Collection of Reference Tracks and General Approach

Discussion in 'Mixing and Mastering' started by olson, Feb 15, 2014.

  1. olson

    olson Noisemaker

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    Hey mates,
    we should collect some reference tracks here in this thread!!!

    do you know how helpful it is to compare your sound to the sound you want to reach?

    If you have tips and tri(a)cks you'd like to recommend, please share them here - to keep an good overview write the genre on top of your post .

    Also dont hesitate to post requests here because in this case a lot helps a lot :thumbsup:


    [​IMG]


    For information on risks and side-effects please read the following pack insert and ask your doctor or pharmacist

    Four Great Uses For Reference Tracks




    1. ‘Imitate That Pro Sound’ Exercise:

    one of the best uses of your time while learning to mix and produce music is to try and recreate your favourite tracks as closely as possible.

    Why does this work so well? It trains you to listen critically, with a definite focus – you may have heard this track hundreds of times, but have you ever listened solely to the bassline pattern, for example: Is it a square- or saw-wave sound? Which frequencies does it mainly occupy? What are the notes, and how do they relate or interplay with the drums, lead riff or chords?

    Analysing and imitating everything from the overall structure/arrangement of a track, through programming the same bass or synth tones, to programming the same beat and rhythmic structure, will teach you so much.

    one can’t stress enough how actually recreating these patterns and sounds is far more useful than simply listening and thinking, “Yeah, I understand now what that synth part is doing”. It forces you to consider every possible detail, and gives you many ideas and experience of specific techniques that you can translate into your own original tracks.

    The other great thing about this sort of exercise is fact that allows you to completely get into the groove of your analytical, left brain: with the creative choices having been made for you by the original artist, you can concentrate solely on being logical, rational, technical and linear to deconstruct, analyse and rebuild with all your attention.

    2. Inspiration:

    You can use reference tracks as ‘psych music’, to get you in the right mood just before you begin producing or mixing, and to remind yourself of what you’re trying to achieve (another important Principle: Great Focus).

    I find such tracks are also really useful when you hit a creative cul-de-sac halfway through your own production: rather than slogging through, trying to find a solution to a mixing problem on your own, go back to your reference tracks and see if the solution is demonstrated there. It’s the next best thing like having a production mentor in the room with you.

    3. Final mix reference:

    Once your track is done and you’ve got it sounding as good as you possibly can… compare it to one of your reference tracks, make some notes on the differences between them, and go back for one last round of tweaks and improvements.


    [​IMG]


    This step is most useful for checking the more technical aspect rather than the arrangement or artistic aspects of your mix (which should have been sorted out long before this point… :) ). Things to look out for would be the balance of high, low and mid frequencies, and the relative levels between parts in the mix.


    4. Get a feel for unfamiliar environments or gear:

    In the live music field, every experienced mix engineer will have a few reference tracks that they take on every job – no matter what kind of space they’re setting up in, they can put one of these tracks over the PA and immediately deduce what the unique characteristics of the space are, and therefore what adjustments needs to be made to the system, based on their experience of how that track should ideally sound.

    This applies for every studio producer or engineer too, who is working in an unfamiliar environment or choosing new equipment such as monitors: play something you know intimately to deduce what the listening environment or monitors are doing and take this into account as you record or mix, until you’re more familiar


    Seven Steps To Selecting The Best Reference Tracks


    How do you choose the right track for the job?

    Here are 7 steps that will help you pin-point tracks in your collection that would be great references for your own music:

    1. Make a distinction between a good reference mix and your favourite track:

    A good mix will meet certain relatively objective standards of clarity and power with a balanced frequency response and should sound good on almost any playback system, from your studio montitors to the car to your iPhone speaker.

    Don’t use a track for this purpose that you like purely because of the hook, melody or some other aspect that won’t actually help you meet your mix objectives.


    2. Use recent tracks:

    If you’re making a track in 2012, don’t use tracks from 1998 as your main references. Production styles and standards change and improve over time and old tracks just won’t cut it as references if you want to sound current. This is doubly important in fast-changing genres like house or techno, where every few months the sound of the moment can change significantly.


    3. Use tracks from the same genre:


    Leading on from the last point, use relevant reference tracks. If you’re aiming to make a pop track destined for radio, don’t use a club track as your main reference. Each genre or sub-genre has it’s own mix conventions and styles and you don’t want to make trouble for yourself by inadvertently referring to one style while trying to mix in another.

    (I say inadvertently there because you can get the greatest, original sounds by drawing on influences from other musical genres – just do it intentionally!).


    4. Avoid very distinctive, ‘signature’ tracks from other artists:

    It’s generally better not to use tracks whose sound and production is very closely linked to a particular artist and them only – you might struggle to take anything useful from them without ending up simply sounding like you’re just ripping them off.

    Better to use a few tracks that have something timeless about them, that are great examples of your chosen genre as a whole. This may be the only time I’ll ever say this, but here, generic is useful.


    5. Avoid very busy tracks:

    Tracks where it’s difficult to hear what’s actually happening because there are so many elements are going to make for frustrating references. Go for sparser arrangements, which you can deconstruct more easily. (If you can’t hear everything clearly, it’s probably not a very good mix anyway.)


    6. Use tracks with interesting dynamics:

    If you use a track that has plenty of changes and differences between sections – loud/quiet, very full and sparse sections etc. you’ll learn more about track construction as you go. It can be like having two or three reference tracks in one!

    7. Use your own previous tracks:

    Ideally, have one of your own previous mixes as a reference: you know it’s construction probably better than any other track, and it won’t be mastered like your other, commercial references, which makes comparisons a little more useful.

    Hopefully now you’ve got a very small selection of potential reference tracks to work with. But they won’t be much useable without some analysis, earlier deconstructing of how they work and finding some patterns and techniques that you can apply to your own music.


    How To Effectively Analyze Your Reference Tracks In six Steps


    How do we launch into this track analysis?

    Here we are going to run through some key questions you can use to get to the heart of your reference tracks:



    1. Relative balance: How loud are instruments in relation to one another?


    E.g. how loud are the drums in relation to the bass or the rest of the instruments? How does this balance contribute to the perceived role of the drums ‘driving’ the track or of sitting back in a more supportive role?


    2. Panning: How are the parts panned across the stereo spectrum?

    It can help to draw a simple semi-circular diagram and point a mark on it where you think each sound is placed in the mix from left to right.

    E.g. Are most of the sounds bunched up in the centre or are they spread evenly from left to right? Are there any key sounds that are panned hard to either side? How does that affect their role in the mix?


    3. Frequency response for individual elements and the mix as a whole: How do the different instruments fill out the frequency spectrum?

    You can work this out with careful listening, but if you want to get surgical about it you can put the reference track on a track in your DAW and run it through a spectrum analyzer plugin for a graphic display of frequency distribution.

    E.g. Is there a significant sub-bass element? What is the fundamental frequency of the lead synth or guitar? Does it clash with the vocal or are they are carefully seperated to occupy different frequency domains?


    4. Compression: How compressed is each instrument or part? How compressed is the mix overall?

    E.g. Do the drums and bass obviously pump together or is it more subtle? Is there a lot of dynamic range on the lead instrument or vocal or is every breath or fretboard squeak as loud as the main notes? Is there any dynamic range at all or has everything been maximized to near destruction… ;)


    5. Depth: How are parts distributed from ‘front’ to ‘back’? How much reverb is there on each instrument or part?

    Here it can be useful to draw another diagram like we did for panning – except this time you want to mark how close or distant each instrument seems to be.

    E.g. Which elements are completely dry / upfront? Which are the most distant? Is that clearly due to reverb, level in the mix or EQ? Is the reverb tail on the snare audible?


    6. Changes: How much do different aspects of the mix change from one section to another and throughout the track overall?

    E.g. Which instruments change and in what ways to create an increase in energy from verse to chorus? How many different synth parts are there playing the same riff in different parts of the track? How many elements are dropped out to achieve that amazing breakdown? How much mix automation is involved on each part?

    With your answers to these questions you’re well on the way to creating your imitation of the reference track; but more importantly, you’ve just deconstructed and taught yourself a massive amount of information/techniques about almost every key aspect of production and mixing, which you can also apply immediately to your own music.



    Taken from http://getthatprosound.com/ - best and shortest manual i found
     
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  3. olson

    olson Noisemaker

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    so i start:
    MINIMAL TECHNO



    + very clear mix
    + solid song structure
    + not too much elements

    - a little bit long
    - already 2 years old (mix and mastertechniques are evolving fast)
    - lil bit repetive
     
  4. Hollowpoint

    Hollowpoint Newbie

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    Psytrance

    But I've been using it for most tracks, comparing sounds etc.

    Great all rounder clean sounds, punchy/tight kick. Great use of samples and wicked evolving sounds.

    http://youtu.be/oDkZWiK3Foo

    here is the full .wav version too (it was given away for free on the Nano records website/Soundcloud, so I hope i'm not illegal filesharing)

    http://soundcloud.com/nano-records

    http://www15.zippyshare.com/v/68635870/file.html
     
  5. digrev

    digrev Newbie

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    GREAT IDEA FOR THIS REFERENCE TRACKS POST!!! :wink:
     
  6. LunaX

    LunaX Member

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    any reference track for non-techno music? rock and fusion..


    regards
     
  7. olson

    olson Noisemaker

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    ok - a hard one -> because im not into that kind of music, i guess.. (had to google it and watched some youtube-videos)

    could you be a little bit more detailed, i will have my eyes (ears) opened and post here as is get a really big production

    gracias!
     
  8. james123

    james123 Newbie

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    I Have little dout in my mind...i.e while producing track we have refrence track and it was perfect mixed and mastered so how can we get desired sound as compared to refrence track because our track is not mixed and mastered....
     
  9. SillySausage

    SillySausage Producer

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    don't worry too much about mastering, you should be able to get pretty close just with the mixing, as you produce your track you should also be mixing it :wink:

    as the names implies, it is just used as a reference (a guide)
     
  10. hfeuhfz7342hf724

    hfeuhfz7342hf724 Noisemaker

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    Maybe times have changed, especially when producing completely ITB...I could never 'make a track' and then mix and then master - I do it all in one go. I even mix into a mastering chain, just to save some time (with a day time job I just cannot spend hours and hours mixing/mastering anyways).

    A lot of pros do this as well, so I do it as well. :wink:
     
  11. xsze

    xsze Guest

    Any ambient/chill/downbeat references by any chance? :mates:
     
  12. Hardlock

    Hardlock Ultrasonic

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    Great Information and read




     
  13. cleffpalette

    cleffpalette Newbie

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    Hey fellas. Great bit of info you guys have on here. really interesting stuff. I have a question, forgive me if i'm in the wrong spot for this but, what tools or techniques are used to move instruments forward so it sound really up in your face or vice versa for when you just want it for subtle rhythm, besides the mentioned reverb that is. Is it just a matter of gain/volume or something else im missing? for years i have struggled with having different instrumenets to sit just right. I've ruined so many of my writing ideas by spitting out demos that just kill the whole original vibe. any help would be highly appreciated.

    cheers,
    Cleff
     
    Last edited: Oct 3, 2015
  14. rhythmatist

    rhythmatist Rock Star

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    All kinds of ways to make a track seem more "in your face". A combination of things, really. Also, it's not easy most of the time. plenty of other threads about this. One reference....https://www.soundonsound.com/sos/feb09/articles/deepspace.htm Also look around here for links to other tutorials. My favorite: http://therecordingrevolution.com/5minutes/
     
  15. rhythmatist

    rhythmatist Rock Star

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    I usually go back and listen to my favorite album recordings for comparison. Steely Dan's "Aja"--- John Mellencamp (1998 self titled----just a great sounding mix of rock and roll band). ECM jazz recordings. When mixing, I like to rest my ears often, and then listen to something that is like a "target" before I get back to work.
     
    Last edited: Oct 3, 2015
  16. cleffpalette

    cleffpalette Newbie

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    Thanks for your speedy reply dude, I was working on a new idea for a track just waiting for someonr to chime in before i ruin this demo too hshahhaha. I'm headed over to try and comprhend thaso links as we speak. Thanks for your time man! lets see what happens. steely dan aye? havent heard that in years, lemme see.....
     
  17. Xupito

    Xupito Audiosexual

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    Cool thread. There's another thread with a huge collection of stems that are great for similar purposes.
     
  18. MMJ2017

    MMJ2017 Audiosexual

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    hello im new here been watching and reading for years though.

    my approach to this is simple

    1.what are my expectations?
    the detail surrounding the project, genre, etc.
    is it instrumental cues, is it top 40 is it electronica, is it acoustic? is it modern or vintage recording?

    i then find appropriate reference tracks in hd load them into my daw with spectrum analyzer on master fader in real-time and meters for harmonics to get more information , this way i can see commonalities regarding frequency response slope volume levels perception that i add to what i hear also.


    that is the process for reference racks


    the process for general approach is get the tracking and pre-production setup and setup gain staging of inputs on track meters and master meter i like to work less that -6db rms on tracks and then -6 db peak on master fader as my limits as i go through the process.
    after gain staging, i then use vst or hardware on each track or source in the mix to add harmonic content with tape, tube, transistor etc. analog warmth per track, but in such a way as each unit or vst is barely noticeable and doing a very specific smoothing of the sound while soloing the track and viewing spectrum analyzer and meters to have my ears and eyes matched. i may end up with upto 10 layers of harmonic plugins on a track each one seemingly doing barely anything , but when added together they transparently compress and thicken thinner parts of the sound to get the transients of the entire sound same thickness. now that each track or source transients are equal throughout i use broad Q eq to shape the frequency response of individual tracks , while listening and looking at spectrum analyzer in real-time, alternating with the reference tracks after the eqing of individual tracks phase i then make my busses or groups and sometimes add more analog sim or hardware tube, tape, transformers, transistors, each barely discernible but as glue. next now that each track and all busses are eq'd i open up compressors on each track and buss , i never exceed 2:1 ratio mid of road attack and release threshold that is touching only 1.5 db to 2 db of peaks from the trak, this is working on the next level up as the harmonics plugins where the atomic level this compression level is working on the broad strokes of the sound not the fine grain level because that is now done. after each individual track broad stokes are done ( compression expansion limiting etc, only working slightly on peaks and invisible transparent unless some effect is desired) next i repeat the checking on the track volumes set to -6 db max and master fader at -6db peak so no clipping . now i add compression if needed on busses or groups as glue, next is time based fx and reverb on tracks then busses and special fx transitions spatial fx modulation etc. next is stereo width adjustment on tracks then busses . this completes the mix phase and move onto mastering phase.
     
  19. bluerover

    bluerover Rock Star

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    Depeche Mode, and anything mixed by Michael Patterson (Puff Daddy, Moby, Beck, Tricky, O+S, L.A. indies bands....)

    Also, FLAC files from rutorrents all day long
     
  20. serdarolguner

    serdarolguner Member

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    I always use this one for live sound mixing with big concert systems. I also use for reference.
     
  21. Futurewine

    Futurewine Rock Star

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    Is it ok to use proper ripped Vinyl tracks for reference? Advise me please. Thanks.
     
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