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How to Remix: Part 5: Arrangement and Structure
Mo Volans on Sat, September 10th 0 comments
Almost every major music single release gets the remix treatment. In Part 5 of this "How to Remix" series, Mo Volans takes you through creating the arrangement and structure with breakdowns and more.

In this series of tutorials we are going to be taking you through the step by step process of creating a real remix. I have been remixing for many years and I’ll try to share with you some of the techniques I have used in my studio work.

You can find the previous articles in this series here:

In this installment we are going to look at how to develop the arrangement of our remix. As we are working on a club/trance-style mix, we’ll be concentrating on making the whole thing DJ-friendly so that it can be placed easily in mixed sets. The outcome will be a short, radio edit-length dance remix.

Step 1 - Creating Our Drums Intro

At this stage of our project we have a very basic core arrangement that essentially consists of the original track's verse and chorus layout. All I did was to remove the bridges and trim off the start of the track. 

Now that we are ready to complete the arrangement structure, the first job on the list is to add a drums intro to the track. This really serves a few purposes in an electronic mix: it allows DJs to blend your mix with other productions and gives the track a distinctive intro.

I generally like to take all the drums parts used at the peak of the mix (in this case the chorus section) and blend them to create an energetic intro section. You should note that at this stage the intro and every other part of the arrangement is still pretty basic and raw. We’ll develop the whole thing in the next stage.

The process of creating the intro was really straightforward: I started by moving all the parts in the whole arrangement 16 bars. This gave me some ‘blank’ space to work in. I then copied all the drums parts into the new area.

All the parts were moved to create a 16 bar ‘space’

All the parts were moved to create a 16-bar ‘space’.

With the drums parts copied I decided on one single synth part and a few effects to pad things out a little. With the help of some automation and a few low pass filters, the intro was given a bit of movement. Finally, I added reverb to the main drums loop at the end of the section and the transition was complete.

Some drums were inserted into the new intro section

Some drums were inserted into the new intro section.

An automated synth part was also introduced

An automated synth part was also introduced.

Of course you can spend a lot more time than I have but this small amount of work demonstrates that this doesn’t have to take forever and even a simple intro can be really effective.

The new drums intro playback:

Step 2 - Creating Some Dynamics 

Next up I wanted to introduce some dynamics to the arrangement. Although there were clear sections and transitions at this point the whole thing felt a little static. I find that the best way to add some interest is to drop the energy in places, this often gives a feeling of contrast. 

Sections where the energy or flow is dropped in this way is often called a breakdown. Breakdowns can be constructed from scratch but they can also be easily created using the instruments that are already present in your arrangement. 

I decided that the second verse would be a perfect spot for a small breakdown and that lowering the pace a little here would help to break up the whole piece. I simply filtered down the drum and bass parts, lowered the level of the percussion and applied some delay to the vocal line.

The second verse is transformed into a break down

The second verse is transformed into a breakdown.

With even these few small changes, the energy level was transformed, as was this entire section. When the drums are reintroduced the energy levels are restored and the track is back on its way.

The new breakdown in action:

Step 3 - Introducing A Small 2nd Breakdown

I decided that a second break would work well later in the track. Once the chorus had played through a few times I wanted to wind the track down in preparation for the drums-based ending. This was achieved with a chilled section directly after the second chorus.

I simply used some of the ad-libs that were left at the end of the original arrangment. There were also a few guitar parts that worked very well. I simply cut an 8-bar chunk and dropped them together. 

The vocals were then effected, some automation added and a few effects samples thrown in for good measure. Again, very simple stuff but pretty effective. The track was now ready to be wound down.

The final breakdown and drum outro construction starts

The final breakdown and drums outro construction starts.

Step 4 - Finishing With Drums

Straight after our final breakdown we move into the ‘outro’. This is essentially the reverse of the drum intro and uses very similar parts. The only real difference is that the bass is actually present in the first section. It is then filtered down in frequency and removed.

The drum outro is completed

The drums outro is completed.

A few little touches were added to make this section work, these included some crashes, fills and an automated reverb rise at the very end. With this section in place our basic arrangement was completed and came to about 4 minutes.

The final breakdown and drums outro:

Step 5 - Final Checks And Planning The Next Step

At this point you can take a look at your work and check it in its entirety. Make sure that the whole thing flows and works well for you; at the end of the day it’s your mix and you have to enjoy it.

Taking a step back and inspecting our work so far

Taking a step back and inspecting our work so far.

The full mix up until this point (please forgive any mixing mistakes here, it’s still rough!):

Of course if you were making a full-length club mix it would have to be longer than this but it would simply be a case of elongating sections, adding an extra chorus and making your intro and outro a little longer. 

In the next stage, Part 6: Final Tweaks and Adjustments we’ll be looking at post production and adding any extra parts or effects we might need to turn this into a polished production. From there we’ll look at mixdown, mastering and delivery.

The song used for this remix series was kindly provided by Church Williams. Please support him by visiting his site.

Church Williams - Touch the Sun

Church Williams - Touch the Sun

Interested in learning more about how to remix? Check out Olav Basoski's Remixing in Live Tutorial-Video series.

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