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Over the past few decades remixes have become an essential part of music production.

What started as a DIY practice in early dancehall and DJ culture has become a worldwide phenomenon with its own category in the Grammys.

In this article I’ll go through everything you need to know about remixes and how to get started creating your own remix.

What is a remix?

A remix is a different version of a track created by changing, altering, or expanding its original elements. A remix can be simple as changing the tones and textures or as radical as completely reimagining the harmony and rhythm.

As long as the raw material came from an existing song it can be considered a remix.

What can I remix?

Before we get into how to create your own remixes, there’s a massive issue with remixing that needs to be addressed.

As soon as your track contains audio that isn’t original or properly licensed, your release process gets much more complicated.

As soon as your track contains audio that isn’t original or properly licensed, your release process gets much more complicated.

In most cases, you can’t get around using copyrighted material when you’re making a remix—you need existing songs for raw material after all.

Your only hope is to receive permission from the copyright holder to create an official remix.

But the chances that you’ll get a high profile artist to approve your remix are slim.

And even then you may struggle to find a way to distribute your remix to the major streaming platforms due to copyright issues.

How to find songs to remix

find songs to remix

Despite all that, there are still ways to create remixes legally.

One effective option is to choose remix material from an artist that you can feasibly get in contact with.

This could be someone in your community or someone with a similar or slightly larger following online.

For two producers with similar traction, this type of relationship can be mutually beneficial. You’ll expose your audience to their work—and their followers will get to hear your take on it.

To take advantage of this method you’ll have to be active in the communities that deal with your genre online—and in the real world.

Keep an eye out for what artists just above your level of exposure are up to. If you’re serious about taking on a remix, contact them and ask. The worst they can do is say no.

But don’t go forward until you get permission—you wouldn’t want someone to use your tracks unless you agreed would you?

The other easy option is to participate in remix contests.

Remix contests have become popular online because they show how different producers can create radically different results with the same source material.

Contests can sometimes offer access to raw tracks from big name artists for free. This is an amazing opportunity to get to find remix material you shouldn’t pass up.

Fair warning—even once you’ve gone to all that trouble, you still may encounter difficulties with digital distribution when it comes to remixes.

Many distributors don’t offer licensing for remixes, so you could find yourself out of luck for getting your remix on streaming platforms.

How to remix a song

With the basics covered, let’s get into the details. Here’s how to remix a song in 5 steps:

1. Get your source material

I went through how to choose a track to remix above, but once you’ve decided you’ll have to deal with the raw material.

In most cases you’ll be working with stems when you remix a song.

Stems are bounced files of the individual elements of a session.

Stems are bounced files of the individual elements of a session.

In some cases you might receive stems of every single file on the timeline, but more often stems will be exports of instrument groups with several tracks bounced down together.

That means you’ll likely be looking at a folder with individual stereo files for each instrument

Related:  The 10 Best Drum Machines on the Market Today

2. Find the key and tempo

To make an original remix you’ll have to add your own elements alongside whatever pieces of the song you take from the existing stems.

To keep everything in sync, you’ll have to detect the tempo.

To keep everything in sync, you’ll have to detect the tempo.

There are different ways to accomplish this depending which DAW you use.

Ableton automatically detects the tempo of a clip using the warp feature.

Simply set the master tempo of your session to the detected tempo of your drum stem and unwarp the original clip to get it in sync.

Finding the key of the song requires a little more musical knowledge.

One easy way to do it is by playing along to the song with your instrument or MIDI controller.

You’ll get a clue when you find a note that sounds in tune with the rest of the song.

The next step is to determine which scale degree you’ve found. As you listen to the song, try to identify the chord that feels most stable—the harmonic area that feels like the “home” of the song.

The trick to finding the key is to evaluate the musical interval between your note and the home harmony. You’ll have to experiment here too, but you can always go back to your initial note if you get stuck.

Once you do it a few times you’ll get a handle on the technique and you’ll be able to do it more quickly.

But don’t let the original key hold you back. Some of the best remixes take the source material wildly out of context.

3. Decide what to keep

The point of a remix is to put your own stamp on a track—not create something completely unrecognizable.

You’ll need to preserve at least some of the defining features of the original song.

Distinctive instrumental hooks and recognizable lyrics or samples are easy choices for elements to keep.

Distinctive instrumental hooks and recognizable lyrics or samples are easy choices for elements to keep.

You definitely want to put your own spin on them, but these features can help give listeners cues about what they’re hearing.

Try to identify the part of the song you think is most important and integrate it into your remix in a compelling way.

4. Decide what to leave out

The elements you decide to cut say just as much as what you keep.

You can be picky, or make broad sweeping gestures for effect.

Sometimes deleting an important central element can refocus the song in a completely new direction.

Or just calling attention to the best parts by getting rid of the distractions can be the best move.

Creating negative space is an especially interesting choice. Minimal remixes can be extra powerful for how much they reveal.

5. Decide what to add

Here’s where making a remix gets creative.

Adding your own original elements is how you put your own stamp on your remix.

The best thing about remixing a song is that there are no rules—follow your creative impulses and add anything that feels right.

From left field samples to expressive synth patches or new elements you record yourself, anything’s fair game.

Use the opportunity to showcase your creativity.

Remix and mingle

Remixes are here to stay.

It’s easy to see why this fun and popular production exercise has an important place in the scene today.

Whether you’re looking to put your own spin on a fresh tune or pay homage to a classic, creating a remix is a good strategy

Now that you know the basics of how to remix, it’s time to get back to your DAW and start working on one.

The post Remixing Guide: How to Remix a Song in 5 Steps appeared first on LANDR Blog.

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