How to remix a song

by Anders Johanson September 04, 2020 5 min read

How to remix song

If you’re looking at how to remix a song, you’ve come to the right place. The term "remix" was coined by DJ Shadow to describe his own work as he mixed tracks together for use on his first album, The Master Tape (which you can listen to here). In the early days of hip-hop, many artists would record their songs at home and then release them through local labels such as Ruthless Records. These were called "bootlegs." They often contained only one or two songs that had not yet made it onto an official album.

While some were just demos, others had different verses or alternative versions. These were mixed on reel-to-reel tape decks by DJs and released through mix tapesand the underground rap scene.

Some people have the misconception that a cover is the same exact song by a different artist, but that is simply not the case. A cover can be similar to the original or it can be drastically different from it. For example, Macklemore's Same Love is a cover of Tegan and Sara's version of the song. Remixes are slightly different than covers, but the process of creating them is essentially the same. A good remix takes an already great song and creates something unique with it. Remixes are a great way to both learn how to make music and show your talent at the same time.

There are several different types of remixes:

  • Original Remix : This is the most common type of remix. In this case, the original song is completely replaced with another track. :

  • Extended Mix : An extended mix is much like the original mix, but longer. It can either be a minute or two longer than the original track, or it can repeat certain sections of the original track.

  • Clean Mix : A clean mix is a remix that doesn't have any profanity in it. This type of remix is common with rap and hip-hop music.

  • Instrumental: An instrumental remix is a song that features the original instrumentals, without any singing.

Is remixing a song illegal

Yes, in most cases it is illegal to remix a song. Remixes are usually only legal if the original artist approves of the remix and gives their permission for it to be made. Even if the artist approves of a remix that you've made, it is usually illegal to release the remix for others to hear because it will contain an unlicensed version of the original song. Most of the time when you see a remix on Youtube or Soundcloud, the original artist has not given their permission for the remix to be made or distributed. Unless the remix is very different from the original song, the artist will most likely take it down because they don't want their music to get any more exposure. Remixes exist in a legal gray area. In most cases, they're illegal to distribute and perform live, but they're still legal to make and listen to in most countries.

Can you get sued for sampling a song?

Yes, but it's very unlikely. If you're careful when you're making a remix, you'll probably never get in any trouble. The first thing you should do is make sure that the artist of the song you want to sample approves of the remix. If they don't approve of it, then you can't distribute it or perform it live. Even if the artist does give you permission to make a remix, they might still sue you for distributing it. Why would they do that though? Some artists are cool with their music being remixed, but others aren't. If an artist happens to not be cool with their music being remixed, then it's best to not piss them off by distributing the remix for free online. One of the safest ways to distribute a remix is to first contact the record label who holds the official rights for that song. For example, if you were to create a remix of Major Lazer's "Come On To Me", you would contact Mad Decent, the record label who officially releases their music, and get their permission to distribute it. This is the safest way to make sure that you're not going to get in any trouble for your remix. You might be able to get away with distributing your remix without getting the artist or record label's permission, but it's not recommended. Just play it safe and contact them first and foremost before doing anything.

Remix vs Mashup

Do Remixers Get Royalties

People who make main songs (the original songs that get remixed), or songs that get used in movies, tv shows and games usually get a flat fee when their song is used. Typically, this is between $1,000 and $5,000. There are some cases where the fee is higher (especially for very famous artists). You can't really make money off of just being a remixer. Most of the time the original artist is already getting royalties from the record company.

Remix vs Mashup

What's the difference between a remix and a mashup you might ask? A Remix and a Mashup are both re-interpretations of an original song. The main difference between a remix and a mashup is how much of the original song is included in the new track. Remixes typically use elements of the original song, such as verses, choruses or hooks. Remix is taking a song and adding your changes to it. Mash-up is mashing two songs together. 

A remix uses at least some portion of the original track. The remix can be a more basic edit that just repeats or emphasizes certain sections of the song. Or it can take the song in a completely new direction by changing the tempo or key, adding new sections or even using only a small portion of the original track. Mashups combine the parts of two or more songs to create a new song. Edits take that one step further and completely reimagine the song.

The Remix in EDM

The remix is especially popular in the EDM scene. Not only do many tracks get officially remixed by others, but fans create their own unique versions of songs as well. A big part of this is the use of stems. Stems are tracks of instruments used in a song that have been separated out from the rest of the music. For instance, an artist might release a vocal stem, which is just the vocals from the song without any other instrumentation or effects. DJs and producers can then use these to create their own mixes or remixes of the songs.

Remix Contests

Some artists and labels host contests for their fans to remix their songs. These are a great way for up and coming producers to get their name out there, as well as have a chance of getting their remix featured or even officially released. Remix contests are usually announced by the artist or label on their social media pages, such as Facebook or Twitter. Sometimes they are also announced on the artist or label's website. Be on the look out for the word stems!

Stems are tracks of instruments used in a song that have been separated out from the rest of the music. For instance, an artist might release a vocal stem, which is just the vocals from the song without any other instrumentation or effects. DJs and producers can then use these to create their own mixes or remixes of the songs.

Anders Johanson
Anders Johanson

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