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#54: How To Use (And Choose) Reference Tracks To Improve Your Productions

How To Use (And Choose) Reference Tracks To Improve Your Productions

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Many people think of referencing mainly as a mixing tool... 

...but referencing other songs should actually be part of your process right from the start. Even during writing and arranging, proper referencing will make a huge difference.

I say "proper" referencing, because choosing the right reference tracks and using them to your advantage is a skill that needs to be learned and trained.

You want to reference the right songs for specific reasons, without ever trying to perfectly copy something (that will always go wrong, no matter how hard you try).

Listen know and learn when to use reference tracks, what to listen for and how to choose the right songs! We even give you a list of songs we use and explain why we chose these.


This episode was edited by Thomas Krottenthaler.


Automatic Episode Transcript — Please excuse any errors, not reviewed for accuracy (click for full transcript)

TSRB Podcast 054 - How To Use (And Choose) Reference Tracks For Your Productions

[00:00:00] Benedikt: [00:00:00] Call up one of those songs, listen for it. And I'm like, okay, there's still room left or we are way beyond what we should do. That's 

Malcom: [00:00:06] a great idea. It's like pulling out a compass and just making sure you're still going to rest or something. So, yes, that's 

Benedikt: [00:00:11] good. This is the self recording band podcast. The show where we help you make exciting records on your own wherever you are.

DIY style. Let's go.

Hello and welcome to the self recording band podcast. I am your host Benedick tine. And I'm here with my friend and cohost Malcolm Owen flood. How are you? Hello? I'm great, 

Malcom: [00:00:37] man. I totally remembered that we were recording this morning. So good to go here.

Benedikt: [00:00:45] Yeah. In case you're listening to this right after, uh, it's. It comes out. Uh, we are a day late, but, uh, yeah, sorry for that, but we're not going to miss a week. So there is the episode for you today and, um, [00:01:00] we are prepared, at least I like to think we are. And, uh, yeah. I don't know, it's a different, a different day of the week.

I'm not really in podcast mode. So I haven't even thought about what we, what we could talk before we start the episode. Anything happened to you Michael? This week we've met twice this week, which usually doesn't happen. Anything happens? Anything 

Malcom: [00:01:20] interesting? Yeah. Weird week so far, but that's, that's fine.

Um, I mean, for exciting nonsense, I'm going to be a background actor in a Netflix show tomorrow. So that's kind of weird. I'm not another odd turned in Malcolm's life. Yeah. I don't know how stuff like this happens, but it does off. I go to do that. See what that's all about. Um, I was doing like some boom work on another movie just on the weekend and.

Like, I was just watching all the background actors being like, how are they? Like, what are they doing? What is their job? Cause I don't know what I'm getting into. I got an email being like, okay, send us your wardrobe. And it was like my wardrobe. [00:02:00] I have to provide clothes, I guess. So I can't show up naked.

Oh, sorry. Figuring that out. Uh, yeah, so that's happening, but in more relevant conversation, uh, and relevant to what we're going to be talking about today. I got these new headphones that Benny can see through our video chat. They are sending hazer HD six 50 is for folks that aren't able to see very nice headphones that I definitely wanted for a while now.

Um, and we're talking about referencing today, which. There's going to be kind of a two-part conversation. I think there's going to be referencing before you're recording and as you're recording, but there's also referencing at the end, in the post stages of mixing and listening to it, your song on different sources and stuff like that.

So that's how headphone headphones tie in is that it's another source for me to listen to what I'm working on and kind of get a perspective. Oh yeah, 

Benedikt: [00:02:48] totally. Uh, yeah, if you're on, uh, like shopping for headphones or looking for headphones right now, those sent houses HD six 50. Uh, I can really recommend them as well.

They are like the flattest or some of them flattest [00:03:00] headphones out there. So you can really trust what you hear on those. They are comfortable to wear. So I'm not like we're not sponsored by anything by Sonos, but these are just the proven classic pair of headphones that I can really recommend that are not too expensive.

So yeah. Stoked for you too, that you, you got these finally loving them. Yeah. One of those things, when you think about referencing, most people think about mixing, like referencing other tracks that is. Other songs, you usually do that when you mix, you compare your mix to other mixes or aspects of your mix to other mixes, to make sure you get the low end, right.

Or like the overall balance or the how wide everything is, stuff like that. But what I want to talk or what we want to talk about today, And I claim came up with this, with this topic because, um, I felt like people do not reference enough sometimes, especially when they are not as experienced and you should start referencing even before mixing, like during recording or dream get getting tones.

[00:04:00] That is what I, what I'm saying. So there's this part, like the referencing, when you're dialing in guitar tones or when you're tuning drums or making grams or whatever you do. Um, and then. The other aspect is if you are working with a mix engineer or a mastering engineer, and you send your stuff away to have somebody else work on them on your stuff, then you probably give them some sort of creative input, some guidelines, some Sonic vision that you have, and, or people might ask you for references or bands that you look up to.

And what I see many people make here is the mistake of listing a bunch of bands that they are fans of, or a bunch of songs that they like. But these are not really references that have anything to do with what you're doing, or like it's not an intentional reference that people are listing for some specific reason.

That's just listing bands. They like basically, and it's hard as a mixed engineer to do something with that info because it's oftentimes not really relevant or it's even like [00:05:00] some things just don't go together well. So, um, yeah, that's why I wanted to have this conversation and. Before we start getting into this.

I want to say that you should, if we list examples here today, or talk about specific things, you should just take this as an inspiration to find your own references and to just build a list of things of reference tracks over time. Just keep building it, keep adding to it whenever you hear something interesting.

And like, as I do not choose references, just because you like the songs or artists have specific reasons for it. And also please know that this is very. Shaundra dependent when it comes to tracking reference. It's not so much in mixing. I have mixed references from all sorts of genres because I referred to them or I referenced them for specific reasons.

But during tracking, I think it's very Shondra dependent. So what I use for references might not be suitable for, for you or your band. Just keep that in mind before we, before we jump in. But like, yeah, but mixing it's a different thing. I don't know if you do the [00:06:00] same outcome, if you sometimes reference stuff from completely other.

Uh, ends of the, the music universe, like completely other genres does specific reasons. Yeah. 

Malcom: [00:06:10] Yep. I've got like a pop country too, in that I check almost every mix against, yeah. I don't work in a lot of pop country either. 

Benedikt: [00:06:18] Yeah, exactly. So for me, I almost exclusively work in rock and heavy music like punk rock, hardcore metal.

Guitar music basically, but there is one, uh, song by Kendrick Lamar, um, loyalty. It's like Kendrick Lamar and Rihanna, I think. And that song has such an insane over the top low end. I've never heard anything like it before. Basically there's an eight Oh eight that comes in. That is so. So huge and massive.

And if I ever do anything that, that has a big, and then that I'm way off you shouldn't, you know, I mean, that's not, not that this happens often, but it's just a reference for me because some bands want to have bass drops or certain samples or they're [00:07:00] tune low in one really heavy sup um, area. And, uh, that kind of is my extreme.

Point that I referenced. I never want to get, have any more than that. That mixes are like, it's even almost impossible to have that much low end in my mixes without destroying anything. It's just an extreme reference that I listened to when I feel that something's just too heavy or. Low 

Malcom: [00:07:21] end. Yeah. Yeah. I love it because mixing is, is so tricky because it is, is this like ever shifting perspective of where the goalposts are.

Like it's always moving and based on how you're feeling that day, you might prefer things darker or lighter kind of thing. So you kind of need to reset your boundaries a little bit by checking things that, you know, Sound good. And you're so, cause you can get really lost, mixed and be like, this is the coolest thing ever, but then you pull up something that, you know, that you've listened to every day for the last year.

And it sounds awesome. Every time you listened to it and yours is way off from that, it's like that's a red flag. There's probably. A reason. [00:08:00] It seems crappy after you've listened to the good mix. Yes. That's like, that's kind of how it works. If you're, if you're way off, you're like, this is awesome. I'm killing it.

Listen to good mix. Go back. Hm. My mix sounds like, yeah. 

Benedikt: [00:08:13] Yeah, that was so often. And that's the thing. I dunno if you're the same, but for me, sometimes I'm scared of referencing and don't do it for that reason, which is really weird. Sometimes there's this voice in the back of my head that tells me you should probably reference now because you've been working for hours.

And it's probably a good idea to listen to something now, but then there's this, otherwise that tells me. Don't reference because if you do, you might feel the need to change something. And I don't really want to, I don't want to do that now. So I don't reference when I actually should. I just, because I know that when I do it, something will come up.

That is probably wrong, which is a totally weird thing. But I, that happens so often that I'm just scared. And sometimes when I listen to the stuff the next day, I'm like, Man had I just listened to the reference, this wouldn't have happened, 

Malcom: [00:08:57] you know, but yeah. Yeah. I mean, [00:09:00] there is a bit of a double sided sword here in that if you listen to a shiny reference track, right before you mix a dirty grungy song, it's going to probably influence how you go into the mix and you're going to end up trying and make this polished thing because of that perspective you just gave yourself.

So I think. There is a little bit of like, you do have to time it, I think. Um, so I try to leave it pretty close to the end, if not the end, before I pull up references. And then yeah. Sometimes I'm way off and I'm like, okay, this is like a mess. Like I should have listened to earlier, like you said, but sometimes it's like, okay, I see.

The difference is, and I can kind of split the split the difference kind of thing, but I'm glad that I didn't go and make this like Uber polished recording, because that's what I listened to right before it, you know, like you could kind of skew your perspective too much if you get into a reference too early, 

Benedikt: [00:09:48] I think.

Yeah, absolutely. So the last thing that I want to say here about the mixing, um, The referencing mixing thing. Um, topic, I think I told you that I screwed up a [00:10:00] mix because I, I referenced like the CLA mix that was not appropriate for what I did. I didn't. It ended. Right? Yeah. I'm not sure if I told you the story, but that was exactly what happened.

Would you just said, like the band told me they want a radio rock. Um, super polished mainstream, big rock sound, and they liked CLA mixes. So naturally I pulled up some CLA mixes and use them as references. And that the whole time I had the feeling of, I don't know, this doesn't really fit the vibe of the song.

I would make it much more raw and like dirty, and I dunno, it just felt. Wrong, but I did it anyways because the band wanted it and I had the references and I tried to go in that direction. And, but what I ended up ended up doing was I served that vision that the band tilt me, but I didn't serve the songs or the song.

And, uh, I sent it to the band and they actually didn't like it because like, it was just not the right decision for the song. So I ended up sending them what I thought was good and they loved it even more. So it was just like, they thought they wanted to see CLA mix, [00:11:00] but they actually didn't. And I made the mistake of like using the reference and just trying hard to make it be that.

But it wasn't that, you know, 

Malcom: [00:11:08] it wasn't that. Yes. Yeah. I. Totally relate to that, that they like, again, that's why I tried to leave it pretty late in the process. Cause I always want to go with my gut first and sometimes you'll get notes being like, Oh, in like verse two, we want this effect on the, the backing vocals or like the guitar should have a trem on this kind of thing.

And I keep those notes handy, but I don't look at them until I'm done my first pass because it's like, I want to make those decisions naturally. If I think they should be there. And often it's like a totally different decision gets made and I'm like, Hey. I know you said this, but check out what I did. Let me know what you think.

I'm totally happy to change it to that if you want. Um, and I think that's like, I mean, this isn't a mixing podcast, but we're kind of here for that. That's like why people hire myself or, or you Benny is because of our decision-making, um, at the end of the day, right? So it's like, this is [00:12:00] my take. Um, what the song should be, do you agree?

Okay. Let's now meet in the middle and that's going to be like the best result possible. 

Benedikt: [00:12:08] I think kind of thing, a hundred percent agreed. And I think this is very relevant, even if we're not mixing podcast, as you said, but first of all, a lot of people in our audience mix themselves and second, like knowing that stuff helps communicate.

Alarming. Right. So I think it's absolutely helpful and relevant. So yeah, one thing that I love to do when it comes to tracking, um, and using references for that, and I do that with mixing as well, but in every stage of the production process, this can be helpful. Is. Yes. I agree. You should wait until you have your ideas down and then you can compare to other stuff.

But what I do like is before I even start, I'll have a list, like my personal reference list that consists of various things, and that might pull up three, four songs. Um, That might be [00:13:00] relevant for the project that I'm about to do, like in the ballpark or they'd have certain aspects that could be helpful.

Or sometimes I just use the whole re list and put it on random and just let it play in the background while I'm setting up or while I'm like, yeah, creating the session or labeling tracks or whatever patching stuff, or while I'm doing this, I just have it in the background playing, and I don't really listen to it or focus on it, but I still hear it.

And that kind of calibrates my years a little bit for the day. I like to do that. When I, before I start. Um, just so I'm familiar with, uh, the speakers again at the room. And I mean, I know that that room and those speakers, because I'm in there all day, but still when I'm fresh in there, it helps. At at least me, it helps me listen to some stuff that I really know.

And, um, when I start, I already have this yeah. Calibration in my head. And when I don't do that, especially when tracking it sometimes can be hard to judge a snare tone or sometimes even a guitar tone. It's kind of hard to like, tell if it's like too [00:14:00] bright or too dark or too muddy. But if you've listened to a couple of songs, you at least know a range of.

Talents that are possible. It might work at least for me, it 

Malcom: [00:14:08] helps. Yep. No, I totally agree. Totally agree. So let's chat about the other side of referencing the production side of referencing. Even the writing side of referencing. Um, there's definitely mixed opinions on this, but I personally think that hearing a song being inspired by it and being like, we need to write our own hotel.

California is like a sick idea. And, uh, cause it's never going to end up like the song you started with. Right. It's just like, you're forcing creativity and I think that's so cool. Um, but I think what we're mostly talking about is when you're going in to pre-pro. You are making decisions on what you want your record to sound like based on other songs, um, that you're going to be referencing.

So you can be like, we want big wide guitars, like the new architect stuff or something, you know, or we want like a pumpy kind of mix, like nothing but [00:15:00] thieves or, uh, or bring me the horizons, latest stuff, kinda thing. Um, like that that's really in style right now in the rock genre, or we want distorted vocals, like the black keys.

Or we want really reverb dope vibey vocals, like Jose, Jose. Wow. I don't even know how to say it. All I know is he sounds amazing. Yeah. Yeah. But like these are decisions that you can make and point to artists and their recordings to kind of start painting the picture of what you want your record to sound like in the end, right?

Yes. And again, just like everything else we've said, it's never going to actually turn out just like that really. Um, yes, but it's, it's good to have 

Benedikt: [00:15:41] targets. Yes, absolutely. And that, I think you said, what would you said here is so important that it's never going to sound like that and that's why you shouldn't be.

Or you don't have to be afraid of doing that because it's always, whatever you do is always running through your own filters, through your own ears and brain and your vision and [00:16:00] creativity. And it's never gonna be the exact same thing, unless if you're going, like, if you want to make a copy of it, which doesn't make sense.

So, um, even if you're influenced, if bands say we're influenced by X, Y, Z, if they don't. Obviously just copy something. It's always still sounding like them. I mean, at least most of the time, so I wouldn't be afraid of referencing. And another thing you said that I really find important is that you listen for specific aspects of specific songs.

So you're not picking one song and you're saying, okay, We want to sound like that, but usually you pick, as you said, like the guitars, you like the image of the guitars in this song, you like the low end in this song, you like how the vocal sit on top of everything in this song or whatever it is. And then you put it together to create yours.

And that's perfectly fine because we all are always influenced by everything we hear and everything you we create is always inspired by something that's been there before. That's just natural. [00:17:00] So. I would even say, if you don't do that, and if you try to create something completely new or fresh or something that's never been done before, it could fail.

Because if you do end up doing something completely new, that doesn't sound like anything else. And it's not inspired by anything. People likely won't relate to it because they can connect it to some emotional feeling that they had before when they listen to something else. So it's a good thing to be inspired by arts that's already out there and then make your own, you take on that.

No, 

Malcom: [00:17:29] right. Yeah. I would say if you want to do something new, you'd actually be better served by choosing something that already exists and then figuring out how to modify it. Yes. Like how can we take it a step further than what was done here? Kind of thing. 

Benedikt: [00:17:42] Yes. Yes. And I also like, um, that you mentioned the arrangement or writing process as well, because I initially, when I, uh, came up with the idea for this episode, I thought about the tones, the tracking board and anything, but you're right.

The arrangement and stuff is like, Absolutely a part of it. Um, [00:18:00] and the writing process, because you can learn so much by just paying attention to how instruments and layers go together. How the low end is arranged is like there is it a very Subi, big kick drum and a nut, like a rather thin bass guitar or the opposite stuff like that.

We've already talked about on the show. You can hear that in these arrangements, you can hear if guitars are doubled or not, you can hear the vocal layers. You can hear buildups or transitions, all that. So, yeah, very cool that you brought 

Malcom: [00:18:28] that up. Even, even structure, like does your, like every band is guilty of this for the first three years of their life.

If they actually look at their song structures, they're all the same riff verse chorus verse course big course. Like the best part of the song is always at the end for the first one. Like three years of a bad. And then they realized like, Oh, people out like that ending part, we should try moving that earlier.

It's funny. Yeah, totally. Yeah. [00:19:00] So yeah, I think we should circle back to, um, learning the skill of being objective about what actually is a relevant reference for, for your band. Because, well, I might like, um, a lot of listening to a lot of heavy music. That isn't going to translate to a lot of the work I do, um, necessarily.

So I'm not necessarily suggesting a spirit box mix as a preproduction tip for a rock band I'm working with. I mean, sometimes I could like, if we want. I don't know, like really crazy sense or something, you know, but, uh, but generally just because I love that band and that's what I'm listening to every day, isn't, doesn't make it a good fit.

So that's a bit of a skill to learn. You're, you're, we're all prone to want to do what we're digging at that moment. Um, and that's not always the right choice. So it's just something 

Benedikt: [00:19:48] to be aware of. Yes, totally. And it seems to be difficult. It's difficult for me to. Um, imagine that or get myself in like, um, or put myself in the shoes of someone just starting out, because [00:20:00] to me it's so natural to listen to stuff and like put it in categories and see if it's relevant or not.

So it's kind of hard for me, but I know for a fact that it's hard for people because I get that all the time that they. Think something sounds like something when it actually doesn't and that you have that this is a skill you have to learn really. Like I had this recently with, with, um, a client that I do STEM mastering for, which is sort of a hybrid of mixing and mastering.

So you send someone groups instead of individual tracks, like five or six groups, like all drums or vocals or guitars, and then you, if necessary, you balance it out and then you master it. And if the mix is good, you choose master it, but you have the option. Anyway. And, uh, so I gave them some feedback on their mix and, uh, I thought it was cool what they did.

And I really thought, like I had not much to say, but they then told me that they liked some records of a band better for a specific reason. And how they could achieve that character in their songs. And I'm like, Oh, that [00:21:00] gets interesting because that band is the opposite of what you sound like or what you makes it sound like.

So right. Without that info, I would've said it sounds awesome and fits your songs. But if now that I know you want to go in that direction. Um, you'd basically start with a different drum room and different everything basically, because, you know, it was just a completely different thing, but for some reason they thought they were going in the right direction.

So it is a skill you've got to learn. Absolutely. That's 

Malcom: [00:21:26] that's well timed. I just sent out a mix to like five friends and was like, let me know your thoughts. And I chose them specifically because of their styles. And it's a low mix. It's like a lo-fi, you know, it's like intentionally kind of bad sounding in a way, you know, but it's really vibey.

And half of the people were like, it's perfect. Other half were like, this sounds really mid rangy and like not, not Polish man. So it was like, and. But it's right. It's the, it's how the client needs it to be. Um, in hindsight, after I've sent it to them. So it's kind of funny. It's like through the different lenses is [00:22:00] something could be perfect or totally wrong.

Um, so you have to really be aware of that. That's a perfect example. Yeah. 

Benedikt: [00:22:07] Maybe we should give people some examples. I don't know if you have any or if you do that a lot, but I actually have some examples that I use. All the time we're over and over again. And maybe that helps people understand what we mean here, like what to listen for when it comes to referencing, um, uh, other things.

So maybe I believe we should, we should just give them some examples. Talk about it a little bit. And then, um, that helps. 

Malcom: [00:22:31] Yeah. Um, you know, what something I would really want watch for is like, and this really ties into our last episode on Dublin, um, is the use of doubles, like, is it the wall of sound going on in the songs that you're listening to?

It is that a recurring theme on the references you've chosen then if so great. You know, you're probably going to be ended up doubling a lot of guitars and vocal layers and stuff like that and making that Wallace sound. But if it's not, and that sound right. They have like, you know, Polish radio rock is not what you're [00:23:00] looking for.

And none of the references you've chosen have that then obviously you don't want to be doing that probably. Yeah. Um, and knowing that would actually save a lot of time on the engineer's side, if they know that they don't have to worry about doing that kind of step. Right. Like, 

Benedikt: [00:23:13] yes, totally, totally. Like that's a classic actually, when people, sometimes people want to hear specific elements very clearly, or they want a very clean, like, mixed way.

You can hear clearly what's going on. Everywhere. And if you want that, like, if you want to hear the details in the right symbol and like the details in the guitar chords and every single, like every element, if you want that all to be very clear. It's probably not a good idea to make like eight layers of guitars and tons of vocals.

And since, and because that will sound huge, but probably not very detailed compared to a very stripped down arrangement. We can hear everything clearly. And that's a classic where people want this sort of detailed thing, but still because they think you have to still do all the doubles and layers [00:24:00] and then you end up just muting all of that because.

That's what they want. So you can save a lot of time if you knew from the beginning that this was what you're going for. Definitely. Yeah. Cool. Absolutely. So yeah, that the Dublin thing, another concrete, like another specific example is when you see like a big one for me is rooms and space in general, like a very dry mix versus a really full like lawn with long room and reverb tails and like, Basically a wet versus a dry mix.

Uh, put it simple. That's also classic where you really need to be, to pay attention to how explosive and like big the drum sound in whatever reference you're using, how long the sustain is of everything. And then that might dictate which room you're using. And if you don't have a room like that available, you might already know that you need samples because it's impossible to get that sound in your jam space, for example.

So that's another thing where you can learn [00:25:00] to listen for the S the space that the drums are in, especially. 

Malcom: [00:25:04] Yeah. Yeah. Another extreme example on that same. Same thing is, uh, maybe the drums of what you're referencing are totally programmed. And it's like, okay, well, we can get exactly that sound. If we buy the same sample library and same virtual instrument.

Like, I mean, not exactly, but yeah, it's going to be very close in that case. That's as close as you can get. Um, so that that's a decision you could make know. Yeah, 

Benedikt: [00:25:26] totally. Thanks. Yeah. The drums is, is a big one. Um, yeah, yeah, 

Malcom: [00:25:31] yeah. Like vocal reverbs, you know, like with a lot of people are posting what they're doing online these days.

So if you have like this vocal sound, you really dig, you might be able to find out what they used for it. Um, and like, again, it's going to be different with your voice, but it's going to have some of the characteristics, 

Benedikt: [00:25:48] right. Also big one. They, all the information is out there. So there's actually no reason to be surprised.

When someone tells you, Oh, you know, they probably use that. And not what you did, because [00:26:00] you can look that stuff up a lot of the time. Like oftentimes not every time, but a lot of it can really be researched. And, um, yeah, it's, it's really, it's a skillset like listening for the right things, researching planning, the whole production properly, putting together the right reference is the right influences talking about it in the band, because as you said, Two of, you might have a completely different opinion than the other three, and you need to figure out a way, um, to, to get it done and to, so that everyone's happy with it.

So, right. That's really a skill and you shouldn't get it. We should take this, this whole process seriously. Yeah, by 

Malcom: [00:26:37] the way, that difference of opinions between band members is sometimes what leads to the core coolest records. Oh yeah. You know, like if there's like a heavy drummer, that's like, I want my drums to be slamming, destroying destruction of war, worlds, just huge, you know?

And then the guitarist is like, yeah, we're like kind of bad, but my guitars are going to be really clean and like, That is now a genre that's so popular. [00:27:00] Right? Like, and it's so cool. It sounds awesome. I'm like these Spanky clean guitars on heavy Brock it's it's totally cool. Um, and that like, that's how that stuff happens.

I think in my experience is different influences being allowed to the table 

Benedikt: [00:27:13] in the right spots. Yes. Yes. I totally agree. It can be difficult sometimes to marry it all together, but if it works, it's awesome. And that's how like progress is made and new things happen. And then yeah. Um, totally agree. Yeah.

Sometimes it's tough with like, am I, I mean, in my world, there's not so much I say in the, in the, in the punk rock, hardcore heavy rock world, like there's only so much you can do with those arrangements. Right. But still, sometimes it's very tough when, for example, uh, someone wants like a lot of like a Rumi natural.

A sound with not like a super high top end and yeah, everything's good as space and depth to it. And another person in the band might like things super dry and like upfront and present and like [00:28:00] that's a difficult thing to do. And it also depends on the, the speed of the song and Al and like all these things.

And I had it oftentimes when, when someone likes the typical. Polished pop punk productions and another one in the band likes, um, yeah, the more open Rumi, less gain, less presence sounds. And then you just gotta figure out a way how to do it and then meet in the middle of, or, or go for another for something completely different or whatever.

So, 

Malcom: [00:28:29] yeah. Yeah. It's yeah, it can be, it can totally be a challenge, but that's what preproduction is for you put it all together 

Benedikt: [00:28:34] and see if it works. Yes, exactly. And don't have the illusion. That everything can work with everything. That's also a thing where when people say we want very clear, very loud symbols, but we also want very easy, like super bright guitars.

And then the vocals should be cut through really well. And you should be, you should be able to understand every single word and there, you already have a problem. Like you have three elements in the upper mid range [00:29:00] and the highs that are fighting for that space and like, So be intentional about that stuff and know that not everything can be the loudest and most upfront thing, you know?

Absolutely. Okay, cool. Let's get to some specific examples. Um, so you already mentioned spirit box. Spirit box is actually something I use a lot when, when tracking already and also, but in mixing, but in tracking also. And I don't use it as an overall like reference sometimes I do, but th the, the main reason why I choose Holy roller for example, is the low end, because, um, something about the low end of the song, it makes it sound super huge, like super big, but it's actually not that super loud.

If you look at that song and an analyzer it's like super flat, but it sounds as if it had, like, it sounds like this huge, massive, low end. And, uh, yeah, it's, it's just makes them produce so well. [00:30:00] Um, that I always, if I want to have a really, really well arranged low end, that's going to end up sounding big, um, without like being overpowering or like just too much, I referenced that, that song.

And yeah, that's, that's mostly follow reasons, but that's a very specific reason and that might reference that. So even if I'm not working on something super heavy, just because I love how the low end, how the bass and the kick drums and the samples and all that goes together. I just love that, right? Yep.

Malcom: [00:30:28] Yeah. I've got that one on my list too. It's an amazing production. Yeah. Um, yeah, like I said, there's a, a country tune I use by Marin Morris. Um, I'm just pulling up the name. It's called girl. I don't need to pull it up, but it's just like so good sounding, just so good sounding also quite loud. Um, so I use it as like a loudness reference pretty often.

Um, Uh, like getting something that loud, but that good sound good is really a feat. And there it's a upgrade. It's [00:31:00] also pretty downtempo. So whenever I've got something that is, was a little more slow, um, that helps me with just making sure, like my decays are really timing out. Well, um, stuff like that. Um, I guess that's more of a mixing reference Lynn, anything.

Benedikt: [00:31:15] Yeah. But it's still helpful for people to understand how that, how, how you think, how your thinking is there, how it works and why are you listening to two specific things? So cool. Like this referencing different? Definitely interesting. And also for people I think for, even if you don't mix yourself a master yourself, it can be interesting because that's another conversation you're going to have with your.

Mixing or mastering engineer. Um, how loud should things be and how can you make an educated decision here if you've never like compared things. And if you never knew what actually happens when things are super loud or. Super quiet. Right. So absolutely helpful information. Okay. So, um, 

Malcom: [00:31:53] well I think it's funny because with tracking, I don't really have recurring ones.

I mean, they [00:32:00] definitely do come become recurring, but not intentionally. So it's not like I'm always looking at them for tracking. Normally it's a conversation with the band. Um, and they, they often have ideas as well for what they're thinking. And I look, can look at that as well. Um, but I've more or less got an idea in my head that will.

Prove with pulling up references and actually checking them kind of thing. But I don't really, it's, it's more a mixing and mastering that I've got recurring ones that I might constantly throw in him. Um, and one of those actually is always their most recent mix from whatever they did last. I'm always making sure I'm beating that.

Benedikt: [00:32:34] Yeah. Always make sure I'm beating that. And sometimes I also reference my own productions just because I want to make progress and I want to beat whatever I did last and. Or because like also, because that's actually pretty smart. Like if you're people listening, if you are mixing for other people as well, referencing your own stuff from time to time is not a bad idea because there is probably a reason that people come to you [00:33:00] because they heard something they liked.

So staying in touch with your own work, so to speak and like knowing why people liked what you did helps. Like I had it often when people come to me and say, and they come to me because they heard a specific record. So, yeah, why not use my own stuff as reference? It's just to make sure I'm giving them.

Something similar to what they already liked for me. Definitely. 

Malcom: [00:33:23] And it's also, these are projects that we know like the back of our hand from having worked on them. So when we are looking for inspiration in a vibe, it's like, Oh, this reminds me of that thing. I did a year ago. Pull it up. How did I do that?

Exactly. You can look at it. It's like the most inside access. You can get into a technique. 

Benedikt: [00:33:40] Yeah, totally cool. Yeah. So I get to a couple where I feel that's something I like a lot is referencing extremes just as like the Kendrick Lamar X example that I, that I gave you. Um, I like to have some references that just show me where kind of the extremes are.

And if I'm, if I ever go past that, I [00:34:00] need to be re I need to really know what I'm doing. Like it's, it's really, um, extreme then. So for, in my rock and punk rock and pop punk world, When it comes to overall brightness, for example, when I dial in guitar tones, or when I cue drums on the way in or choose symbols or anything, that's bright.

And like when I'm putting together how bright the arrangement of the song should be like in the end. And I, I always aim for something close to the final thing, even June tracking. So I just like to get things done that way from the start. And then there, there is one reference and that is. Uh, they blink the blink, um, record, like, or the song, all the small things, but blink one 82.

Yeah, this is a very good sounding, but very aggressive sounding mix. That's super bright and like sort of annoying. Like you can't listen to it for super long because it's just the tagging like help. Right. And, and like, yeah, the upper mid range and everything. It's just a very bright, very. Aggressive [00:35:00] sounding mix.

So if, if what I'm recording, especially in the recording stage for my guitars and my symbols are more annoying than that, or more like present than that, I'm probably going too far. Right. 

Malcom: [00:35:12] Yep. Yeah, that's a, that's a good thing. I don't really have a specific song that the name here, but one thing that I am always looking for is degrees of energy in the drum sound in particular.

Um, so actually the, the intro to this podcast is one of my band songs and I love the vibe of the drums and that it's like room energy at the wazoo party music kind of thing. Um, it's not really party music, but it's like pumped up. Crush some beers music. I would say if that song anyways, and, uh, and that's got like an energy.

So if I need to like aim for something like that, I'm definitely checking that out. Um, but if it's something different, like, um, I'm trying to find a reference for the energy level of the drum sound pretty well always. 

Benedikt: [00:35:53] Oh, that's good. That's a cool, that's a good one. Yeah, totally. I can see that. Yeah. That also helps make, make bold decisions [00:36:00] because sometimes that means you need to go extreme with like compression or saturation or.

Things like that. And you might not be brave enough to do it until you've listened to a reference and you're like, Oh, That's way, like blown up and much more extreme than what I did. So I, I, I think I can go further here 

Malcom: [00:36:20] cause it makes you think, okay, how do we even do that? Like, if it's not like anything you've ever done before, you have to figure it out.

Um, and it totally is a production decision because I use that. Decision to warrant which studio we're going to. Yes. Where are we going to cut? The song is made almost entirely off that 

Benedikt: [00:36:34] decision. Yeah, I got, I got an example. That is that like, yeah, that, that does exactly that for me. And that is, um, the song hurricane by thrice.

Um, it's like, do you know the band thrice? I do. Yeah. I saw them once. No, that's awesome. That's awesome. Yeah, they're great. And they they're so. Yeah, every record is it's different. And like, they they've went through a lot of like evolutions and it's, I love this band, but, [00:37:00] um, this song in particular, It was like, I think three or four years old or that whole record.

But in that song, I like it the most. Um, these are super dry drums, but despite the fact that they are very dry and there is no big room, audible room, they sound super bad, big, and also very sad maturated and dirty. And they have an energy to them. That's really hard to do. They sound super organic and natural, but like you hear that it's an actual drum kit.

You hear distortion, you hear energy. Yeah, as I said, super big unique in a way, but the, the how big they sound, it doesn't come from a massive room. So whenever somebody wants like a dried drum sound, but still they want it to sound big and not super tight and like buried. Then I referenced this and just make sure that I'm getting.

Close to that sort of energy. Cool. 

Malcom: [00:37:53] I'm going to send you a sample that will make you very happy after this is done. It may or may not have Trace's name [00:38:00] in it. 

Benedikt: [00:38:02] Oh yeah, yeah, yeah. That's that's that already sounds good. Sounds 

Malcom: [00:38:05] promising. Awesome. Awesome. Thank you so much. 

Benedikt: [00:38:09] Um, uh, now I want to check it out. Um, yeah.

Back to the episode, do you, do you. Have anything else in that category or that like extreme preferences? Uh, I, 

Malcom: [00:38:25] I kind of do a similar thing with the, with the low end, um, Yeah. Especially with eight Oh eight style of music in mastering. It's like, what people think they can do is often very different than what you can actually do.

And they're like, well, listen to this song. And it's like, we pull it up. I'm like, this is a lot thinner because it has to be, you see now? And they're like, wow, okay. I was going too far because, and that just we've talked about this before. Low-end is the hardest thing to hear in a bad room or with that gear and stuff like that.

So it's really easy to overdo. Um, So I'm always safeguarding that that's probably the biggest extreme check [00:39:00] I do. Um, lately I've been looking at pop vocals a lot because pop vocals are always bright and very present and close sounding, but they're not too harsh. Um, they're, they're somehow like the smoothest vocals while also being the most.

In your face in a way, maybe not in your face, but like you never, you can always tell the lyrics, you can always make out what's going on. Um, so it's like this perfect Polish that I'm always striving to improve. 

Benedikt: [00:39:30] Yeah. The airy quality to two pop vocals, where you feel like somebody's whispering right in your ear, but without being overbearing or harsh, like yeah, that that's well done.

Pop vocals have that. That's super shiny top end, but you never have, you never feel like it's too brittle or whatever. 

Malcom: [00:39:47] Yeah. Yeah. A lot of the modern country guys are really pulling this off. Well, as well, like it's, it's just, the vocals are obviously the most important thing and they're nailing it and I think that's something to be strapped.

Benedikt: [00:39:58] Oh yeah, totally [00:40:00] cool. Yeah. Then I got two more here that are specific for guitars dialing in guitar tones. Again, two extremes. So one is, and I use that for mixing as well, but it works for guitar tones. One is almost every CLA mix and especially like Nickelback mixes, like feed the machine. Ben Nickelback.

For example, if I ever, if someone wants a polished radio or like even metal sound and modern heavy guitar sound. With scoop mids. If I ever take out more mid range than this song, I'm going too far because it's so scooped. There's so little like meat and no definition. The mid range here, like it sounds heavy and full because below is some stuff left, but the mid range from like 400 up to 1.5 colors or so is so scooped.

That like, if I would take out more than that, it's just, it's, it's definitely going to be too thin or not work for my mixing style. It might [00:41:00] work for CLL for CLA, but not for me. That's interesting. 

Malcom: [00:41:03] I'm going to have to check that out cause that, yeah, I think that makes sounds really, really? 

Benedikt: [00:41:07] Yeah. It's it sounds massive and fantastic.

But if you, if you, even, if you look at it on an analyzer, it's such a Beth top, you know, it's like the smiley face. 

Malcom: [00:41:16] That's awesome. I've heard that though. 

Benedikt: [00:41:19] We, in Germany we say bathtub, I don't know if anyone, if, if you'd say it in English, like smiley face. Um, 

Malcom: [00:41:25] smiley faces the most common. Yeah, for sure. Um, but bathtubs just fantastic.

Yeah. 

Benedikt: [00:41:30] Yeah. That's so I, I really want to go further than that. And then there's another extreme here for me when it comes to guitar, aggressiveness or harshness when I do extreme or heavier stuff, or like, if someone wants things to sound ugly or like, mean, or. Obnoxious, like some of the raw, um, more organic and nasty metal stuff that I love to do or heavier rock stuff people want.

And you have to do it. What, a lot of the two K three K [00:42:00] uh, region of the guitars, like the stuff you usually notch out and like, make sure it's not too overbearing. So you want some of that in there. If you want to make it a little, yeah. Ugly and aggressive sounding. And, um, so it's, it's a fine balance here.

You can, you can't put too much in there, or you can't dial in your amp in like, in a way that's too aggressive because it will bury all the vocals and it will start fighting with the symbols and all that. But you want some of that in there and something I listened to when a dialing guitar tones, and I have to do that because I knew I would never go that far.

If I hadn't, if I wouldn't listen to a reference like that. Are basically Kurt Ballou mixes and especially the converge record, the dusk in us, it's like their latest record. I think it sounds awesome. And I love everything Kripalu does, but if I ever have more two K or three K than those songs, I really need to know what I'm doing because it's.

It's like, yeah, it's, it's the extreme, like any more than that would be hard to listen to. I [00:43:00] think even in the aggressive world. Cool. 

Malcom: [00:43:02] That's a good, good thing to have for sure. Cause I'm always going back. What I do for that is kind of the opposite. I'm always going back to like the reference mix. From before I mixed, like, just like the last tracking mix kind of thing, and being like, okay, these are the guitars without any cuts there.

And do I like it more kind of thing, but I should have an extreme on the other side as well. I think where there's one that's to cut or something like that, in my opinion. And then find the happy medium. Yeah. 

Benedikt: [00:43:27] It, it, it works both sides for me. One reason is I don't want to be more like, I don't want my guitars to be harsher than this.

I don't want more. Mid-range upper-mid range in it. Most of the time. But on the other hand, I sometimes don't put enough in it because I always, I'm always afraid that it's getting too harsh or too brittle. So will I might make the guitars. Um, not aggressive enough or like too boring. And when I have a reference like this, I'm like, Oh, okay, it's possible to have guitars that are that aggressive, so why not do it?

[00:44:00] You know? So it empowers me and it gives me confidence in like making a guitar tone that's obnoxious because I know it has been done. And it sounds great. Cool. Yeah. That's that's great. Yeah. You get the idea. I think with these examples, I have a whole list of things like that, but it's basically always the same thing.

It's like specific elements in songs that I like for a certain reason, or that I know are sort of close to the extremes. And whenever I'm dialing in tones, I like to do it intuitively, but whenever I'm unsure about something, for example, how aggressive the guitars can be or how far I can go. I just pull up one of those songs, listen for it.

And I'm like, okay, there's still room left or we are way beyond what, what we should do. Yeah. 

Malcom: [00:44:38] That's a great idea. It's like pulling out a compass and just making sure you're still going North or something. It's like, yes, that's good. 

Benedikt: [00:44:44] Yes. That sort of idea. Yeah. So, you know what I would be, I would find it very interesting if people in our Facebook community could like give us their references or songs they like for specific reasons, maybe we could start a threat where, [00:45:00] um, Well, we just exchange songs that we like for specific reasons that help each other, like build our reference, um, mixes and, uh, If you're hearing someone crying in the background, that's my boy.

They just got home and he wants to enter the office. Oh no. He entered the office. 

Malcom: [00:45:19] They have reached the office. 

Benedikt: [00:45:21] So here's you want us on the podcast? Hi, 

Malcom: [00:45:28] not a problem at all. 

Benedikt: [00:45:30] This is Malcolm. So 

Malcom: [00:45:33] he just asked who this is. 

Benedikt: [00:45:36] Um, so yeah, I mean, Yeah. So exactly what I was, what I was saying was go to the self recording band.com/community.

And you'll be redirected to our Facebook community and, or just go on Facebook and search for the self recording band or the self-reporting bank community. Join us there. It's a great community of people where we exchange ideas and like, uh, help each other out. And. [00:46:00] We should totally do a thread in there on like our favorite productions or reference songs or whatever, just to see what everyone else uses and to help us build our lists.

I would think that, I think that's a fun idea. Yeah, absolutely love it. Let's do it. Cool. Awesome. All right. Anything to add to that? 

Malcom: [00:46:16] I think that's plenty, man. That's a. That's your introduction to referencing with pre-production writing and mixing and even mastering. Yes, 

Benedikt: [00:46:25] totally. If you have any follow-up, if you have any followup questions to that, just, uh, yeah.

Posted on the thread in the community that we will have, or like shoot us an email. Um, and we'll, I think we'll happy to do either a part two, or just answer your questions directly. Yeah, 

Malcom: [00:46:41] totally. Um, you know, one final thought is just like an actual tip is just make a folder in your computer where you're constantly adding these files to.

Um, and so it's just like, you can always pull it up and there's all the songs that you'd like to 

Benedikt: [00:46:54] reference kind of thing he lists can work as well, like Spotify playlist. But to me, I don't know, [00:47:00] I would do it on the computer because Spotify has its own sound. It's compressed and, um, Uh, yeah, if you want, you want the full quality wave file on the computer, if at all possible, if not like a Spotify, playlist is still a handy thing to have 

Malcom: [00:47:13] the other advantage of having the actual file is that you can drag it into your door then if you need to, which is 

Benedikt: [00:47:18] awesome.

Yeah. And you can not only listen to it. That's, uh, that's probably stuff for another episode, but yeah. There's another aspect to it once you know what to listen for, and you've got a feel for all these things, the next step would be to not only listen to it, but to look at it and analyze it. That's like that's super fun to me and really helpful to me as well.

Uh, so once you can pull it into your door, you can use an analyzer and compare what you do to whatever you're listening to. And that way, even in a, not so ideal listening environment, you can hear or see some of the things that might be relevant, but that's fine. Well, the 

Malcom: [00:47:52] topic, yes. All right, let's wrap it 

Benedikt: [00:47:55] up.

All right. Thank you for listening to your next week. See ya. [00:48:00]

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