Remixing is when you take a song and put your own spin on it. Artists like Diplo, Kygo, Alan Walker, Robin Schulz, R3HAB, and Skrillex all remix regularly, putting their signature sound on someone else’s music. The practice is most common in electronic dance music, but really, you can remix in any genre or style.
Remixing differs a little from producing originals and can feel a bit tricky, but don’t worry! Following these five steps will help you get that remix in motion.
What To Remix?
The first step is finding a song to remix. It’s preferable to work with stems, acapellas, and instrumentals. Stems are the individual channels of a song, like the drums, bass, vocals, etc. An acapella is just the vocals and an instrumental is everything except the vocals.
Stems will give you the most control over your remix, so you can select and change any single element. You can get a hold of stems through direct contact with the artist or label, through remix contests or by scouring the internet for downloads — just make sure they’re legal ;). Soundation occasionally hosts remix contests as well as other challenges, so keep a lookout here! For more remixing opportunities, check out Splice and SKIO.
Not Quite My Tempo
It’s important that you match your project’s tempo with the song stems so everything syncs. You measure the tempo of the song in BPM (beats per minute). There are multiple apps and websites that can help you find out the BPM if you don’t know it. You can search through the Tunebat database or let the analyzer listen to the song file, or you can tap in the tempo in Soundation or with Beats Per Minute Online.
To make sure it’s right, adjust the audio placement so the transients line up with the grid. Turn on the click track and listen if it matches. Adjust the BPM accordingly.
Key Is Key
Now that you have the right tempo, the next step is identifying the key — the group of notes that make up the chords and melodies of the song. (Tunebat is great for this, just search through the database or analyze the song file.) To make sure the key is right, play the scale to the song and see if it sounds good. Go to Piano Scales to see what notes are in the scale. Don’t worry if you’re struggling to hear the right key, it takes time to develop an ear for it. Just keep at it!
Strike a Chord
Chords are multiple notes stacked on top of each other, harmonizing and supporting the melodies. You can look up the chords of most songs with a quick search on Google or Chordu. (Chordu will even show you how to play the chords on a piano, which is great when using virtual instruments and synths.)
Keep in mind that you don’t have to use the original chords. If you’re only keeping the vocal, you can come up with your own chord progression to go along with that melody. Changing the chords can give the song an entirely different emotional feel. It’s safest, however, to stay in the same key. Use Scales-chords to find chords by key.
This is the part where you do whatever you want! It’s very easy to drag in loops that are going to fit perfectly with the song when you already know the tempo and key. Edit the stems by cutting, pitching, stretching, and reversing to get new sounds out of them. Create your own melodies using the scale of the song to give the track new life. Make a banging drop that will excite the listeners. Record your own instruments or vocals for even more personal flair. Ultimately, just have fun!
For more remixing tips, click here!