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21 Effective Tips for Making Remixes


Sam Matla / June 11, 2014 /
Arrangement & Composition (http://edmprod.com/category/arrangecomp/),
Workow & Creativity (http://edmprod.com/category/workowcreativity/) /
18 Comments (http://edmprod.com/21-remix-tips/#disqus_thread)

Making a remix or bootleg is always dierent from an original. Sometimes it


can be easier because the ideas already exist, and other times it can be more
dicult.

Just like an original, its hard to know where to start. You sit down at your DAW
withendless possibilities and combinations of sounds in front of you.
Itsoverwhelming.

Whether youre remixing a song for a competition, have been contracted an


ocial remix for a release, orcooking up acheeky bootleg of a popular song,
these tips are for you. Read on and get inspired!

Before you start reading:If youre looking for a something more


comprehensive, you might like The Ultimate Guide to Remixing. Click here
to download the PDF version. (https://edmprod.leadpages.co/leadbox
/140c97473f72a2%3A13634110db46dc/5661458385862656/)

1. Pick the Right Song


Pick a song that you thinkwouldbenetfrom a remix. Youre more likely to
follow through with a remix if you like the original idea(s). This is even more
important if youre making a bootleganddont have access to any stems; you
need topick a song that leaves room for work to be done.

Note:this alsoapplies when being asked to do remixes. If a label asks you to


do a remix and you arent a fan of it,why not ask if there are other releases
that need to be remixed?

2. Listen for the Gaps


After choosinga 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 subtlepluck 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,
dont 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 theimportant. And despite
what many argue,planningdoesnotinhibit creativity!

Before starting a remix, why not do a bit of brainstorming? If youve got ideas
from tip #2, then this is the time to write them down.
The result? Youll sit down to produce your remix with clear intentions and
objectivesinstead 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 toremixes of the same song youre trying to
remix, or remixes of similar songs. However, be careful when doing this as its
easy to end up copying the remix too closely. Theres 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 dont have access to an acapella or any other stems, youre going to
need to identify which parts of the original track you want to, and can, use.
Youll nd that certain sections cant be used at all, simply because theres 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.
Thesetracksare a joy to bootleg as a lot of the content can be used.

6. Work WITH the Material


Respect the original track and its contentandyoull have a much easier time
remixing it. Working with the material given to you instead of against it is
essential. It isnt wise to turn an original track thats in 4/4 time signature into
3/4, and a label wont accept your remix if there isnt a trace of the
original track init.Respect the original and work with the content given to
you.

7. Arrangement ASAP
One of the main reasons people dont nish remixes is because they dont get
the arrangement down soonenough. Just like building a game plan, the
arrangement gives you a sense of direction and allows you to step back
tolook 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 youre cutting
and choosing material.

8.Feature Parts from the Artists Other


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

Heard any other remixes that do the same thing? Let me know in the
comments!
9. Keep it Similar
A remix doesnt have to be incrediblycontrasted to the original. Sometimes
you might just want to add a little extra to the original, or expand on ideas.
Youll often hear remixes where the artist has changed just the bassline and
drums, but kept the overall vibe of the song.

This doesnt work for every remix, but sometimes its exactly whats needed.
Dont be afraid to keep it similar and add a slight touch.

10. Use Parts of the Original Track


Using parts of the original track for lls and transitions isa great way to spice
up your remix. For example, you could take 1 bar of the original, stick it at the
end of a 16-bar phrase in your remix, automate some phaser and lters
tocreate an awesome transitional eect. There are many other ways to use
the original audio, so get creative!

Oh, you want some ideas?

Pitch shiftsyllables or note stabs from the original to use in build-ups.


Reverse bass and synth sounds from the original to add complexity and
avor.
Sample drum sounds from the original to add another layer of familiarity.

11. Process and Mangle Stems


Want to impress the listener? Get creative with stems! You can make stems
your own with enough processing. Reverse and chop up acapellas, apply
heavy distortion tobass sounds, the possibilities are endless.

A few ideas to get you started

Use parts of the bass stem(s) to ll in your bassline groove.


Chop up vocals and make your own melody from the individual slices.
Add phasing, reverb, and ltering to the main melody stem in parts of your
song to tease the listener.
Apply reverb, delay, and distortionto FX stems to signicantly change their
sound.

12.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 nd it helpful to think of a
remix as an original track. This is easier when youre not familiar with the
original track, and less likely to copy its style.

Bonus tip:try remixing a song without listening to it at all. Grab the stems
and then go from there.

13. Create Your Own Melody


Creating your own chord progression or melody in a remix oers yet another
level of originality and can often be a tasteful twist. Take the Teqq Remix of
Tritonals Now or Never for example.

Listen to the original:

Listen to the remix:


Read:The Ultimate Guide to Writing Better and More Memorable
Melodies (http://edmprod.com/ultimate-melody-guide/)

14. Collaborate
I cant overemphasize the importance of collaboration. Not only is it ultra fun,
but you learn a lot about how other people work and oftenend up in a more
motivated and creative state than you would working by yourself.

Collaborating on a remix is just as fun, if not more fun than collaborating on


an original.Youll both havedierent opinions on the original track, and youll
both come up with dierent ideas.

15. Keep the Original Breakdown


Producing aremix doesnt mean you have to changeeverything.If itsbootleg,
you may be forced to change the drop, but theres nothing wrong with leaving
the breakdown how it is. The same applies with an ocial remix, if the original
breakdown works well and ows with your remix, then leaving it in isnt a sign
of laziness or incompetence, its just an artistic decision.
Listen to any popular mashup and youll see how a breakdown can be
extracted from its original surroundings and still work eectively.

16. Use Whats Needed


I once downloaded stems for a remix competition (that I never nished) and
ended up with a 1GB le containing WAV lesfor every single track. There was
no way I was going to use everything.

Just because youve been gifted with an abundance of audio and MIDI les it
doesnt mean you have to use all of them. Takewhats necessary and build
your remix ontop.

17. Train Your Ears


Often you wont get any MIDI les in a remix pack, for some people this can be
a big problem as they arent condent in their ability to work out notation
from audioand while some DAWs have audio to MIDI conversion, its well
worth learning to transcribe yourself.

The best way to do this is to practice; remake a melody every day. You could
also check out the music theory ear training exercises here.
(http://www.musictheory.net/exercises)

This also helps with Tip #13. If your ears arent primed then youll have a much
harder time creating your own melody underneath an acapella or something
else. Learning music theory is important as well. (http://edmprod.com/music-
theory-the-tldr-version-ebook/)

18. 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. Im not
talking about astyleas such, but rather something small and uniquethat
doesnt detract from the main idea or vibe of the song.

Not sure what I mean? Learn about howPharrell Williams always has the same
intro on all his songs. (http://www.stereogum.com/1682908/every-pharrell-
song-starts-the-same-way/news/)

19. Add a Second Hook


Does the main idea in the original track not do it for you? Too weak? Too
boring?

Why not add a second hook?

Jaytechs remix of Blood Groove and Kikis progressive masterpiece known as


Mirage features a memorable vocal chop in addition to the serene chord
progression from the original.

The original.

Jaytechs remix with the vocal hook.


As a side note, which mix do you prefer?

20. Make an Alternative Mix


Every now and then youll come across a remix project where youve gottoo
manyideas. While it can be fun to try and incorporate 20 dierent ideas into
one track, it typically doesnt turn out great. My suggestion? Make an
alternative mix. If youve been contracted a remix then send the label both
and ask for their opinion (worst-case scenario is they dont want it and you
keep it as a private remix). Additionally, many remix competitionsallow
entrants tosubmit more than one remix.

Note:this can also be applied to original tracks if you have too many ideas.

21. Ask for a Deadline


Whenever I get contracted to do a remix this is the rst thing I ask for.
Deadlines help you stay motivated and nish tracks.

Remix competitions have deadlines by default, and picking one that ends
fairly soon is a great way to get back into gear (I often do this if Im stuck in a
rut with production to test myself and see how fast I can work). If you choose a
remix competition that ends in 60 days then youre less likely to feel driven
and pressured to nish the track.

Wrapping it Up
This isnt a all encompassing guide to remixing, its simply a collection of tips
that I and others use. Remixes should be enjoyable, they shouldnt take
months, and you should aim to be creative. Next time you do a remix, why not
use a few of these tips? Try adding a second hook, or collaborating.

What would you add to this list? Let me know in the comments section
below.
(http://getworkowbook.com)

Tags:Remixes (http://edmprod.com/tag/remixes/), tips


(http://edmprod.com/tag/tips/)
18 Comments EDMProd
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Taha 2 years ago


Your articles are superb dude !! Keep up the good work
1 Reply Share

Sam Matla > Taha a year ago


Thank you!
1 Reply Share

Synkrasis 2 years ago


So much great info!
So inspired by every article!
1 Reply Share

Sam Matla > Synkrasis 2 years ago


Glad they're helpful! Thanks for the kind words.
1 Reply Share

Colin Parker 2 years ago


Hey Man

Great article! I make a lot of deep house bootlegs. Personaly i'd like to work with just the
vocals from a song and make something completely different with it.

Gr.,

Colin
Colin
1 Reply Share

Sam Matla > Colin Parker 2 years ago


Thanks Colin! Deep house is where it's at :)
1 Reply Share

Freak H 7 months ago


any software recomendations?
Reply Share

Thib Franois 8 months ago


Brilliant man ! This definitely helps, and it's well written. If you are curious I invite you to
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