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So, when working towards a great sounding mix, why not start with another one that you know sounds great? A reference track provides a known quantity that helps eliminate some of the guesswork when balancing, EQing and leveling the track. So, some of the reasons that we might want to use a reference track, for example, are poor acoustics. So you want to find a reference mix in the same genre whose bass and frequency balance you're very familiar with and use that as your guide. So, if you think about your room and it lying to you as far as the frequency response. Using that known quantity of a reference track will help you sort of match the levels in your mix.
So, you want to start thinking about reference mixes before you start the mix stage and maybe have a few in mind. Now to bring in a reference track to Pro Tools is really easy. I'm just going to switch to the Edit Window and I'm going to come down here to My Finder and I'm just going to drag and drop from my Exercise Files and what I have is a final master version of this song. Now just drag that to my tracks list and that's going to fall down there at the bottom.
So, it might take a little time to build the waveform. Now, I'm going to put this right next to my Master Fader, I'll just move that above my unused tracks for my reference. Now, once I bring this in, it's instantly going to be louder than my mix. So the first thing, I want to do because it is mastered and most reference tracks are mastered, they're instantly going to be louder than what your mix is playing back at. So, what I'll do is I'll just come over to this track and I'm going to reduce the volume and I'll just kind of listen and kind of match the two.
So I might solo this one up and play it back. (Music playing) (Male singing: We hit the town.) (Male singing: And I'll never forget--) (Male singing: And I'll never forget--) (Male singing: Tonight I fell asleep--) (Male singing: Tonight I fell asleep--) And I just want to get them close. The idea is again the master tracks mean much louder and I don't want to be kind of making decisions of, you know, why is that so loud and getting confused about the levels there.
Now there is a consideration with the Master Fader when you do this because I chose to use my Master Fader set to the Mix Bus, as oppose to my main outputs. I don't have a problem but if I had a Master Fader set to my main outputs and I had these effects here, my reference mix would play through those and that's a real bad thing because that's going to be coloring my reference mix with additional compression and limiting, probably going to make it sound really bad.
So, if you are using a Master Fader in that context, you might want to think about putting your master in your Mix Bus plug-ins on and Aux Sub Mix. The sort of like the way, I have it set up here. In that way, they are not going to color your mix, your reference mix any. Now you can bring in as many as you want. Sometimes we'll have two or three just to kind of listen to, all set at the same volume but you do want to consider things like DRM or any kind of copyright protection, Pro Tools won't be able to bring in tracks with any kind of copyright management.
If it's something you downloaded from the iTunes store and it's not of that non-DRM flavor, what you are going to have to do is burn it to a CD first before you can bring it into Pro Tools. Now I'd like to use the highest quality version I can find, so if it's a really high bit-depth MP3 or ideally a WAV file but I do understand that a lot of times you might buy music on the Internet just to use as a reference mix. I do this all of the time, especially if I'm working in genres that I'm not quite familiar with. I'll go on to the Internet.
I'll make sure to buy a non-DRM copy that I can just pull right into Pro Tools and use as a reference mix. Now often times, I'll asked the client to provide me with some reference mixes that they really see their song sounding like. So, think about creating yourself a go to reference playlist or CD of the different styles and genres of mixers. In that way, you can easily import them into your session, no matter where you find yourself.
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