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Recently I completed a remix as an entry into a remix contest. I haven’t done too much remixing before but I think I did pretty well with the track I remixed and thought I would share my thoughts, tips and ideas about the remixing process and what seemed to work well for me when remixing.

The track I remixed was called Nude - Dreams for their remix contest. You can hear the end remix that I came up with on my MySpace Page.

I found myself approaching the remix very differently to the way I would normally go about making a track completely from scratch. The reason is that most of the musical ideas are already there in front of you in the original and it is less about musical creativity and making sounds and more focused towards musical arrangement.

The main aim I started with was to take the track, try to keep the main elements and feel but add my own style to it. It is a balance I think you want to try to get right. You don’t want to sound too much like the original mix, but you don’t want to stray too far from the original that it wouldn’t really be classed as a remix. To achieve this aim I think it is a good idea to limit the amount of times you listen to the original. Listening too much could slow your creativity as the original might stick in your head.

In the contest I took part in, you were given the loops of each part/instrument of the track and the vocals. The first job I did was to cut these loops up and save individual hits of drums/instruments ready for import into Reason. For example I took kick, snare, and hat samples from the drums, a few bass notes from the baseline etc. I then cleaned all these individual hit samples up slightly by fading in or out the first and last few milliseconds to remove any of those nasty clicks you get.

Next I decided I wasn’t keen on the original 135bpm as I found that speed slightly too fast for my style of drums so I slowed it down to 124bpm. I noticed that most of the other current entries had stuck to the 135bpm and that is just fine, but if you do want to change the bpm your going to have to do either some time-stretching of any loops or your going to have to cut up each note in the loop and retrigger the samples.

It’s probably best if your using the loops to decide on a bpm and stick to it, otherwise it can be a real pain going and re-timestretching loops later. Timestretching can introduce some unwanted effects such as echos so you don’t want to go too overboard with huge changes in tempo (unless you want these effects).

I found that cutting loops into phrases allowed me to be a bit more experimental as you have more control over when each phrase will get triggered. It’s better than just putting the full loop over the top as you can start to add your own timings and variations of these phrases much easier later on.

Once I had the loops and samples in the shape I wanted them in, I started to import them into Reason. Using a sampler such as those in Reason which allows multiple samples to be allocated to different keys on the keyboard really worked well here. You can set out all your cut up loop phrases so they can be played in order. You will also find it easier if you tune any of the individual samples to their appropiate keys at this point too.

As you can see I spent lots of time preparing the samples and importing them before even trying to lay any sort of track out. I had basically setup every part of the original mix and made it possible to play every part easily on the keyboard too. This can be a bit time consuming at first but once this is done the fun begins.

I started to play with the drums as this is where I usually start with my own tracks. I wanted to try and keep as many of the original drum samples in as possible, I think this is a good way of trying to achieve the aim of not go too far away from the original but the drum tracks is the place in a remix where you can really give a remix your own style. I only introduced a few new drum sounds when I couldn’t get the sound I wanted by layering these new samples with the originals.

For each of the instrumental parts I was to play along to the original track and then to go and play along to my own beat and try and vary it slightly in both timing and note sequence but sticking to the same set of notes used in the original. It seemed to work for me and the track built up reasonably quick.

Adding your own parts to make the track stand out from other remixes in a contest is I think a good idea. Use the same scale/notes as the other instruments and try to make it fit well. As long as you don’t make it too different and have enough sections from the original you should be ok. I added two new main sections that were not in the original.

Firstly a synth line that just went for 16 bars, it is smack in the centre of the track but it fits well, uses the same scale, it’s short as I don’t think you should make any personalised sections that stand out too long as that would have broken my main aim. Next I added a guitar sound but I faded it back into the mix a lot to disguise it. Putting a sound further back in the mix allows you to make a section go for longer without going too far off track.

When adding your own sections it is a good idea to not use any copyrighted samples that you don’t own if your entering a remix contest which has the possibility of release. It saves hassle later and there are loads of great sites for free sounds.

Effects is where you can again add your own mark to the track so you will want to do this similarly to how you would normally. Careful not to add too many effects especially if the samples you were given already have a lot of effects on. During mix down stage try to emulate the original in terms of overall frequency levels, if the original mix down sounds brighter than yours, then your remix is going to sound dull. Same goes with overall volume, use a limiter to bring your track up to the same volume levels without distorting your track.

Anyway those are my thoughts on producing a remix that came out of personally doing one. If anyone has anything to add that they think is important or different views on remixing please add them to the comments of this post. If your looking for a remix contest to have a go at, try our other site RemixComps.com.

Article written for Rhythm Creation by Edward Cufaude.

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Too often today I see many musicians, magazines and web sites telling you about some amazing new piece of software or hardware thats going to magically make you into this amazing producer/sound engineer complete with this amazing new sound it can produce. Basically adverts trying to sell you equipment and I think a lot of musicians fall for this and buy into products they don’t really need. Too often I see musicians who have used vast amounts of kit to get a specific sound, they have hard drives full to the brim with plugins and VSTis or rooms filled with hardware. Every other day some new software is out and you see people on internet message boards more concerned with having the latest piece of kit rather than actually getting down to creating music.

Yet when I listen to some of todays music even though the newest equipment is being used it still doesn’t sound any better than music that was produced 10 - 15 years ago. One of my favourite bands of all time is The Prodigy and Liam Howlett’s production skills are amongst some of the best I have ever heard. Take the Prodigy’s Music for the Jilted Generation album for example, it is now 13 and a half years old, yet it sounds as if it could have been made yesterday. Now this doesn’t seem to fit in with what these adverts seem to be telling me. For years of improvements in equipment the benefits in sound quality seem to me to be incredibly small. Maybe it is not what you’ve got to produce music with, but rather how you use it?

This led me on to thinking do musicians and sound engineers (electronic music based) rely on too much equipment? What would happen if I reduced the amount of kit I use? what would my music sound like?

I then thought the best way of putting my point across in this post would be to actually make a track. So I created a list of kit I will use for a track to really limit myself in what I could use…

  • One Shure SM57 Microphone.
  • Audacity (A free open source, sound editor)
  • A Sampler (I used the NN-XT within Reason).
  • A Drum Machine (I used Redrum within Reason, this is basically a sampler like above).
  • Only the basic effects/processing of Reverb, EQ, Delay, Compression and Distortion.
But that’s not all, I also decided I would limit myself in the sounds I could use…

  • NO samples, samples CDs, or any that I have created before.
  • NO sounds other that what I can create with my own mouth.
This basically means no synthesizers, no recording of any intruments or other objects, no other body parts like hand claps. Just the oldest sound creation device us humans have, my mouth and voice (And I’m not a singer or a beatboxer). So basically I was limited to my voice, a microphone, a sampler and some basic effects (To me that is extremely limited set of tools).

And here is the track I produced

Download MP3 from EdwardCufaude.com

I have to say, I had loads of fun producing this track and it came together quite quickly (I only spent about 8-10 hours including recording the samples). I believe that considering the way I limited myself, I was amazed at the wide variety of sounds that could be produced, I was also amazed at how I made it so electronic sounding. Using this method has made me rethink about the way I produce music for the better. I will never again say or think that I don’t have the equipment to produce a sound I like.

I do think that yes a musician can have too much equipment and I would advise anyone to have a go at limiting yourself, you might be pleased with the results. Too much equipment may actually hinder you rather than help you. It will make you a better producer and if you can make the music you want by limiting yourself, when you un-limit yourself again you may just find that your music has taken a giant leap forward.

And I have also released all the samples I used which are available here.

Download from RhythmCreation.com

Copyright Info For Music and Samples
Track provided free under the Creative Commons Attribution-Non-Commercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 Unported Licence. For the full terms of this license click the image button below.

Creative Commons License

Samples are released under the Creative Commons NonCommercial Sampling Plus 1.0 Licence. (Free to use and change for non-commercial uses). For the full terms of this license click the image button below.

Creative Commons License.

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