Remixes have long been a massive part of electronic music. They can range from subtle changes in the feel of a track to a complete rework in a different genre. But how do you start remixing music? Whether you’re looking to win a remix competition or just want something different to play at your next gig, check out our 10 top tips to take your remixes to the next level.
1 - The hook
Listen to the original track and identify your favourite elements of the original that initially attracted you to remix it. Build your remix around these elements.
It could be a vocal, main lead melody, or a prominent bassline that stands out. Asking ‘what is the first thing that springs to mind when I think of this track?’ will help focus your mind on what to prioritise.
2 - Original key
Using software such as Mixed in Key or ZPlane Tonic will help to quickly identify the key of a track. From here you can write new progressions and melodies for your remix whilst knowing they will work harmonically.
3 - Structure
Thinking about the song structure of your remix will help to get you started and make it easier to begin an initial arrangement of the track. Deciding on whether your remix will follow the structure of the original or do something completely different is an important part of the process to consider.
4 - Alternate chord progressions
One of the best ways to put your own style into the original track is to write a new chord progression to sit under the vocal. Using the vocal along with a new set of chords can give the remix a more unique sound and helps to differentiate it from the original.
Experiment with some different harmonies that might give a twist to the common chord progressions. You might even want to try mixing up major and minor chords to make something really unusual.
5 - Tempo & genre
Hearing a track turned into a remix in a different tempo and genre is always interesting for the listener and makes the remix stand out. Experiment with different tempos to inspire new ideas as some tracks will suit faster tempos whereas others will be more suited to a slower pace.
6 - Simplicity is key
Many great remixes are made when the artist keeps things simple. Once the main elements have been identified it can help to focus on developing these elements further and process them differently rather than adding too many layers.
Often less really is more when it comes to music production and some of the most memorable ideas are those that are most direct. If your track is melody driven it helps to ask yourself - ‘can I memorise this melody easily?’ and ‘is it simple enough to be able to sing?’.
7 - Harmonise
Adding harmonies to the original vocals is a great way to add depth to a track. This can add layers to the remix to help fill out the frequency spectrum and give the vocal a more unique sound. Panning the harmonies is also very useful, especially using higher harmonies to add width whilst the lower harmonies back up the main vocal in the centre of the stereo field.
Double-click your audio file and a box will appear with a range of options for how you can pitch, transpose and warp the file.
8 - Get creative
Using stems from the original as FX is a creative way to make your remix much more interesting. Using vocals and other melodic elements to create ambience is a great way to do this. It also helps the track to sound more cohesive and will make different instruments work well together.
Pt 1: Place a reverb plugin with the mix at 100% wet on your vocal stem.
Pt 2: Right click on the channel to show a drop down menu, and click ‘freeze track’.
Pt 3: Then bring up the same drop down menu and click ‘flatten’.
Pt 4: You should now see a new version of the stem which you can chop up and duplicate to create ambience and pads.
Pt 5: Adding a lot of reverb to a sound will often add unwanted low-end frequencies that can result in a muddy mix, make sure to remove this when necessary using EQ.
9 - Get inspired
Don’t be afraid to listen to other remixes for ideas to inspire your own. For example, if you’re working on a drum and bass remix of a house track, then finding other tracks that have the same change from one genre to the next can spark a whole host of ideas about how you can go about producing your remix.
10 - Make it your own
Being able to use stems from a track you love and arrange them in a new way is always exciting, and is one of the most fun parts of being an electronic music producer. But don’t forget to put your own personality and signature style into the remix!
Some of the best remixes are made when an artist uses the best parts from the original stems whilst combining them with their own sonic signature. Whilst working on your remix it can be helpful to think about your own style and how this can translate into making something new and exciting for the listener, whilst staying true to the spirit of the original track.
How to remix legally
If you’re not doing an official remix and don’t have permission to make the remix from the original artist, you can get in legal trouble if you try to release it – whether that’s on Youtube, Soundcloud or Spotify. You’ll need to get permission from the artist of the original song and their label to arrange a royalty split. If you’re just making something to play solely in a club and aren’t planning on releasing it, however, you’ll be fine.
If you're feeling inspired to start making some of your own remixes, check out our course with amazing producer Shadow Child where he takes us through his methods for giving tunes a unique spin.