|When to use references when mixing: |
There are two types of referencing in the process of mixing people often refer to: creative and technical. The creative side is pertinent to the vibe and mood of something, such as automation and effects. It is usually heavily related to the groundwork that has been put in place in the recording process. The technical side is based on the structure of a mix. For example, some records have little dynamic range and others are more open sounding, some are narrower and others wider et al.
I don’t tend to reference very much in the mixing process if I undertook the recording myself. In most cases if something has been recorded at Underground I will usually have already painted myself into a corner so to speak. Before a band or songwriter even turns up here, we have met prior several times to discuss records they are into sonically and the instrumentation and legwork on my end that is required to achieve an analogous result. During the recording process there is often some note-taking paper passed around with informative details from members of the band over the course of the session. Small minutiae that eventually goes a long way into making the record identifiable. Notes such as “the end of track 3 should have the tambourine through a slapback and plate not dissimilar to The Kills record ‘No wow’”. This is either something I can do in the recording process by printing these effects, or some info to hold onto until the mixing process. This reduces extraneous conversation with the band after the fact.
Ideally, I want to be mixing a bands record without having to reference for creative direction as I should already be on top of the record sonically by what I have to work with or what I know I need to do. I want to be using references for technical direction for the most part.
If you are in a bit of a funk from mixing and unsure where to go with something, consider not listening to anything at all for a good hour (or 3). Its sometimes good after a break to then listen to something thru the same monitors that is within the ballpark stylistically of what you are working on. It all depends on the genre you are with, for pop records referencing a mix for guidance is completely imperative. For unique, noisy and experimental music, referencing to push it in a certain direction would oftentimes cause more harm than good.