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Thursday, September 2, 2010

Black Eyed Peas - Boom Boom Pow (Gabi Vegas Remix)

Beginner's Guide in Making a Music Remix

"The basic idea behind what we have, has been around for far longer than many realize. Its roots are in Jamaica, where in the late 60's, producers like Lee "Scratch" Perry and King Tubby started releasing dub versions of tracks to occupy the B side of 45s. These would usually be made to sound different than the original by adding effects (spring reverb, tape delay, flanging, eq, etc), and by cutting and rearranging the individual parts.
In a remix, it's possible to change the style, feel, even the emotional meaning of the track by changing the context of sections, reharmonizing melodies, adding additional elements, etc. Though the remixer has a foundation of existing material to build on, they are not restrained in any way. You're free to take that foundation, shift it around, and make it raise the roof!!

  • Select the right track. This is very important; since this is a derivative art form (you can't remix a nonexistent piece of music). You'll need, at the very least, a complete mixdown of the original track (taken directly from the CD). If you can get separate tracks (especially for vocals) directly from the recording artist, it will make your remix better, and your work easier.
  • Try to identify what you will contribute to the track. This can range from changing the feel by adding new rhythm tracks, to total destruction. Think about what sections you like best; what would you keep intact, and what will you change? This is an important stage, because it will shape your workflow throughout the project.
  • Dissect the track. Take the materials you have to work with, and do most of the slicing and trimming up front. You can do this in an audio editing suite, especially when it comes to cutting loops (see below for tips and links).
  • Experiment! Try all the available effects in your DAW/audio editing software to see how they will sound on each part! There are plenty of things to choose from ... delay, phaser, chorus, flanger, filters and other eq, reverb, amplitude modulation, ring modulation, frequency modulation, timestretching, pitch shifting or correction, vocoding and more.
  • Reconstruct (remix). First, set the BPM (tempo - beats per minute) and time signature (usually 4/4 in popular music) in your looping software. Next, import your loops. Once they are imported and time corrected, you should be able to choose any tempo you like, with very little loss of quality. (Note: If you are using Ableton Live, be sure to select a time correction method that jives with your sample type. Beat mode is fine for drums, but may not be great for vocals. Texture mode is fine for many samples, but will often affect the pitch of the sample slightly. Tone is usually good all around.) Now you can start to reconstruct the track. A safe and easy way would be to follow the form of the original (intro, verse, chorus, verse, bridge, and chorus) but you can also completely change it and make it your own. You can layer the vocals from the verse over a portion of the chorus. You can take a verse as-is, cut individual measure of vocals, and superimpose them reversed. You can reharmonize the vocal or lead lines by introducing completely different elements. Have fun, and experiment!
  • Export your creation (mastering). When your remix now has a start and finish, and you are satisfied with it, you should export. Save all or export to a WAV or AIFF file (don't encode an MP3 just yet). Load this into your audio editing software, and normalize it to 99%. This will ensure that your levels at their highest point reach almost the maximum volume. In addition, you can make your remix seem louder by applying a compressor effect to it before normalizing.
  • Distribute your remix. Convert this file to MP3, using Lame, or your favorite MP3 converter, and send it all around!

  • Watch your quality settings when you convert. 128 is the usual default bitrate, but produces noticeable audio flaws. At minimum, one should encode at 192, but a lossless format such as FLAC is the best choice.
  • Remixes show up in nearly all styles. In the pop world, it is usually a functional thing rather than an expressive one - converting pop or rock tunes to be club-ready. The important thing, whether in dub reggae, hiphop remixes, house remixes of pop tunes, or whatever, is that the remixer adds their own personal touch to the track - bringing some important elements of the original, while adding their own recognizable style.
  • If you are remixing a song that you do not own the copyright of, do not distribute your song without permission from the owner. Serious actions may be taken by the artist, but they probably won't unless your song becomes extremely popular.
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