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15 Effective Tips for Making Remixes

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15 Effective Tips for Making Remixes

Post  FSR on Thu Mar 31, 2016 12:26 am

Making a remix or bootleg is always different from an original. Sometimes it can be easier because the ideas already exist, and other times it can be more difficult.

Just like an original, it’s hard to know where to start. You sit down at your DAW with endless possibilities and combinations of sounds in front of you. It’s overwhelming.

Whether you’re remixing a song for a competition, have been contracted an official remix for a release, or cooking up a cheeky bootleg of a popular song, these tips are for you. Read on and get inspired!

1. Pick the Right Song

Pick a song that you think would benefit from a remix. You’re more likely to follow through with a remix if you like the original idea(s). This is even more important if you’re making a bootleg and don’t have access to any stems; you need to pick a song that leaves room for work to be done.

2. Listen for the Gaps

After choosing a song to remix, take a good listen to the original and write down any ideas that come to mind while doing so. You might hear a new drum beat in one section, or you might think that a subtle pluck melody would work well with the vocal line in the breakdown.
This takes a bit of practice, and you might not come across any ideas. If so, don’t worry; just move on with your remix, forming ideas inside your DAW.

3. Form a Game Plan

Having a general plan that you can refer back to when stuck in a rut is invaluable. It helps you stay on task and work on the important. And despite what many argue, planning does not inhibit creativity!
Before starting a remix, why not do a bit of brainstorming? If you’ve got ideas from tip #2, then this is the time to write them down.
The result? You’ll sit down to produce your remix with clear intentions and objectives instead of blankly staring at the screen feeling sorry for yourself.

4. Listen to Other Remixes

Listening to other remixes is a great way to spark some thought and creativity. I recommend listening to remixes of the same song you’re trying to remix, or remixes of similar songs. However, be careful when doing this as it’s easy to end up copying the remix too closely. There’s nothing wrong with being inspired by a remix and gathering a few ideas, but be wary of similarity.

5. Cut and Choose Your Material (Bootlegs)

If you don’t have access to an acapella or any other stems, you’re going to need to identify which parts of the original track you want to, and can, use. You’ll find that certain sections can’t be used at all, simply because there’s too much going on. I might, for example, take out the intro, outro, and choruses of an original track and only use the breakdown which contains a vocal, then build upon that.
Note: some songs have very little going on, e.g., piano and vocals. These tracks are a joy to bootleg as a lot of the content can be used.

6. Work WITH the Material

Respect the original track and its content and you’ll have a much easier time remixing it. Working with the material given to you instead of against it is essential. It isn’t wise to turn an original track that’s in 4/4 time signature into 3/4, and a label won’t accept your “remix” if there isn’t a trace of the original track in it. Respect the original and work with the content given to you.

7. Arrangement ASAP

One of the main reasons people don’t finish remixes is because they don’t get the arrangement down soon enough. Just like building a game plan, the arrangement gives you a sense of direction and allows you to step back to look at how your remix is developing as a whole.
As soon as you have ideas down, sketch out a basic arrangement. You should have it down quicker than you would normally when working on an original, because you already have a few ideas handed to you.

Note: this is extra important when working on bootlegs where you’re cutting and choosing material.

8. Feature Parts from the Artist’s Other Songs

This was brought to my attention quite recently as I listened to Estiva’s remix of Only For You by Mat Zo. As you can hear, he included the melody from Lucid Dreams, which is one of Mat Zo’s other popular tracks from the same album. You can hear it at 7 seconds in.

9. Keep it Similar

A remix doesn’t have to be incredibly contrasted to the original. Sometimes you might just want to add a little extra to the original, or expand on ideas. You’ll often hear remixes where the artist has changed just the bassline and drums, but kept the overall vibe of the song.
This doesn’t work for every remix, but sometimes it’s exactly what’s needed. Don’t be afraid to keep it similar and add a slight touch.

10. Treat it as an Original

Sometimes we get too involved in the concept of “remixing” that we forget remixing requires originality to actually work. I find it helpful to think of a remix as an original track. This is easier when you’re not familiar with the original track, and less likely to copy its style.

11. Create Your Own Melody

Creating your own chord progression or melody in a remix offers yet another level of originality and can often be a tasteful twist. Take the Teqq Remix of Tritonal’s “Now or Never” for example.

12.Keep the Original Breakdown

Producing a remix doesn’t mean you have to change everything. If it’s bootleg, you may be forced to change the drop, but there’s nothing wrong with leaving the breakdown how it is. The same applies with an official remix, if the original breakdown works well and flows with your remix, then leaving it in isn’t a sign of laziness or incompetence, it’s just an artistic decision.
Listen to any popular mashup and you’ll see how a breakdown can be extracted from its original surroundings and still work effectively.

13. Use What’s Needed

I once downloaded stems for a remix competition (that I never finished) and ended up with a 1GB file containing WAV files for every single track. There was no way I was going to use everything.
Just because you’ve been gifted with an abundance of audio and MIDI files it doesn’t mean you have to use all of them. Take what’s necessary and build your remix on top.

14. Train Your Ears

Often you won’t get any MIDI files in a remix pack, for some people this can be a big problem as they aren’t confident in their ability to work out notation from audio and while some DAWs have audio to MIDI conversion, it’s well worth learning to transcribe yourself.
The best way to do this is to practice; remake a melody every day

15. Create and Add a Musical Signature

Having your own musical signature is a great way to give the listener a sense of cohesion among all your tracks, it also helps them remember you. I’m not talking about a style as such, but rather something small and unique that doesn’t detract from the main idea or vibe of the song.
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FSR

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