When mixing a band or artist, many studio’s have ‘reference albums’. Some have only one, or two. They want to be able to have a reference for their own recordings and compare the recordings with these albums – for various reasons.
I personally have a small set of songs for reference, from different producers, bands and albums. Not because I want to ‘sound like them’ when mixing or mastering. One of the studio owners I know wants his recordings to sound exactly like the albums by a certain band/producer. And I’ve heard others have the same approach.
For me, the reference songs are especially used to set up the monitor speakers and headphones. I listen to (some of) these tracks before I start the final mixdown to ‘calibrate’ my equipment. If these songs sound fine on the mixing equipment, and my song doesn’t, I’ve made a big mistake somewhere. If my mix blends in nicely – I’ve done at least a mix that can probably be played on most speakers, headphones and thus on radio or TV.
My reference library for recording at home:
- The Knack – My Sharona
- Mazzy Star – Lay Myself Down
- Stuck In The Middle With You – Stealers Wheel
- Lou Reed – Pale Blue Eyes
- Bob Dylan – Foot of Pride
- Gomorrah – Jerry Garcia Band – Live at Keystone Palo Alto
- Bob Dylan – Long and Wasted Years
- Squalor Folk – Go (Recorded by Jesse Gimbel’s Basement)
I don’t believe in copying a certain “studio sound”. The above list is, therefore, not a list of perfect recordings. I personally believe that every engineer including home recorders should strive to create its own sound – if needed. Since, especially when you start recording other people, it’s not your sound (anymore). It’s the band that walked in the door that is looking for a recording of their music. And it’s their sound that needs to be captured, not yours, not the sound of an engineer that produced a certain album decades ago.. let alone be a copy of that sound or production.
Jesse Gimbel’s work is a perfect example, so I believe, of a recording studio that manages to capture the sound of a band as they should be recorded. It doesn’t have “his mark all over it”. And that makes his recordings a great example for me. Especially this song. Also posted here because I simply love it of course..