How to Use Reference Tracks: 5 Great Tips to Master Referencing!

How to Use Reference Tracks


All people in music production know that reference tracks are an important tool for getting ears oriented inside an important listening setting. Whereas some songs won’t ever go out of style, new ones should continuously enter the canon to account for changing client tastes.

People surveyed a sampling of audio professionals to find out what their private next-era reference tracks are. The stipulation: the songs have to be 5 years young—launched in 2015 or later. We additionally requested their basic references, which may emanate from any period.

Producers, mixers, mastering engineers, studio designers, and more, with experience from hip-hop to classical, gave us their insights on how they get in sync with a sound system. However, you’ll be taught more than simply what songs they go to, get an invaluable element right here about precisely what they hear for to verify for system accuracy, and why.

how to use reference track

1. Evaluating Your Mix to the Reference Tracks

Now that your tracks are stage-matched, you’ll be able to begin to objectively take a look at how your mix sounds in comparison with your reference tracks.

Some inquiries to ask yourself when using reference tracks:

  • Are the vocals too hot?
  • Is the Kick drum too loud?
  • Is the bass too quiet?
  • How does the reverb, delays, and different spatial effects compare?
  • How does the balance evaluate with different tracks in an identical style?
  • Is the stereo picture wide enough?

You would possibly choose to make your mix barely more dynamic than the mastered reference tracks to compensate for any compression and limiting that is likely to be applied to your mix throughout mastering.

A/B Plugin

2. Listen All Over the Place

When evaluating my productions to commercial releases, I make certain to listen to each in as many listening environments/configurations as possible.

  • Primary monitors (with sub)
  • Primary monitors (without sub)
  • Sub only (to listen to what’s actually occurring down there)
  • I flip the volume way up, step out of my room and listen to how music sounds all through my home
  • A number of sets of headphones
  • Laptop audio system
  • Airplayed to my home stereo system
  • Automobile
  • Telephone
  • Two units of large, high-quality monitors at a studio

There’s more, but when my productions maintain as much as commercial releases on these aforementioned configurations, I’m in fairly good shape. I actually love listening out of my phone to get a thought of balance on industrial releases, and that’s maybe the one factor I really like about listening out of my telephone.

Reference plugin

3. Use A Number of References

In an identical manner that making an attempt to repeat a mix paints yours right into a corner, using just one reference is extraordinarily limiting. So much of a mix is perspective so you’ll need to have as many nice-sounding views as possible to reference!

Additionally, don’t be afraid to make use of your individual previous mixes as references. If a track requires a hard-hitting kick drum, and also you’ve mixed an incredible hard-hitting kick drum, don’t be shy about revisiting your individual work.

4. Guidelines for Using a Correct Reference

Make sure that from the beginning that you’re using an excellent reference mix. If you assume your mix is dangerous, it won’t do you any good to check it to a different shitty sounding track.

No Mp3s – It’s not sufficient to only listen to one of your favorite songs and evaluate them. You want a high-quality version of your track. No mp3s, AACs, or some other compressed audio format.

Only lossless WAV/AIFF or higher is good enough. Normally, the high-quality master is the final stage of skilled production, so only use high-quality audio for correct comparability.

Know Your Reference Mix – Be sure to know the reference track properly. You might want to be accustomed to the track and know the way it sounds in your system and others. Choose one thing you’re comfortable and familiar with.

how to use reference track

5. But Won’t Reference Tracks Make Me Much less Artistic?

I perceive where you’re coming from. However, the reply is easy:

Completely not.

The purpose of referencing isn’t to EXACTLY match EVERY side of the reference track. The purpose is to have information that you can use to set you on the precise path.

Mixing is each a science and an artwork. There’s logic and creativity inside each completed mission. You have to use your logical aspect to create the foundation of the mix. Ensuring every part is balanced isn’t an inventive choice – it’s an activity that must be accomplished.

As soon as your mix is balanced, you can also make all the creative choices you need.



As we’ve previously talked about, reference tracks are best used to determine the largest mix moves, like total balance and tonality. Where the vocal sits, the connection between kick and bass, or effect ranges are all info we will glean from using an incredible reference. They will help us keep away from mixing too dark or too bright, too wet or too dry, or poorly balanced versus properly balanced.

The primary factor to remember, though, is to not attempt to copy the reference exactly. Your mix may have a lifetime of its own primarily based on the way it was recorded, amongst a large number of different components, so letting the mix guide itself is essential. Many projects organically inform us how they need to be mixed, so don’t attempt to pressure something in a direction that doesn’t appear right.

By using reference tracks, you’ll have a greater idea of how your work compares to completed projects and the angle to guide your mix in essentially the most appropriate course.

Check our eBook on Mixing Tips! If you want to get a more in-depth breakdown of those tips we share, follow our link and get the “Ultimate Mixing Tips Booklet” and up your game quickly!


Nikoloski is the founder and main content writer and editor of Mixing Tips. With his experience in audio engineering, mixing, and mastering for over 15 years, will provide hands-on experience and expertise in all the matters covered on this website.

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