Have you ever heard a song and thought to yourself, this would sound a lot better in a different genre?
You’re not alone.
There is no doubt that writing your own song is an original experience unlike any other.
But sometimes you just have the itch to transform an existing song into something better.
That’s where remixing songs come in.
Remixing a song is a great way to exercise your music editing, sound design, and music theory skills.
It can sound a bit daunting for beginners, but don’t worry. Here’s a step-by-step guide to remixing a song that anyone can follow!
Table of Contents
- 1 How To Remix A Song: Step-By-Step Guide
- 2 Additional Tips On Making A High-Quality Remix
- 3 How To Make A Remix Of A Song: Related Questions
- 4 How To Remix Songs: Final Thoughts
How To Remix A Song: Step-By-Step Guide
A remix happens when a producer gets a hold of the basic parts of a song, like the tempo, beat, and effects, among others.
They then change them, either through where they’re placed in the song, how they sound, which instruments are heard more, or even to the point where it sounds like a completely different genre of music.
As you might expect, there are a couple of things you are going to need when you remix a song, including equipment and software. Let’s see what you need first, before diving into the step-by-step guide.
Equipment You Need
Before starting the process, here’s a quick list of equipment you need to remix songs:
- A personal computer
- A Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) software compatible with your computer (e.g., Logic Pro X for Macs)
- Microphones for remixing to record real-world instruments or add vocals
- Studio monitors or monitoring headphones
- A quiet room
Step 1: Pick The Right Song To Remix
The biggest mistake anyone can make when trying to remix a song is picking one with which they aren’t really familiar.
Remixing a song involves you already having parts of the song in mind to change. If you pick a song you don’t know well, you’re already making it harder for yourself right from the beginning.
For example, imagine you try to remix a busy track like Walk The Moon’s Anna Sun, which has a lot of guitars, bass, and even that iconic synthesized piano solo after every chorus.
It would be so much harder for you to remix this, if you had never listened to it before.
You’d have to listen to every single instrument individually, which would take up a lot more time.
Therefore, we really recommend picking a song you’re familiar with and listening to it thoroughly with a set of good speakers or headphones.
Step 2: Begin With An End Sound In Mind
The second tip we have for you is to begin the process with an end sound in mind. What exactly does this mean?
Some remixes drastically change how a song sounds, like the Smash Mode Remix of Paramore’s Ain’t It Fun. Others just enhance the sound or make it sound more “hyped.”
In the Smash Mode Remix just mentioned, the original song is a Paramore pop-rock sound. However, the producer most likely had a “dance club” type sound in mind.
Because he had that sound in mind, the beat that the whole song uses has a dance-friendly higher beats-per-minute time.
If the producer didn’t know what he wanted to change the song into, he’d spend a lot of time shuffling through beat samples just to find one that worked.
Therefore, you should start the second step by brainstorming what ending sound you’d like to have. We recommend listening to different remixes of songs to see how the producers changed the sound.
Step 3: Lay Down A Base Beat
What exactly is a “base beat?” Most remixes start with the producer picking a BPM (beats per minute) to have the remix in and picking a beat (usually percussion instruments).
These beats can be found in your Digital Audio Workstation’s (DAW’s) sound library. For example, Apple’s Logic Pro has great tools for this.
Play around with the tempo and beats per minute to find something you like.
This will form the backbone of your remix. You can change the beat of the song down the line, but this should make it easier for you to include parts of the original song.
Step 4: Include Parts Of The Original Song One By One
When you have your base beat down, try including things like the vocals, synths, and instruments one by one.
The reason you shouldn’t include them all together is that you might get overwhelmed by the different sounds clashing at the same time.
You’ll most likely be adjusting each component of the song to fit the new beat anyway, and doing it one by one will make things easier for you.
You might find out that you want to remove some components of the song that don’t fit the end sound you have in mind. This is normal, and you’ll fill the gaps they leave in the next part.
Step 5: Include Your Own Sounds
When you’ve included all the parts you wanted to keep on top of the base beat, you get to the fun part. This is where you put your personal touches on the song.
If you want to add any real-life instruments or vocals, here’s where you need to use microphones for remixing.
Remember, different instruments need different equipment and techniques to get the best sound out of them.
Many people include extra vocals or record additional instruments in the way they want to bring their remix to life.
For example, Breakbot’s Remix of Juice by Lizzo has a lot more bass guitar lines. This makes the sound a lot thicker and with more body.
Breakbot also includes short voice lines in between the chorus and verse with a robotic filter on, which is a signature in their remixes.
Step 6: Master The Mix Properly
All songs aren’t mastered equally. Have you ever noticed that songs from the 70s and 80s sound a lot quieter than modern-produced music?
That’s because of something called the “loudness wars”, where producers would master their songs louder, which is perceived by most people as sounding better.
Your song will sound different depending on the equipment you have, so make sure to get studio monitors or monitoring headphones.
These will ensure the sound you hear isn’t colored by the output device you’re using.
If you’re trying to remix a song to sound more upbeat or dance club-esque, you’ll want to make it sound more “V-shaped.”
This means boosting the lower and upper frequencies in the equalizer more. Alternatively, if you’re going for a more laid-back sound, you’ll want to tone down the upper frequencies.
Try boosting and cutting different frequencies in both the master equalizer and the sound coming from each individual track on your DAW.
Once you find the sound you like, you’re all done!
Additional Tips On Making A High-Quality Remix
We still have some additional tips on how to take your remix to the next level. Here are a few of them.
Keep Your DAW’s Manual Nearby
Every Digital Audio Workstation has a manual or tutorial website that can come in handy, if you want to do something, but can’t quite find the right tools for it.
Keeping it open in a separate window or having a physical copy on hand saves a lot of time when remixing a song.
Listen To Other Remixes For Inspiration
There are a lot of things to learn from other remixes. Not only do you get inspiration from the sound itself, but also from how it’s cut and mastered.
For example, if you’re trying to remix a song to upload on the social media platform TikTok, watch other remixes that became popular there.
You’ll notice that the remixes for those songs are focused more on the chorus and are a lot shorter than full-featured ones.
This is because popular songs used in videos on TikTok are much shorter than ones you can find on other social media video platforms.
For example, the Oliver Nelson remix of The Wombats’ Greek Tragedy does have a full-length song, but the only section that was used is the pre-chorus and the chorus.
Watch Tutorials On YouTube
One of the best ways to learn about making remixes, and music production in general, is through YouTube.
The video-sharing platform has many creators that upload tutorials about how to do almost anything in the DAWs they talk about.
Whether you need tutorials on how to use certain plugins in Logic Pro X or how to make your own base beat in Ableton, YouTubers have got you covered.
For some, learning with visual aids is a lot better than learning from reading text on a screen.
Therefore, if you have some difficulty understanding tutorials from online articles, try watching a few videos to see if they work for you.
Don’t Try Too Hard To Deviate From The Original
Another issue that commonly happens with some aspiring remix producers is that their goal is to make the sound as different from the original as possible.
However, this can backfire. In the pursuit of making it sound different from the original, the song becomes unrecognizable from the original.
At what point does a remix become a whole different song? Remember, you’re trying to enhance or change the sound of a song, not make a completely different one.
Collaborate With Others
This is one of the most underrated tips for making remixes that isn’t mentioned a lot. Working with other producers has a lot of advantages.
The biggest advantage is that people have a lot more ideas when they work together. As the saying goes, two heads are better than one.
Having another person work with you also improves your motivation and helps you focus when things start to get monotonous and boring.
How To Make A Remix Of A Song: Related Questions
Even after learning how to start making remixes of songs you love, you might still have some questions. I’ve answered the most commonly asked questions below.
Is Making Remixes Legal?
Technically, making a remix is legal. There’s nothing wrong with making or editing music. The trouble comes, if you start selling or promoting it online as a work of your own.
Some record labels will sue even if only a second of their music is used in a remix or mashup. Others don’t mind and even encourage people to borrow from their artists’ music.
The key word here is caution. Be careful when trying to release any remix online. If you want to start out by gaining more followers, try posting on YouTube.
The worst thing that could happen is that your video gets taken down, with no legal action to worry about.
What Is It Called When You Remix Two Songs Together?
Remixing two songs together is called a mashup. This is usually done when two songs with the same beat and chord progression are combined to sound good together.
For example, ABBA’s Super Trouper and Van Halen’s Jump have very similar chord progressions, even if they are in different styles. Someone made a mashup of the two.
The same rules apply when making a mashup. Don’t try to sell it, because some record labels might sue you over using music they own.
There are many mashups uploaded on YouTube that haven’t been taken down or copyright stricken.
Is A Remix Still Copyrighted?
Remixes are still protected under copyright laws. This is because, unlike covers, they use the exact same track recorded by the artist for the record label.
Therefore, the labels can sue you for using their music without permission. One way to avoid this is by getting permission from the record label before releasing the remix.
However, it can be a bit expensive, depending on the record label and artist. On the other hand, some actually encourage mashups, because it boosts the song’s popularity.
Again – be careful when releasing any remixes you’ve made.
How To Remix Songs: Final Thoughts
After learning how to make a remix and all the tips and tricks to make your experience better, we hope you’re a lot more equipped to make great remixes.
The most important takeaway here is to begin with the ending sound in mind and work towards that goal. It makes things a lot easier for you and focuses your energy better.
Even if you’re a beginner, you can make a great-sounding remix. Now go out there and get to work on your favorite song!