We’ve teamed up with Point Blank Studios to bring you a brand new series that dives into the world of electronic dance music production. In partnership with Point Blank Music School, this production series will be recurring with a variety of installments that will include guest posts from hot up and coming artists who will offer inside tips, detailed looks into the minds and tools of producers, as well as tricks of the trade for all you aspiring producers at home.
You’ll get to hear from your many different artists and get an inside look at how they look at and work in the studio. Even if you’re not a producer, our new series is a cool glimpse inside the mindsets of some of your favorite artists.
For the third installation of our production series with Point Blank Music School is brought to you by none other than Hex Cougar. He dishes out his secrets on how to respect the original when making a remix.
Respecting the Original: 6 Tips to Creating a Successful Remix
While remixing a song/gaining access to stems is relatively easy, creating a reinterpretation that is as inspiring as the original is no easy feat. In my experience, both as a music fan and as a producer, the most successful remixes are not just those that introduce some sort of crazy new twist but also those that understand and respect the origins, intentions, and feelings of the original.
1. Identify the Tone of the Original Track
Identify the tone of the original track and try to preserve that feeling through your re-interpretation. It’s more than okay to re-interpret a song in a completely different genre/style (actually I encourage it!), but make sure that the mood/soul of the original is still present within your production. If you’re remixing a 90’s R&B anthem, there’s no need to turn it into a 160 BPM hardstyle banger.
Choose stylistic elements and motifs that convey similar emotions and feelings to that of the original. A lot of big name EDM acts love taking radio songs and transforming them into quick festival edits/remixes, and while sometimes it can work, a lot of the time it comes off as tasteless and butchers the beauty/essence of the original.
2. Use As Much of the Original Vocal as Possible
If the song has a vocal, use as much of it as possible in your re-interpretation. You can add as many crazy effects as you want, but if you cut out entire sections of the acapella it becomes, less of a remix and more of an entirely new, sample-based creation.
Also, if it’s an official remix, there’s a chance that the artist that commissioned you might find your decision distasteful. This extends to all other stems besides the vocal as well. If you can find a way to cleverly incorporate some of the original synths/percussion/bass into your mix, it both demonstrates a higher level of skill and a respect for the original artist’s work.
3. Stay In Key
Make sure your production is in the same key as the vocal/any other stems from the original you’re using. Even in genres of music that aren’t particularly chord driven, like trap, some subsets of house and techno, etc, finding tonalities that work aesthetically side by side is really important. If you aren’t great at music theory, sometimes it’s hard to find chords/melodies you like that match the original vocal perfectly.
One trick I’ve used in the past is to find a chord progression/bassline/melody that I think is dope by itself and then overlay the vocal on top of it. I’ll then transpose the vocal up and down slowly until I find the transposition that clicks. Then I’ll transpose everything, both the vocal and the melody, back down in equal increments so that the vocal is again at zero. You can always leave the vocal transposed, but be aware that the higher or lower you go, the more the remix strays from the feel of the original.
4. Don’t Stray Too Far From the Original’s BPM
Make sure the BPM of the original is pretty close to the BPM of your reinterpretation (I’d say ideally a 10-15 BPM difference) . If you slow the BPM down a lot, the vocal is going to lose a lot of its initial energy. This can work if it’s an intentional choice, but if you’re trying to keep the vibe upbeat, this will just make your remix drag. On the other end of the spectrum, if you speed the vocal up too much, the whole mix will sound too chaotic.
5. Don’t Release Your Remix Too Close To The Original’s Release Date
This is slightly of similar to tip #1, but don’t speed remix a song in a desperate grab for virality. There’s been a recent trend where EDM artists will create a quick edit/remix of a buzzing new song by a mainstream artist within a week or even a couple days of its release to gain quick plays and exposure. Not gonna lie, I’ve definitely done this before (RIP Drake Company Remix 2015-2015, you will be sorely missed), but in hindsight, I think this is pretty disrespectful to the original artist. It’s like saying, “Hey man, really LOVED your new single. Sounds like it took a lot of time and effort to make. Here’s my shitty interpretation of it that I made in 2 days, LOL. Hope you enjoy, don’t forget to smash that Follow To DL button fam!”
There’s a chance that you might actually make something on par with the original in a couple days (although that chance is very miniscule), but I think it’s still pretty inconsiderate to mangle up a really polished piece of music in a quick bid to gain followers. If you’re going to remix a song, treat it with love and respect. Take it to a fancy restaurant and order an expensive bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon. Buy it sheets with 1000 thread count. This tip is less production-based and more of a general piece of advice, but I think it falls in line with the overall theme of respecting the original.
6. Work Your Signature Sound Into the Remix
Lastly, don’t forget to incorporate your signature sound into your reinterpretation. Find a unique way to differentiate your version from the original while trying to follow the previous suggestions/guidelines I laid out. If you’re remixing a heavy trap song, don’t make a heavy trap remix unless the structure is so different from the original that the two are clearly discernible. This tip is pretty obvious I think, hence why I put it last.
For more expert tips, visit Point Blank, the award-winning music production and DJ school with classes in London, Los Angeles and online. Six-time ranked ‘Best DJ & Production School’ by DJ Mag, Point Blank offers ground-breaking courses taught by expert instructors including songwriters, producers and Grammy award winners. Former students include: Claude VonStroke, Nicole Moudaber, Gareth Wyn, AlunaGeorge and more. Head to their site for production tips, tutorials or to sample an online course for free.