Best Reference Track For All Genres

Using a great sounding reference track is one of the best ways to help you create professional sounding music. It keeps your mixing and mastering focussed from start to finish, ensuring that you dial in a great sound for every element of your production.

In this blog, we’ll list our suggestions for the best reference tracks across a huge range of genres, and an explanation as to why we’ve chosen that particular track.

To get the most value out of these reference tracks, we suggest you download the free trial of our plugin REFERENCE, which will give you the tools and insights to get your song sounding more like your favorite music. 

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Jump To Section: Star Engineers | Electronic | Hip-hop | House | Pop | R&B | Rock | Other Genres

Best Reference Track Mixed By A Star Engineer

Serban Ghenea

Ghenea is arguably the most sought after mixing engineer of our generation. With his fee at around $10,000 per mix and growing, his services don’t come cheap, but there’s no doubt that he delivers on the result. With an impressive 16 Grammy wins, Serbhan is someone you can trust to set the bar for what a mix should sound like.

My My My - Troye Sivan ► Play On Youtube | ► Play On Spotify

✓ Amazing clarity and focus.

✓ Rich low-end.

✓ Transients aren’t squashed. 

✘ Phase issues in the main lead.

Below is an infographic showing the instrumentation and stereo spread of the most prominent elements of the song during the chorus. When selecting your reference tracks for any genre, try to keep this in mind and chose a track that has comparable sonic choices to what you want your track to sound like. 

My My My - Troye Sivan

Don’t Go Breaking My Heart - Backstreet Boys  ► Play On Youtube | Play On Spotify

✓ Great separation of elements, due to great panning.

✓ Balanced and controlled bass.

✓ Dense production.

✘ Could be argued that it’s a touch ‘too bright’.

Only - Imagine Dragons ► Play On Youtube | ► Play On Spotify

✓ Great modern sound choices for synths and drums.

✓ Crisp detail.

✓ Commercially successfully, 1 grammy win, 4 nominations.

✘ Quite bright. Too bright if you’re going for a more traditional rock sound. 

Josh Gudwin

With a crisp and clean signature sound, and 4 Grammy wins, Gudwin is the go-to mixing engineer for cutting edge chart-topping artists. 

Electricity - Silk City ► Play On Youtube | ► Play On Spotify

✓ Solid and cohesive low-end.

✓ The loudness range of 7.9LU (loudness units) shows that there is a considerable difference in the loudness between the various sections of the track.

✓ Commercially successfully, 1 Grammy win.

✘ Bass takes a busy lead role in the drop which is fairly uncommon. If your track doesn’t do this it might not be the best choice.

Instrumentation and stereo spread:

Electricity - Silk City

New Rules - Due Lipa ► Play On Youtube | ► Play On Spotify

✓ Bass is absolutely huge.

✓ Great width on mid-range musical elements. 

✓ Loud whilst still being really punchy.

✘ Bass is so huge that it might be tough to match for most productions. 

Derek "MixedByAli" Ali

After gaining the foundations of his wisdom from Dr. Dre, MixedByAli went on to mix world-class records. Working with Hip Hop legends such as Kendrick Lamar, Childish Gambino, and Snoop Dogg.

All The Stars - Kendrick Lamar, SZA ► Play On Youtube | ► Play On Spotify

✓ A solid balance across the entire frequency spectrum.

✓ The detail in the vocals is great without being harsh.

✓ Commercial success and critically acclaimed with 4 Grammy nominations.

✘ Darker sound than some records. If you want a bright mix, this is not the best reference track.

Instrumentation and stereo spread:

All The Stars - Kendrick Lamar, SZA

This Is America - Childish Gambino ► Play On Youtube | ► Play On Spotify

✓ Full-bodied low-end during the B section.

✓ The detail in the vocals is great without being harsh.

✓ Commercial success and critically acclaimed with 4 Grammy wins.

✘ Unique songwriting and sound choices make it difficult to compare to the majority of productions.

Instrumentation and stereo spread:

This Is America - Childish Gambino

Mike Crossey

In the early stages of his career, Crossey recorded the smash-hit British band Arctic Monkeys. As his career progressed he continued to work with high-profile artists including Jake Buug, Foals, and The Kooks.

Chocolate - The 1975’s ► Play On Youtube | ► Play On Spotify

✓ Modern rock band sound.

✓ Great panning and stereo spread.

✓ Balanced sound and effects on the vocal.

✘ Loudness is pushing the boundaries of where dynamics are compromised. 

Mark Spike Stent

Stent is a household name in the mixing hall of fame. His endless list of impressive credits includes Beyonce, Ed Sheeran, Bastille, and Coldplay.

Uprising - Muse ► Play On Youtube | ► Play On Spotify

✓ Classic meets modern rock band sound.

✓ Gritty and full of character.

✓ Commercial success and critically acclaimed being on a Grammy-winning album.

✘ The bass isn’t super deep. Might not be an issue if you’re going for a more mid focussed sound. 

Tom Elmhirst

If you’re looking to create a hit-record that’s bursting with musicality and vibe, Elmhirst is your man. When you listen to Adele, Mumford & Sons, or Mark Ronson, you’re hearing Elmhirsts vision for that music. 

Lazarus - David Bowie ► Play On Youtube | ► Play On Spotify

✓ Incredibly warm without sacrificing clarity.

✓ Musically emphasized.

✓ Kick and bass pack an incredible punch and depth without being overpowering.

✘ The vocal is a little less bright than a few other elements which pushes the sound of the vocal back. 

Jaycen Joshua

Protégé and partner of Dave Pensado, Joshua carved out a path to become legendary himself. Joshua has mixed records for giants such as P Diddy, Beyonce, Christina Aguilera, Usher, Katy Perry, and countless others. 

 

Pineapple Skies - Miguel ► Play On Youtube | ► Play On Spotify

✓ Bass guitar and kick have next-level sub sonics. Adds incredible depth to the mix.

✓ Soft percussion elements for a groovy R&B / soul feel.

✓ Interesting effect on the vocal which adds character.

✘ Focus on the low-end gives the impression of a little gap in the mid-range. A non-bass heavy production might sound thin if taking a similar approach.

Best Reference Track For Electronic Music

Drum & Bass

Magnetic Eyes - Matrix & Future Bound ► Play On Youtube | ► Play On Spotify

✓ Deep sub.

✓ Synths sound crisp and clean.

✓ Vocals upfront.

✘ Hi-hats are a little too bright which takes focus away from the kick and snare.

Dance

Where R U Now - Jack U ► Play On Youtube | ► Play On Spotify

✓ Insanely deep sub. The short kick tail helps give space for this.

✓ Sparse production giving space for huge bass and a bright lead.

✓ A loudness Range of 7.2 LU shows that the different sections of your track have

a considerable difference in loudness. Makes the drop explode.

✘ Very loud with the true peaks hitting +2.35dBTP. 

Instrumentation and stereo spread:

Where R U Now - Jack U

Dubstep

Bangarang - Skrillex ► Play On Youtube | ► Play On Spotify

✓ Gritty mix, full of character.

✓ Futuristic sample choice.

✓ A rich sound across the whole frequency spectrum.

✘ Distorted and cackly moments where it’s limited too much. 

EDM

Adrenaline - Zedd ► Play On Youtube | ► Play On Spotify

✓ Club shaking low-end

✓ Clarity and character in the main lead.

✓ Very punchy in all sections of the song. Drum transients have no problem poking through the mix even in the loudest sections. 

✘ No vocals, if your track has vocals it will be difficult to compare. 

Hard Style

Scrap Attack - Headhunterz ► Play On Youtube | ► Play On Spotify

✓ Very typical sonic representation of the Hard Style genre as a whole.

✓ Hard-hitting synths and samples.

✓ Pure in the high-end without sounding harsh.

✘ Mastered so loud that the low-end and transients suffer, though this is true with most Hard Style records. 

Moombahton

If I’m Lucky - Jason Derulo ► Play On Youtube | ► Play On Spotify

✓ Vocals are super upfront and clear.

✓ Great bass sound and perfectly balanced relative to the rest of the mix.

✓ Drums are really, really punchy. Hit-you-in-the-chest and hear-every-sing-hit punchy. 

✘ If you have a dense production with a prominent low-mid range this might not a great option.

Trance

Wayfarer - Audien ► Play On Youtube | ► Play On Spotify

✓ Great modern drum samples.

✓ Rich and dense mix arrangement without sounding bloated or congested.

✓ Synths bright and wide without sounding harsh or introducing phase issues to the mix.

✘ Bass slightly masks the kick.

Trap

Lean On - Major Laser ► Play On Youtube | ► Play On Spotify

✓ The mix focuses on lead and vocals.

✓ Supporting synth playing chords has great width in the low-mids 

✓ People love this sound - Spotify's most-streamed song of all-time in Nov. 2015, number 24 as of Dec 2020.

✘ The snare is a little pushed back in the mix. If you’re looking for a driving snare sound then this isn’t the right reference track for you. 

Best Reference Track For Hip-Hop Music

Contemporary

Roxanne - Arizona Zervas ► Play On Youtube | ► Play On Spotify

✓ Great kick and bass relationship.

✓ Upfront, crisp and clear vocal.

✓ Punchy drums that cut through the mix.

✘ Arguably a touch too much rumble below 40Hz

East Coast

In Da Club - 50 Cent ► Play On Youtube | ► Play On Spotify

✓ Tight bass compared to most Hip Hop songs

✓ Punchy driving drums that take more precedence than the bass. This is different to many Hip Hop songs that focus on 808’s or bass.

✓ Great clarity whilst dialing in a darker sounding high-end.

✘ Very sparse production, only a few elements. If your mix has more channels it could be difficult to get a comparable sound. 

Instrumentation and stereo spread:

In Da Club - 50 Cent

Gangsta Rap

Still Dre - Dr. Dre ► Play On Youtube | ► Play On Spotify

✓ Vocals sound super clean and clear, perfectly balanced with the music.

✓ Perfect mono compatibility. Mix balance works across a range of playback systems. 

✓ Arrangement and instrument choice is complimentative. The channels don’t compete for space in the mix. 

✘ Dated sounding kick sample.

Instrumentation and stereo spread:

Still Dre - Dr. Dre

Grime

Big For Your Boots - Stormzy ► Play On Youtube | ► Play On Spotify

✓ Modern, current, credible sounding production. Pristine samples.

✓ Vocal production is amazing.

✓ Every drum hit punches through the mix. 

✘ Moments of distortion where the limiting is working too hard. 

Pop-Rap

Spirit - J Hus ► Play On Youtube | ► Play On Spotify

✓ Low-end is very prominent, giving a bass heavy mix that supports the vocal.

✓ Low-mids accentuated without making the mix sound muddy. Gives a warm and thick sound.

✓ Vocal fuses with the backing track well giving a very cohesive sound.

✘ Kick a little lost behind the bass, though this could be an artistic choice and could even be interpreted as a pro rather than a con. 

Old-Skool

Rappers Delight - The Sugarhill gang ► Play On Youtube | ► Play On Spotify

✓ Oozing with Old-School vibe and credibility. 

✓ Drums and percussion punches through the mix. Cymbals have a glistening high-end.

✓ Great groove, makes anyone want to dance.

✘ Bass light. If you’re mixing and mastering a modern Hip Hop track, you may find the low-end WAY too quiet.

Best Reference Track For House Music

Deep

Panic Room - AuRa & Camelphat ► Play On Youtube | ► Play On Spotify

✓ Clean and powerful kick and bass.

✓ Vocals are crisp and mixed to be a focal point.

✓ Impressive dynamics into the drop, it has a great impact!

✘ Punchy percussion. Transient elements have room to breathe. 

Instrumentation and stereo spread:

Panic Room - AuRa & Camelphat

Tech

Chunky - Format B ► Play On Youtube | ► Play On Spotify

✓ Sounds great in the club! Has the energy a track needs to get the dancefloor going.

✓ Transient hi-hats balances the weighty low-end and solid kick and bass.

✓ Loads of space in the arrangement for the vocal to be a focus point.

✘ Very sparse in the mids. It might not work as a reference track if you have prominent synths in your productions. 

Future

Gecko - Oliver Heldens ► Play On Youtube | ► Play On Spotify

✓ Huge sub! Incredibly bass heavy without compromising balance across the whole spectrum.

✓ Commercially successful, number 1 in UK dance and single charts. 

✓ Glistening clarity in the high-end of the percussion and vocals.

✘ Such a unique production that it can be difficult to compare to other mixes or productions.

Instrumentation and stereo spread:

Gecko - Oliver Heldens

Commercial

F For You - Disclosure ► Play On Youtube | ► Play On Spotify

✓ Classic house sounds meet modern production.

✓ Critically acclaimed. The song was nominated for Best Dance Recording at the 57th Annual Grammy Awards.

✓ Interesting synth sound design that uses reverb to create a varying sense of depth.

✘ Less bass heavy than other current house tracks. 

Instrumentation and stereo spread:

F For You - Disclosure

Progressive

I Found Your Heart - Dubvision ► Play On Youtube | ► Play On Spotify

✓ Very clean sounding synths that sit on top of the mix.

✓ Bass has harmonics in the mid range that translate well on smaller speakers.

✓ Bass and kick glued together giving a great foundation to the mix. A great example of getting the perfect relative balance in terms of volume and compression. 

✘ On the edge of sounding too bright. Mixing for this amount of brightness can leave your music sounding harsh and even bass light. 

Electro

Deadmau5 - My Pet Coelacanth ► Play On Youtube | ► Play On Spotify

✓ Strong focus on the bass and kick. It’s dialed in so it hits hard when played on a club sound system.

✓ The snare has a lot of character and sets the vibe for the track. If you’re looking to create a driving song with a confident backbeat, My Pet Coelacanth set the benchmark.

✓ The dynamic journey with the quieter breakdowns and the louder drops is a perfect example of how to create a drop with impact. 

✘ The organic and raw sounds used leads to a build up in the mid-range that is on the verge of sounding muddy compared to other electro productions

Tropical

Stole The Show - Kygo ► Play On Youtube | ► Play On Spotify

✓ Rich sounds from the low-end, through the mids, into the crispy high-end. 

✓ Modern sounding sample choice and sound design.

✓ Commercial succes becoming a hit in many countries around the world. 

✘ Kygo’s music is always mastered super loud, so the build up and the drop are the same volume. It can be a bit of an anti-climax.

Classic

Push The Feeling On - Night Crawlers ► Play On Youtube | ► Play On Spotify

✓ Old-school classic house sound.

✓ Catchy melodies that have been sampled many times.

✓ An interesting mix with unique approaches to panning and use of spatial effects.

✘ if you want to create a modern sounding production, this isn’t the reference track for you.

Best Reference Track For Pop Music

Contemporary

The Weekend - Rockin ► Play On Youtube | ► Play On Spotify

✓ Consistent balance of kick and bass throughout the song giving a glue to the foundation of the production. Their balance relative to each other and the rest of the arrangement gives the track the perfect low-end weight.

✓ Tonal balance in the mids and high-end is clear without being thin.

✓ Vocal production is contemporary and gives the song a tight, high-quality sound.

✘ Panning in the percussion is fairly basic and uninteresting.

Dance

Be Somebody - Steve Aoki & Nicky Romero ► Play On Youtube | ► Play On Spotify

✓ The synth patches all fit together perfectly. This song is a great example of choosing sounds that complement each other rather than sounds that conflict with each other. 

✓ A basic sub/sine bass fills the speakers without the need for upper harmonics that would compete with the synths. 

✓ Drums cut through the busy arrangement without being overpowering.

✘ The glistening high-end is pushing too bright for me.

Electronic

Don’t Start Now - Dua Lipa ► Play On Youtube | ► Play On Spotify

✓ Ridiculously tight production. The drums and synths have serious groove are a real pleasure to listen to.

✓ Great commercial and critical performance. Nominate for 3 Grammys in 2021.

✓ Vocal production is world-class

✘ The song is brighter than the majority of other songs. This might be a a benefit rather than an issue.

Hip hop

One Dance - Drake ► Play On Youtube | ► Play On Spotify

✓ Classic 808 Hip Hop bass sound. 

✓ Pop meets HipHop in this song to give a versatile reference track that can be used as a benchmark sound when you’re fusing genres yourself.

✓ Number one in many countries world-wide.

✘ The kick is a little crunchy at times as it’s mastered so loud.

Latin

Despacito - Luis Fonsi & Daddy Yankee ► Play On Youtube | ► Play On Spotify

✓ Smash hit worldwide with over 7 billion streams on YouTube.

✓ The acoustic guitar and latin percussion gives an organic feel that adds to the groove. Human elements like this can be peppered into your own songs to make them sound more musical.

✓ Vocal production is very clean. Pay attention to the performance and panning of the backing vocals.

✘ The sub doesn't have any harmonics so doesn't translate well on smaller speakers.

Rock

Foo Fighters - Run ► Play On Youtube | ► Play On Spotify

✓ Typical ‘wall of sound’ that we’ve come to expect from Foo Fighters. 

✓ Guitars tak the focus in the mix. The vocals sit at an equal loudness and sometimes even a touch behind the guitars. 

✓ Guitars have an impressively wide sound.

✘ Transients of the drums feel a little lost in the dark approach to the mix. This does help avoid the song sounding harsh with all the distortion. 

Synth

Zedd - The Middle ► Play On Youtube | ► Play On Spotify

✓ Zedd (and his co-writers ‘Grey’ and his mix engineer ‘Skinny’) are masters of sound design and modern production.   

✓ Pushes the production limits of a super-loud master whilst retaining the majority of the punch of the drums. 

✓ Choice of bass sound gives a lot of weight to the sub whilst thickening up the mids and having a bit of presence in the upper mids. This type of sound works on any speakers.

✘ I find it difficult to find faults with Zedd’s productions. If you think of one, let me know

Warm

Penthouse Floor - John Legend ► Play On Youtube | ► Play On Spotify

✓ Natural, raw and musical. All sounds have the feeling that they were performed by the world's best players.

✓ Sub is controlled and there’s more attention in the low-mids which works better for this style. This also adds to that very warm vibe.

✓ The hi-hats and other hi-end elements are subdued to allow the vocals to sound brighter. 

✘ A little distorted at times. But this might not be a bad thing, it gives a sense of ‘grit’ which can be interpreted as enhancing the musicality. 

Best Reference Track For R&B Music

90’s

Say My Name - Destinys child ► Play On Youtube | ► Play On Spotify

✓ Bright and punchy drums and percussion. 

✓ Decongested mix with lots of space for a rich vocal arrangement.

✓ 2 Grammy WINs for Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals and Best R&B Song.

✘ Dated sample choices... They’re ideal if you’re going for a 90’s vibe.

Contemporary

Wild Thoughts - DJ Khaled ► Play On Youtube | ► Play On Spotify

✓ Great songwriting and sound choice.

✓ Tonal balance is consistent across the whole frequency spectrum.

✓ Vocal production is on point.

✘ Extremely loud, the kick and bass sound distorted at times. The limiting also squashes the vocal into the backing track in an unnatural way.

Rhythm & Blues

Barry White - Can’t Get Enough Of Your Love ► Play On Youtube | ► Play On Spotify

✓ Classic and well loved song. Peppering in comparable sounds into your own productions can give the listener a positive sense of nostalgia. 

✓ The panning is great, giving clear separation in the mix.

✓ Super-smooth strings and great panning in the orchestra. 

✘ Old recordings don’t have the fidelity to give you a high quality listening experience. They often lack low-end and have excessive noise. Keep that in mind when using them as referrene track. 

Old Skool

Too Close - Next ► Play On Youtube | ► Play On Spotify

✓ Bass is punchy and deep. Perfectly balanced with the kick.

✓ Mastered to a loudness that allows the transients to maintain their integrity and poke through the mix. Avoids that distorted low-end rumble.  

✓ High-end controlled to give a silky and warm sound. 

✘ Low-mids are very sparse. It works with this arrangement, but if you compare a song with a thicker mid range, it may sound a touch empty and might lead to negative decisions when mixing or mastering your song. 

Best Reference Track For Rock Music

Alternative

D is For Dangerous - Arctic Monkey ► Play On Youtube | ► Play On Spotify

✓ Loads of breathing space in this mix. All the elements compliment each other without competing too much for space. Great example of a production with a conservative number of channels but still delivers a huge sound.   

✓ Even with the cymbals and distorted guitars, there is zero harshness.

✓ The channels in the mix are balanced incredibly well relative to each other. Nothing sticks out in the mix giving a cohesive sound.

✘ Mastered very loud and peaking at +0.97dBTP (decibels true peak) meaning that iit will cleip when played back on monitors. 

Classic

AC DC - Back In Black ► Play On Youtube | ► Play On Spotify

✓ Beautiful guitar sound. Incredibly detailed, tasty and wide. 

✓ The snare sets the vibe of any track. In Back In Black, the snare has a prominent place in the mix driving the backbeat of the song with confidence.  

✓ Panning and use of spatial effects is inspiring.

✘ Lacks bass compared to modern productions. (Use the original rather than the remaster as it has much much better dynamics!)

Contemporary

Imagine Dragons - Natural  ► Play On Youtube | ► Play On Spotify

✓ Vocals have a high-quality sound. They’re bright without being harsh and sound super clear. 

✓ The tonal balance in the chorus is a rich tapestry of sound. Great sub, thick low-mids, rich mids, and clear highs.

✓ Mixed by the king of pop mixing, Serban Ghenea. 

✘ Imagine Dragons are often on the brink of sounding too bright, so keep and eye out for that.  

Hard

Bomb Track - Rage Against The Machine ► Play On Youtube | ► Play On Spotify

✓ Great aggressive rock guitar sound. 

✓ Kick and snare are powerful! (the cymbals are bit too far back in the mix for me)

✓ Tight production that gives every instrument it’s deserved space int he mix. 

✘ Bass guitar can get a little lost during the chorus

Indie

Beck - Colors ► Play On Youtube | ► Play On Spotify

✓ This is an enormous production with many channels. It’s got an incredible balance of all the instruments and parts in terms of volume and panning.  

✓ The musical backing (synths, pads, guitars etc) give a rich and thick sound.

✓ Another incredible mix from the engineer you can trust to dial in an expensive sound; Serban Ghenea.

✘ There are a couple of very quiet clicks throughout the song that might annoy some purests audiophiles. 

Progressive 

Misery Business - Paramore ► Play On Youtube | ► Play On Spotify

✓ Perfect clarity in the guitars and vocals.

✓ Distortion in the guitars sounds rich and clear. The engineer mixed the guitars to empahse the stereo width and space. It decongests the mix and gives a great listening experience.

✓ Great snare sound! (The rest of the kit it a little lackluster for me though)

✘ Bass (and kick) light with a focus on the mids and crispy high-end.  

Electronic

Linkin Park - Numb ► Play On Youtube | ► Play On Spotify

✓ Deep bass but it’s still conservatively balanced. It;s like you can feel it rather than hear it. 

✓ Clean and punchy drums that are a fusion between electronic samples and acoustic playing.

✓ Dense music (piano, guitars, pads, synths etc) give a thick texture to the mix.

✘ Vocals a little far back in the mix for me personally.

Best Reference Track For Other Genres

Best Reference Track For Country

Chris Stapleton - Broken Halo ► Play On Youtube | ► Play On Spotify

✓ Beautiful acoustic guitar sound. 

✓ Great vibe in the vocal. Not too bright, perfectly warm.

✓ Drums complement the other instruments perfectly in terms of punch, tonal balance and level.

✘ This production, for me, is the prefect example of an audiophile country track. Very hard to fault. 

Best Reference Track For Disco

Don’t Stop Till You Get Enough - Michael Jackson ► Play On Youtube | ► Play On Spotify

✓ Every single element in the mix has its place. This is achieved through carefully balancing the volume, dynamic, and tone of each sound.

✓ All channels are well placed in the stereo field to give a wide, high-fidelity experience. 

✓ Percussive elements are a stand out aspect of the mix for me. They give a great texture and vibe.

✘ The sub is weak, though this was characteristic of music of the 70s era. 

Best Reference Track For Funk

Superstition - Stevie Wonder ► Play On Youtube | ► Play On Spotify

✓ A historic classic and well loved track. Instrumental performance is world-class (all parts played by Stevie!) 

✓ Warm sound in the brass and cymbals. 

✓ The balance between the various elements of the mix is very musical.

✘ Old-school (read ‘Low-quality’) recording. So it’s not super crisp.

Best Reference Track For Metal

Tool - The Pot ► Play On Youtube | ► Play On Spotify

✓ Each channel has a ‘star sound’. Nothing sits at the back of the mix in subtle way. For a sparse production like thjis it works well and is interesting to listen to.

✓ The bass has a notable amount of sub and bite. BUT, still doesnt interfere with the guitar when it enters. 

✓ Tight and wide distorted guitar sound.

✘ The vocal can sit a bit too far behind the guitar for me. Though, it is in line with the nature of the genre of metal.

Best Reference Track For Jazz

I Know You Know - Esperanza Spalding ► Play On Youtube | ► Play On Spotify

✓ The mix breathes life with the dynamics of the original musical performance maintained.  

✓ All the instruments sound like you can reach out and touch them. Perfect clarity and use of spacial effects.

✓ Modern, high quality sound in a genre that classically has mostly dated recordings.

✘ The arrangement has a considerable effect on the tonal balance. If you arrangement and style are dramatically different to this production then it wouldn’t be the right bench mark song to compare your track to. 

Best Reference Track For K-Pop

EXO 엑소 'Ko Ko Bop ► Play On Youtube | ► Play On Spotify

✓ Pure kick sound with a short tail punches through the mix whilst leaving plenty of space for the sustained bass notes.  

✓ The mix has a focus on the bright and present vocals, as is customary with K-Pop.

✓ The drum tops (hi hats cymbals, and snare) cut through the mix and are still transient even after being mastered loudly. 

✘ The lead sound is very unique and might not be comparable to any elements in your music. 

Best Reference Track For Reggae

Three Little Birds - Bob Marley ► Play On Youtube | ► Play On Spotify

✓ Dynamics of the bass are consistent throughout the performance. Gives a solid foundation to the master.  

✓ Great use of jumping between a more mono sound in the verse to a wider chorus with the hard-panned backing vocals.

✓ Lovely deep bass, rich mids and a fairly subdued high-end

✘ Vocals aren’t so upfront. For a more modern pop reggae record you might choose to have the vocals up 2 or 3db compared to Three Little Birds.

Best Reference Track For Reaggaeton

Mi Gente - J Balvin ► Play On Youtube | ► Play On Spotify

✓ The kick tail is shortened to make more space for the huge 808 bass to rumble through the mix. The Kick and bass fuse together well and sound massive on both limited and full range sound systems.  

✓ Good example of a production where the focus is just a few elements during the drop (bass, kick, lead, hi-hats). 

✓ Commercially successful with 12 award nominations and almost 3 billion streams on youtube. 

✘ Mastered very loud, there are moments where the song sounds distorted and even muddy during the verses. It’s best to reference the drop / chorus only.

Best Reference Track For Soul

Somebody else’s guy - Jocelyn Brown ► Play On Youtube | ► Play On Spotify

✓ Musical groove in the instrumental performance. Use this song as a reference track to help pull you away from a ‘robotic’ sound if you use a lot of quantised electronic elements. 

✓ Perfect example of a song that’s mastered for dynamics rather than loudness. All the percussive and transient elements still have their integrity. It helps the music breathe and emphasizes the musical performance of the instruments.

✓ Impressive stereo spread. There are a large number of backing vocals and instrumental channels in the mix. The panning helps find space for everything. 

✘ Light in the low-end compared to modern tracks. 

Best Reference Track For Motown

Heard It Through The Grapevine - Marvin Gaye ► Play On Youtube | ► Play On Spotify

✓ Great representation of the sound of motown with drums panned hard left. Strings and organ panned hard right, vocals placed in mono. 

✓ Good ratio of volume of the backing track compared to the vocal. 

✓ With the majority of the audio energy in the upper midrange, the mix still doesnt sound harsh.

✘ All the characteristics of an old recording that are non-comparable to modern recordings, such as too much ‘noise’ and not enough low-end.

Best Reference Track For Orchestral

Inception (Time) - Hans Zimmer ► Play On Youtube | ► Play On Spotify

✓ Hanz Zimmer is a great point of reference if you’re looking to create emotional and moving music. The mix engineer accentuates the emotion of the performance and takes the listener on a journey.  

✓ The brightness grows steadily throughout the song. A great effect to represent progress.

✓ Majestic and epic tapestry of sound around the three minute mark covering the entire frequency spectrum.

✘ Orchestral music is rarely as bass heavy as popular music, so if you’re working on a song rather than a composition or orchestral piece note that you may wish to dial in a heavier bass. 

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