How to Remix a Song 50 Essential Tips

How to Remix a Song: 71 Essential Tips

How to Remix a Song: 71 Essential Tips

“Every new idea is just a mashup or a remix of one or more previous ideas.”

— Austin Kleon

Why Make a Remix?

I love remixes. I love making them, I love listening to them, I love playing them in my sets. To me, remixing allows one artist to give their own musical interpretation of another artist’s song. Remixing also is a great way to gain popularity. Zedd is now considered one of the top producers in EDM, but his career began with remixing Skrillex – and he’s not alone. Many top-tier producers launched their careers off of successful remixes.

Remixes are super useful to artists because it’s an easy way for them to extend the life of a release while they work on new music and content. They are also super useful to the remixer because they allow you to work with great-sounding vocals even when you don’t have access to a topliner.

In this article, we will provide you with the ultimate guide to remixing a song. Drawing from years of experience creating remixes for artists such as Beyonce and Nick Jonas, we have distilled essential strategies for remixing a song to help you elevate your craft. But before we dive into the techniques, let's take a look at some of the best remixes ever created.




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"I'd buy a book full of tips like these."
- Some dude on Reddit

Rokysopp - What Else Is There? (Thin White Duke Remix) [2005]

Stuart David Price, aka Thin White Duke (also aka Jacques Lu Cont), has been one of the most influential producers in electronic music and is arguably the greatest remixer of all time. He was influential in making some of the first “club versions” of pop records, including remixes for Madonna and The Killers, and has won 3 GRAMMYS.

His remix to What Else Is There? By Rokysopp is a certified dance classic. He takes the original vocal, chops it up and makes it faster, and writes an entirely new production around the vocal. This is a classic remix strategy: take the original vocal (or other iconic element from the song), and create a whole new song around it.

Rufus Du Sol – Like an Animal (Yotto Remix)

Yotto is the underground remix king. His remix to Rufus Du Sol - Like An Animal was timed perfectly—it came out just as Yotto was in his rapid ascent in the dance music world, but also as Rufus was achieving mainstream dance popularity.

This remix is more faithful to the original in that it lives within the same genre of the original. This remix is slightly more ‘clubby' than the original version, with music and production that appeal to BOTH Yotto’s and Rufus Du Sol’s fan bases. Again, the vocals are the highlight here.

Armin Van Buuren feat Laura V - “Drowning” (Avicii Remix)

Avicii’s remix to “Drowning” is a classic uplifting melodic dance record. The key here is once again honoring the best elements of the original, and writing new pieces to complement them. Avicii took the original vocal from a harder trance song and wrote soft, approachable, and sensitive music. This makes the entire song more emotional and elevates his remix to be something entirely different from the original.

71 Strategies for Creating an Amazing Remix

Thinking of these examples, as a remixer you need to consider which elements to use from the original, what to do with them, and how to add new elements to create your own version of the original song. Let’s break down all the steps and strategies you can take as a producer to create a great remix. Here are 71 steps you can take right now to make an amazing remix.

1. Remix a Classic

Something fun to do is take an older but loved song and put your spin on it. This will separate you from the throngs of producers remixing today’s hits. If you want to see how I remixed "Feel So Close" by Calvin Harris in 4 simple steps, check out this video below!

2. Only Remix Songs That You're Passionate About

Sometimes you may be hired to make a remix, you may have a friend or fellow producer approach you to remix their song, or you might just have a song you really want to remix. The best remixes you’ll make are the ones you are passionate about, so try to remix songs that you feel you can offer an original interpretation of.

It's important to choose a song that you feel has the potential to be transformed into something exceptional. Avoid selecting a track that you think is already perfect, as it may be difficult to find room for improvement.

    3. Remix a Hit – Before it’s a Hit

    Sometimes a song comes out and you just know it will be the song of the summer. Several years back Marshmello and Selena Gomez released their song ‘Wolves’. Knowing it would take off with names that big, I made and released a remix within 6 hours of the original song coming out. I got the first remix of the song out, and I got hundreds of thousands of streams on it after it was picked up by many YouTube promo channels.

    Also, I recommend picking either: 1) remix competitions for smaller artists, or 2) reaching out to small indie artists to ask to do a remix for them. This way, you get access to high quality stems, which will allow you to do your best work.

    4. Check How Many Remixes There Are of a Song Before Remixing it

    Popular songs are well, popular. So they get remixed a LOT. Before you think about how to remix a song, you need to consider if it’s the right song to remix. It’s a good idea to check if there are many remixes of the song you chose that have major support. A simple YouTube search will usually reveal this.

    5. Make Sure You Get the BPM & Key Right

    Ok, so now you know which song you want to remix. The first things you’ll need to know are the BPM and key of the song. There are many ways of determining this. You can Google the name of the song and BPM and key (i.e. ‘Marshmello Wolves BPM key’), you can use a website like Beatport that shows the BPM and key, or you can use specialized software such as Mixed In Key that will find them for you.

    How to Remix a Song - Make Sure You Get the BPM & Key Right

    6. Try to Find Official Stems Whenever Possible

    When remixing it’s best to have the original stems of the song. Stems are groups of the main tracks in a song. If you want to get the stems for a release, it frequently is as simple as emailing the artist or their manager and asking for them. Sometimes there’s a remix competition which will provide stems, and on rare occasions, stems are leaked to the internet that you can find by searching.

    7. Pick and Prioritize Your Favorite Stems

    Keep in mind that you don't need to use every element of the original song when creating a remix. At this stage, decide which stems to keep and which to delete. Typically, I prefer to delete at least half of the original stems.

    However, I always keep the vocals, atmospheres, and any unique instrumental sounds. In my experience, drums are often removed entirely, as it allows me to create new ones and add my own touch to the remix.

    8. Bootlegging from the Master is a Valid Option

    Sometimes official stems or acapellas aren’t available, and then you need to turn to bootlegging. Many major remixes on your favorite EDM channels are bootlegs, made through careful techniques. You can workaround using the release for a remix by high-passing the lows, and using mid-side EQ to cut out a lot of the side information then building your remix around that.

    9. Frequently There is an Online DIY Acapella

    Do a search for the name of the song you want to remix and ‘acapella’. Studio acapellas are best, but frequently people make their own edits called DIY acapellas, and frequently they’re good enough to get the job done.

    10. Use the Acoustic Version Instead of an Acapella

    Frequently acoustic versions are released of popular songs. These are generally less busy, and therefore easier to put your own layers over.

    11. You Can Make Your Own Acapella

    The magicians at iZotope made Music Rebalance as part of their premier audio editing software RX7. It’s pricey, but it’s freakish how well this software can separate elements of a mixed and mastered song.

    How to Remix a Song - You Can Make Your Own Acapella

    12. Use Audacity to Isolate Vocals

    Not nearly as good as RX7’s Rebalance feature, but the free and open-source editor Audacity has a vocal isolation feature. It’s not great, but if the song is pretty minimal it sometimes can get decent results (and did I mention it’s free?).

    13. Make Sure the Tracks Are Aligned Properly in Your DAW

    Once you have your tracks and the BPM and key, you’ll need to make sure they are properly aligned in your DAW. I like to do this by playing a drum loop and looping several measures of the song. I’ll then drag the files around until they slide into place with the drum loop. Some DAWs (such as Logic) have built-in aligning algorithms, which work quite well if there are transient information such as drums in the song it can work with.

    14. Have a Direction Before You Begin

    Before you start getting dirty with production, try to have an idea of where you will take the remix. Knowing how to remix a song isn’t just all technical skill, you should have some sort of plan in your head for how you will approach the song. It’s ok to deviate from your original idea as you work on the song, but you should start with at least some sort of direction.

    15. You Only Need One Good Idea to Make a Great Remix

    When it comes to remixing, remember that sometimes less is more. If the original song is already great, you just need to add one more good element to create a great remix. It could be something as simple as a new melody or a new genre.

    You don't have to completely reinvent the wheel with every remix. In fact, some of the most clever and creative remixes are the ones that stay true to the original while adding a unique twist. So, don't be afraid to keep it simple and let the original song shine through.

    16. Figure Out What Can Be Improved

    Consider what you would like to change about the song. Would it benefit from a new genre, or does the chord progression need improvement? At this stage, it's important to focus on the creative brainstorming process, without worrying about the specifics of how to improve the track. This step will lay the groundwork for the direction of your remix.

    17. Add Extra FX, Delays, and Reverbs to the Vocal

    If you're creating a remix with vocals, it's important to enhance the production quality of the vocals in some way. One effective approach is to incorporate new delays, reverbs, or effects.

    For inspiration, check out our video showcasing our top 4 favorite modern vocal effects below. Experimenting with these techniques can elevate the vocal and enhance the overall quality of your remix.

    18. DON'T Reference the Original Too Much

    Let your chord progression and melody come naturally. Over-listening to the original can paint you into a corner creatively.

    19. DO Reference the Original While Mixing

    When working through the mixdown of your remix, it's helpful to use the original song as a reference by adding it to your DAW. I recommend starting by matching the volume of the vocals between the two versions. This technique can help you achieve a balanced mix of all the elements in your remix.

    Struggling with mixing? I have tons of resources to help you out. Start with THIS article, which covers the best modern mixing strategies. Mixing is also one of the main focuses in the Hyperbits Masterclass.

    20. Determine Which Style Remix You Want to Make

    Some remixes are designed for clubs and dancing, others are emotional, and some don’t even have drops and are more vibey. What do you want people to feel from your remix?

    How to Remix a Song - Determine Which Style Remix You Want to Make

    21. Learn to Play Ball When Making an Official Remix

    If you are working with a label or the original artist for an official remix, ask them if they had a style in mind. Being accommodating with your remixing will help you land more.

    22. Change the Tempo

    An easy way to separate your remix from the original is to slow it down or speed it up.

    23. Change the Key

    Marshmello established a sound with his first remixes by pitching up the vocal. You can instantly change the vibe of the song by messing with the pitch of the vocal.

      24. Try Re-working the Melody

      Begin by taking the original melody and making a few small modifications. The aim is for listeners familiar with the original track to identify and connect with the melody, while still noticing the new variations you introduce. This strategy can create a sense of continuity between your remix and the original song, enhancing the overall listening experience.

        25. Try Writing an Entirely New Melody

        If reworking the original melody isn't producing the desired result, don't worry. Try writing a completely new melody instead.

        I suggest using the original chords or bassline as a starting point and creating a new melody to complement them. This approach ensures that your melody will be somewhat similar to the original, preventing it from being too different and jarring when combined with other elements from the original track.

          26. Switch Up the Rhythm

          Is the original four on the floor? Maybe go half time. Switching up the rhythmic structure of a song will make it more fun to listen to if the original song is already ingrained into people’s minds.

          27. Find the Original Chords (if you want to use them)

          You can frequently find the original chords pretty easily online if that’s the chord structure you want to use.

          How to Remix a Song - Find the Original Chords (if you want to use them)

          28. Make Up Your Own Chords

          Nothing changes the vibes of a song quite by reharmonizing it and using your own chord progression.

          29. Don’t Make the “Obvious” Remix

          Sometimes you hear a song and there’s just an obvious remix direction for it. By not playing into what’s expected, you can help your remix to stand out.

          8 STEP



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          8 step mockup

          8 STEP



          "I'd buy a book full of tips like these."
          - Some dude on Reddit

          30. Choose Your Tempo-Change Algorithm Carefully

          Most DAW’s tempo algorithms are quite frankly – awful. Ableton’s is better than most, but if you want to go for gold use either the one built into iZotope RX (my personal favorite) or Serato’s Pitch ‘n Time software.

          31. Make the Bassline MIDI More Complex

          The bassline is a critical element in any remix. While I don't often create entirely new basslines for a remix, I like to add complexity to the existing bassline. This can be achieved by incorporating one or two extra notes, or having a note jump up an octave for half a beat. By doing so, you can create a unique and dynamic bassline that pays homage to the original while keeping things interesting and fresh.

          32. Use the Original MIDI with New Sound Design

          Using the original melody or bassline? That is totally fair game! But now, keep it fresh by adding new sound design. Put the original MIDI into a new synth and find a new patch for the sound. Once again, the idea is to capture some of the vibe of the original (with the same MIDI), but to give it your own unique spin (with new sound design).

          33. Use New MIDI with the Original Sound Design

          Here’s the reverse strategy! If you're creating a new melody, incorporating the original sound design can help maintain the original song's vibe. To do this, you can take the original lead stem, chop up the notes, and load them into a sampler. Then, use the sampler to play your new melody with the original sound design.

          This can create a powerful link between your remix and the original track while still allowing you to introduce your own unique spin on the melody.

          34. Add Extra Pads, Strings, and Atmospheres

          Adding additional backing elements to your remix can make it sound more expansive and immersive, as exemplified in Yotto's remix of Rufus Du Sol above. To achieve this effect, consider incorporating tonal atmospheres, soundscapes, or pads into the background of your remix. However, it's important to keep these elements subtle to avoid overwhelming the main elements of the remix.

          35. Add new FX

          I always use 100% new FX in a remix—I’m talking about things like sweeps, risers, impacts, etc. Go into your own sample packs for these sounds and pick FX that feel right for the direction you’ve taken your remix. Whenever I hear a remix re-use FX from the original, I alway think they’re just being lazy.

          36. Don’t Disrespect the Song

          Listen to the lyrics and message of the song you’re remixing and make sure your changes make sense. Turning Eric Clapton’s ‘Tears in Heaven’ into a banger would be sacrilege, and you don’t want to disrespect a song or it’s artist with your remix.

          37. Move to the Relative Major/Minor

          By changing the song to its relative key you can instantly switch up the feeling from melancholy to cheerful and vice versa. The relative minor of a major key is 3 semitones down, and inversely the relative major of a minor key is 3 semitones up.

          You can quickly determine the relative key by using the circle of fifths, pictured above. The outside ring is the major, and its corollary key in the inner ring is the relative minor.

          How to Remix a Song - Move to the Relative Major or Minor

          38. Remake Elements from the Original

          You can create familiarity and interest in your remix by incorporating elements of the original song in unique ways. Remake melody lines with other instruments, turn a vocal line into a synth line, etc.

          39. Repurpose Secondary Parts of the Original Track

          Is there a really nice tonal atmosphere in the original song? Or maybe an arpeggiator that is playing subtly in the background. If something sounds good, don’t fix it! It's perfectly fine to incorporate full stems from the original into your remix, as long as they're not the primary elements of the track. This is a great way to capture the essence and vibe of the original while still putting your own unique spin on it.

          40. Reuse at Least One Drum Sound from the Original

          This is a rule I live by. While I generally prefer to create new drum sounds for my remixes, I try to incorporate at least one drum element from the original track.

          I usually choose the most distinctive drum sound, avoiding generic hi-hats or claps, as they do not add any uniqueness to the remix. Instead, I go for unusual percussion one-shots or interesting drum loops to create a unique sound.

          41. Make Ear Candy from the Stems

          Tease different parts of the original songs by sprinkling in elements of the original subtly. You could take a random percussion hit and use it as the basis for a new rhythm, or take a backing vocal and process it with effects to create a new texture.

          The key is to be creative and experiment with different processing techniques to transform the original elements into something fresh and exciting.

          42. Vocals Are Cheat Codes for Interest

          Use as much of the original vocal as possible, people usually want to hear it as the main part of the song.

          43. Distort and Mangle Parts of the Original

          Listen to this epic remix of Post Malone’s ‘Rockstar’. Check out how Crankdat uses parts of Post's vocal as fills in the drop to keep things tied together and interesting. This is an amazing example of how to remix a song in a way that the remix feels very tied to the original. The remix remains grounded to being a Post Malone song despite all Crankdat’s additions because of his creative use of parts of the original song.

          44. Vocal Chops Are Killer

          Vocal chops are an amazing way to turn parts of the song into fun elements that the listener can hang on to. I love using Serato Sample to make my vocal chops.

          How to Remix a Song - Vocal Chops Are Killer

          45. Keep it in the World of the Original – or Don’t

          Make a conscious decision if you want your remix to remain tied to the original, or be completely deviant. Sometimes what makes a remix cool and unique is just how radically different it is than the original.

          46. Rearrange the Song

          It’s a new opportunity to switch things up. Rearrange, cut sections out, only use the chorus, etc. Have fun with it!

          47. Incorporate Parts of the Original into the Drop

          Sometimes when the drop of a remix is a complete departure from the original song, the listener can get lost and disinterested. Keep them with you by reminding them what it’s a remix of.

          48. Tease the Drop

          One of the things that get me most excited when listening to a remix is hearing the drop melody/idea teased subtly in the parts leading up to it.

          49. Don’t Drown Out the Vocals

          It’s easy to feel like our additions are the most important part of the song, but the listener is still going to want the vocals to be at the forefront of the mix.

          50. There Are Advantages and Disadvantages to Being “Out There”

          How crazy should the remix get? Up to you. Sometimes keeping it a bit generic will help it get popular, but by getting wonky you can help define a sound for yourself as an artist.

          51. Make it Obvious from the Start it’s a Remix

          Let your listeners know they’re in for a treat. Make sure they know from the first moment of the song that they’re about to hear a fresh take.

          52. Make Sure All Your Additions Fit

          We’ve all heard those remixes that feel like they are two different songs awkwardly squished together. Pay attention to your transitions!

          53. Don’t Drag it Out – Get to the Drop

          Get to the drop pretty quickly or people will get bored of listening. Unfortunately, the average commercial listener doesn't have much patience. In fact, the average human has an attention span of only 8 seconds. We're not saying you have to get to the drop in 8 seconds, but the faster you bring in the chorus, the more likely a listener will stick around.

          54. Reference the Best Songs in the Genre of Your Remix While Mixing

          If you’re that deep house producer I mentioned earlier that is remixing a dubstep song, reference your mixdown against other deep house tracks, NOT dubstep tracks. After all, you want to make an amazing track in your genre, and so your remix should stand up against the best tracks in your genre! At this stage, you’ve fully transported the original into your world.

          55. Do a “Test Master”

          Before submitting your remix to the original artist or a remix competition, I recommend doing a quick mastering pass to make it sound loud and professional. This will ensure that you make a great first impression with your remix, and that it sounds just as polished as the original track. Don't forget that a track that is too quiet will immediately detract from the listener's experience, so make sure your levels are set appropriately.

          Not sure how to master? Check out my video below or the article I wrote HERE.

          56. Make a List of Promoters

          Make a Google Sheets page and come up with at least FIFTY places you are going to send your remix for promo help. This can be YouTube channels, Spotify playlisters, bloggers, etc.

          57. Track Your Emails

          Use a service like CloudHQ Free Email Tracker to know when A&Rs have opened your email. This is especially useful because if you see that they have not opened your email for a couple weeks you can resend the email. Just be sure if you are using the free version to disable the message that comes up saying you are using a tracker. If you want to get advanced with your email tracking and opportunity management consider a CRM like Pipedrive.

          58. Commissioned Remixes Compensation Can Come Multiple Ways

          Compensation for remixes come in a number of forms, but the most common are payment, splits on the master, or a combination thereof. It’s not uncommon for arrangements to be made when remixing for artists that have a sizable following that they repay the remix artist by putting the full support of their marketing team behind the release.

          59. Get the Details in Advance

          Work out the details of the business end before you begin work. The last thing you want is to finish the remix then hear that you don’t agree with the terms. Make sure that you have the deal in some form of writing so that the details can be easily recalled if there’s confusion later. An email will suffice, but some people prefer a short agreement.

          60. Don’t Let Remix Contests Discourage You

          Remix contests can be great practice for producing and remixing, but don’t be disheartened if you don’t win – they have many many entries and are frequently rigged to begin with. Many times the winner was predetermined at the onset of the competition, or goes to a friend of the original artist. This isn’t to say it’s the case every time, but it happens enough to deserve comment. Not winning remix competitions doesn't mean you don't know how to remix a song and that you aren't an amazing producer.

          61. Always Read the Rules, Terms, and Conditions for Remix Contests

          Sometimes they throw weird stuff in there, like that the label owns your productions even if you don’t win or get compensation, or that you’re disqualified if you release the remix publicly. Watch out for sneaky conditions!

          How to Remix a Song - Always Read Rules, Terms, and Conditions for Remix Contests

          62. Don’t Monetize Without Permission

          You can’t monetize or distribute a remix without explicit written permission from the artist and their team/label. Don’t get yourself into trouble, and play by the rules! You can however usually publish an unofficial remix to YouTube without repercussions. Soundcloud gets a bit trickier but I’d argue Soundcloud is no longer a platform worth devoting time into.

          63. Promo the Remix to Artists in the Remix Genre

          Once your remix is complete and ready to be released, it's important to promote it to other artists in your genre. If it's a remix of an original song with no other remixes in your genre, big DJs may be interested in playing it during their live shows.

          You can reach out to DJs who play similar music and send them a private Soundcloud link with a downloadable version of your remix. Videos of DJs playing your unreleased music can be incredibly valuable for social media content, so take advantage of any opportunities to get your music heard by a wider audience.

          64. Turn a Remix into an Original

          Sometimes making a remix is a great inspiration, but it doesn’t have to stay a remix – mute the vocals and get a topliner to put original vocals on it! This is an especially good move if you’ve entered a high profile remix contest and don’t want to be one of a million remixes for that song getting released.

          65. Be Easy to Work With, But Stand Your Ground

          Artists and labels will all have their opinion about your remix. While you want to be accommodating, also know when they are compromising your artistry. They brought you on to this project so that you can make your interpretation of the song, and it’s ok to remind them politely that ultimately the remix is your song with your name on it.

          66. Believe in Your Art, and Release Your Music

          I made a remix of a song for a large EDM label and didn’t finish it in time for the contest. On a whim, I sent it to the original artist who responded that had I submitted the remix it would have won the contest and might have been officially released. Believe in the work you do, and make sure you let people hear it!

          You never truly know how well your remix will do unless you let others hear and enjoy it as well. Check out this remix I did with Bender of the classic song "Eye Of The Tiger." I released this remix back in 2016 and to date it has nearly 20 million streams and counting! Similarly, the remix you release today could continue to pay off for you in the long term.

          67. Make Sure You Get Tagged as a Primary Artist on Spotify!

          This is a simple one. When the remix gets ready for distribution, make sure you are tagged as a primary artist for Spotify (if you're approved). This will ensure the remix appears on your Spotify page and you maximize your streaming payoff.

          Remixes are one of the best ways to grow your fanbase, network with other artists, and build up your catalog of music. Follow the strategies in this article and you’ll be well on your way to making some top-level remixes.

          68. Network with the Original Artist

          Networking is one of the most undervalued components of being a music producer. If you made a remix for an artist, let them know! Hit them up on Instagram or email, or attend their shows if possible. Networking is a great way to establish a relationship with an artist, and it could lead to future collaborations or opportunities.

          Not sure where to get started with networking? You guessed it, I wrote an article about that too:

          69. Pitch Release Marketing Ideas to the Original Artist

          Consider collaborating with the original artist to create a release strategy. This could include an Instagram Live session with both of your accounts, or arranging a meetup and taking some photos together to share on social media.

          One of the biggest advantages of a remix is the ability to tap into the fanbase of the original artist, so it's important to ensure that they are doing everything they can to promote your remix to their fans.

          70. Welcome in the Original Artists’ Fans to Your Follower Base

          Once your remix has been released, it's important to embrace and engage with the new fans that have come over from the original artist's fan base. You can welcome them into your own fan base by creating social media posts that introduce them to your other music and encourage them to explore your other content. This will help you to build a stronger relationship with your new fans and keep them engaged with your music in the future.

          71. Have Multiple Aliases if Taking on Commissioned Remixes

          If you remix professionally, consider having multiple aliases so that you can funnel different genres to the appropriate project. Also sometimes you may be hired to remix a song you don’t like, and then you won’t want it associated with your main artist project.

          Final Thoughts on How to Remix a Song

          While these are all great tips, not all of them will apply to every project or song. Take the ones that work for you and run with them. Ultimately, remixing is about having fun and creating and sharing art, so go at it! With these 71 tips on how to remix a song you can now be a remix king. Go figure out what you are going to remix and kill it!

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