Reference Tracks

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Reference Tracks

Postby Caravan Ray » Fri Mar 27, 2015 5:15 pm

JB wrote this in another thread:

jb wrote:Consider this guy's advice: http://therecordingrevolution.com/2015/ ... challenge/

Basically he contends that it's not about your equipment, certainly not about your monitors. It's about using reference tracks, so that you know what a pro mix sounds like on your particular setup. Then you mix to achieve something similar to that reference track. You don't necessarily mix to make it sound good on your setup-- you mix to mimic the characteristics of that reference track.

JB


I have read a lot of that guy's blogs and they are very good - but I must admit, I am a little lost with the "reference track" thing.

I get what he means and get that it makes sense - just don't quite get how to actually do it. (I mean - I know I should put my mix and a pro mix together in a DAW and compare them, but…) My ears aren't quite good enough yet maybe.

Anyone have any other tips? How do you do it

I use Garageband mainly - but I do also have Logic that I rarely use. Anyone know is there some way of getting a visual comparison? I know GB has a little visual EQ thing - but I don't find it very useful.

And picking your reference track - I sort of don't know where to start. A lot of you know the sort of thing I tend to sound like - any suggestions?
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Re: Reference Tracks

Postby Billy's Little Trip » Fri Mar 27, 2015 6:53 pm

Two ways I do a reference track.
1. Find a song that you love how it sounds, even if it's not necessarily your genre.
2. Put it on track 24 or what ever you last track is on your DAW.
3. After setting it's volume level to the spot you generally mix to and turn the track off.
4. Now start recording the tracks for your new song.
5. Get things pretty much dialed in the way you like them.
6. Now solo your reference track. Pay attention to the differences from your tracks.
7. Go back and forth between your mix and the reference track.

Keep in mind, the reference track is a stereo mastered song. So it's going to sound finished compared to your raw tracks. Try not to pay attention to that. Also it's very important to pick ONE THING AT A TIME to focus on! For instance, focus on the snare. When you are ok with that, focus on the ambiance. When you are ok with that, focus on the bass, then guitars, tone lows, mids and high on the EQ. etc etc etc. ONE THING AT A TIME. You'll find that if you focus on one thing and kind of tune out the rest, you hear it much different. After a while you can focus on ,multiple things at once as your ears improve.
What are you listening for?
The snare first:
1. The snap of the snare and where it sits. IE, center, off center, close, far with reverb, stuff like that. Is it snappy, is it soft, is it huge or small? Is High in the mix and predominate, is it behind other instruments? Is it real narrow up the center, is it wide in the stereo field? Does it like green eggs and ham?
See how much I said about just the snare? That's why it's important to focus on one thing at a time. You'll do that with every instrument and vocals. Not to mention the over all EQ, separation, instrument placement on the stage, width and volume.

NOW, after you finally mix down to a stereo track, open a new project and put your stereo track on track 1 and the reference track on track 2.
Again start listening to both back and forth. If you hear things in your mix you need to change to be closer the the reference track, write it down or remember it and go back to your mix tracks and make the change. Render it again, remove your old mixed track from the new stereo track project and put in your newly mixed version. Compare back and forth.

It's sounds like a lot of work, but when you're in the zone, you're like lawnmower man. When you do it for a while it becomes part of your workflow and you become very efficient with your time.
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Re: Reference Tracks

Postby Caravan Ray » Fri Mar 27, 2015 8:02 pm

Cool. thanks Billy. I have a song I have been working on for months but can't get it right. That is this afternoon's project
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Re: Reference Tracks

Postby Lunkhead » Fri Mar 27, 2015 9:45 pm

I wanted to start a new thread about JB's comment too but from a different angle. I can't agree that "it's not about the equipment", seems more like "it's not ONLY about the equipment". I don't see how a reference track is going to help if e.g. your mixing environment doesn't convey low frequencies very well. "Hm, I can't hear the bass on my reference track or my track, guess I'm done!" Or if you only have one speaker, you can't get a sense of panning in the stereo field. Those are extreme examples, I know, but they are to illustrate the point. My impression was that good mixing setups (be they monitors or headphones or both) are supposed to be able to give you a baseline, and then it's up to you to get from there to a good mix.
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Re: Reference Tracks

Postby Lunkhead » Fri Mar 27, 2015 9:54 pm

Here's some more detail from that guy on specifically how he uses reference tracks:

http://therecordingrevolution.com/2015/ ... -anywhere/

Snippet:

The 4 Point Checklist
When I’m nearing the end of my mix I bring in a reference track – something that has a similar vibe, similar instrumentation, and similar mix aesthetic as mine.

Then once I’ve brought the volume of that reference down to the volume of my mix, I begin listening for 4 specific elements of the reference: low end, top end, kick/snare level, and vocal level. That’s it.


This simple method won’t make a bad mix good, but it will make a good mix better – and help it sound solid just about anywhere it’s played.
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Re: Reference Tracks

Postby Caravan Ray » Fri Mar 27, 2015 10:52 pm

Lunkhead wrote:I wanted to start a new thread about JB's comment too but from a different angle. I can't agree that "it's not about the equipment", seems more like "it's not ONLY about the equipment". I don't see how a reference track is going to help if e.g. your mixing environment doesn't convey low frequencies very well. "Hm, I can't hear the bass on my reference track or my track, guess I'm done!" Or if you only have one speaker, you can't get a sense of panning in the stereo field. Those are extreme examples, I know, but they are to illustrate the point. My impression was that good mixing setups (be they monitors or headphones or both) are supposed to be able to give you a baseline, and then it's up to you to get from there to a good mix.

Get what you mean - but I do think the reference track suggestion is an excellent one - especially for those of us who don't have a perfect room/equipment etc.

It is just something I have never done - and would like to learn the technique. Just a matter of practice I suppose.

I will post the track I have been working on here soon - would like feedback. Been on this for about a year - way too long - I can never get it to the point where I am satisfied (because I like the song and want to get it right). Time to just finish and move on I think. Even today I am starting to lose interest in mixing again, and more interested in cooking a chicken biriyani.
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Re: Reference Tracks

Postby Billy's Little Trip » Sat Mar 28, 2015 7:41 am

Lunkhead wrote:I can't agree that "it's not about the equipment", seems more like "it's not ONLY about the equipment". I don't see how a reference track is going to help if e.g. your mixing environment doesn't convey low frequencies very well.

Graham has talked about playing your mix in different environments such as the car, living room, headphones, etc to hear how everything sounds.
1. The reference track is going to help you hear how sound is delivered in "your" specific environment as well as how a pro mixes and masters.
2. After listening to Graham on many of his tutorials I've realized that "DAW beginner me" wouldn't have grasped a lot of his methods. But watching him would have helped teach me. Most of what he talks about are things I already do, but never had a name associated with the method.

I think my mixes post 2012 are some of the best I've ever done. Example: Not If I See You First


Take a listen to that song and now here is my equipment. Keep in mind, I've never paid or stolen any of my software. It's all been freeware. My Cubase came in a bundle with old PreSonus interface.
My DAW is Cubase LE. Yep, I still use LE for everything.
I use open back cheap headphones and expensive closed back studio phones to do all of my primary mixing.
I use monitors for final mixing mostly to get my stereo field the way I like it.
I use free plug-ins for everything I do. Multi-band EQ, reverbs and delays, compressors, etc.

So I'm in the camp of saying equipment is not as important as using your skills basic tools to carve out a great mix. Once you can do that, then fancy equipment just streamlines your workflow. ;)

I used reference songs to get things out of my mixes I admire in pro mixes. I've now developed my own style that I really like and I've gotten good feedback as well. I still hear new songs I love how they're produced and I'll listen and analyze it. Like when the latest Daft Punk album (RAM) dropped. I was a huge fan of the songs, although pretty good. But the production is amazeballs!
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Re: Reference Tracks

Postby jb » Sat Mar 28, 2015 12:44 pm

Yeah I think getting the mix to "translate" is an interesting challenge that unfortunately takes more focus and time than I am willing (or able I suppose) to put into some mixes.

When I do try hard at it I'm pleased-- mostly by playing a track on my bedroom speakers, my computer speakers, my earbuds, my living room speakers, and trying to make one or two tweaks to the mix for each speaker.

Usually the issue is getting the highs to sound high on all speakers, and the lows not to muddy any of the speakers. And if I can get there to be nothing that makes me want to turn the volume down, WIN. I so often wind up with some harsh frequency that makes my ears hurt and I struggle to get it out of the mix.

WRT reference tracks, I'll also watch it in the visualizer and see how my mix compares to a pro track. Trying to match the EQ lines can be useful-- especially if I see some weird spiking frequency. Though sometimes it's the stupid take that has the freq and I just have to redo it.
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Re: Reference Tracks

Postby iVeg » Sat Mar 28, 2015 3:42 pm

Daft Punk album was very well produced. There's a whole series of videos with the various collaborators Paul Williams, Nile Rogers, Giorgio Moroder that are very interesting.

Right now I'm more interested in getting my basic idea down. Berklee has free online mixing and listening sample classes. For me, the raw tracks were so well recorded, that I didn't feel like messing with them. Maybe when Nur Ein is over I'll be able to focus more on ear training, mixing and production
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Re: Reference Tracks

Postby fluffy » Sun Mar 29, 2015 6:50 pm

What I do for reference track comparisons is I just play the song in iTunes in the background, and then adjust the EQ in Logic until they both sound indistinct from each other. This works better for very noisy tracks (grunge and rock and such).

You can also load the reference song into Logic (and maybe GarageBand supports this, I dunno) and just play the whole thing through an EQ with the metering set to record the peaks without any falloff. Then take a screen capture, then do the same thing on your own song, and then compare the screen captures.

Logic also has a Match EQ plugin where you can record a section from a song and then play a similar section from your song and it'll figure out the EQ difference.
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Re: Reference Tracks

Postby Lunkhead » Sun Mar 29, 2015 8:23 pm

fluffy wrote:Logic also has a Match EQ plugin where you can record a section from a song and then play a similar section from your song and it'll figure out the EQ difference.


Wow, that sounds super useful. Looks like Cubase supports this as well starting with v7.0, by including a plugin from Voxengo called "CurveEQ". Nice!
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Re: Reference Tracks

Postby jb » Mon Mar 30, 2015 8:00 am

Can it then teach me how to match the difference for myself? ;)

(I know it can't, come on now.)
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Re: Reference Tracks

Postby Billy's Little Trip » Mon May 18, 2015 12:02 pm

The latest from recording rev on reference tracks. Those of us that already do this know of it's importance. For those that don't, check this out. https://youtu.be/oBQ_L185rO4

It's also a good reminder for all. Even when I watch one of Graham's vids about something I already know, I always pick up something new. This video he reminded us of our short term memory loss and why it's good to go ahead and pull up a reference track periodically. He is so right. I find that when I haven't recorded and mixed for a short break, I need to re-antiquate myself with my tools.
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Re: Reference Tracks

Postby fluffy » Mon May 18, 2015 1:22 pm

How antique are your tools, anyway?
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Re: Reference Tracks

Postby Caravan Ray » Mon May 18, 2015 1:58 pm

fluffy wrote:How antique are your tools, anyway?

I can't answer for BLT, but I don't get any complaints.
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Re: Reference Tracks

Postby Billy's Little Trip » Mon May 18, 2015 3:52 pm

lol. Son of a man's dick! I suck at the interwebz. reacquaint.

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