5 Ways to Use Reference Tracks to Improve Your Music Production

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Let’s explore how to use reference tracks. How does a reference track help when mixing and arranging a new song?

What is a music reference title? Reference tracks are songs by other artists of the same gender which can be used with your song to compare – a useful tool to help you arrange and mix your tracks.

There’s a reason why popular songs are produced and structure the way they are. It makes sense.

The point of reference tracks is not to sound exactly like the other track – there’s nothing fun to copy – but to use them as a reference for learn and be inspired by it. Here are some tips to consider.


Choose more than one track to reference

Use up to five reference tracks to avoid copying only one track. Maybe one for arrangement and two for creative inspiration and mixing reference.

Choose tracks that are of the same genre and style as your track. What elements and instruments stand out for you?


Consider Reference Tracks Before You Begin

Do you have a general melody or loop sketched, get inspired now by listening to other songs before diving into produce yours. Think about why you are ultimately producing your track. Where do you imagine people hear it – the club? The radio?

Then listen to popular songs in your genre. Note how they are arranged in different ways – how many drops, different sections, etc.

woman songwriting with keyboard

Use the reference track arrangement as a roadmap

Pull the song in your JACKDAW as its own track. You can use it as a framework to track the arrangement.

Put markers where the big moments happen: verse, chorus, breakdown, drop, build, outro. Place your own writing parts in the number of bars. It is a framework for being creative, not for copying.


Compare your mix to the reference track

By listening to the mix of your track and the reference track back to back, you will get inspiration and a new outlook.

Obviously the perfectly mastered professional mix of the reference track is going to make your fledgling lead a little awkward, but don’t be discouraged. This will help you hear which elements stick out, which parts are attacking and which parts are soft, noticing heavy bass or synth use, length of reverberation and delay.


Use reference plugins to help with mixing

When it comes to mixing, real-time reference plugins make comparing tracks much easier:


No advice makes sense for every grower! Maybe you keep things artistic, to produce something entirely experimental.

As a useful tool for making sure your arrangement makes sense and your mix sounds good, and for getting creative inspiration, you have nothing to lose by trying out reference tracks.


When your song is finished, why not release it? Use RouteNote music distribution to stream your music to Spotify, Apple Music, and social media like Instagram and TikTok. It’s free! Learn more here.

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