Today I’m going to give you an insight into how I prepare for a mixing session. In particular, how I ‘calibrate my ears’ with some of my favourite reference tracks. An important part of how I prepare always involves listening to some music I really enjoy and that which represents a sonic benchmark for my mixing goals. Certainly, any tracks that a client might send to me always take priority. My own personal mix references are as much about getting inspired and excited prior to a mixing session.
The following are a few songs that I regularly reference (in no particular order):
I’ve been a huge fan of Donald Fagen and Steely Dan for years and I often reference a number of their tracks. The main reason I more often reference I.G.Y. is the midrange clarity and presence and the way it makes your studio speakers work. The low-end of the mix is both punchy, well-rounded and still retains clarity. The individual instrument tracks are also heavily compressed, so this gives me a guide as to how far to push compression in a mix.
An unusual selection, you may say. Aphex Twin has been around for a long time and has a significant back catalogue of electronic works. I particularly like ‘produk 29’ from the Syro album. The control of the sub-frequencies and their depth is superb and does not negatively effect any other aspects of the song mix. The high-mids are exceptionally well balanced, are very punchy and forward without being harsh at any time.
Al Jarreau has such a diverse historical back catalogue, his recent passing was very sad indeed, a great singer lost. I particularly love listening to ‘Mornin’ because it’s both upbeat and sounds sparkly, crystal clear. The upper frequencies have been pushed to the limit with being fatiguing at any time during the song. It is a fairly scooped mix, in that a lot of the mid-range has been dialled back, but still retains a lot of punch in the lows and low-mids. There are elements of this mix that are arguably a bit dated, but still sounds great to me and always gets me feeling good before a session.
When it comes to referencing hard-rock mixes, it’s hard to go past the Andy Wallace mixed debut album from Rage Against The Machine. Any track is great to reference from this album. Bombtrack is particularly great because of it’s dynamic range and extreme mid-range punch. Andy Wallace is a magician when it comes to getting a mix to smack hard in the mid-range and I love how this song sounds amazing on any speaker system or set of headphones. That is truly the hallmark of an exceptional mix.
This album (largely mixed by the great Mick Guzauski, one of my favourite mixers) is an example of sonic excellence. From the recording phase, through to mixing and mastering, it’s difficult to pinpoint any flaws. I often revisit “Get Lucky” (vocals by Pharrell) because the track has a specific silky tone that is very pleasing to my ears. The low-end of the mix really breathes, yet sounds very controlled and punchy. The mix also sounds very uncomplicated, the instrumentation is transparent and each element is able to have it’s space. I highly recommend checking out this album too!
Well, that’s my brief insight into how I approach mix referencing! Feel free to share some your favourite mixes in the comments below, would love to hear about some of your referencing processes and techniques!
Until next time,