Reference mixing with pink noise

Boys and girls, what I am about to share with you today may forever change the way you mix your tunes. More specifically, I will show you how to use modified pink noise for reference mixing. Let’s begin.

So, long story short, getting that perfect mix which sounds amazing in all environments can be a pain. As musicians, we seek that ‘perfect’ sound and usually invest thousands of pounds in studio equipment which will hopefully allow us to produce music with a balanced frequency profile. Studio monitors are an indispensable part of this process and your ears should always be your judge. However, sometimes we fail to identify certain frequencies which are like parasites in our mix, stealing precious energy from it.

One way to go around the issue is to copy other people’s successful mixes and see how they have achieved a ‘balanced mix’. By the way, there’s no such thing as a balanced mix, it’s just that the mix sounds good and translates well onto a variety of audio systems. Welcome to the world of ‘reference mixing’!

So, how to you do reference mixing?

By playing both tunes — the reference mix and your mix together?? That’s really exhausting and you will waste lots of time trying to measure and match all frequencies. Try reference mixing if you haven’t yet and let me know how it feels in the comments. My ears got so tired, seriously.

This is how I do reference mixing  – by copying the frequency profile of a favourite track and making a ‘mould’ in pink noise. Here is what I mean. I will give you three examples, just to show you the technique and then you will be able to apply it to your own mixes. In this case, I have used “Bangarang” by Skrillex, “Remember September” by Boom Jinx and “Need U (100%)” by Duke Dumont.

 

Skrillex – Bangarang


skrillex bangarang

 

 

 

Boom Jinx – Remember September


Boom Jinx Remember September Pink Noise

 

 

 

Duke Dumont – Need U (100%)


Duke Dumont Need U (100%) Pink Noise

 

Step 1: Make your modified pink noise

Download SPAN spectrum analyser http://www.voxengo.com/product/span/

Download a pink noise sample from here https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pink_noise

Set up 3 audio channels – one for the pink noise + your favourite EQ, second for the reference tracks and third for SPAN. The first two channels should be outputting to the third channel. Also, set the first channel’s panning to 100% left and second channel’s panning to 100% right.

Set up SPAN in “Dual Mono” Routing and you will be able to see the pink noise and reference track’s frequency profile.

Start tweaking the EQ settings until your pink noise matches the frequency spectrum of the reference track as closely as possible.

Finally, freeze the pink noise channel and export it as a wave sample to use in your projects.

Step 2: Use your modified pink noise as a guide while setting levels

Open your newly produced track and create an audio channel. Import the modified pink noise which you created previously and copy/past to full length of your project. Then, lower the levels of all channels to 0 db except for the pink noise channel. Next, start increasing the level of each individual channel until you barely hear its sound penetrating through the pink noise (which should be playing throughout). You can do this channel by channel as it can be tiring to your ears. Don’t spend too much time doing it, be quick and take short breaks. In the end, your mix should have a frequency profile closely mimicking the reference track.

Congratulations, you have just mastered audio mixing with modified pink noise. Honestly, you don’t need studio monitors anymore :P

Have fun and share this trick with your music buddies!

 

Cheers!

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  • Nicol Volt

    This is very instructing! I’m thinking about an alternative, what do you think of the idea to use the trick without the pink noise mould step, but in the mixdown project, to create a muted track that would have the SPAN in dual mono mode, receiving the reference track on the left and the mixdown’s master on the right, and then tweaking the mixdown to match the reference spectrum? This way would be much quicker, and also more interesting for various parts of the tracks that have very different spectrums… Reducing a track dynamic spectrum time progression to one snapshot seems, well, very constraining? Anyway, still very motivating, thanks for that :D

    • Nicol Volt

      I’m just realizing that “my” “idea” may be a very well-known trick since ages ah ah! I’m a total noob in this area :)

    • liveracks

      yes, for sure, referencing the way you mention is great, I still use it sometimes tho I’m finding it easier to store noise snippets in my project and then mix according to these. Will be writing up more about balanced mixing soon! Cheers!