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I’m excited about this blog post because I get to give you a mixing tip, songwriting tip, and promotion tip all in one! Are you ready for it? Ok.

In mixing there’s this concept of having a reference track. The purpose is to keep you grounded in what actually sounds good. When mixing, it’s easy to get so deep into tweaking the song that you just lose perspective of how the song actually sounds to a normal ear. This can lead to strange and unbalanced mixes that sound wildly different depending on where you listen to it. But a reference track can help keep this from happening.

A reference track is a song that you know inside and out, and one that you obviously think sounds awesome. The idea is to refresh your ears every once in a while by listening to it. It will help you know whether your mixing decisions are going in the right or wrong direction. You might find that you’re trying to add way too much low end. You might find that there’s just not nearly enough separation between two guitar tracks. Stuff like that.

It’s a helpful trick. I really recommend anyone, especially people recording at home, to do this.

But how does this concept relate to songwriting or promotion?

Well, with regard to songwriting, I think you can do much the same thing. Take a song that you think is well written and instead of noting the artists mix decisions, note their songwriting decisions. Go back and forth between your song and theirs, and maybe you might start to notice a few things. Maybe this verse is too long? Maybe I should shorten this first chorus and save it for later? Overall you might notice that your songs needs something added. Or maybe it just needs less.

For promotion, instead of looking at a single song or album, look at another artist as a whole and study how they promote themselves. Obviously this should be an artist you like and one that has succeeded in connecting with you. What social networks are they on? How often do they post? What content are they producing other than their music? What does their website look like? Doing this will help you see yourself from a potential listeners standpoint and adjust some of the things you do accordingly.

I think it’s important in every aspect of this music thing to stay grounded. And one of the best ways of doing that is to consistently check yourself against something or someone that you think has it right.

Let’s talk about this in the comments. What are some things you’ve learned or want to learn from other artists or songs?


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  • alex verdon

    I’d definitely say I’ve learned about promotion from a folk singer song writer’s perspective. The way modern folk artists seem to promote themselves is through facebook, and their websites are generally very easy on the eye and simplistic

    • http://www.andyothling.com/ Andy Othling

      Yep, the artists I follow typically do the same!

  • http://www.facebook.com/kovah.johnson Kovah Johnson

    This is a great tip andy! especially for the mixing aspect. Wouldn’t have even thought to have a reference track! thanks man! You’re blog really helps me out! I’m just a young singer/songwriter new to the recording side of music, keep it up!

  • http://twitter.com/StacyGamel Stacy Gamel

    Awesome tip! As a commercial artist, it’s a natural approach, but as a musician I’ve tried to isolate myself from outside influence in an effort to be “original”. I definitely have some adjustments to make!

  • Allyse

    I really just want to know how other artists keep their melodies fresh and different. And also if I should expect a certain songwriting method…for example I write first and put the lyrics to music. Is that right? wrong? Is there a better way?

  • Johnny Pav

    Yeah man this is right on. So many artists lack direction, myself included.

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