elements I listen to when comparing my mixes to reference tracks and, whilst you don’t need any new plugins to do this, I recommend a couple that I’m currently using to make the process easier.


This is also a great way to boost your listening skills.


Having great listening skills are one of the foundations to becoming an accomplished audio engineer, being able to focus in on sounds and frequencies quickly to get better results in the studio. By consistently comparing the high end, for example, of your mixes to that of your reference tracks will, in time, have you reaching for the most appropriate EQ band faster.


Being able to train your hearing like this will also stand you in good stead if you tend to mix in different studios or on different equipment. Maybe you move around studios because you don’t have space at home so you need to establish what those particular studio monitors are telling you so you can record and mix effectively.

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