Updated: Apr 20
Have you always wanted to make a remix, but don’t know how to start? This 10-step tutorial by music producer and Ableton Certified Trainer LNA gets you going in any genre and any DAW.
The core idea of remixing is to capture the essence of a track and transform it into a new version of different style, genre or purpose. Remixing is a fun way to experiment and develop your music production skills – and it’s easier than you ever imagined!
In her YouTube tutorial LNA turns her friend Toby’s song into an EDM remix in Ableton Live. Don’t worry if it doesn’t match your preferences – the universal tips and workflow apply in every genre and every DAW.
Click the headlines to find corresponding material from the video above.
Stems are exported wav or aiff files of a finished production. First download them onto your computer, then drag and drop them into Ableton’s Arrangement View. Hold down Ctrl/Cmd key to drop each stem into its own track, rather than dropping them next to each other on one track.
Choose 3–4 stems for your remixing project. Listen to the stems carefully and pick the ones that best define the core of the original song. Usually it’s the drums, bass, synth, vocals and some distinctive instrumental hooks.
Now define the preferred genre. Do you want to transform an acoustic song into a danceable club hit? Or maybe the other way around?
Set the BPM accordingly and remember to warp all samples (that's how we call the stems from now on). If you want to refresh your memory on warping, you can do it in 4 minutes by watching this video.
Extra Tip! To avoid a lot of trouble, check your Preferences and make sure that Record Warp Launch > Auto-Warp Long Samples is set to Off.
Create variations of your chosen samples. Be creative and play around by cutting, stretching, looping, reversing and pitch shifting. Have fun using Simpler or Sampler, different kinds of effects and plugins.
For some easy, yet effective sample manipulation tips, have a look at the remixing tutorial below.
Choose a drum kit and create a beat according to the genre. Make some variations to be used in different sections of the arrangement.
To get inspiration, check out this video about how to make basic beats in a number of different genres.
Cheat Sheet & MIDI Drum Writing Course To help you with your beat making, LNA has created a special drum pattern cheat sheet with no less than 30 MIDI drum patterns in 16 different genres. Go and grab it on her website! There's also a full drum writing course on LNA's YouTube Channel, especially made for non-drummers using Ableton Live's MIDI grid. Watch it here for 4 lessons of detailed tips from LNA and drummer Sara Leigh Shaw.
The beat securely in place, it's time to add MIDI or other instruments to complement the existing material. What kind of an instrument would the song benefit from?
Open your favourite instruments – whether they are Wavetable, piano sounds, pads or guitars – and let your creativity flow. Don’t forget to craft the sounds by using some well-chosen effects!
Think about the most common structure patterns of your chosen genre and arrange the song following the one you favour the most.
How does your song start? How does its verse-chorus pattern look like? In what way is the tension being built and released? Is there a bridge somewhere? How does the song end?
For brushing up your knowledge in the art of arrangement, watch the tutorial below.
On top of the complementing instruments created in step 5, your remix may also benefit from some new ones.
Could you recreate some of the original melodies by using new instruments? Cut out some vocals and replace them with an instrumental bit? Add some ear-candy by tweaking an original sample you left out before?
Is there something missing that should definitely be there? If a part of the arrangement feels empty, now is your chance to fix it!
If you have followed the workflow, you have already used some effects. Now is the time to add some more, so take out your favourite toys and let nothing hold you back when experimenting with them.
Finally, use automation to add some movement, structure and interest to the song.
Have you added breathing space into your arrangement yet? If not, do it now and fill the gaps with some cool-sounding lifts, drops and other details. Try e.g. reversed cymbals and automate a curvy Auto Filter to add some tension before the chorus.
More detailed tips on creating lifts and drops can be found in this blog post and the video below.
What About Copyright? Whenever we talk about remixing, we talk about molding samples and tracks someone else has made. This arouses a vast number of questions regarding copyrights and royalties. In this sense, the easiest way to find remixable material is to get connected with other producers and ask permission to remix their tracks. One way of finding a like-minded community is to join LNA’s Patreon Family, a friendly and supportive group of keen producers!
Cover photo: Tima Miroshnichenko / Pexels