Chapter 7: Tips & Resources
Congratulations for making it this far into the guide. I know it’s lengthy.
This is the final chapter, so I want to leave you with a number of tips you can refer back to whenever you feel the need.
Note: some of these tips may contradict each other. Their purpose is to provoke ideas. Experiment with them, use them as a basis for new techniques, and so forth.
8 Tips for Creative Remixing
1. Use only original stems
If you’re looking for a true creative challenge, try using only the original stems. Other than adding a few drum samples if there aren’t any included, don’t use any synths or loops other than those included in the remix package.
Leverage your sound design skills to turn a stem into something completely different. Transform basslines into kick drums, vocals into synths, and so forth through the use of samplers.
2. Change the genre completely
Changing genres forces you to think creatively. It forces you into problem-solving mode.
Find a track you’d like to remix and change it completely. If it’s a dark techno track, try turning it into a serene progressive house track. If it’s an upbeat drum n bass track, try turning it into a filthy drumstep track.
3. Transpose to a different key
Melodies and chord progressions can be recognized regardless of what key they’re in, so why not try your hand at changing the key of the original song?
Let’s say you want to make a more club-ready version of a particular track, and you’ve made a bass sound that works really well in the key of F. Unless there’s a vocal that really shouldn’t be transposed, you can take MIDI files and simply change the key to suit your production.
4. Make subtle changes to the original
We often fall into thinking that we need to make a remix completely different from the original, but this doesn’t need to be the case.
Sometimes, it can pay to keep the remix more or less the same as the original in terms of composition and structure, but beef up certain areas or change the instrumentation.
5. Remix a song you hate
This seems like a stupid tip, but it really isn’t. If you remix a song you hate, you’re already going to have a ton of ideas for what to do.
You might hate the fact that the vocal is too slow, so you speed it up.
You might hate the fact that the melody includes a certain note in a certain place, so you change it.
You might hate the genre the original is in, so you make a remix in a different genre, one that you like.
6. Don’t lose the big picture
You don’t want to mangle the original song to the point where your remix isn’t recognisable (in other words, it’s really just an original track).
Make sure you keep elements of the remix intact. You’re making a derivative work, not an original masterpiece.
7. Strengthen something minor
Pick a minor instrument, element, or motif from the original track and turn it into a key element in your remix. It might be something like a vocal hook that appears once in the original.
Likewise, you can take a major instrument, element, or motif and turn it into something minor by repeating it less or using a subtle background sound.
8. Listen to other remixes
Listening to other remixes is a great way to spark some thought and creativity. I recommend listening to remixes of the same song you’re trying to remix, or remixes of similar songs. However, be careful when doing this as it’s easy to end up copying the remix too closely. There’s nothing wrong with being inspired by a remix and gathering a few ideas, but be wary of similarity.
Despite the size and scope of this guide, I haven’t got to everything. There are plenty more tips out there, ideas, and advice that’s worth taking in as you practice making remixes.
So, if you’re ready to learn even more, I suggest checking out the following resources.
Remixing can be creatively challenging, which is why it’s important to understand the nature of creativity as well as how to stay focused and finish your work.
My book, The Producer’s Guide to Workflow & Creativity, teaches this and more.
One of the most popular posts on EDMProd, this article provides 21 quick tips for making remixes. If you’re short on ideas, have a quick read through this and apply one or two of the tips.
If you’re trying to find the chord progression and/or key from an original you’re trying to remix, chuck it in to the Hook Theory analyzer and… magic!
A listener told me to include these, and I’m glad he did. Here are 11 calculators for working out things like:
- How to change the tempo of a loop accurately with pitch shifting
- Changing the tempo of a sample without changing its pitch
- Tuning a sample with time-stretching
And much more.
Books & Articles
- Creative License: The Law & Culture of Digital Sampling
- The Remix Manual: The Art and Science of Dance Music Remixing with Logic
- 18 Pro Remixing Tips
- 10 Remixing Tips from Dubspot
- 5 Tips From a Judge on How to Win Remix Contests
- 10 Remixing Tips by Eelke Kleijn
- Remixing Techniques in Logic
- Flume Remix Tips
I want to thank you personally for reading this guide. It’s a constant work-in-progress, so the version you just read won’t be the final version.
Hopefully having read this you feel inspired to head off and work on your own remixes. Remember, all the tips and advice in the world mean nothing unless you’re willing to put in the time to experiment and practice, so make sure you actually work on remixes instead of trying to learn purely through articles and theory.