6 tips on how to creatively approach remixing (all genres)

posted in: Creativity, Production | 2

Hello and welcome for this weeks blog post! Today I want to share some tips and tricks on how to creatively approach remixing. Enjoy!

In principle, remixing is one of coolest things out there for producers of every kind. Especially upcoming artists get the chance to showcase their skills and creativity by remixing their favorite tracks.

But I have a problem with remixes. Don’t get me wrong, some of my favorite songs are remixes. Still when I see what some people contribute to remix competitions and such I get a bit frustrated. Of course some people also make great remixes and just poorly mix and master them but that problem belongs to a totally different segment of music production.

Today I only want to point out some tricks to creatively approach a remix and thus make the musical piece a more unique one.

Typical mistakes

What I’ve observed over the last couple of years is that some people just seem lazy. They sit in front of the project with the all the raw stem files and don’t know what to do or where to start. They then proceed to cutting the stems apart and just arrange them differently. Without adding their own twist. (?!)

Some on the other hand try to add stuff to the song but the end product just doesn’t differ enough from the original piece.

Others even think it’s totally enough to change the main part and leave the rest as is.

That’s not what a remix is about though!

But enough of the rant. How to change this?


Tip 1 – Add your own (original) material

This is pretty obvious but I still want to address it because some don’t seem to recognize this. So you’ve got an idea and start editing and rearranging some stuff. The idea itself might be pretty neat at first. But the song you’re remixing needs a twist. Without adding new sound, the product will probably seem very out-of-place.

The listeners probably know the original song. What you’re providing them though is kinda like a puzzle. Torn apart and squeezed together again.

Although this might look like a puzzle everything has its place and purpose, so always make sure to tidy up your project!
(Screencap of the project to my remix of Black Papers ‘Our Place In The Stars’
)

To add that twist, start digging in your personal sample library and find material which sort of fits the sound of the original. Especially drums and percussion sound can easily be replaced and/or complemented by your own stuff.

You might also just go ahead and start creating new sounds from scratch!

Believe me, working with all that additional material makes it a thousand times easier to add your individual twist to the song.


Tip 2 – manipulate the sounds

Now that you’ve added your own things it’s time to edit the stem material. Cool thing here is: You can decide if you want to make so many tweaks that the original stem sound can’t be recognized anymore or if you just want to make slight changes. Or anything in between.

I think a good mixture of everything is always a good way to approach this. But be aware that you shouldn’t totally change all the material. Otherwise it doesn’t sound like a remix anymore. A 60/40 ratio of edited/unedited sound will do most times.

‘But what to do with the sounds?’

Well, unless you have an exact idea of what you wanna do, just start experimenting! Throw random effects onto the tracks and let the outcome surprise you.

To be more precise, here are some useful things to try out once you have everything set up:

Paulstretch:

Paulstretch is a plugin for extreme time-stretching. It really doesn’t matter what sound you want to stretch. Just load it in there, determine the factor it should be stretched by, adjust some parameters and you’re good to go. Especially if you use tonal material with a single note played you can get a great intro or outro ambiance out of it.

Paulstretch Screenshot (creatively approach remixes)

Glitch/Triggergate:

Literally any plugin that offers some kind of rhythmical automation (be it sound morphing or Arp-like volume automation via gate closing) can deliver inspiring and useful results pretty much instantly by just a few clicks of a button and without you having to do any complicated editing. Many of these tools are free or very cheap so I’ll link you some personal recommendations right here:
Glitch by Soundspot
Timeshaper2 by Cableguys

Glitch2 (or the older free version) by dBlue
A1 TriggerGate by Alex Hilton

To give an example, here’s a quick demo of what Timeshaper can do. I used the previous version in this remix of ‘Memories’ by Sqz Me but Timeshaper 2 does basically the same as the old one.

Vocals (without Timeshaper)
Vocals (with Timeshaper)

As you can see, using the effect on these tracks gives the original sound a bit of extra spice without totally changing it. And if you want to go even crazier you can of course always do that.

Here’s the full remix by the way:

Reversing:

Sure, it’s a bit tricky with melodies but reversing drums and percussion sounds can lead to very nice results. Again – with just a click of a button.

These are just a few ways to creatively edit your stem material next time you’re working on a remix.


Tip 3 – Change the focus

It would be natural to use the songs prominent main sound as the main event in your remix. But that isn’t the only way to go about remixing. The song you’re working on might have other interesting sounds in the background. Or it introduces more stuff later into the track. You can use these instead as highlights of your remix! Emphasize a different sound instead of the original main sound and make a difference. Especially in remix contests this can be an easy way to stand out amongst all the other remixes which all focus on the same original main sound.


Tip 4 – Change the tempo

This is a simple thing to do but it can make all the difference! When remixing, by adjusting the tempo to your liking you can transform a slow ballad into an emotional EDM remix or make a slow Trap version of any Pop song. Most times keeping the original tempo or just slightly varying it works just fine but don’t be afraid to make big changes!


Tip 5 – Change the genre

This is a big one! Don’t just think ‘oh this song is Dubstep, I can do Dubstep, let’s do Dubstep!’. Of course this is an option. I mean you got the fitting material right there. But in my view it might even be easier to create a different style. It’s more fun and a better learning experience if you have to figure out how to use and/or manipulate the material to get the new sound you’re looking for. By applying fx and morphing and cutting and pitching and all that you’ll get to know your DAW as well as your plugins much better.
A good remix with mixed genres will surely create a unique listening experience by presenting the original style and temper in a new light. A light you get to choose the color of!


Tip 6 – Transpose

Transposing a song is one of the harder tasks but if you commit to it and do it right it will really make your remix sound different.

Also try simple pitching of all the tonal material (the kicks too!) and see if it works. If it does and everything is in harmony you can create a whole new mood for your remix.

I actually used this track for the remix I posted a few paragraphs ago and to be honest with you: I got this idea from a remix of the same song. Check it out:

This is a remix by Sibewest
Here’s the original

What’s nice about this: Sometimes the listener doesn’t realize the difference but your remix might get stuck in his head more easily.
Because it mostly isn’t necessary transposing/pitch shifting is not done often but consider it if you want to go the extra mile.

What have we learned?

So let’s conclude this. Remixing is a great thing for producers to do. But if you really want your remix to stand out and create a unique listening experience, you’ll have to be creative AND adaptive. I hope I could help you to creatively approach remixing. If it did, feel invited to message me and tell me of your personal remixing experience(s)! And in case you’ve made a cool remix already feel free to send it to me as well! Until next time.

Also please make sure to check out the mentioned artists:


2 Responses

  1. Noovez
    | Reply

    Love the work you’re putting into your blogs, man! Truly inspiring. Thank you .

    • Lars Grages
      | Reply

      Thank you so much for the words! Great to hear that my work inspires yours 🙂

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