How To Use Reference Tracks

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Daniel S.

Published on: May 04, 2020

Reference tracks are essential for learning how to mix your track on a professional level. 

These reference tracks provide you with a sonic footnote to aim for in your mix that you know is at a professional level. 

Without these reference tracks, it can be easy to get lost in your mix.

How loud should the bass be?

Is this lead synth too bright in the mix?

These questions and many more are very difficult to answer if you do not have a reference track. 

Furthermore, when you are mixing your song, you spend hours listening to the same exact sounds.  When you listen to the exact same sounds over and over, your perception of these sounds begins to change and not always for the better. After 15-20 playthroughs of your track, a bass sound that was muddy in the mix could all of sudden sound great in the mix without you having applied any mixing to the bass sound.

Having this reference track will make sure that your perception of your individual elements and the entire mix is working towards a specific sound. 


If you are struggling with creating a professional mix, find a song in the same genre or style that you are working in and place it in your DAW.

For any element or groups of elements that you are struggling to mix in your track, listen back to the reference song and listen to how that element is mixed in. 

Mix towards this sound in your mix. 

Often times this will involve the use of basic mixing tools (EQ, compressor, reverb, saturation, etc.) to get to this sound, but every. 

Remember, you are just looking to get close to the reference track, not get the mix exactly like the reference track. The combination of all the sounds and their specific timbres makes it almost impossible to get the same exact mix unless you are using the same exact sounds that have the same timbre. So look to get close to the reference tracks sonic characteristics.  

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