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YoungProdigy

Where can I find high quality reference tracks for free?

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One the tips that I hear a lot to improve mixing is to use reference tracks. But I seem to have a problem finding high quality tracks to use for reference. Finding reference tracks that have the right clarity seems to be difficult to me.  In a lot of the tracks, it's hard to hear each instrument clearly. Sometimes it's difficult to tell where each instrument is panned also.

 

So is there any place I can find high quality reference tracks for free? It would really help improve my music.

Edited by YoungProdigy

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One of the things you can help is to imrpove your analytical listening. Active listening involves training your ear to hone in on elements in a song. Taking a whole mix and deconstructing it so you can analyze how it was constructed in the mix.

 

Reference tracks are songs that are mixed well in the genre you are mixing and using them as a tool to help re-create the same EQ, reverb, panning and volume for the parts. Then you can A/B your mix with the reference track and see how they compare.

 

Draw a square on a piece of paper. Listen to a song you're using as a reference.

 

Within that square, draw what instruments and where they are in the stereo field, how far back they are in the mix - volume, placement with wet reverb.. etc - how you percieve it.

Identify processing used - chorus, flange, echo, reverb.. eq.

 

You should be able to construct a fairly good graphic representation of a mix. This is the blue print you can use to apply to your own song.

 

These are actual exercises we had to do in an audio engineering course. We also learned how to hear individual frequencies on a 20 band EQ. Our lecturer used to test us twice a week by boosting or ducking one of the bands. 

 

Mixing is like playing an instrument, you don't just do it, you need to learn the basics first and then practice listening to other's play to try to emulate, and practice playing to improve. A lot of this skill is practice, and learning how to hear things in the music and then understanding how your processing and eqing will affect that mix.

 

There's no specific 'reference track' library persay, just songs that you aspire to mix as well as.

Edited by GroovyOne

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Great advice from both Groovy and Creep. I'm also a big fan of visual EQs where you can see real-time frequency response instead of sweeping around to find that sweet spot. I learned a lot about EQing using Waves H-EQ which gives you the visuals in addition to being modeled after real world EQs from Neve, SSL, and API. I'd also like to add that a good visual meter will help you learn a lot about mixing & mastering. I really like Blue Cat's DP Meter Pro which beyond keeping track of your Peak/RMS levels, will show you channel histograms and your crest factor. Seeing all of these levels laid out visually will help you a lot with your compression and panning.

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One of the things you can help is to imrpove your analytical listening. Active listening involves training your ear to hone in on elements in a song. Taking a whole mix and deconstructing it so you can analyze how it was constructed in the mix.

 

Reference tracks are songs that are mixed well in the genre you are mixing and using them as a tool to help re-create the same EQ, reverb, panning and volume for the parts. Then you can A/B your mix with the reference track and see how they compare.

 

Draw a square on a piece of paper. Listen to a song you're using as a reference.

 

Within that square, draw what instruments and where they are in the stereo field, how far back they are in the mix - volume, placement with wet reverb.. etc - how you percieve it.

Identify processing used - chorus, flange, echo, reverb.. eq.

 

You should be able to construct a fairly good graphic representation of a mix. This is the blue print you can use to apply to your own song.

 

These are actual exercises we had to do in an audio engineering course. We also learned how to hear individual frequencies on a 20 band EQ. Our lecturer used to test us twice a week by boosting or ducking one of the bands. 

 

Mixing is like playing an instrument, you don't just do it, you need to learn the basics first and then practice listening to other's play to try to emulate, and practice playing to improve. A lot of this skill is practice, and learning how to hear things in the music and then understanding how your processing and eqing will affect that mix.

 

There's no specific 'reference track' library persay, just songs that you aspire to mix as well as.

Well the problem I'm having is with a lot of mixes are hard to deconstruct. Often times the lower instruments will be difficult to hear in the mix or it will be hard to tell where stuff is panned. Ideally, I want clarity in my mixes.

 

I've mostly been trying to use Royalty-Free music for reference tracks; but they seem to lack clarity. Either because of compression or some other factor. Some tracks will use too much reverb too.

 

I understand EQ and everything. But if I could find high quality uncompressed reference tracks; it could improve my music.

Edited by YoungProdigy

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If you're looking for musical references just to hear high quality mixes in various genres, I would check out FirstCom. Costs a lot to buy but it's free to listen and there's no watermark. Best commercial music library in my opinion. Unless you're saying you want musical splits/stems where you have unmixed/mastered music with each instrument on a separate track?

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You want to go with professionally mixed and mastered tracks. problem is with royalty free tracks, you never know if they have been mixed or mastered well to begin with. They're usually just a company collating a whole bunch of composers works to license out.

 

To learn clarity and mixing and mastestering, you can use commercial tracks to deconstruct and analyse. While I was at SAE, I took tracks from CDs I owned to reference and analyze. Mr Cab Driver from Lenny Kravitz was one of them. Macy Grey had some I used too. Most of the big budget commercial game tracks should have some credits to mixing and mastering engineers and those are some that you could look at too. If doing orchestral works, film scores are also a great resource.

 

What kind of genre are you looking at improving?

 

Use of good dynamics and not cluttering your songs also helps with the mixing process, it's not all about trying to fix the issues in the final stages, but choosing the right instrument tones, separating instruments into the bands they use, and removing unwanted frequencies that create additive mush to other instruments. If all your instruments are going all the time, and are a constant volume it's going to be hard to mix. Rather than throwing multiple different reverbs on everything, use reverb sends, and group the instruments to send to those reverbs.

 

Typically in a song I may only have one vocal reverb and other instruments may share another reverb. Controlling bass and kicks together is another technique.. so many and different songs call for different techniques - which a lot I learned by experimenting and reading around and listening.

Edited by GroovyOne

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