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The premise of remixing has been around since the late 60’s and 70’s, driven by the massive developments in multitrack recording from the era, and it was this rudimentary form of remixing that was born out of a few key players from days past.
It’s commonly acknowledged that the first musical re-interpretations were devised from the Caribbean Dancehall scene of the 60’s. It saw producers like King Tubby and Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry editing and re-creating their own versions of locally sourced music. The term remix however, first sprung in the 70’s as it kicked off the vastly celebrated career of Tom Moulton, who was formally the first to ever patch together “remixes” from reel and tape. Later in his career he was dubbed as “Inventor of the remix and the 12” single”.
In the words of Wikipedia; “A remix is an alternative version of a song, different from the original version. A remixer uses audio mixing to compose an alternate master recording of a song, adding or subtracting elements, or simply changing the equalization, dynamics, pitch, tempo, playing time or almost any other aspect of the various musical components”.
Sounds easy, right? Maybe for some, but like most things in music production – there’s a lot more than meets the eye!
In modern terms, remixes come with many different forms and purposes in our industry – either providing a means to extend the lifetime of a record and to give swell to a campaign, or on the other hand, for musical preservation reserved for giving a new lease of life to timeless classics.
So, whether you’re a seasoned button pusher or if you’re brand new to the art of remixing, we’ve put together a hit list of 5 essential tips to help you approach a remix and carve your niche into the market.
Everybody knows that organisation is the key to success and knowing what you want to do and how you’re going to get there. When it comes to remixing, it’s no different – having a general go-to plan that you can reference when the creativity is running thin is invaluable. Staying on task has never been easier and much to popular disbelief, brainstorming ideas in advance of ‘jamming’ will NEVER hinder your creativity.
If you’re able to formulate a decent plan in advance of the task in hand, you’ll have clear intentions and objectives instead of self-pity.
When it comes to remixing it’s about finding the perfect balance. The last thing the label wants you to do is completely re-create the record into something indistinguishable from its forerunner. In equal part however, they wouldn’t be impressed if you simply pitched everything down an octave and handed back your “club remix” ready for imbursement. In reality it’s about flipping the mood of the record to your style, whilst maintaining the essence of the original works.
If the original features major chords with a warm feel-good vibe, flip it! Change the keys to a moody minor progression with a darker atmosphere and build everything else around that. These big changes at the start of the remix will aid you in figuring out what to do next, without overdoing it.
There are plenty of ways to spice up your new mix with the original parts. Try pitch shifting, reversing and layering up elements to make new ones, seriously; the possibilities are endless.
TIP: Place an EQ on the provided kick drum in your remix pack and filter out the low end – Next, choose a new kick drum from your collection that has a lot of low end – place an EQ on that new kick and filter out the high end.
Merge the two samples together being cautious that they harmonise without fading, and with a bit of luck you’ll find yourself with something new and fresh whilst maintaining the tone of the original kick.
Time and time again, we hear of people that are unable to finish a track or a remix within the deadline. One of the main reasons this happens is the inability to get the arrangement down quick enough.
The minute you’re happy with your 8 or 16 bar loop, get your arrangement down. ASAP. We can’t stress how important this is! It’s equally as imperative as the planning process. The arrangement will give you clear direction that will allow you to sit back and think about how your remix is developing overall.
Tip:As you’re bringing your ideas together, place some markers down on your project to mark out the intro, breakdown, build and drop.
As an artist, your job is to put YOU into everything you do. Sometimes it can be evident from the moment a remix starts which genius is behind it. Your artistic stamp should be characterised in all elements of the remix. If you have a sound that you know inside out, view the job as a collaboration between you and the original artist, 50 percent you, 50 percent me.
Another pearl of wisdom we can offer is – make your own sample pack!
Using the sounds that you know and love, will ultimately speed up your production process and put your artist hallmark on the remix. You don’t have to have the motherlode of sounds, as long as you keep it to your signature claps, chords and effects, your fans will connect to that and ultimately your work is done.
In reality, there is no right or wrong way to approach a remix, but we believe that the above set of tips should get you started on the right foot. Create a solid plan, switch things up but respect the original, get the arrangement down and make it yours.