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Working to reference tracks

From: Mixing and Mastering with Pro Tools

Video: Working to reference tracks

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.

Working to reference tracks

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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This video is part of

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Mixing and Mastering with Pro Tools

77 video lessons · 9232 viewers

Brian Lee White
Author

 
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  1. 14m 50s
    1. Welcome
      1m 12s
    2. The past, present, and future of mixing
      6m 20s
    3. Strategies for mixing and mastering
      5m 38s
    4. Using the exercise files
      1m 40s
  2. 40m 24s
    1. Mixing "in the box"
      5m 9s
    2. Setting up the studio: Speakers and acoustics
      13m 12s
    3. Staying organized: Effectively prepping the mix
      10m 50s
    4. Managing system resources during mixdown
      11m 13s
  3. 41m 39s
    1. Introducing the Pro Tools Mixer
      2m 24s
    2. Understanding mixer signal flow
      3m 42s
    3. Using inserts and plug-ins
      7m 4s
    4. Working with plug-in settings
      5m 1s
    5. Using sends and creating FX returns
      6m 55s
    6. Submixing with aux tracks
      4m 30s
    7. Using groups while mixing
      3m 46s
    8. Using master faders effectively
      8m 17s
  4. 21m 11s
    1. Conceptualizing the mix and making a plan
      7m 45s
    2. Using volume and pan to balance the mix
      11m 18s
    3. Knowing when to process: Mix problems vs. mix solutions
      2m 8s
  5. 1h 3m
    1. Understanding the mechanics of sound
      3m 53s
    2. Learning the basics of EQ: Frequency-specific level control
      4m 29s
    3. Using DigiRack EQ III
      16m 3s
    4. EQ strategies in mixing: Corrective vs. creative
      7m 18s
    5. EQ workflow example 1: Kick drum
      5m 39s
    6. EQ workflow example 2: Filtering loops
      5m 10s
    7. EQ workflow example 3: The "telephone" effect
      3m 7s
    8. Mixing tips and tricks for EQ
      17m 36s
  6. 1h 15m
    1. Understanding dynamics and dynamic range
      2m 1s
    2. Working with dynamics processors
      2m 57s
    3. Using the DigiRack Dyn III compressor/limiter
      10m 6s
    4. Balancing and shaping track dynamics
      3m 19s
    5. Using gates and expanders
      9m 22s
    6. Using de-essers to eliminate sibilance
      5m 47s
    7. Dynamics workflow example 1: Vocals
      10m 0s
    8. Dynamics workflow example 2: Drums
      9m 29s
    9. Mixing tips and tricks: Dynamics
      11m 37s
    10. Building parallel or "upward" compression
      7m 53s
    11. Reviewing dynamics concerns: How much is too much?
      3m 28s
  7. 47m 48s
    1. Using time-based effects to add depth and width
      3m 22s
    2. Using DigiRack D-Verb
      14m 27s
    3. Using the DigiRack delays
      9m 18s
    4. Mixing with reverb
      7m 59s
    5. Mixing with delays
      6m 19s
    6. Mixing tips and tricks: Creating mix depth
      6m 23s
  8. 18m 8s
    1. Working with the Creative Collection
      9m 8s
    2. Building distortion and saturation
      9m 0s
  9. 37m 33s
    1. Understanding automation
      4m 10s
    2. Recording real-time automation moves
      7m 6s
    3. Viewing and editing automation
      10m 17s
    4. Automating plug-ins
      7m 36s
    5. Automation strategies for mixing
      8m 24s
  10. 29m 31s
    1. Understanding the characteristics of a great mix
      7m 2s
    2. Working to reference tracks
      4m 35s
    3. Avoiding some common pitfalls
      7m 50s
    4. Building healthy mixing habits
      3m 36s
    5. Crafting your mix from start to finish
      6m 28s
  11. 1h 5m
    1. Understanding mastering
      4m 15s
    2. Bouncing the mix
      7m 9s
    3. Working with general mastering strategies
      8m 50s
    4. Using limiting and compression to maximize track level
      10m 57s
    5. Working with multi-band compression
      7m 9s
    6. Understanding sample rate, bit depth, file formats, and dither
      7m 30s
    7. Using Pro Tools for CD track sequencing
      10m 11s
    8. Compressing audio for the web
      9m 41s
  12. 44m 51s
    1. Tips for evaluating plug-in processors
      6m 51s
    2. Using EQ plug-ins
      5m 35s
    3. Using dynamic compression plug-ins
      11m 3s
    4. Using reverb and delay plug-ins
      10m 46s
    5. Reviewing additional plug-ins
      10m 36s
  13. 57m 18s
    1. Effectively using saturation/analog style effects
      13m 40s
    2. Setting up side chains
      7m 5s
    3. Master buss processing
      5m 34s
    4. Creating and using mix templates
      6m 54s
    5. Surround mixing
      6m 22s
    6. Dealing with plug-in delay and latency
      6m 26s
    7. Drum sample replacing
      11m 17s
  14. 32s
    1. Goodbye
      32s

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