How To... Without Really Trying Remix A Record

DJ If you've ever listened to the latest pop hit on the radio, you may well have heard a remix of the record. Remixes have become commonplace on the airwaves and on singles and more and more people are becoming big star remixers, and now you can join them! Don't worry if you haven't got a clue what to do, 'cos we can tell you how to do it.

There are many methods you can choose to remix a record. You could try using one of the many standard methods used by the stars:

The Propellerheads Method

This is a very simple method if you have a drum machine. All you have to do is get a good drum beat on your drum machine - the machine's demo function usually provides a good beat - and play it over the top of your chosen record. A good, fast beat with a bucket load of bass is usually best. As a bit extra, you could try adding some brass instruments to the tune and removing all the vocals, making the tune into a great punchy instrumental, guaranteed to make your listeners feel compelled to dance in a manic way.

The Norman Cook Method

One of the biggest remixers in the land has a sure fire way to make a remixed song turn into huge wads of cash both for him and the band concerned. There are four very easy steps to doing this:

  1. Speed the record up. Obviously you have to be careful about choosing a speed - you don't want any vocals sounding like the singer is constantly inhaling helium! However, Norman Cook himself told us that you can normally get away with doubling the speed of the record without the vocals sounding too bad. Speeding the record up can give a slow song a brand new dancey sound, and a fast song sound like you're at a rave on an acid trip! However, speeding the record up can cause some problems which lead to step 2...
  2. Loop The Chorus. The speeding up of the record can cause a four minute song to last about ninety seconds, and so to increase the length of the record, simply take the chorus and loop it continuously at the end of the song, until the track reaches its desired length. However, if you end up with five minutes of chorus at the end, then try repeating the chorus twice during the song and ending with the looped chorus at the end or try step 3.
  3. Add some random instrumental piece in the song. This is another guaranteed way of solving the problem of having your track being too short. The easiest way is simply to take a piece of instrumental from the original version of the song and simply speed it up and plonk it in the middle of the song, or at random intervals in the song. This is best used in a full length, seven minute long version of the track.
  4. Remove all orchestral instruments from the track. Unlike the Propellerheads, Norman doesn't believe in orchestral sounds, believing that they remove all credibility from a dance track. For single versions of remixes any orchestral sounds should be removed, but a limited burst of orchestral sounds can be added towards the end of a full length remix if you run out of ideas.
  5. Include random sound effects. Most tunes will lend themselves to the adding of random sound effects quite easily. They should be added during the main verse of the song. Female shrieks and yells, or whooshing sounds are ideal.
  6. Sit back and take all the credit. This is the easiest bit when your remix helps to make the song a 'big hit with the kids'. If your remix isn't that popular, you may like to try sending it to Radio One's John Peel who will play anything. You should however note that if you have speeded up the record, you may confuse John and have him twiddling anxiously with his knobs, proclaiming "I'm not entirely sure that I'm playing this at the right speed."

The Fugee All Stars Method

The Fugees are a popular choice of people to call in to remix a record and using this method you too can adopt the style of remixing used by the various members of this band. It's very easy to pick up and even easier to do.

In order to create a top notch, quality remix, simply turn down the instruments in the song and at random intervals add the words 'One Time, Two Time' over the record. An especially good point to do this is during the chorus as it would be a point of the song without you in it at all if you didn't, and that would never do...

At the beginning of the record you should add the words 'Yo man, Fugees in the mix, in the mix, in the mix' or something similar. For added effect you could try replacing parts of the verses with some rapping. It doesn't matter if what you say has bugger all to do with the rest of the record. A firm favourite is rapping about how many 'hommies' you shot 'in the hood' last week.

For added originality, add the line 'Three Time' to your rapping.

The Wycliffe Jean From The Fugees/Trip Hop Hip Hop Method

This latest method was developed by Wycliffe Jean, a member of the band, the Fugees. It is a development on the Fugee All Stars method and has been adopted across the hip hop community. The main difference between this method and the Fugee All Stars Method is the replacing of the 'One Time, Two Time' rap with the spoken words 'This is the remix. Hey you, play this remix. This is the remix.' This should be repeated at every opportunity throughout the song. To improve the clarity of the your vocals remove all instruments from the song, replacing them with a dull, monotonous, quiet drum beat.

The Strip Down The Song Method

Many remixers are taking advantage of a very easy way to change the whole feel of a song. By removing huge chunks of the music, the song is forced to rely on punchy vocals and quiet, dull backing music. When the singer is actually capable of singing, the vocals can be left alone, but when the vocalist has the talent of a small flea, then it is advisable to use some vocal distortion on the vocals in order to detract from lack of talent. With a little tweaking, the addition of some repetitive drum beats, you have a top quality remix (in your dreams, but hey it may pay a few bills.)

The Jason Nevins Method

This is exactly the same as the Strip Down The Song Method, with the exception that you get paid a few thousand pounds to do it and everyone believes it to be a credible remix and a guaranteed number one hit.

The Beck Method

Beck Hansen has come along way since his first single in 1994. Now a big indie star, he has entered into the mixing area, remixing not only his own songs, but those of others too. His remixing style has similarities to the 'Strip Down The Song' Method, and indeed it is not clear whether Beck's method has evolved from this or vice versa. However, the real key to Beck's remixing style involves adding 'whacky' and 'zany' sound effects and spoken vocals throughout the song at seemingly random intervals. The sound of someone munching popcorn can be a great way to start a track, and inspirational lyrics like 'I saw the man - just there', said in a high pitched voice, can do wonders for a tune. It's really easy to do and will see disc jockeys across the land hailing you a remixing genius.

The 'Yes! Indie Can Mean Dance Too!' Song

You may think that an indie song is impossible to turn into the next dance anthem but remixers everywhere are proving us wrong. Many indie songs have short, repetitive, catchy riffs that everyone knows. Good examples include the instrumental section in The Verve's Bitter Sweet Symphony and the guitar riff from Blur's Song 2.

Once you have identified a riff or instrumental section that drives the crowds wild, then you can turn it easily, into the next dance hit. This is done by simply repeating your chosen section continuously for five minutes while adding your own vocals or some opera music, or even some monk chants. When you've got all three combined, you end up with a killer of a record, loved by dance fans and indie fans, which will help ensure that you have a big audience, and that those royalty cheques keep on rolling in.

The Seventies Come Back To Life

This final method is ideal for remixers as it enables you to release the song under your own name, claim its a cover and get lots of money. The method is simple. First take a corny, much loved, cheesy song from the seventies and sample the chorus. Using a simple backing beat, place some rapping about any old rubbish, where the verse should be, play the chorus sample and ensure you've got some female dancers wearing very little clothing for when you appear on Top Of The Pops. Instant smash hit. Especially good if you never want any credibility ever again.

So Get To It!

Now you know the methods, you too can be a top hit remixer and become as famous as some of the star remixers mentioned. And when you get that top ten hit, don't forget the one who helped to get you there. So that's cheques made payable to Andrew Bowden then.

Background Information

Originally called 'The Bluffers Guide to Remixing' this section was renamed when I got a threatening message from some lawyers of some little books which I had (at the time) never heard of. So it got renamed. And lo, a whole series of articles were born. Which are, to be frank, better than those books even if I do say so myself.

The article was based firmly on the music of the late 1990s - for my money, too many lazy songs, crappy remixes and so on. Still, at least no one tried to put a dance song to the tune of 'Knick Knack Paddy Whack' like they did in 2006...

Under its original guise, this was first published on Planet Bods on 14 October 1998. It was renamed some point between September 1999 and April 2000, the exact date being unknown.

Photo Credit

DJ photograph by Craig Rigby, and released under a Creative Commons license.


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