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How To Best Use Reference Tracks – Music Production

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How To Best Use Reference Tracks

The best way to make your mixes competitive in the commercial playground is to use the reference track.

Try as much as you can to imitate the qualities of the reference track you have selected and it’s guaranteed to have better sound than without it.

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Selecting The Reference Track

No matter how well you chose your reference tracks, it won’t help you if you don’t know what to listen for.

It goes without saying that your overall opinion of the sound quality is an important factor to take into account when selecting mix reference tracks.

It is acceptable for this opinion to be somewhat arbitrary because, in any case, your mixes will stand out due to your unique opinion of what sounds good.

Still, it makes sense from a business perspective to make the effort to understand and evaluate goods that have received commendations for their great audio quality from the professional community.

The Best Way To Use Reference Track

Making the most of your mix references, however, involves more than just selecting the appropriate tracks.

The method you use for examining the differences is another important factor in the equation.

Because your hearing system adapts to mix changes so swiftly, the quicker you can switch between a reference track and your own work-in-progress, the more noticeable the juxtaposition is likely to be.

Because of the ear’s capability for adaptation, another reason I only ever pick the highlights from my reference music is that the differences between each sample become much more obvious.

For instance, a five-second introduction can significantly alter how you view the comprehensive entry that follows.

Equally important to being able to move between monitors rapidly is being able to loudness-match reference tracks with your mix.

Due to the tendency of people to unconsciously link something that sounds louder with having superior sound quality, regardless of whether this is true or not, subjective volume inconsistencies across the songs will make the rating process difficult.

In contrast to the many sorts of ultra-loud modern recordings, where the side effects of high mastering processing have a big impact on the overall mix sonics, it can be practically impossible to detect whether your own unmastered mix is actually giving the proper balance or tonality. Small studios face a significant practical challenge in this area.

I typically rely on two alternatives in these situations. Finding unmastered mixes of relevant commercial releases or mastered recordings with relatively minimal loudness processing is the first technique.

For most individuals, the former are pretty uncommon, whereas the latter are a little more common.

Applying loudness processing to your mix to know how the mix might sound crushed and brickwalled by mastering is the second choice.

Using Reference tracks in data compressed formats

Now that so many musicians store their record collections in “digital” form, it can be tempting to use computers and mobile devices for convenient mix referencing.

But I would advise against using it.

In order to fit as much music into the device’s internal storage as possible, audio files are frequently extremely heavily compressed, which is a problem.

Although this data reduction has very tiny limitations that won’t affect the majority of viewers, they nonetheless drastically diminish the quality standard and lower the worth of your mix reference.

That is rarely a viable choice as well because the majority of audio transferred over the internet is of even lower quality in an effort to reduce data-transmission bandwidth.

The main defense for this is that using subpar copies of reference songs gives you an easier target to hit, leading to mixes that need less work and are less competitive.

Advantages of reference tracks other than mixing

Building up a good collection of reference recordings is beneficial for reasons other than just improving your mixes; in fact, the advantages go well beyond mixing.

The straightforward procedure of choosing the audio is a great way to educate your ears and become familiar with the auditory foundations of various styles.

The constraints of the current musical landscape and the genre you’re working in must be understood.

Consequently, it becomes more important than ever to immerse yourself in the musical atmosphere.

If you frequently work critically in foreign studios or on location, being familiar with how your reference material sounds on a range of different platforms can save your life.

After that, you can start assessing fresh listening circumstances in the context of this body of information.

I always put my favorite CDs on when I enter a strange control room anywhere in the world, and I can quickly understand what the room is doing.

Before getting acclimated to the color scheme of a new room and monitors, use your reference CD.

Your ears are particularly susceptible to acoustic irregularities in a new control room when you first enter it.

You will gradually lose hearing to the peculiarities and “gunk” of the space after four days of acclimatization.

Reliable test tracks can help you separate the preferred from the discardable, whether you’re evaluating monitor speakers or any other audio playback component.

The Bob Katz Honor Roll stands out in this regard.

Small playback distortions will be far more noticeable on many of these albums than they are on the heavily processed masters that predominate the mainstream charts.


So I hope this makes you understand how you select the reference tracks and how then, make the best use of it to improve your own mix.

You’ve also come to understand what is the benefits of references other than in mixing!


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