How to Remix a Song – Our Top Tips

by Anthony /

No matter what genre of music you make, remixing songs is a great skill to have. It encourages you to reimagine original ideas and create new ones. But remixes are not just fun to create, they’re also an innovative way to pay homage to tracks you love, extending their lifespan and helping budding musicians increase their reach.

In this article, we’ll teach you how to remix a song, giving you top tips and product recommendations to help you along the way.

How to remix a song in 5 steps

  1. Get your stems – request them from the original artist or use cutting-edge “stem separation” technology to manually extract the audio you need
  2. Find the key/tempo of the original song – this will allow you to easily create melodies and harmonies
  3. Create your remix – once you know what direction you want to take your remix in, you can start arranging your samples and creating new ideas such as melodies or drum patterns
  4. Mix and master your remix – do it yourself or pass your remix on to a mixing/master engineer
  5. Release your remix – market your remix online using social media and upload it to popular music streaming/vendor services

What is a remix?

So, what exactly is a remix? In the simplest terms, a remix is a new interpretation of an existing song, created by altering the original in various ways. This could involve adding or removing parts, changing the tempo, manipulating the beat, and applying a range of effects. The result is a track that echoes the original but stands as its own unique composition.

It’s important not to confuse a remix with a cover, mashup, or edit. A cover is when another artist performs their version of a song, while a mashup blends two or more tracks into one. An edit, on the other hand, involves minor changes to a song without significantly transforming its structure.

In essence, remixing is about reimagining a song, giving it a fresh spin while preserving its core essence.

Why would I remix a song?

Remixing offers DJs and producers a golden opportunity to make their mark in the music industry. If the original song is already popular, your remix could catapult you into the spotlight.

It’s also a proven way to grow your fanbase. By injecting new energy into an existing track, you can appeal to the original audience while attracting new listeners. It can be beneficial for both artists, allowing you to trade between fan bases that may not normally listen to the style of music the original track is based on.

Thirdly, remixing gives you a chance to experiment with different genres or styles that you wouldn’t normally delve into – all while working with a song you like. You might learn new skills or discover new ways of thinking about music by transitioning between different genres and out of your comfort zone.

Not only does remixing allow you to learn new techniques, but it can also deepen your understanding of song structure, melody, rhythm, and more. By picking apart a song in such detail, you get an appreciation for the original production, giving you tips and tricks to take forward into your own productions.

What do I need to remix a song?

At the heart of every remixer’s toolkit is a good digital audio workstation (DAW). This piece of music software is where all the magic happens, from slicing and dicing tracks to adding effects and transitions. Ableton Live and FL Studio are among the most popular choices but there are plenty of other DAWs to choose from.

Next up are stems – the individual parts of a song, such as vocals, drums, and bass. These give you greater creative control when remixing. Stems can be requested from the original artist if you have a working relationship, allowing you to take the DNA of the original track and add your own unique style.

When you don’t have the original track’s stem files, you can use cutting-edge technology to extract the stems from a song using software such as Serato Sample or Audionamix XTRAX Stems.

A MIDI keyboard controller like the SubZero CommandKey is a crucial tool in the studio. When it comes to remixing, it’s invaluable as it provides hands-on control over your DAW, without all the clicking of your mouse.

Other useful tools include virtual instrument/effect plugins for your DAW or external hardware such as compressors/equalizers for shaping your sound.

SubZero CommandKey88 MIDI Keyboard Controller

How to remix a song – 10 top tips

1. Choose a song that suits you well

KRK ROKIT RP5 G4 Studio Monitors, PairStart with what you like. Do you like a section of the song or are you a fan of the artist in general? Either way, the song should resonate with you. You’ll be spending a good amount of time with it, so it’s essential to pick a track that you genuinely enjoy.

Next, pay attention to the hooks and catchy parts of the song. These elements could be the foundation of your remix, helping you maintain your connection to the song while adding your unique spin.

Remixes can mean different things for different genres of music, for instance, a D&B remix usually will use elements from the original song whereas a hip-hop remix usually incorporates guest verses from other artists.

You should also consider where and how you plan to perform the remix. If you’re playing in a club, for example, you might opt for a well-known song that will get the crowd going. On the other hand, if you’re creating a remix for online listeners, you might choose a lesser-known track to stand out from the crowd.

Lastly, consider the remix history of the song. If it has been remixed extensively, you might face more competition. But then again, putting a fresh spin on a frequently remixed track could showcase your creativity.

2. Find the key and the tempo of the original song

Before you even think about remixing your song, you need to know the original’s key and tempo.

Understanding the key of the original song allows you to find the correct scale for creating melodies. This ensures that any new musical elements you introduce will be in harmony with the original track. Plus, it enables you to create smooth, key-compatible transitions between different sections of your remix.

By determining the beats per minute (BPM) of the original song, you can alter it to suit the style of your remix. Want to transform a slow ballad into a dancefloor banger? Increase the BPM. Fancy turning a fast-paced pop number into a chilled-out ambient track? Lower the BPM.

3. You need stems!

Audionamix XTRAX StemsStems are the main DNA of a song – the building blocks that create the final composition. These include drums, melodies, sound effects and everything in between.

Acquiring the stems should be your first port of call, whether that’s from the artist or ripping from the original song itself.

Once you have the stems, you’ll have audio files you need to get creating straight away. You can do everything from chopping up the original drums to adding new effects to the main vocal or re-arranging the main melody to create a distinctive sonic landscape.

If you have a working or personal relationship with the artist whose song you wish to remix; getting the stems can be an easy process.

For cases where you don’t have access to the stems, don’t worry, you’re still in luck. The cutting-edge technology in specialised software allows us to now separate stems from the original source track.

If you want to go the “old school” way, you can isolate parts of the track using advanced filtering.

4. Figure out the direction you want to go in

When it comes to approaching your remix, it’s good to have an idea in your head before you start. Before even touching your DAW, you should have some thoughts about how the finished product will be. This could be coming up with a new melody, chopping up vocals/drums, or using certain elements from the original whilst building up your own soundscape.

Knowing what you want the song to turn out like can both streamline the production process and help you maintain the integrity of the original song. Plus, it can actually inspire creativity as it gives you a framework to keep you on track, leading to a cohesive mix.

If you’re struggling to choose the direction you want to go in, have a listen to other remixes! These can give you a wealth of ideas and styles to draw from, helping you refine your own production.

You should also use a “reference track”. This is a track that’s of a similar style to the remix you want to create, and it can also aid you in mixing and mastering.

5. Choosing the genre of remix

Denon DJ Prime 4 Standalone DJ SystemDifferent genres of music can dictate the style and overall sound of your remix, so it’s good to know how different styles of music are structured and arranged. You should listen to your stems and choose which genre and direction you want to go in.

For some, remixes are based on their favourite genre of music. For others, the stems and sound of the original dictate what genre the remix will be. It all depends on preference.

There are also loose “rules” to each genre’s definition of a remix. For example, modern-day drum and bass remixes usually take a small fraction of the original stems (usually the vocal) and create a wholly new soundscape around them.

A hip-hop remix, on the other hand, may just include a few new verses from rappers that weren’t on the original, or there might be a full change to the instrumental by a guest producer.

These are only guidelines for what a certain genre’s remix should be – really, your remix can go wherever your inspiration takes you.

6. Different types of remix

Remixes come in various forms, each with its own unique spin.

First off, as we mentioned, a remix is a reimagining of a song, often involving the use of stems and adding a new flavour while preserving some key elements of the original song.

A refix is similar to a remix but usually involves more substantial changes to the song, with the intention of updating the original song or adding subtle new elements to the original.

A VIP remix (Variation In Production) is typically created by the original artist, offering a new take on their own track. VIPs usually incorporate subtle changes to the original, such as a different drum pattern or an added note in the melody. This might include changes to the arrangement, tempo, genre or the overall key of the song.

Edits are less complex than remixes, often involving minor tweaks like extending a track for DJ sets or making radio-friendly versions by editing out explicit content.

Remember, remixes are not mashups (which blend two or more songs), nor are they covers (where an artist performs another’s song). Each type of remix has its own unique style and elements, providing a fresh perspective on familiar tunes.

7. Who is your audience?

Rode NTH-100 Professional Studio HeadphonesThinking about the audience for your remix is extremely important as your remix needs to suit them. The main question is: is the remix being tailored to your fans or the fans of the original song? This decision can shape the style, tone, and complexity of the remix.

The listening context also matters immensely. Is it intended for chilled-out home listening, energised gym workouts, or heart-pumping club nights? Each scenario requires a different approach to tempo, dynamics, and mood.

In relation to listening contexts, you also need to consider whether your remix will be strictly for live DJ performances or radio and general consumption.

If it is just for playing live, it may need extended intros and outros for smooth DJ transitions. If it’s a release for general consumption, it might require a more polished, radio-friendly structure. And if it’s a “dubplate” for DJs only, it could include exclusive elements that make it unique in a set.

The “Dubplate” historically refers to a ‘wax master’ one-off pressing of a record made from acetate and metal, which are limited to a number of plays before they ‘wear out’.

Dubplates were used as a cheap way to play your newest songs before the days of CDJs and media players. They can also be characterised as ultra-exclusive remixes, normally created with an artist/DJ in mind.

For example, David Rodigan is renowned for his huge collection of rare dubplates which feature the original artist shouting out the DJ, whilst changing up elements of the vocal track to incorporate the DJ’s name.

8. Choosing the right DAW for you

Choosing a digital audio workstation is crucial. The right DAW can enable you to fully lean into your creativity while maintaining a structured workflow.

Different DAWs cater to different needs. For instance, FL Studio is known for its user-friendly interface and extensive sound library, making it a hit with both beginners and professionals. On the other hand, Bitwig offers a more modular approach, perfect for those who enjoy experimenting with unique soundscapes.

You’ll also want an easy way of rearranging stems and musical elements. The ability to move, manipulate and layer sounds effortlessly can make or break the remixing process. This is where the DAW’s interface and workflow come into play. Some DAWs offer intuitive drag-and-drop features, while others might require a bit more navigation.

9. Using your own custom sounds

Gator DJ Desk with DJ controllerWhen remixing a tune, introducing custom sounds can make a world of difference. Not only does it make it uniquely yours, but it also makes it instantly recognisable to your fans.

Modern-day producers (especially in the hip-hop world) use a “producer tag” so listeners can instantly recognise it’s your remix. Adding a producer tag can also make it easier for listeners to find the song if they hear it during a live performance or on the radio.

If you add your style to the original stems, you’re more likely to have a cohesive mix as you’ll have a thread weaving through the whole production.

Plus, there’s the obvious benefit of custom sounds: they increase your chances of standing out from the crowd.

10. Releasing your remix

Before you release your remix, you need to consider a few factors, one being the selection of online music streaming services. Platforms such as Spotify and TIDAL offer high-fidelity music streaming, whereas Beatsource also offers a subscription service that integrates seamlessly with DJ gear, ideal for remix creators.

Sending the remix to DJs, radio stations, and A&Rs can give you some good exposure as these networks often have extensive reach and can increase the likelihood of the remix being heard by a wider audience.

You also need to make sure you market your music effectively through social media and other online platforms as this will help engage potential listeners.

Additionally, it’s incredibly important to be aware of the legal aspects, such as obtaining the appropriate licensing for the remix, to avoid any copyright issues.

The legalities of remixing a song

Remixing a song usually involves certain legal obligations. Two types of copyrights exist for any song: the master recording rights, typically held by the original artist, and the composition rights.

Firstly, you’ll need permission from the copyright owners. This is a legal requirement and a necessary step to avoid copyright infringement.

To release and distribute a remix, you’ll also need to obtain a master use license. Without this license, sharing the remix online constitutes an illegal act, even if the song was purchased legally. However, there’s a caveat known as “fair use”, where a remixed song can be considered legal if it doesn’t violate any copyright laws.

What makes a great remix?

Creating a great remix is all about striking the right balance between keeping enough of the original song to be recognisable, but giving it a new spin. A stellar remix does not have to deviate drastically from the original. Sometimes, adding a little extra or expanding on the original can do the trick.

Incorporating new rhythms, synths, and drum samples can lead to an exciting remix. An element that stands out or a melody that isn’t the main theme in the original version can also be turned into a unique remix.

Examples of good remixes include “Little Things” by Jorja Smith (Nia Archives Remix) and “Check Yo Self” by Ice Cube (Remix). These remixes have successfully given the original songs a fresh twist while maintaining their essence.

AIAIAI DJ Headphones on a DJ controller


How do I make a remix of a song?

Create your remix using this step-by-step process

  1. Get your stems and samples – from the artist or stem separation technology
  2. Find the key/tempo of the original song
  3. Get a feel for the direction you want to take your remix in
  4. Create your remix then mix and master it
  5. Market and release your remix via streaming services/online vendors

Is it easy to remix a song?

For some, remixing a song can be an easy, structured process that draws from the producer’s years of skill and experience. For others, namely beginners, it can be challenging – however it gets easier with practice, patience, and a good ear for music. Technological advancements have made the process more accessible.

Is it legal to make a remix of a song?

It is legal to make a remix of a song if you have the necessary permissions and licenses. Copyright laws protect original works, so it’s essential to seek approval from the copyright holder before remixing a song.

Find out more

Learning how to remix a song can be a complex process but we hope this article has helped! From understanding music theory and dissecting a song to adding a personal touch and adhering to copyright laws, every step plays a crucial role.

To deepen your understanding of music production, why not learn the differences between gain and volume? Or, discover some of the best studio headphones for mixing – these are great for getting the most out of your remixes.


High-tech web content specialist at Gear4music



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