You’re 5 hours deep into your mix. It is amazing. Really, this might be the ONE. The one that proves that you finally get it. You know how to mix. You’ve arrived. The low end is solid and the mix just slams. But your ears need a break. You’ll come back to it tomorrow morning to finish up this masterpiece.
Except tomorrow morning arrives and something horrible happened to your mix overnight. The mix trolls got into your settings and messed up everything. The low end is hopelessly overbearing and it’s killing the mix. The balances are skewed and the snare drum sound just blows.
What in the world happened?!
But, it doesn’t have to be this way. There is an easy way to keep you grounded and focused on what sounds good, even when your ears have adjusted to listening to your mix.
It couldn’t be easier. Pull up a stereo track in your session. Import 3-5 songs done by mixers you like in the genre that you’re mixing. Get this new stereo track to bypass any master bus mix processing. Get your mix’s level to the same level as the reference tracks. Boom, instant reality check.
Come back to these references often. I’m not saying you have to shoot to make your mix sound exactly like your reference tracks. I’m saying that you can pull them in to do a quick comparison to troubleshoot your mix. Right away you’ll hear if your low end is overbearing. Maybe your snare drum is far too loud. References keep your head and your ears in check.
If I’m doing a rock or metal mix, I’ll typically have two or three “go-to” references and then a few more that are closer to the genre I’m working on.
At The Drive-In “One Armed Scissor” (or really anything mixed by Andy Wallace)
People in Planes “Better Than Life”
American Head Charge “A Violent Reaction”
I find these cover a broad range of the mix spectrum. I know that “One Armed Scissor” is about as bright as I would want a mix to get and that “Divinations” is about as dark as I would want it to be. That gives me a solid idea of where I am at all times.
Pull in those references and get rid of those overnight mix trolls!