A/B-ing your mix tutorial by Rich Lewis at Track Spark
in     by Track Spark 24-02-2016

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A/B-ing your mix tutorial by Rich Lewis was in our December goody bag.

Rich Lewis has 13 Years of professional experience in broadcast composition, production and sound design with his company www.meduktions.co.uk. He composed the current official podium music for Formula 1 and has been chosen to write FIFA's official music for the 2014 World Cup. He's written channel idents for ESPN, MTV and FOX among others. He's also composed extensively for BBC, Boomerang, Cartoon Network, Disney, and Warner Brothers among others and for brands such as Sony, Orange, Honda, Virgin Media, Nissan and Levi's. He is also a partner in Track Spark. 

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Hi guys, it’s me again, Rich from Track Spark. Welcome to another tutorial. It’s more of a tip of the day today and a slight reiteration of one of Ian Shepherd's mastering tips. It’s about A/B ing your mix with reference tracks and making sure that you've got them all at the same levels so that you’re making a fair comparison. You can check that your kick drums are working in the same way or your guitars, synths, bass etc. I hope you all had a great Christmas as well by the way but let's get on with it. When you’re mixing or producing your tune you should really have a clear direction in mind of how and where you want it to go. The best way to do that is to have reference tracks. I find that having at least two, maybe three is a good way to go. You can decide on how you want things to sound and where you want them to go. If you don't have a clear indication of where you want to go then you could be going round in circles forever trying to make one thing sound better or another element sound better and it’s just an endless cycle really so have a clear direction in mind.

So, I’ve got my two reference tracks here which are Drone by The Fiddler's which I’ll play you quickly. The second is Parasite by Vant. My track is obviously an Indie tune. What we have to do is get them at similar levels so we can make comparisons on the main elements of the tracks and make sure they're working well. I'm going to use this VU meter from Ian Shephard who did one of the first tutorials in our first pack, which is really good. If you've not seen it, check it out. It tells you that the levels are the same. If you don't want to use of VU meter, I’ll quickly show you another way of doing it.

Let’s quickly get these to the same level. That’s hovering around +1 to +2. Ok so that’s +1 to +2. So I know they’re at the same sort of level, I can now compare the main elements of my track to the reference tracks and make sure for instance that the kick drum has got enough weight in it or the guitars have enough presence on them and they’re at the right sort of level compared to the reference tracks. Let’s quickly do that, I’m going to check out my drums and then compare them. I'm happy that my kick drum has enough weight in it and my snare’s coming through and even things like my room sound on my drums are of similar ilk and using the same kind of EQ. Make sure similar elements are coming through in the same way by comparing to those reference tracks.

Once I’ve got my drums sorted, then I’ll compare the bass, making sure the bass is full enough. Also that the guitars are as well so let's just do that quickly. So that is it. If you don't want to use the VU meter, let’s get rid of it as I wasn’t using it then anyway. Take one element of your mix and try and copy one of the reference tracks. For instance the kick drum, make sure that it's fat enough, punchy enough and loud enough. From that, you then compare the other main elements of your song. The guitars, are they clear enough, are they loud enough, are they cued correctly and things like that. Once you know that one element is comparable to your references then you can make the other elements are just as good and as clear. I would like to go into this in a bit more detail but I hope that was fairly useful. It might be a bit obvious to some of you already but I find doing that in a bit more detail really makes a difference and makes your tracks stand out.

Have a great New Year’s Eve and I shall speak to you next year. Cheers!