How to remix a song? This is a question many music producers ask themselves. Even if you’re not a music producer, you might be interested in the art behind remixing and what it involves…

Remixing corresponds to producing a different version of an existing musical recording. It implies approaching a song from a different angle.

In the last two decades, this music production technique has become increasingly popular.

One reason is the surge of remix competitions. Another is that technological advancements have made high quality acapellas and stems easily accessible.

All that’s left for you to do is to produce YOUR OWN version of your favorite song!

Altogether, remixing is a great way for music producers to get noticed. Provided your remix sounds good.

There are no rules in remixing. Nonetheless, there are a few simple steps you can follow in order to achieve the best possible result. Read along!

Remixing involves approaching a song from a different angle. Essentially, what this means is that you should take the sound further. Interpret it in your own way.

Don’t be afraid to take the song in a completely new direction! If anything, that’s what you probably should do to produce a compelling remix….

However, try to keep some of the feel from the original song!

This may seem like a no-brainer. However, it is REALLY important to remix a song you initially liked. It will make the whole process so much easier and enjoyable!

Don’t be tempted by remixing competitions of songs you don’t appreciate. Put your heart into the process!

On the technical side, you should analyze the different elements you’re working with. Most of the time, your focus will be on the vocal elements.

The reason for this is that vocal samples are easy to chop and warp. However, sometimes you can also intricately reintroduce other musical elements. You can do this if you have all of the stems (bass, drums, fx, etc..) and not only the vocals.

Both advices are useful.

While it might sound counterintuitive to ignore the original track, it can sometimes be beneficial. Mainly because you will approach the song with fresh ears!

On the flip side, listening to the original track could inspire you further… In that way, you’ll understand where the artist is coming from, and how you can reinterpret his piece of music.

Most of the time, however, you will have heard the original track… and that will encourage you to remix it!

NO ONE will listen to your remix if it’s a 128kbps file ripped off from YouTube! Find the best audio files to make your remix stand above the competition.

Working with low quality files will make your mix muddy, and your overall remix weak!

Additional tips worth mentioning are to be patient, making your friends listen to it, and to give your best! Think about how you can produce a better version than the original one.

That should be your ultimate goal!

For our example, we will use Flume’s song “Sleepless” (zip file), released in 2012. Keep in mind that you will need clean (separated from background instruments) and quality (320 kbps) acapella samples to remix a track successfully.

I will be using the software Logic Pro X, but the same result can be achieved in FL Studio or Ableton Live (or any other Daw).

For starters, what you will want is to insert all of the elements of the track you’re using. This is a good way to get inspired. In addition, it will give you the gist of what elements you can use.

You may or may not want to use all of the elements at disposal. As mentioned before, it’s fairly common to only use the acapella, and process it in such a way that it is unrecognizable from the original track.

Original doesn’t mean complex. The first step is to compose chords that are in the same key or that don’t sound dissonant alongside the original sample. Chords in C major work well with this particular vocal sample.

In terms of virtual instruments, you can either use the stock plugins inside your DAW or third party VST/ audio units. I will be using one of Rob Papen’s Blue pad presets. I don’t want all of the properties of the sound to shine through. Therefore, I will filter out the higher frequencies, to leave space for the upper part of my melody. Just like this;

For the upper part of my melody, I will use a software synth I’m familiar with, Sylenth1. It’s important to find a rhythmical pattern that is in tune with the chords we just composed. This time I decide to create my own preset, and come up with a nicely arpeggiated melody. I will want to filter out the lower frequencies on it, to leave space for the final part of my melody. Here’s what it sounds like;

To conclude the composition part of my “drop”, I want a beefy bass line to have a well rounded final sound. Just like this;

It is important to be patient at the composition stage. Jamming around to find the right melody and patterns can take a couple of hours. It can be also extremely quick if you’re inspired on that particular day.

As you saw, I also did some EQing along the way. This is not necessary at this stage, but it’s always helpful to polish up your sound. This is my end result;

To top things off, I decided to include the original arpeggiator sound used in “Sleepless”. I liked the way it sounds, and I think it includes some of the feel from the original song. I’m talking about this sound;

Everything doesn’t have to be new! As mentioned before, you can keep some of the original elements. In this case I decided to keep the drums, and to sideline the kick.

The original drums (hi hats, claps and snares) are particularly rhythmical. They also seem to have been through a fair amount of parallel compression. As a consequence, I already know they will sound very tight in the mix. Here are the looped 16 bar drums sound I decided to use;

In my sample library, I have a different kick, which I want to use to give a new drive to the track. There are many free sample packs you can find online. By using different samples, you can completely change the original sound of the track. For this remix, I’m using a vintage kick from AED’s sample pack. I want to keep the 4/4 beat, because it reminds me of the song’s original feel. The bassdrum sample I’m using sounds like this;

With the beat, you want to take variations into account. A few fills here and there, with percussion sounds can make your remix considerably less repetitive.

After having settled on the drum patterns, let’s have a look at the vocals!

For the vocals, there is a function I like to use in Logic Pro X, which is called “remove silence”. It’s probably available under a different name in Ableton Live and FL Studio. It’s particularly effective for remixes, considering that it chops vocal samples into phrases and words.

Of course, the sample you’re dealing with must be high quality for the software to discern the different parts. In this case, this isn’t an issue. After playing around with it, I come up with a pattern which is to my liking, and goes well with the beat. My advice here would be to use a fair amount of repetition without making the track too repetitive. You can for example use several different motifs which I did. In that way, you can create a “call and response” effect.

At that point I know I have a solid basis around which I can build my remix. Here’s what it sounds like;

I won’t go into too much depth when it comes to applying effects. Obviously, it’s important to play with tension here. Before your drop, you will want to filter out lower frequencies or remove the kick on the final beat. That will leave space for your break. Adding reverb at times will also increases tension… I find the application of reverb also useful to add depth and contour to a sound.

My example features phasers, which I find useful to make the sound less linear. In my opinion, as a background effect, phasers (when applied subtly!) keep the listener interested.

On my arpeggiated lead, I applied a bit of delay, to make it more alive and swirling.

With effects, the key is to experiment as much as you can. There is a considerable amount of free plugins you can find online. However, I would recommend the Waves Bundles, which definitely have some of the best quality effects plugins.

Keep in mind that you should be careful when applying effects. Too much delay, and reverb can quickly water down your mix!

This stage is probably the most difficult next to finding the main melody and the sounds you want to use. It’s important to be inventive here. If you are a more advanced musician, you can change the key of your remix and use complex chord progressions and variations.

However, for beginners, it’s probably more useful to first understand how an electronic music track is structured.

Therefore, my advice would be to keep the same chords, and alter them sonically. What I mean by this is to use different audio units/VSTs for different parts of the sound, and also different rhythmical patterns. I included a break for you to understand what I mean by this. It includes some toms, an additional organ-like synth with the main motif of my remix, and a pitched down vocal from the original tracks. Something like this;

Once you have your drop and break, you only need to find a relevant transitions to introduce your ideas, and to conclude the remix (intro & outro).

Here’s the final result (drop & break);

Even without having created a whole track, and without transitions the result already sounds very promising! These really are the basics of how to remix a song. 

Check out the following stellar remixes, to understand how quality remixing is done!

Compare them to the original tracks, and see for yourself what direction was taken.

This track has so many things going on in it! Taking French-British rapper Octavian’s suave vocals, Ross from Friends’ own DnB take is mesmerizing. Chopped up vocal samples are given a new life alongside a dreamy pad and a subtly distorted bassline. The break makes the song reach new heights. Octavian’s vocals and the melodic use of the sampled vocal snippets give an ohterwordly feeling to this track. In terms of song structure, this track is interesting on different levels. Background sounds, and transitions like the one at 1:27, show how far you can craft a song sonically. What’s breathtaking is how much can be achieved by working on the development of a strong initial idea. Essentially, this is achieved through delay, filtering, syncopation, reverb, and extensive call & response. Altogether, this is a great example of how to remix a song!

A massive hit back in 2014, this remix has aged like fine wine! It puts forth Flume’s signature future bass sound, which has since then been ripped of by many artists. The introduction of this remix is very strong. What seems like a radio sample, orchestral strings and detuned legato synthesizers set the stage for Lorde’s soothing vocals. The thumping kick and distorted synthesizers (automated with LFO) featured in the drop make this remix extremely energetic. A perfect festival set opener… Throughout the track, the vocals are magically manipulated. This happens through delay, but also a significant amount of warping. Soulful breaks throughout the track let you catch your breath before the drop sets in twice more. This remix is extremely well structured. It even includes a horse sample! Listen carefully!

Orchestral strings are used even better by Flume on this remix of Disclosure’s “You & Me”. It’s probably one of Flume’s best future bass remixes to date. Like the previous one we included, it’s a remix that propelled Flume in the spotlight of electronic music. At the time, this sound was fresh and innovating. Few artists used organic elements like strings or brass sounds, and this track revealed how electronic music could also have a soul. The drop is similar to “Tennis Courts”, as it has some distorted synthesizers. However, this one features brass sounds, and more intricate offbeat drums. In traditional fashion, Flume’s break reintroduces the main melody in a downtempo mood. Disclosure returned the favor on Flume’s Never Be Like You (feat. Kai), featured on the Aussie’s second album, Skin. However, we really wish they never did so…

Equally iconic was the Sacramento-based duo Hippie Sabotage’s take on Tove Lo’s Habits in 2014. The alternative vibe of this remix translated into immediate success in the charts. The beat is simple, but the chords are extremely addictive. Chopping Lo’s vocals several times, the result is a song that will surely stay in your head for a while. First through ‘Oh,Oh’, then with several consecutive phrases, the producers make great use of the existing material. At its highest in terms of energy, the Swedish singer is put on repeat with “High all the time”, revealing the message of the song. An emotional breakup that makes her resort to drug use. “Stay High” is surely up there with the best remixes of the previous decade.

Two years earlier, the French prodigy Madeon remixed Martin Solveig’s “The Night Out” with his signature complextro style. When it came out (in 2012), this remix was a summer hit. What this track also revealed was Madeon’s talent for coming up with strong pop melodies. The chord progression on this one is solid. Songwriting is done in a more original way than on other EDM tracks of the same era. However, in comparison to Madeon’s already rich discography at the time, this track wasn’t even that well produced. Despite that, it is a good example of how to remix a song in a more uplifting fashion. It’s also worth checking out if you (still) haven’t!

Taking the XX’s “Angels” in a completely new direction, this remix of by Bodhi is a strong statement. What sounds like a marimba instrument guides the listener throughout the track. A sampled and chopped up vocal sample (“They would be as in love with you as I am”) is intricately reintroduced at different movements. A deep future garage bass line carries the drop. Reversed synthesizer chords contribute to an already strong melody. Energy is particularly well balanced with smooth transitions and a logical progression of musical elements. Overall, this is a sensational club record. It also does something very few remixes are able to achieve; improving the original track.

Conclusion | We hope you enjoyed our guide on how to remix a song! As you saw remixing isn’t an extremely complicated process. But to remix a track in a meaningful way, there are a number of tips to follow. Listen again to the examples we listed at the end of the article. They can inspire you on how to remix a song, but also give you an idea of what a good remix sounds like. We hope our advice was helpful for those of you who are starting out! Let us know your thoughts in the comments and what other content you would like us to cover.