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Referencing Mixes in Ableton Live – A Complete Guide

Referencing Mixes in Ableton Live

As you know, during mixing it’s always necessary to check the mix on different loudness, for mono compatibility and to compare to reference mixes.

In Ableton Live, you can make it literally on the fly thanks to the opportunity to assign the keys of the computer keyboard to complete a wide variety of operations.

Importantly, you won’t need any single paid plugin!

So, it’s no secret that mixing music on permanent loudness guarantees you that you’ll get used to the track sound fast and cease seeing your own errors. So you should check the mix on both greater and lesser volume.

In Ableton, Utility will help us with that. You should drag one Utility instance on the master channel to place it at the very end of the effect chain.

Then set Gain value. I usually pick up -10 -12 dB.

Then we activate “Key Map Mode Switch” and assign any appropriate key of the keyboard to switching on/off Utility.

Ableton Live Tutorial

I personally like using the Q key just for the simple reason that it’s literally at hand. Now, while working with a mix, I switch on Utility at any moment and check how my work sounds on a lesser volume. Simple and fast!

Now we’re going on to check the mix for mono compatibility – here, we have the very same case. We drag another Utility instance at the end of the master chain, but this time we operate a Width parameter instead of Gain.

Ableton Live Tutorial

Also read: The Importance of Mixing in Mono

We set its value equal to zero. Therefore, Utility turns into a mono maker. Just in the same way, we assign any appropriate key to switching it on/off. Here you are! Now without stopping mixing process, we can check if everything sounds good in the mono.

It’s especially important for dance music. As you indeed know, club acoustic systems sound in mono, and if the track isn’t adapted to these conditions, great disappointment awaits the producer!

It’s not quite the end of interesting things! While working with a mix, I always use High Cut and Low Cut filters on a master channel to locate a specified frequency range and to check whether everything sounds clean there.

Also read: Mixing With Frequencies

On the principle already known to you, we drag Ableton’s stock “EQ eight” instance on the master channel, set the High Cut filter on the necessary value and with help of “Key Map Mode Switch” assign any appropriate key to switching on/off the equalizer.

I use this trick in every mix, especially when I work with EDM music. I set two equalizers: the first one with the filter at 60–80 Hz and the second one in the 200–400 Hz region.

Ableton Live Mixing Tutorial

While switching them on/off, I literally on the fly check whether everything sounds clean in Sub Lows and Low Mids.

The next most important way to check your work is to compare your mix to commercially released music as references.

Depending on how many references you plan to use, create one or 2–3 additional audio tracks in your project.

Drag the songs to which you plan to compare your work on the tracks and set External Output instead of Master in the settings of each track.

Ableton Live Mixing Tutorial

Therefore, you will play back reference songs by omitting processing on the master channel.

You can also assign any keys to switch on these audio tracks in the Solo mode.

Maybe it’s too much but you still can do it! And, of course, you can also set operated filters using the technology described above and compare your mixes to references in a specified frequency range.

And finally, there’s another way to check the accuracy of your settings by using pink noise as a reference.

Many people argue if it’s right or not, but this technique is still widely used and gives stunning results in accuracy settings. I also use it especially when I work with electronic music.

Pink Mastering Plugin

“Pink” from Credland Audio, an excellent and absolutely free of charge plugin, help me with it. Download here! The plugin has only two settings: Master Level and Noise Level.

For those who are clueless, pink noise is considered to be the reference of frequency balance with regard to human hearing.

The technique used for work with it is simple. You should set noise loudness so that mix elements with which you’re working at this moment can be hardly heard behind it. And you should adapt their sound to the reference.

I usually set master Level at -15 -17 dB not to get stunned by noise while the plugin is on. And then you know you should assign any key of the computer keyboard to switch on the plugin. I use N – “noise”.

Now you know almost everything about referencing mixes in Ableton, it’s very simple and incredibly convenient! And it’s equally important that it’s absolutely free of charge.

Now you can get down to mixing your next song, these mixing tips will make it sound awesome.

Do not forget to give a share this article if you liked it!

About The Author

Elijah Kuttikhen is a professional Audio Engineer, studio owner, tutor. He is the founder and owner of EKmixmaster – online mixing and mastering studio providing services for artists and labels around the world.

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