In this article, we want to share some tips that can help in the process of remixing. There are four essential tips on how to remix a song that you should know before getting started!
We will also look at the legal issues that you could encounter with a remix and what to avoid. Remixing is fun and is a great way for producers to sharpen their skills and possibly get known in the industry.
Tip #1: Isolate the vocals
The first thing you are going to do is isolate the vocals from the other tracks. If you can get your hands on the stems then this process is already done for you. Having a good acapella is vital if you want to create something new.
If you are involved in a remix contest, then you will be provided with part or all of the stems from the original song.
If you are doing this remix on your own there are some things you can do to get isolated vocals. I’m going to highlight a tool from Izotope called RX8 to isolate the vocal. This is really effective and if you have the money, will provide you with a great result.
In RX8, there is a feature called music rebalance. This feature has been significantly upgraded from older versions and now allows you to solo either the vocals, drums, bass or the peripheral sounds that they call other. This enables you to automatically create stems.
It’s not perfect but it is definitely passable.
Tip #2: Be Creative When Remixing Songs
When you’re remixing songs, it’s important to be creative and to try new things. Don’t just do the same thing over and over again or your remixed song will sound like a copy of the original track. That is not how to remix a song. This is where listening to other people’s music can come in handy. It can give you ideas for how to remix songs in ways that the original artist never could have imagined.
Decide if you want to use some of the elements of the original or go for your own take on the song. You can use the song’s structure and melodic elements and then add in your own elements to make it sound different.
Another option is to just take the vocal and remake the whole song from scratch. Use your own chord progression and melodies to make the song your own.
Trust your gut! If you’re not sure how to remix a song and have no ideas, that’s okay. You might just need some time to experiment on your own before the perfect idea pops up.
Tip #3: Find the Right Style for the Remix
Finding the right sound is more than just sampling a drumbeat or vocal line from another song. You have to find those sounds in your own music library, too. Build something unique that gives it your own flavour.
Before that though, you need to decide what style you are going for. Remixes are fun because you can take a song and put it into a completely different style and make something amazing. Decide the style and then choose your sounds and instruments according to that style.
Finding the right style can make your remix stand out from the rest of the pack.
Tip #4: Join a Remix Contest
Remix Contests are everywhere. They are a great way to get into remixing because they provide you with everything you need to make them. They usually provide some direction as well.
You can find some remix contests on Beatport, Splice, Spinnin’ Records, just to name a few.
One of the most important things that a remix contest does is provide you with a deadline. Deadlines are great in teaching us to finish songs. For music producers, it is often the case that we have dozens of files sitting on our computers with partly finished tracks. This can become a pattern and having a deadline can break us out of that.
Remix contests also provide you with feedback. Most of the time you won’t get much feedback but sometimes you will and this feedback is valuable. It might feel bad, but it can show us where we need to improve.
The last thing is you will get the tracks you need. They will give you the stems so you don’t need to do any workaround.
Now let’s look at how we can get started making a remix.
Find a song that you like and want to remix
How to remix a song that you really like? First, check online to see if there are any remix contests with that song. If there are, sign up and download the stems.
If there are no contests, then you have to find a way to make the remix legally or make a “bootleg”. We will talk later in this article about the legal issues surrounding remixing.
The bottom line is to find a song that you know well. Choose one that gives you inspiration and that you can easily hear where the gaps are so that you can fill in your own stuff.
Listen to the original version of the song as many times as possible
You want to get a feel for the original production. Listen to as many versions of the song as you can find (different mixes, live performances) before starting work.
This will give you an idea of what elements that usually come with this kind of music or genre sound good.
It’s worth noting that there are no rules around how to remix a song. Really anything goes! However, it does help if you have listened extensively and picked out the parts that are responsible for the song “working”.
When you find the hook or multiple hooks, you can figure out how to work these into your remix in a fresh way. Maybe a different instrument, tempo, etc.
Tease the listener with your interpretation of the song’s hook.
Once you really have a handle on the song and all the elements, then map out your arrangement of the song. Intro, verse, chorus, breakdown, drop, etc. This will give you the skeleton you need to build in all the parts.
Create your own unique beat for your remix
One thing you can do to really stand out is to make a beat that is entirely your own. This also gives you the opportunity to showcase your skills as a producer.
This ties into tip #3. You need to choose a beat that reflects the style you have chosen because it is the beat that really shows what the style is. Having said that, it is always OK to break out of the box a little.
Find the tempo of the song. Most DAWs have a function that will allow you to find the tempo. In FL Studio it is Detect Tempo.
Once you have the tempo, create a 4 or 8 bar loop of kick and snare. This will be the foundation. Now you have the freedom to play with high hats, percussion sounds, mouth noises, etc. Really anything you can think of.
Create unique loops for the different sections and make some fills and transitions.
Add in different chords, melodies, instruments, and vocals to make it more interesting
Like we said earlier, you can choose to create a totally new idea from just the vocal of the song. You can create your own chord progression with entirely different sounds and melodies.
Or you can choose to use the main melodic hook from the song but choose a different instrument to feature it.
Choosing a different chord progression will definitely give the song a unique sound. First, find out what the original chord progression is and then play around with chords that are different but will still fit. Sometimes just adding in a few notes here and there can really spice things up.
Check to see if you have vocal samples in your library that you can use to accent certain sections. If you need more samples you can check out Splice for thousands of great samples. You can also chop up the original vocal and add effects to make it sound unique.
Run the vocal through a vocoder and layer it with the original.
The idea is to get as creative as you can while still building a coherent sound.
Create your own Main Idea or Hook
For the remix to really become your own you need to come up with your own main idea or “hook”. A melody that grabs the listener and signals to them that this is your version of the song.
Like before, you want to include the original song’s hook, so use your own hook to compliment the original. Don’t let them play together because it will be confusing.
Be sure not to make your hook too repetitive so it doesn’t get annoying after repeated listens, but also make sure it is memorable.
The key is, make the remix your own. Treat it like an original work and give it your DNA. This will leverage the popularity of the original song to allow you to get your voice out there.
As we said earlier, we are now going to look at some of the legal issues surrounding remixing.
The importance of copyright in music remixes
A remix is a derivative or new version of an original work. The authority to allow the creation of derivative works lies with the copyright owner. The copyright owner for the original song has the legal ability to assign or deny you permission to remix it.
Do you need permission to make a remix?
In short, YES. You can get yourself into a copyright issue if you don’t get permission. If it is a major label release you can find yourself possibly being sued for copyright infringement. Not fun at all.
How do I remix a song legally?
The best way is to get permission from the owner to make an official remix. If you can get this it can boost your career drastically. Reach out to the owner(s) and see if they will grant you permission.
Be professional and courteous. If you get a yes, then you are on your way.
The other way is to join a remix contest. There are many remix contests available to up-and-coming producers online, giving them a chance to hone their skills.
When is it okay to use someone else’s song for a remix without permission?
The only time it is OK is when you are going to remix it and not post or distribute it. If you are just practicing, it is totally fine.
You shouldn’t post or distribute any remix that you haven’t gotten permission to use. You could find yourself in a legal situation.
We hope this post was helpful in demystifying the process of how to remix a song. You can find a lot of information on how to remix songs, but these are some tips that we have found useful for achieving great results. You may have your own helpful hints and tricks for making the process smoother or using different creative approaches. Happy remixing 🙂
When remixing, use the same fundamentals of mixing audio that you would use in your own original productions. If you need some help I have made the guide on 11 Mixing Tips I Use on Every Song.