What is a reference mix?
The idea of having reference mixes is nothing new and is done by industrial professionals. Put simply it just means finalised mastered (released) songs. You use these to listen to as a baseline as references for your own songs which can help you in the four ways mentioned here:
Comparison of levels (translation - especially on smaller speakers)
When we're not recording and producing on big high end systems it can be hard to know where to pitch the mix and the audio so to speak. We might think there's not enough bass in the mix so it gets turned up which can effect the whole of the mix. Using a reference mix and A/Bing between this and the production you're creating can help this process and decision making
Comparison of stereo and spatial field
What types of reverb are being used or is it more of a dry sound overall
A similar issue can occur if we use too much or too little reverb. Some genres of music are very much 'dryer' than others and reverb along with the panning can all effect the stereo field.
Comparison of instruments
A Bass drum is a bass drum -right??
Even for me as a drummer a bass drum and a snare drum can sound completely different and need to fit within the genre or it doesn't work. When I'm doing online session drums for clients I will always ask them for a reference mix so that I know what sound they are looking to achieve with my service
Aids clarity and direction
If you're not producing the song then this can help you and the person who is to really hone in on the sound you're trying to create instead of just hearing it in your head you can share where you're trying to get.
Mark is an online session drummer based in Reading UK providing remotely recorded drums to clients all over the world.
His main focus on the drums is to always serve the song and listen to what is being played by the other instruments in the band. It's always about the song.
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