Reference track call out

I hear people say “USE A REFERENCE TRACK!!”. Knowing the internet, i know how people love to parrot stuff and sayings become mantras whether or not anyone actually follows the saying

So id love to see/hear some people’s tracks where they used a reference track.

Post up the track and the reference track

side issue, I dont think im savvy enough yet to even use a ref track. why? Lets say I want to use STp or Chevelle as a reference. Fine. For starters im simply not going to be able to get my drum sound or bass sound that good lol. So I guess I dont get it.

(thats also why on RR I posted up some drum only mixes to be bashed and basically was told it was a dumb idea. I dont see it as dumb though. If the drums dont sound “pro”, then how is adding stuff going to improve it??)

thats why id love to hear some actual examples

Kanye - Famous (for vocal EQ and low end)

Taylor Swift - Wildest dreams (for compression and verb tails)

Kristina Perry - 1000 Years (for acoustic and ambience vs vocal levels)

Katy Perry - Wide Awake (for imaging, width, and delay tail effects)

And for other randomness

Nicki Minaj - Superbass

Adele - Hello

1 Like

The way I use ref tracks is not so much to try to duplicate a particular instrument sound (although sometimes I do), but more to evaluate the relationships between instruments in the mix (is one always at higher level than the other? Why and when? etc). Bass compared to drums, vox compared to guitars, etc. I also pay attention to how the mixers & producers choose to create movement and interest. Finally, I look for just the overall “feel”, highly subjective of course.

For the kinds of stuff I usually do, some great artists to reference include Steve Earle, Lucinda Williams, Lyle Lovett, Counting Crows, Steely Dan… I have a ton of Americana artists whom I love and whose work I tend to emulate, so I’ll spin those when I need to calibrate my mind before mixing.


I always use reference tracks specific to the song I’m mixing at that point in time. I don’t really have ‘standard’ go-to tracks for particular elements because, well it’s a MIX after all.

Things that concern me when searching for a reference track:
Tempo (quite important)
Overall intent


haha, nice replies, but I was looking for songs YOU’VE DONE…and then the reference track(s) that u used lol.

I mean, I can list ref tracks all day. But so far im not close to getting this level of quality

for good heavy rock I guess any of those are do-able. But do-able by me??? dunno lol

I don’t use reference tracks in the commonly espoused way…
I have a number of tracks that I run thru my system to make sure of what I am hearing. I’ll do this every so often… weekly, monthly or when ever I need to “reset” my ears.
I use them because I know them inside and out. We used many of these tracks to test tube amps for a long time.
Not sure if it’s cool to post straight mp3s here and don’t think that many of them would be on YT.
But here is a short list.
Used to Be a G - whitehead Bros In the old days, it was about as low as you can go. Not even close compared to today’s bass-heavy mixes. But if it’s solid down there, your system is fine…
Janet Jackson - All for You (or anything off that album) Clarity, separation and imaging.
Miles Davis- Flamenco Sketches Imaging!!! I Know where cannonball is SUPPOSED to be :slight_smile:
Cattledrive - Marshall Tucker This is an odd one. But it was pretty “hi-fi” for it’s time. it is a VERY “studio” album where the bits and pieces were very isolated and then rearranged inside an artificial space. When you can hear the “production”, your monitors are accurate. When it sounds “good” your home system is good… :slight_smile:
Also for clarity, breathiness and separation, throw on some ZAP MAMA

have fun…

Yes indeed, but I wasn’t at my music rig so I just made the general comment. I’ll be back with a song and the track I ref’d with later this evening. Stay tuned!

yeah, im getting the feeling that (evidently) rock music must be so easy to mix that no one needs ref tracks…or no one cares about rock anymore. Wow.

1 Like

That pretty funny :slight_smile: Sorry I couldn’t help since I don’t use reference mixes in that fashion. (mix against mix and such)
But since you said:[quote=“Jon-Jon, post:1, topic:518”]
I dont think im savvy enough yet to even use a ref track. why? Lets say I want to use STp or Chevelle as a reference. Fine. For starters im simply not going to be able to get my drum sound or bass sound that good lol. So I guess I dont get it.

Then I would just work at getting better at getting good sounds rather than matching a reference and save the referencing for later. You will get better… don’t doubt it for a minute!
I think that there is a bit of a stigma attached to asking " How did they get “this” sound on “this” song? " It seems that if you ask that type of question you are showing that you are not “enlightened enough” to ask about concepts rather than specifics. Those questions tend to go unanswered or are dismissed offhand… If you do get an answer, it will be from someone who did not get “that” sound and the answer will be the usual “parallel compression”, “saturation” or insert the cool-guy technique of the day.
Admittedly, this is a hard question to really answer since we don’t know what the source material sounds like from the start and such. But I don’t see the question as being indiscreet.
Hopefully this makes sense… :slight_smile:have fun


im not even so much after exactly copying anyones record. life is too short. Im just trying to learn to mix and get in the ballpark and get something good sounding

1 Like

I’ve been reading Mixing Secrets for the Small Studio by Mike Senior. He has a section about reference mixing, which he says most people don’t get any benefit out of. He created a CD of reference tracks, and then noticed that his mixes were not nearly as good as the stuff he was hearing commercially. He realised that he’d gone to his collection and picked out music he liked rather than picking songs that sonically were what he was after. He went back with this mindset and created a new catalogue of reference songs. In the end, only one song from his original CD made it onto the new CD.


OK, here’s a tune I did back in late '15 over at RR, a cover of a tune called The River’s Gonna Run. It was written by Julie & Buddy Miller, and the original is very much “mountain music”, very twangy Appalachian kinda stuff. I did it as more of an anthem juxtaposing acoustic instruments and some driving bass & fuzzed out guitar. The song I reached for to reference against is the title track from Steve Earle’s great 2000 album Transcendental Blues. I was looking for the relationships between the acoustic & electric instruments, and getting the vox to sit right in the mix, mostly.

Here’s River’s Gonna Run:

Here’s Transcendental Blues:

1 Like

haha, thats interesting because even from 15 seconds of listening, yours is twice as loud as his lol…especially the drums

Well, that’s a Youtube artifact then… my song is waaaaay quieter than his when I listen to the native tune from the CD. But that’s no big deal, it’s easy to normalize the volume with the ref track in the DAW, you just adjust until it’s about the same overall volume so that you can make good comparisons.

1 Like


my bad, I had youtube turned down.

See? Im a great engineer hehe

1 Like

Everyone’s gotta start somewhere!! :stuck_out_tongue_closed_eyes:

1 Like

Imma post a thread in Bash in a few minutes, come check it out. i need some overall feedback

1 Like

I wanted to add that for me, referencing is more about learning than anything else. I’ll shamelessly imitate the sound of a song I love for the purpose of learning how to get that sound. My complete inexperience and ignorance of how to get the kick drum to “kick” or how to get that “crunchy” guitar sound is really frustrating. In my head I can hear the mix and it always sounds fabulous! On my monitors much less so.

So for its about trying to get that sound in my head to reach my ears via the monitors. What I’m enjoying most about trying to imitate these sounds (and yes, I’m also using tracks that are posted on this site) is that I feel like I’m training my ears and brain to pick out individual sounds from a mix rather than listening to the song as a whole. I’ll be happy when I have enough experience that I won’t need to listen to somebody else’s music as a reference - but that’s not going to be for a long while.


yeah, I see the value in it…I just dont feel I have the time or patience. but as ive said elsewhere, ive never solely focused on mixing. it will have to be a bigger focus for me this year

A lot of stuff has to go together to get things working right. I cant get the energy I want if my sound is lame. But how can I get a great sound if the energy isnt there already?? So to me a lot of what im after is sort of wrapped up somewhere between writing AND mixing. they have to go together. I havent been terribly inspired to max out any of my mixes yet because the material still just isnt heavy enough or powerful enough for me

That’s EXACTLY where I’m at. I’ve got 2 albums worth of unfinished and unfinished songs. I’ve been in a rut for a couple of years writing wise. So I’ve teamed up with a buddy to write stuf - and I’ve made a decision to really work on my mixing. I actually commented to him yesterday about how one I’d my biggest problems in the past is to get involved in mixing while writing and recording stuff and then ironically trying to tweak and rewrite stuff while I was trying to mix. I was in this funk for a while and then I noticed this mixing contest on a site I’d never heard of! Now I’ve resolved to putting in 100% effort into mixing and learning as much as I can about everything that goes into mixing. But I also take your point - listening to reference tracks, then mixing and repeating that for hours is exhausting.

1 Like