Finding Your own unique voice for a remix

Remixing Series: Part 3

Think Outside The Box

As Reggie Watts once said, “Getting outside of the box is more than just getting out of a box and walking away”. To stand out in a remix competition, it would probably be worth your while trying to come up with something unique. Something that really puts your twist on the track you’re remixing, while clearly retaining an element of vibe from the original. If you want to take the track in a totally different direction, perhaps it’s worth considering using a breakdown section to re-state a major musical theme from the original. Then, when you bring the beats back in, to totally deconstruct the original (or break it down, paradoxically).


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My Generation

Sometimes you may find yourself wishing you could create your own parts to augment the stems you’ve been given. Happily, there are apps out there in the iOS mutliverse which fit the bill rather handily. One of the best to come along recently is the rather excellent (and free) Auxy – a 4-part step sequencer for iPad. With Auxy one can generate drums, bass and 2 polyphonic synth parts in real time, and export the results to other apps afterwards. You may change the key globally and all sequenced notes will shift automatically – perfect for the beginner, or indeed anyone who wishes to avoid the nightmarish horror of clashing notes. However, as of the current version (2.0.3), Auxy does not output perfectly synchronised loops – you’ll need to export to another app which can trim your audio to fit the tempo you’re working at.

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Another app definitely worthy of a mention here is Fugue Machine. Similar to Auxy in that it uses the familiar piano roll for the purposes of music sequencing, but with a huge twist – you can play the same sequence on 4 separate ‘play heads’ at different speeds, pitches and directions, change scale types, pitch and other parameters in real time, and output over MIDI to other apps too.


Other Apps

For sample manipulation purposes, you’ll surely want to check out Samplr, which allows one to manipulate and sequence audio in a rather unique and intuitive way. It’s pretty much in a league of it’s own and rather difficult to describe – check out the video at the link above.

Finally, in order to get your loops out of your iPad and into something else, Audiocopy is a must-have. It facilitates transferring audio between apps, uploading to Dropbox and most other destinations you may desire, in one self-explanatory package. It also features a very handy More Compatible Apps tab – which may keep you busy for quite some time…


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A Little Goes A Long Way

Taking bits from the stems you’ve been given and mangling them up can really impress the original artist if it’s done well. You may want to try the following:


* chop up vocal parts into little fragments and make alternative melodies out of them
* cut the supplied stems into shorter loops and filter them with a little LFO and sidechaining
* if a part isn’t quite doing it for you, try reversing it and treating it as above
* double or halve the speed of supplied loops
* Incorporate samples sliced from the original drum parts into a different groove
* Extract the groove from the original beat and use different drum sounds
* Tease the listener by introducing melodic snippets gradually in a build up
* Try long feedback delays with short samples
* Use the gater and filter in the launchpad app to add rhythmical gravitas to pads and other melodic parts, record yourself doing it and re-import using Audiocopy
* Double or copy the original melody on a different instrument
* Use samples of the original track to make new melodies, or rearrange the chords into a different progression
* Re-sample whole sections (including bass) through fx and slice up the resulting blocks of audio


As always, if it sounds good – keep it! Record it to a new piece of audio, and save it. Once you have it in audio form, it’s not going to get lost by tinkering with the settings to the point that you can’t retrieve that magic moment.


Structural Integrity

Once you’ve got a few ideas going, it’s vital to get some sort of structure in place. If you’re unsure of how to go about this, perhaps try emulating the structural layout of another artist you particularly like, by importing their track and building your arrangement around the waveform. DJ-friendly tracks tend to follow similar formulae. That’s not to say that you should try copying them entirely of course. This is all about finding your voice, after all.

Try to arrange sections in distinct blocks, each with it’s own signature feel. If you can make the transition from one section to another quite different from the preceding one, it can add to the impact when the changes occur. At the same time, try to find at least a sliver of commonality between them, such that each ‘block’ of music is tied to the previous one in some fashion.

It‘s also be a good idea to start playing your work to other people. As with Fugue Machine, two heads are definitely better than one. In fact, why not collaborate? Who knows, together you might just make history. For all the details on the Remix This competition head over to remixthis/