Having a reference point is important to creating a great mix and master especially if you are inexperienced with mixing and mastering. Without a reference track you are just taking a shot in the dark.
A good reference track will be a similar mix and master to the track you are producing. You can use that to compare to your mix and master and make adjustments to improve your mix.
How To Find And Use Reference Tracks
There are a couple of different ways to find good reference tracks. One way to do it is find a similar track or beat to the one you’re producing every time. (This can be pain as you have to constantly find new reference tracks, download them, import them into FL Studio, etc.)
One great way to do it is find a collection of songs that fits your production style. Keep all these songs in an easy to reference place. This way you can easily pull them in or listen to them for comparison purposes as you mix and master.
You can also take this collection of songs and mix them together to create a complete reference track. Take a small selection of each song such as 30 seconds. Important them all into the same project and place them one after the other. This will give you many different reference points of all your reference tracks. This way you only need one track to import and compare to any time you need to test your mix and master.
If you use this method I also advise that you pick a range of different style tracks. Also include different parts of songs such as intros, drops, hooks, rises, etc. This will give you many different parts to compare your mix to.
Using Your Reference Tracks
When using your reference tracks it is a good idea to have it in the same project. This way you can easily play it back to back with the track you are mixing. This can be as simple as pulling it in on a different channel and soloing and muting that track for comparison.
Your reference tracks will give you a good starting point for track levels. As you compare listen to the different elements of the track and compare what is different. For instance, you might find that your snare track is at a much different level than your reference track. You can then make adjustments if you feel it would enhance your track.
After looking at track levels I like to listen to the different frequencies. In my reference track is there certain frequencies that are enhanced or cut? For example, your reference track might have a very enhanced bass sound. You might consider enhancing the low end on your track to match the reference track.
Some tools such as Izotope Ozone even allow you to compare two tracks while mastering. This is just another way to use reference tracks to compare two songs. If you are not already I highly encourage you to start using reference tracks when mixing and mastering. This is especially true if you’re inexperienced. This can really improve your mixing and mastering skills.
How to use reference tracks in FL Studio
Depending on what you are doing will determine how you should use reference tracks in FL Studio. If you are working on a mix and want to compare back and forth I recommend that you use Edison. This way you can pull the reference track into Edison and play it when you need to for comparison purposes.
On the other hand, if you are testing out your final mix and master I recommend you render down your final file as a WAV file. Then you can pull both your final render and your reference track into the FL Studio playlist and compare them back and forth.
In this tutorial I’ll demonstrate both methods.
To import them into Edison you must first open Edison on a mixer track. This can be as simple as going to your mixer, and selecting Edison as the effect that you want to apply. Once Edison is open you can either drag and drop you sample to Edison or open it with the menu.
Now you can go back and forth between your track, and your reference track in Edison.
The next method to use in FL Studio is to render your current mix and/or master down. Preferably to a WAV file to keep its quality. If you are unsure how to do that you can check out our tutorial on Rendering high quality files with FL Studio.
Once you have rendered down your file you can start a new project in FL Studio. Import the file you just rendered down back into FL Studio. My preferred method for doing this is dragging and dropping the file directly into the playlist. This will show the WAV file on the FL Studio playlist and create a new item on the sequencer window.
Next import your reference track the same way you just did your mix track. For comparison you can use the sequencer to mute/solo each one individually.
Note: When using this method you can also compare the waveforms visually. While we never want to fully analyze a mix to a reference track visually it can help you quickly identify problem areas in your mix or master. For example: you might notice that your waveform is much smaller (meaning it is much quieter). Or you might notice that your waveform has a lot more peaks and valleys. Meaning it may need more compression to tighten it up a little.
Reference tracks are great for improving your mix and masters. Whenever possible you should check your mix and masters against a reference track as it can really improve your work.