Multi Genre Guide to Referencing and Gaining Perspective When Producing

Discussion in 'Production' started by Subliminal Message, Mar 15, 2016.

  1. Subliminal Message

    Subliminal Message New Member

    Aug 23, 2015
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    London, UK
    Guide to Referencing and Gaining Perspective When Producing

    Have you ever worked on a mixdown for hours (or days), only to have it sounding completely different when it came on the playlist in the car? Or perhaps everything was sounding right until you recorded a podcast and found you had to severely abuse the 'low' dial in order to compete with the next track's bass? This article addresses gaining a fresh perspective on your track by referencing your music with other audio. It also discusses different ways to check how well your mix translates on other systems, again referencing other works.

    Why reference your mixes?
    What should you be listening for when referencing?
    Ideas and techniques for gaining a fresh perspective on your mix
    a) The 'observer effect'
    b) Changing your listening position
    c) Use different sources
    d) Take your music out with you
    e) Mix your mix
    f) Check your mix in mono
    g) Take a conscious break from your DAW (Full Article)

    Why reference your mixes?
    Referencing a mix is a method of acquiring a fresh perspective during the writing, tracking, mixing or mastering process. One method is referencing with other audio, allowing you to judge how a track is sitting sonically alongside commercial and genre related productions. Another technique is referencing your audio outside your studio environment. In general terms, your mixes should be sounding coherent and balanced on all different outputs and devices. If your mix sounds good on both your main studio monitors and headphones, however through a regular pair of Apple earbuds certain elements in the mix are missing, listen to commercial tracks through them and you'll generally find that everything sits well even on poorer quality headphones.

    Even though it's one of the mastering engineer's jobs to make sure your mixes translate well on all systems, this method of referencing takes your room and studio acoustics out of the equation and allows you to focus on what needs tweaking in your mix.

    What music you reference with is a very personal choice. Generally, musicians and producers are best referencing with a wide range of material that you know well, though that not always the case in audio (consider a Foley engineer).

    Here are some ideas for what you can use as reference audio

    • - Your all-time favourite songs from your genre. If you're an electronic musician, consider tracks that you would like to mix alongside your music. If you're a band, check out other people's albums and have some really fantastic productions earmarked to be used for referencing.

      - Something completely different from your style of music; electronic music producers could have some of their favourite 70s reggae in their reference playlists; a metal mixdown could be referenced with some superbly recorded classical music.

      - Follow the charts. Even if you do not follow the global or even your genre's music charts, these tracks are generally very well to impeccably produced, with every element's balance taken into consideration by a range of individuals. The producers behind many of the tracks are hugely talented people, you can find out who they are and research any further techniques you wish to learn. In many cases you can even read interviews behind the productions of successful tracks.

      - Regardless of personal taste, it is important to keep your ear trained by listening to a wide variety of music. There is a big difference in listening to a hugely compressed electrofunk which tears up an arena of people, to 1960s Hammond jazz. If your playlist is all electronic genres, expand it a bit with some dub, metal, classical or anything which has been recorded. On the contrary, if all you have is rock or metal, why not explore the world of electronic music and see what kind of textures and compositions are out there.