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003-02- The Art of the Remix

 

Class Recording from 5/3/21


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What is a Remix?

There are many different types of remixes.
In a traditional sense, a remix is when you obtain the individual stems to a song or just the vocal (acapella), and add your own flare.
In the hip-hop world, a “remix” can also mean when a rapper adds a verse to a song (Travis Scott “uber everywhere” remix)
 

Remix vs. Mashup

Although closely related and at times being used as two words for the same things technically speaking:

Remix: Different version of the same song

Mashup: Elements mix together from different songs


Stem Remix

The ideal situation as a remixer is to have access to the original song’s stems. The individual tracks (multi-track) can sometimes be found online but most commonly will only be accessible to official remixes that work directly with the original composer/artist or management company.

Access to the stems will give you full control over your remix. You can use only the layers you like and manipulate them independently in any way you like.

If you’ve just been handed a huge zip of 30+ stems, listen through and decide which elements you want to use before you pull them all into Live. Or pull them all in and immediately decide which ones are inspiring you, and get rid of the rest.

 

If you don’t have access to the stems, you might be able to get a hold of the acapella or make your own with modern AI tools.

Remix Stems


Acapellas

Originally spelled A cappellla, acapella refers to a musical piece created for vocal performance without instrumental accompaniment.

One of the most memorable A cappella groups in modern history is The Temptations with their song My Girl.

In the remixer world, Acappella refers to only the vocals from the song. Might be the Remixer’s most valuable tool.

There are two types of Remix Acapella. Studio Acapella and DIY Acapella.
Studio Acapella – high-quality vocal from the original recording
DIY Acapella – low-quality vocal extracted from the original track in various ways (Although today we can find AI tools to give us clean acapella in a process that seems like magic)
Always try to get the studio acapella if possible.


Making Your Own Acapellas

It’s important to state that in most cases it’s going to be impossible to completely extract only the vocals from a full track and there are going to be some background artifacts. But, in most cases, the vocals will stand out in the mix without the background elements after you add your own production.

As mentioned before these methods might be obsolete with the emergence of free online AI tools like THIS ONE.


Invert Phase

If you can get the original song and the instrumental of the song you can use the Phase Cancellation techniques to extract the vocals from the song.

Phase cancellation is the state where two different audio signals are the exact opposites of each other. One wave is going up while the other is going down at the exact same amount and time. Which will result in silence.

 

 

  1. Drop the original song and instrumental on separate tracks in the Arrangement view (turn Warping off).
  2. Make sure both clips are starting from the very beginning (sometimes the Auto-Warp function might move the start marker automatically).
  3. Align the two clips to play exactly at the same time
  4. Drop a Utility effect on one of the tracks and turn on the Phz-L and Phz-R buttons
  5. For final adjustments, show the Track Delays. Click on ms to switch to smp (samples) for fine control and move it up and down until you hear the background music almost disappear or disappear completely

It’s important to note that the best results would be while using high-quality files. Mp3 and other compression methods might introduce different artifacts for each conversion so the original song and instrumental would no longer be identical.


Cleaning Methods

EQ Eight features a Mis/Side mode in which you have two separate EQs. One for the mid sounds and one for the side.

 

 

You can take the Side EQ and start to cut out all the instruments. In many cases, you will the vocals in more focus as all the stereo information disappears.

 

Next, Switch to the Mid EQ and use a High Pass filter to cut out all the bass from the song.

 

Next, take one filter point (set to a Bell filter) and boost it all the way with a narrow Q. Find the place where the snare has the most content (you can look at the spectrum analyzer in the background for visual feedback) and turn down the filter point.

Repeat this process with another filter point to try to turn down the hats/high frequencies.

 

You can then isolate the vocals by using downward expansion with the Multi-Band Dynamics.

First, Turn off the High and Low bands. This will give you only one band to control.

 

Then, while looking at the meter inside the Multi-Band dynamics, drag the lower (left) threshold until it seats right below the vocals.

 

Next, click inside the Threshold/Ratio Display and drag it down. Duplicate the Multi-Band Dynamics until the effect is apparent.

 


Spectral Editing

 

 

There are dedicated software that are designed for audio restoration and repair. This software often uses spectral editors.

For more info check out

iZotope RX

ADX SVC


Warping Acapellas

When working with Acapellas you almost always want to warp them. Especially if you plan to change the original BPM of the song.

In some cases, Ableton auto-warp will detect the BPM of the acapella and will be able to Warp it correctly. In other cases you will have to warp the acapella manually.

Acapellas (especially DIY acapellas) will often include a bleed of the drums or other rhythm elements which will make the warping process similar to warping full songs as we covered in the past.

To manually warp the acapella without backing track bleed:

  1. Drop the acapella in the Arrangement view and turn off Warp. Find the BPM of the original song and set your global BPM

 

 

2. Listen to the original song and locate a word that obviously falls on a beat (whichever beat 1,2,3, or 4 as long as it’s obvious to you). Set the start marker on that word, right-click and choose Warp from Here Stright.

3. Then while listening to the original song find the next word that falls on a beat and create a warp marker there. Then, adjust it as necessary. Repeat the process for the entire song.

4. Don’t forget to save the warping options.

 


Tips on Using Acapellas

1. One strategy is to use the entire acapella as is, and build your song around it. If you think about it, it’s already arranged cohesively the same way the original song was.
2. Sometimes you will just want to use the hook, or if it’s a house remix, just a certain phrase.
3. Feel free to use layers of vocals as well
4. remember that if you are pitching for an official remix of a vocalist or band, you won’t usually want to pitch (transpose) their main vocal up or down too much. Vocalists are particular and won’t want to cosign a remix that has their voice pitched up like a chipmunk, or pitched extremely low.

Bootleg

When you take the master recording of someone else’s song and chop and dice it to your liking. Since you have essentially stolen their music, it’s called a bootleg. Many genres of club music are based around this type of production (Jersey Club, Bmore, a variety of hip-hop styles).
You can also take someone else’s song and chop it or extend it so that it will fit better into your DJ set (if you are a DJ). This type of light alteration is often called an edit, or a DJ edit. Sometimes edits will also incorporate additional sub-bass or drum elements.
 

Steps for an Easy Remix

  1. The highest quality stems/acapella will make your life easier.
  2. Warp the Acapella
  3. Find the key and chord progression of the original song and write it down
  4. Decide which style/vibe your remix is going to be
  5. Keep it similar enough to the original song so the listener will know it’s a remix. For example:
    1. Keep the same vocals
    2. Keep one element as is
    3. Keep the same hook
    4. Keep the same melody
    5. Keep the same drums
    6. Keep the same weird FX
  6. Consider creating a “Remix Contrast” by creating a completely different style from the original like Old Swing Jazz song to Future bass or Grunge Rock song to Lofi RnB.
  7. Bonus: Look up chord substitutions (before we cover them next week) and re-harmonize the original chord progression
 

Home Work

Remix a song for the next class. It can be using an Acapella or a bootleg remix.


Class Video


Student Resources

21 tips for remixing

How to Remix

Tools of the Remixer:

Key Detection Software

Vocal Remover

Changing Vocal Melodies with Melodyne

Music Decoding

Audio Restoration

Audio Editing with Audacity

Acapellas and Stems:

Remix Stems

VIP Acapella Pack

Vocal Remover

Vocalr.it

Acapellas4u

Free Vocals

Acapellas4u Blogspot

Reddit – Isolated Vocals

Datpiff

Documentaries:

RIP! A Remix Manifesto

Everything is a Remix


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