When finalising your track, you want it to sound as good as possible. Perhaps you even want it to emulate what you listen to on the radio or like some of your favourite songs. So, here’s a quick way to help you do that – using reference tracks.
A reference track is pretty self-explanatory – it’s a track you use to reference your mix against. For my own work, I tend to use about 2 reference tracks that have the same sort of style and sound that I want to emulate.
There are a couple of different ways that you can use reference tracks, for example, I know of producers that import them into their DAW, volume match the reference track, and then use the reference track to guide them and influence the way they EQ the mix. This is done completely by ear and can really help your critical listening skills.
The other way of doing it is by Match EQ’ing your track against the reference track. This involves analysing the EQ of your final mixing, and then analysing the EQ of your reference track and then matching them together. There a few plugins out there that do this for example Izotope Ozone 6 Equaliser, FabFilter Pro Q 3, and Logic Pro X has an inbuilt plugin called Match EQ.
Overall this tends to be a great way to sonically lift and reshape your track. You can also adjust the parameters after matching the EQ to get your desired sound.
If you’re new to using reference tracks start off by just critically listening to a few songs you like and acknowledging what you hear (does it have a smooth high end? Is the bass really prominent? etc.) Then you can try to add those elements to your own mix. You can then start using Match EQ to emulate a certain sound.
Trust yourself though, if it sounds good to you then you’re probably onto a winner.
Jen Athan is a composer and producer based in Glasgow. Her work spans many different styles and genres and typically features her love of sampling and experimenting with new sounds. She has written music for theatre shows and short films and enjoys creating music to accompany a narrative.