The following has been written for people who have some knowledge of making a track in a sequencer and feel that they are ready to explore the world of remixing and more specifically looking at entering one of the many remix contests that we list here on Remix Comps. We shall take a look at what remixing is, finding and choosing a remix contest to enter and then a quick look over one way to approach creating a remix with the bonus of a few ideas for you to use yourself in your remixes.
This three part guide is a re-write of an earlier eBook that we gave away free to newsletter subscribers. The three parts are...
- 1. Remix Contests, Choosing a Remix Contest and Remix Parts (Below)
- 2. Getting Started
- 3. The Remixing
Part 1 - Remix Contests, Choosing a Remix Contest and The Remix Parts
The Remixing Concept:
Remixing a piece of music is to take an already finished track and remake it by using a combination of: rearranging it in a different way, removing parts, adding new parts, adding new effects, changing the genre of the music completely or whatever you can come up with to artistically make it different than the original. A remix is in an area of change from the original track that is more than just an edited version or cover version of the track but it is not too different that it becomes a new track that happens to sample the original. Basically it is doing anything you can think of to remake the original version of the song and re-imagining it by placing your own style and trademark music production skills on it. Making the original track artistically different - but at the same time keeping some essential elements of the original version.
Remixing as an art-form has become ever more prevalent in the music industry. Most tracks when released as a single nearly always have a remix released alongside. Many bands are even releasing a completely new album containing just remixes of the tracks from the original album. There must be very few people who listen to modern music who haven't heard of the word and can pick out a remix that they like.
Making a remix is slightly different to producing your own music as most of the core ideas are already there for you, you've just got to build upon those ideas effectively making your remix a reworking of those original ideas.
Remix contests are usually run by the artist, label and/or a hosting web site. The entrants compete and try to make the best remix of the original version and the person who makes the best one wins, the best remix is usually decided by judges who usually is the producer of the original track. Prizes are offered which most of the time include the best remix getting released alongside the original track or on an upcoming E.P.
Remix contests are great for music production beginners as well as up and coming producers because it gives access to create a remix properly using the original parts which is what a professional remixer will have given to them. It is also an opportunity to closely inspect how the original track was made and see how the different parts come together to create a final piece of music. It is also great for newbie producers to get working with professionally made and recorded sounds and instruments which they may not yet be able to make or record themselves.
For the more advanced music producer remix contests are a way to greatly improve their production skills by learning new techniques from other producers as you can see the techniques which were used in a track. It is also a way to start getting noticed by labels as well as the chance to win promotion of your music to start a production career. Some contests wins may even lead to bigger things later. It is also a great way in which you can prove to possible labels that you can produce a great remix as you are usually allowed place the remix on your online social network profiles and increase your portfolio of produced tracks.
Our Tip: By far though, the best thing about remix contests is that they are a fun and enjoyable way to make music and play with professionally made and well known tracks.
Problems With Remix Contests.
Remix contests are not perfect and some people don't like them and see them as unnecessary. Remix contests are sometimes used by bigger labels as a money making tool by trying to sell you the remix parts. But at the end of the day, they're not forcing you to buy them as you can always go and remix something else. For every paid remix contest there are about 50 others which are completely free to enter and play with the remix stems.
They are also sometimes viewed as a promotion tool for the original artist and sometimes labels are more about promoting their current artists, promoting the sponsors of the contest through prizes rather than searching for new talent. They are also sometimes used as a cheap way to get a remix done for a track rather than pay a fee to a remixer.
Choosing A Suitable Remix Contest
There is usually over between about 50 and 100 contests running on the internet at any one time. One of the things to firstly get the hang of is choosing a suitable remix contest that works for you. Here are our tips in no particular order to choosing a suitable remix contest.
- 1. Choose a contest you'll enjoy. - This is the most important aspect. If you're not enjoying remixing a track, then there isn't much point in continuing to remix it. Choose a track which you believe you will enjoy editing and rebuilding up again from scratch. But don't automatically assume that because you don't like the original mix that you're not going to enjoy making your own remix.
- 2. Choose a contest you believe you can make better. - Think about the parts of the original and how you can make the original better. Choosing a track to remix that you can drastically improve on might be a better track to remix than one you'll never be able to match or improve production wise.
- 3. Give yourself enough time to work on your remix. - Some people can do a remix in the matter of a couple of hours. Usually though they haven't churned out a decent winning remix. Choose a contest where the ending date gives you enough free time to make and finish your remix, leave and come back to for later listens before submitting. You don't want to have to rush to do it on the day of closing. Many of the remixers which I have spoken to who have consistently won remix contests make their remixes over a couple of weeks and kept coming back to it. They don't and can't make a winning remix in a 2 hour session.
- 4. Choose a contest within your chosen genre. - If the winner is wanting to win a release of their remix and the label running the contest is a trance label, guess what type of remix they are most likely to choose as the winner? If you want your remix to do well it is sometimes better to stick to contests more likely to choose a specific genre even if remixing should be about changing the original.
- 5. Choose a contest which you believe you can win. - Although winning isn't everything, choose a contest which you believe you have a chance of winning. Look at how the winner is picked as some contests rely on the number of votes obtained, so if you don't have the time or social media contacts to get your vote to win, you will get disillusioned with this type of contest.
- 6. Check out the remix files/stems before you decide. - Make sure that you check out the stems or remix files to make sure that you can work on them. Most remix packs are never perfect and some have placed an effect on a part instead of giving you a more workable file file with no effects. Just make sure that any ideas that you want to achieve are actually going to be workable before you start.
- 7. Choose a contest which allows you some promotion. - Some contests don't allow you to post your remix on your online profiles. Choosing a contest that allows you to post your remix elsewhere can give you some help with your own music promotion as it fills up your online profiles and is a positive selling point if you're attempting to get signed to a label as there is more proof that you have remix skills.
Our Tip: Use the sorting features on Remix Comps to find the perfect remix contest for you. You want to win your remix released, choose Prizes > Remix Released in the top menu. You want to remix a Drum and Bass tracks choose Genres > DnB.
Remix Packs, Parts and Stems.
When downloading the remix parts for a remix contest they will come to you in many different ways. We have listed below the ways in which we commonly see remix contests releasing the parts with a little description for each.
- Remix Stems - These are the full channels of each part of the song which for example could be... vocals, guitar, bass and drums. Some times you might be able to load these up into multi-track software and play them all in sync and you should expect to hear the exact original version playing. Most stems will have silent parts when that instrument isn't playing. The great thing about stems is you have everything in the original version. If you are really lucky then you may even get a dry and a wet version of the remix parts. A wet remix part would have all the effects in the original, where as a dry remix part would be that part with all effects turned off. This gives remixers much more control and choice as we can then put our own effects on in varying amounts.
- Samples and/or Loops Only - Sometimes the remix parts will be as samples and/or loops. If the original is an electronic based song you may just get the original sample used or simple loops of various sections. Unlike the stems you may have to work out yourself when each sample or loop gets played in the original. You may even have to work out how to play a melody from scratch yourself on a keyboard if you are just given a one shot sample of each sound and no MIDI.
- Acapella Only - We see this in a lot of the pop, hip-hop and rap remix contests. For some reason these remix contests don't want to give you the rest of the track and you have to put your own beat and backing in completely from scratch. You could always sample as best you can the original or recreate any of the parts if you really need them in your remix. Working with just an acapella can be more tricky to get a track going but often leads to your remix going in some very different directions to the original.
- Nothing but the Original Version - Sometimes we see contests that give no remix parts at all and expect you to recreate everything from scratch or sample the original as best as you can. This can be a pain and I would advise any newbies to stay away from attempting this as you will most likely get frustrated. To create a top quality remix which sounds close to original you do need the separate individual parts of the song. While it is possible to create a remix by recreating sounds with some top notch synthesizer programming skills or some great instrument playing, if the original track has vocals, it is going to be very hard to recreate them exactly or extract them at a good enough quality. Sometimes it is possible that the original track used samples from another source and you can get the samples by sampling what they sampled.
Our Tip: If you don't receive the parts you require, send a message off to the band/label/host running the contest, if enough people or if they are in a good mood, you might just get the remix parts you require.
To make a remix you are going to need some software. A software sequencer is usually the most used piece of software whilst making a remix. Some sequencer software which is possible to use is... Ableton Live, Apple Logic, Steinberg Cubase, Cakewalk Sonar, Imageline FruityLoops, Propellerhead Reason, Sony Acid as well as many others. All have the ability to import sounds and trigger them using a sampler, arrange the sounds, add effects and add new parts too. At the end of the day, it doesn't matter which you use as it's the end result that counts, but your sequencer should be able to do the basics.
A remixer may also require a audio editor such as Sony Soundforge, Steinberg Wavelab or Adobe Audition. A free alternative to these pay for software products is Audacity. This software allows the samples within the remix pack to be opened and cut up the way that the remixer will require them and then import into the sequencer's sampler.
Apart from that no other software is a necessity as a sequencer and audio editor should be sufficient to produce a top class remix. But other software which will be a help could be additional effects and VST instruments. One piece of software which may be of help is Propellerhead ReCycle which allows loops to be cut up through markers and then exported or opened up as a REX file to easily trigger each cut out section, but this software is not essential, just useful if your sequencer can't do it.
Now on to Part 2: Getting Started