Academy Dashboard Forum Collaboration - Competition Competitions (Mixing, Songwriting, etc.) 'It sounds like what?' Reference Set May Mixing Challenge

  • This topic has 5 replies, 2 voices, and was last updated 6 years ago by James Gorman.
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    James Gorman

      Since the hive-mind is a little behind for this month's challenge and the multi-tracks are already out (and Tobi deserves a break after taking care of this for a while!) I figured I should take some unilateral action and post my suggestion.*

      Referencing is important, and something I want to improve on. This challenge is to be explicit about your reference set:

      - List a your reference tracks (eg Spotify or YouTube), including any specific time ranges and why they are included if it makes sense.
      - Once your mix is done evaluate how it went. Things like: I used this and nailed it; I thought it was a good idea but couldn't make it fit so did something else; etc.
      - Others can comment on how they feel you mixed to the reference.

      Anyone who's involved can put there references here so we can talk about them and inspire each other.

      Here's Warren's take on referencing:

      Another good reference for making references I found was this one from Understanding Audio. The site is having problems with downloads so there's also a direct link to the written version which has some more content in it.

      * Kip also had a good suggestion - the Historic Studio Challenge - recreate an old workflow. I think these dovetail nicely.

      • This topic was modified 6 years ago by James Gorman.
      Arthur Labus

        I would love to participate James !
        Just let me to find my reference for the song. It may takes some time LOL
        Or you wanna have ONE reference to all mixes ?

        James Gorman

          Your own references are the best, but I thought sharing early could help anyone not sure or looking for new inspiration. I did mention Warren in the FB post to see if we could get some 'client' references too.

          I'll get mine together (my) this evening. I'll be putting together several tracks to address specific composition and mix elements (following some of the ideas in the understanding audio links).

          James Gorman

            I made a playlist! Interesting since this is off genre for LSR - they are a lot more country rock than this song indicates. I only ended up with one (what I'm thinking of) on genre reference (oddly both UK bands).


            But could do with some annotations:

            General Pop:
            Imagine Dragons - Whatever It Takes - air, stereo image, chorus -> verse transition 1:10, balance
            Zayn - Dusk Till Dawn - chorus balance 1:05
            Florence+Machine - Blinding - balance, backing vocals

            Alt pop:
            Bastille – Pompeii - genre balance (minus guitars), drum energy clean mix, stereo image
            Maximo Park - Once, A Glimse - genre balance (more guitars but older sound), great energy
            Hot Hot Heat - Bandages - energy/balance in the tamborine 1:10
            National - Bloodbuzz Ohio - verse balance, drum energy, great air (vox drums), too dark overall, low water mark for
            Dappled Cities - Vision Bell - crash at 3:31 great top end balance over a bright mix
            Jay Reatard - My Shadow - the intro shows great use of dramatic tension; too brash high water mark for top end energy

            Arthur Labus

              Pretty impresive James !
              I am still not sure what to do. My brain says me it could be something between The Smiths and The Cure.
              My heart says - The Cult.
              I am lost LOL

              James Gorman

                Maybe it'll help to run you what I did and some of my though processes? I wanted to treat this more like a client gig, so started with some advice from a mastering engineer I used for references. He'd ask for three references - something it's supposed to sound like, something you like, something you've been listening too.

                All in all I want to make the song more itself, within the imagined constraints of trying to get a break-out hit with a alt/pop-rock vibe, rather than necessarily sound like something in particular.

                To role-play the band, I started on spotify and went through the album version to figure out how it sounded, then did similar artists and their other tracks. OK, this track is quite different and I can't picture it as country rock in my head. I'm placing more as a svengali's attempt at a break-out track, so I need to get more pop in referencing.

                Now I need to cover off a few things: what are some tracks that are pop, but a bit alt, maybe some rock vibe. Don't want 5SOS, they're too punky and young. I need these for overall sonic character - something to mix to so it'll sit well on the radio. OK, that gives me Whatever It Takes, Dusk Till Dawn, Pompeii. Also, I like them enough it's not going to grate. I'm going to chuck in Florence+Machine as a personal favourite, it has great fullness and balance, even if it's not a real target.

                Next up we need some genre ideas. Well, already got Bastille, it feels like a close modern fit, maybe I want something between them and Maximo Park and The National. Bastille have a very sweet sound, but lack Maximo's edge. National are super dark but have these driving drums that fit with the vibe I'm feeling.

                Now we've covered audience and genre, what are some gaps in the EP version I feel I want to fill? The guitars are a bit soft (texturally) and they hide some of the rhythmic texture and drive. Some of the transitions between parts are a bit smeary and loose emotive impact. Vocal are up a bit too high. There I have a hit list of big things I want to beat (as Warren puts it 🙂 ).

                We've got a lot of that covered, but let's add in a couple more detail references. Bandages has this crazy energy in the chorus, really cuts through but is not tiring, maybe will work with the sample HH track. Vision Bell gets intense in the top end but never overwhelming, and the cymbals peaking through is icing on the cake. Good reference for how to keep the top end I already like in the original. My Shadow as a massive emotional intensity to it. When I look at what bothers me about what I want to fix it's not the purely technical side so mach as that they hide some of the emotion I feel inside the song. This is an inspiration to break that out from under the covers.

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