Making your own mark on a remix

Remixing Series: Part 2

Remixing a track is all about putting your stamp on things (especially if you intend to burn it to CD and post it to someone afterwards). It is entirely possible to achieve by using only the sounds you are given, and contorting them into something unique. By cutting up elements of the original tune, manipulating their pitch and volume, applying FX and rearranging them in a DAW, delightfully peculiar results may begin to develop. For the technically unflappable, software such as FL Studio’s Slicer and Ableton Live’s recently overhauled Simpler can help make this cut-and-paste approach relatively fast and straightforward.


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Musically Assured Deconstruction

However, a surprising amount of interest can be generated in Launchpad for iOS itself, by using interesting combinations of the built-in FX, and recording the results as loops. These can then be re-imported back into the session using the Audio Import function (available as an in-app purchase). If you know what tempo you are aiming for, try halving it beforehand. The time-stretching artifacts can add a really interesting dimension to the sounds you produce, especially when working with melodic or vocal loops.

It’s also likely that most remixers will want to incorporate their own sounds in their productions. It is easy to do so in Launchpad for iOS, again with the Audio Import function - an in-depth examination of which can be found here.


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Puzzle Pieces

Remixing doesn’t have to be complicated. Developing a clear and logical structure to your tracks is of primary importance.

The way most packs in Launchpad for iOS are constructed promotes this ethos. However, even with a maximum of 8 Loops or samples available at any one time, it can still get quite messy without a little due care and attention. Getting the ‘pieces of the puzzle’ to fit may be quite daunting at first. So always resolve to keep your Launchpad sets structured in a logical fashion.

Keep drums on channel 1, percussion on channel 2, Bass on channel 3. Try, with the remaining channels, to keep lower pitched loops to the left, and higher pitched elements to the right. After all, a piano keyboard works this way. Sculpting your Launchpad sets in the same fashion will help you to bring clarity to your mind, and your mixes will tend to make musical sense more easily.

You may also find that loops sound great on their own, but 'clash’ when played together. Try and see if you can come up with combinations of 4 or 5 loops which work well together, using Edit Pads to rearrange the samples. Switching between contrasting sections helps bring punch and dynamism to your mixes, and can be done instantly with a swipe of the finger.

Of course, it might also help if your loops are in the same key! If you’re unsure about keys, apps like Mixed in Key, although not infallible, may be of some assistance to you.


Spatial Awareness

Space is at the heart of everything. Without a backdrop of space, the forms may get lost and instead of music, you’ll end up with the audio equivalent of dozens of graffiti signatures daubed on top of one another.

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Try conjuring some musical space in the following ways:

a) Silence is Golden

Punctuating pure silence with sharp noises is a great way of grabbing attention. The original mix in the Remix This contest has a lot of spacey, floaty noises in it. Why not stand out by building sections with some extreme dynamics? Leaving even a fraction of a second of silence can be a very effective technique, especially if it’s preceded and followed by something really loud.

b) Ethereal Reverberations

Reverb can give a sense of depth and space in an entirely different way. A nice splash of reverb may evoke the feeling of depth, as if floating in space. Lush pads can evoke a sense of being suspended underwater, or wrapped in an auditory blanket. To suddenly transition from b) to a) can only add to the attention-grabbing effect.

c) Subtle Realism

Everyone’s iPad or iPhone has a rather sensitive microphone built-in. Why not record some subtle background noise and re-import it as a loop into your session? The discreet use of record crackle, tape hiss, the distant sound of children playing, rainfall, or any other natural noise can have a profound effect if used really subtly. Try sections with the noise, and sections without. The effect can be quite striking, especially in more minimal genres. You’d be surprised how often this is done in modern music without being consciously noticed.


Give yourself a Break

Don’t forget to give yourself some space too! It’s all too easy to get 'stuck in a groove’ when working on a mix. Clear your mind by getting out and about in the real world. Perhaps take your iDevice with you, and record some cheeky samples while you’re at it?

Until next time…

Find our more about our current remix competition here