Hands on: Remixing

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Remixing map

What Are Bootleg Remixes?

If you’re already into the remixing scene, you’ve probably heard the term ‘bootleg,’ which is the industry term for an illegal remix. This simply means that the remixer has created a remix without getting permission from the original artist.

It’s important to note that while bootleg remixes are popular, they are still illegal to distribute and redistribute. However, the questionable legal status of such tracks doesn’t stop people from creating or distributing them. Indeed, a lot of great remixes over the years have been bootlegs!

You might decide that getting permission is too tricky and remix anyway, and then decide that the world needs to hear your bootleg. While the police are unlikely to kick your door down, you must tag your song as a bootleg so that others know that your track is a bootleg one and that sharing it is risky – after all, wouldn’t you appreciate the same warning?


Since the beginnings of recorded sound in the late 19th century, technology has enabled people to rearrange the normal listening experience. With the advent of easily editable magnetic tape in the 1940s and 1950s and the subsequent development of multitrack recording, such alterations became more common. In those decades the experimental genre of musique concrète used tape manipulation to create sound compositions. Less artistically lofty edits produced medleys or novelty recordings of various types.

Modern remixing had its roots in the dance hall culture of late-1960s/early-1970s Jamaica. The fluid evolution of music that encompassed ska, rocksteady, reggae and dub was embraced by local music mixers who deconstructed and rebuilt tracks to suit the tastes of their audience. Producers and engineers like Ruddy Redwood, King Tubby and Lee "Scratch" Perry popularized stripped-down instrumental mixes (which they called "versions") of reggae tunes. At first, they simply dropped the vocal tracks, but soon more sophisticated effects were created, dropping separate instrumental tracks in and out of the mix, isolating and repeating hooks, and adding various effects like echo, reverberation and delay. The German krautrock band Neu! also used other effects on side two of their album Neu! 2 by manipulating their previously released single Super/Neuschnee multiple ways, utilizing playback at different turntable speeds or mangling by using a cassette recorder.

From the mid-1970s, DJs in early discothèques were performing similar tricks with disco songs (using loops and tape edits) to get dancers on the floor and keep them there. One noteworthy figure was Tom Moulton who invented the dance remix as we now know it. Though not a DJ (a popular misconception), Moulton had begun his career by making a homemade mix tape for a Fire Island dance club in the late 1960s. His tapes eventually became popular and he came to the attention of the music industry in New York City. At first, Moulton was simply called upon to improve the aesthetics of dance-oriented recordings before release ("I didn't do the remix, I did the mix"—Tom Moulton). Eventually, he moved from being a "fix it" man on pop records to specializing in remixes for the dance floor. Along the way, he invented the breakdown section and the 12-inch single vinyl format. Walter Gibbons provided the dance version of the first commercial 12-inch single ("Ten Percent", by Double Exposure). Contrary to popular belief, Gibbons did not mix the record. In fact his version was a re-edit of the original mix. Moulton, Gibbons and their contemporaries (Jim Burgess, Tee Scott, and later Larry Levan and Shep Pettibone) at Salsoul Records proved to be the most influential group of remixers for the disco era. The Salsoul catalog is seen (especially in the UK and Europe) as being the "canon" for the disco mixer's art form. Pettibone is among a very small number of remixers whose work successfully transitioned from the disco to the House era. (He is certainly the most high-profile remixer to do so.) His contemporaries included Arthur Baker and François Kevorkian.

Contemporaneously to disco in the mid-1970s, the dub and disco remix cultures met through Jamaican immigrants to the Bronx, energizing both and helping to create hip-hop music. Key figures included DJ Kool Herc and Grandmaster Flash. Cutting (alternating between duplicate copies of the same record) and scratching (manually moving the vinyl record beneath the turntable needle) became part of the culture, creating what Slate magazine called "real-time, live-action collage." One of the first mainstream successes of this style of remix was the 1983 track Rockit by Herbie Hancock, as remixed by Grand Mixer D.ST. Malcolm McLaren and the creative team behind ZTT Records would feature the "cut up" style of hip hop on such records as "Duck Rock". English duo Coldcut's remix of Eric B. & Rakim's "Paid in Full" Released in October 1987 is said to have "laid the groundwork for hip hop's entry into the UK mainstream". [2] Dorian Lynskey of The Guardian named it a "benchmark remix" and placed it in his top ten list of remixes. [3] The Coldcut remix "Seven Minutes of Madness" became one of the first commercially successful remixes, becoming a top fifteen hit in countries such as Germany, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom. [4] [5] [6] [7]

Early pop remixes were fairly simple in the 1980s, "extended mixes" of songs were released to clubs and commercial outlets on vinyl 12-inch singles. These typically had a duration of six to seven minutes, and often consisted of the original song with 8 or 16 bars of instruments inserted, often after the second chorus some were as simplistic as two copies of the song stitched end to end. As the cost and availability of new technologies allowed, many of the bands who were involved in their own production (such as Yellow Magic Orchestra, Depeche Mode, New Order, Erasure, and Duran Duran) experimented with more intricate versions of the extended mix. Madonna began her career writing music for dance clubs and used remixes extensively to propel her career one of her early boyfriends was noted DJ John Jellybean Benitez, who created several mixes of her work.

Art of Noise took the remix styles to an extreme—creating music entirely of samples. They were among the first popular groups to truly harness the potential that had been unleashed by the synthesizer-based compositions of electronic musicians such as Kraftwerk, Yellow Magic Orchestra, Giorgio Moroder, and Jean Michel Jarre. Contemporaneous to Art of Noise was the seminal body of work by Yello (composed, arranged and mixed by Boris Blank). Primarily because they featured sampled and synthesized sounds, Yello and Art of Noise would produce a great deal of influential work for the next phase. Others such as Cabaret Voltaire and the aforementioned Jarre (whose Zoolook was an epic usage of sampling and sequencing) were equally influential in this era.

After the rise of dance music in the late 1980s, a new form of remix was popularised, where the vocals would be kept and the instruments would be replaced, often with matching backing in the house music idiom. Jesse Saunders, known as The Originator of House Music, was the first producer to change the art of remixing by creating his own original music, entirely replacing the earlier track, then mixing back in the artist's original lyrics to make his remix. He introduced this technique for the first time with the Club Nouveau song "It's a Cold, Cold World", in May 1988. Another clear example of this approach is Roberta Flack's 1989 ballad "Uh-Uh Ooh-Ooh Look Out (Here It Comes)", which Chicago House great Steve "Silk" Hurley dramatically reworked into a boisterous floor-filler by stripping away all the instrumental tracks and substituting a minimalist, sequenced "track" to underpin her vocal delivery, remixed for the UK release which reached No1 pop by Simon Harris. The art of the remix gradually evolved, and soon more avant-garde artists such as Aphex Twin were creating more experimental remixes of songs (relying on the groundwork of Cabaret Voltaire and the others), which varied radically from their original sound and were not guided by pragmatic considerations such as sales or "danceability", but were created for "art's sake".

In the 1990s, with the rise of powerful home computers with audio capabilities came the mash-up, an unsolicited, unofficial (and often legally dubious) remix created by "underground remixers" who edit two or more recordings (often of wildly different songs) together. Girl Talk is perhaps the most famous of this movement, creating albums using sounds entirely from other music and cutting it into his own. Underground mixing is more difficult than the typical official remix because clean copies of separated tracks such as vocals or individual instruments are usually not available to the public. Some artists (such as Björk, Nine Inch Nails, and Public Enemy) embraced this trend and outspokenly sanctioned fan remixing of their work there was once a web site which hosted hundreds of unofficial remixes of Björk's songs, all made using only various officially sanctioned mixes. Other artists, such as Erasure, have included remix software in their officially released singles, enabling almost infinite permutations of remixes by users. The band has also presided over remix competitions for their releases, selecting their favourite fan-created remix to appear on later official releases.

Remixing has become prevalent in heavily synthesized electronic and experimental music circles. Many of the people who create cutting-edge music in such genres as synthpop and aggrotech are solo artists or pairs. They will often use remixers to help them with skills or equipment that they do not have. Artists such as Chicago-based Delobbo, Dallas-based LehtMoJoe, and Russian DJ Ram, who has worked with t.A.T.u., are sought out for their remixing skill and have impressive lists of contributions. It is not uncommon for industrial bands to release albums that have remixes as half of the songs. Indeed, there have been popular singles that have been expanded to an entire album of remixes by other well-known artists.

Some industrial groups allow, and often encourage, their fans to remix their music, notably Nine Inch Nails, whose website contains a list of downloadable songs that can be remixed using Apple's GarageBand software. Some artists have started releasing their songs in the U-MYX format, which allows buyers to mix songs and share them on the U-MYX website.

Some radio stations, such as the UK's "Frisk Radio". Cite magazine requires |magazine= (help) make extensive use of Remixes in their formats to create a hotter, more up-beat sound than their market rivals.

Recent technology allows for easier remixing, leading to a rise in its use in the music industry. [8] It can be done legally, but there have been numerous disputes over rights to samples used in remixed songs. Many famous artists have been involved in remix disputes. In 2015, Jay-Z went to trial over a dispute about his use of a sample from "Khosara Khosara", a composition by Egyptian composer Baligh Hamdy in his song "Big Pimpin'". Osama Fahmy, a nephew of Hamdy, argued that while Jay-Z had the “economic rights” to use the song, he did not have the “moral rights”. [9]

In 1988, Sinéad O'Connor's art-rock song "I Want Your (Hands On Me)" was remixed to emphasize the urban appeal of the composition (the original contains a tight, grinding bassline and a rhythm guitar not entirely unlike Chic's work). In 1989, the Cure's "Pictures of You" was remixed turning "the music on its head, twisted the beat completely, but at the same time left the essential heart of the song intact." [10]

Remixes have become the norm in contemporary dance music, giving one song the ability to appeal across many different musical genres or dance venues. Such remixes often include "featured" artists, adding new vocalists or musicians to the original mix. The remix is also widely used in hip hop and rap music. An R&B remix usually has the same music as the original song but has added or altered verses that are rapped or sung by the featured artists. It usually contains some if not all of the original verses of the song however they may be arranged in a different order than they originally were.

In the early 1990s, Mariah Carey became one of the first mainstream artists who re-recorded vocals for a dancefloor version, and by 1993 most of her major dance and urban-targeted versions had been re-sung, e.g. "Dreamlover". Some artists would contribute new or additional vocals for the different versions of their songs. These versions were not technically remixes, as entirely new productions of the material were undertaken (the songs were "re-cut", usually from the ground up). Carey worked with producer Puff Daddy to create the official Bad Boy remix of "Fantasy". [11] The Bad Boy remix features background vocals by Puff Daddy and rapping by Ol' Dirty Bastard, the latter being of concern to Columbia who feared the sudden change in style would affect sales negatively. [12] Some of the song's R&B elements were removed for the remix, while the bassline and "Genius of Love" sample were emphasized and the bridge from the original version was used as the chorus. [11] There is a version omitting Ol' Dirty Bastard's verses. [11] The "Bad Boy Fantasy Remix", combines the chorus from the original version and the chorus of the Bad Boy Remix together, removing Ol' Dirty Bastard's vocals from his second verse. [11] Carey re-recorded vocals for club remixes of the song by David Morales, titled "Daydream Interlude (Fantasy Sweet Dub Mix)". [13]

The Bad Boy remix garnered positive reviews from music critics. "Fantasy" exemplified how a music sample could be transformed "into a fully realized pop masterpiece". [14] The song and its remix arguably remains as one of Carey's most important singles to date. Due to the song's commercial success, Carey helped popularize rapper as a featured act through her post-1995 songs. [15] Sasha Frere-Jones, editor of The New Yorker commented in referencing to the song's remix: "It became standard for R&B/hip-hop stars like Missy Elliott and Beyoncé, to combine melodies with rapped verses. And young white pop stars—including Britney Spears, 'N Sync, and Christina Aguilera—have spent much of the past ten years making pop music that is unmistakably R&B." [15] Moreover, Jones concludes that "Her idea of pairing a female songbird with the leading male MCs of hip-hop changed R&B and, eventually, all of pop. Although now anyone is free to use this idea, the success of "Mimi" [ref. to The Emancipation of Mimi, her tenth studio album released almost a decade after "Fantasy"] suggests that it still belongs to Carey." [15] John Norris of MTV News has stated that the remix was "responsible for, I would argue, an entire wave of music that we've seen since and that is the R&B-hip-hop collaboration. You could argue that the 'Fantasy' remix was the single most important recording that she's ever made." Norris echoed the sentiments of TLC's Lisa Lopes, who told MTV that it's because of Mariah that we have "hip-pop." [16] Judnick Mayard, writer of TheFader, wrote that in regarding of R&B and hip hop collaboration, "The champion of this movement is Mariah Carey." [17] Mayard also expressed that "To this day ODB and Mariah may still be the best and most random hip hop collaboration of all time", citing that due to the record "Fantasy", "R&B and Hip Hop were the best of step siblings." [17] In the 1998 film Rush Hour, Soo Yong is singing the song while it plays on the car radio, shortly before her kidnapping. In 2011, the experimental metal band Iwrestledabearonce used the song at the beginning and end of the video "You Know That Ain't Them Dogs' Real Voices". Indie artist Grimes has called "Fantasy" one of her favorite songs of all-time and has said Mariah is the reason there is a Grimes. [18]

M.C. Lyte was asked to provide a "guest rap", and a new tradition was born in pop music. George Michael would feature three artistically differentiated arrangements of "I Want Your Sex" in 1987, highlighting the potential of "serial productions" of a piece to find markets and expand the tastes of listeners. In 1995, after doing "California Love", which proved to be his best selling single ever, Tupac Shakur would do its remix with Dr. Dre again featured, who originally wanted it for his next album, but relented to let it be on the album All Eyez on Me instead. This also included the reappearance of Roger Troutman, also from the original, but he ended the remix with an ad-lib on the outro. Mariah Carey's song "Heartbreaker" was remixed, containing lyrical interpolations and an instrumental sample from "Ain't No Fun (If the Homies Can't Have None)" by Snoop Dogg. [19] A separate music video was filmed for the remix, shot in black and white and featuring a cameo appearance by Snoop. In 2001, Jessica Simpson released an urban remix of her song "Irresistible", [20] featuring rappers Lil' Bow Wow and Jermaine Dupri, who also produced the track. [21] It samples the Kool & the Gang's song "Jungle Boogie" (1973) and "Why You Treat Me So Bad" by Club Nouveau (1987). [22]

Another well-known example is R. Kelly, who recorded two different versions of "Ignition" for his 2003 album Chocolate Factory. The song is unique in that it segues from the end of the original to the beginning of the remixed version (accompanied by the line "Now usually I don't do this, but uh, go ahead on, break em' off with a little preview of the remix."). In addition, the original version's beginning line "You remind me of something/I just can't think of what it is" is actually sampled from an older Kelly song, "You Remind Me of Something". Kelly later revealed that he actually wrote "Ignition (remix)" before the purported original version of "Ignition", and created the purported original so that the chorus lyric in his alleged remix would make sense. [23] Madonna's I'm Breathless featured a remix of "Now I'm Following You" that was used to segue from the original to "Vogue" so that the latter could be added to the set without jarring the listener.

The main single of I Turn to You by Melanie C, was released as the "Hex Hector Radio Mix", for which Hex Hector won the 2001 Grammy as Remixer of the Year. [24]

In 2015, EDM artist Deadmau5, who worked with Jay-Z's Roc Nation, tried to sue his former manager for remixing his songs without permission, claiming that he gave his manager the go-ahead to use his work for some remixes, but not others. Deadmau5 wanted reimbursement for the remixes his manager made after they had severed ties, because he claimed it was his “moral right” to turn these future remixing opportunities away if he had wanted to. The two parties reached an agreement in 2016 that kept Play Records from making any new remixes. [25] [26]

50 Cent tried to sue rapper Rick Ross in October 2018 for remixing his "In da Club" beat, due to their publicized feud. However, a judge threw out the lawsuit claiming that 50 Cent did not have copyright on the beat, but rather it belonged to Shady/Aftermath Records. [27]

Many hip-hop remixes arose either from the need for a pop/R&B singer to add more of an urban, rap edge to one of their slower songs, or from a rapper's desire to gain more pop appeal by collaborating with an R&B singer. Remixes can boost popularity of the original versions of songs.

Thanks to a combination of guest raps, re-sung or altered lyrics and alternative backing tracks, some hip-hop remixes can end up being almost entirely different songs from the originals. An example is the remix of "Ain't It Funny" by Jennifer Lopez, which has little in common with the original recording apart from the title.

Slow ballads and R&B songs can be remixed by techno producers and DJs in order to give the song appeal to the club scene and to urban radio. Conversely, a more uptempo number can be mellowed to give it "quiet storm" appeal. Frankie Knuckles saddled both markets with his Def Classic Mixes, often slowing the tempo slightly as he removed ornamental elements to soften the "attack" of a dancefloor filler. These remixes proved hugely influential, notably Lisa Stansfield's classic single "Change" would be aired by urban radio in the Knuckles version, which had been provided as an alternative to the original mix by Ian Devaney and Andy Morris, the record's producers. In the age of social media, anybody can make and upload a remix. The most popular apps for doing this are Instagram and YouTube.

A remix may also refer to a non-linear re-interpretation of a given work or media other than audio such as a hybridizing process combining fragments of various works. The process of combining and re-contextualizing will often produce unique results independent of the intentions and vision of the original designer/artist. Thus the concept of a remix can be applied to visual or video arts, and even things farther afield. Mark Z. Danielewski's disjointed novel House of Leaves has been compared by some to the remix concept.

A remix in literature is an alternative version of a text. William Burroughs used the cut-up technique developed by Brion Gysin to remix language in the 1960s. [28] Various textual sources (including his own) would be cut literally into pieces with scissors, rearranged on a page, and pasted to form new sentences, new ideas, new stories, and new ways of thinking about words.

"The Soft Machine" (1961) is a famous example of an early novel by Burroughs based on the cut-up technique. Remixing of literature and language is also apparent in Pixel Juice (2000) by Jeff Noon who later explained using different methods for this process with Cobralingus (2001).

A remix in art often takes multiple perspectives upon the same theme. An artist takes an original work of art and adds their own take on the piece creating something completely different while still leaving traces of the original work. It is essentially a reworked abstraction of the original work while still holding remnants of the original piece while still letting the true meanings of the original piece shine through. Famous examples include The Marilyn Diptych by Andy Warhol (modifies colors and styles of one image), and The Weeping Woman by Pablo Picasso, (merges various angles of perspective into one view). Some of Picasso's other famous paintings also incorporate parts of his life, such as his love affairs, into his paintings. For example, his painting Les Trois Danseuses, or The Three Dancers, is about a love triangle.

Other types of remixes in art are parodies. A parody in contemporary usage, is a work created to mock, comment on, or make fun at an original work, its subject, author, style, or some other target, by means of humorous, satiric or ironic imitation. They can be found all throughout art and culture from literature to animation. A famous song parody artist is "Weird Al" Yankovic, and current television shows are filled with parodies such as South Park, Family Guy, and The Simpsons.

The internet has allowed for art to be remixed quite easily, as evidenced by sites like (provides pictorial template upon which any words may be written by various anonymous users), and Dan Walsh's [29] (removes the main character from various original strips by Garfield creator Jim Davis).

"A feminist remix is a creative resistance and cultural production that talks back to patriarchy by reworking patriarchal hierarchical systems privileging men. [30] Examples include Barbara Kruger's You are not yourself (1982), We are not what we seem (1988), and Your body is a battleground (1989) Barbara Kruger, Orlan's (1994) Self-Hybridizations Orlan, Evelin Stermitz's remix, Women at War (2010), and Distaff [Ain’t I Redux] (2008) by artist Sian Amoy.

In recent years the concept of the remix has been applied analogously to other media and products. In 2001, the British Channel 4 television program Jaaaaam was produced as a remix of the sketches from the comedy show Jam. In 2003 The Coca-Cola Company released a new version of their soft drink Sprite with tropical flavors under the name Sprite Remix.

Remix production is now often involved in media production as a form of parody. Scary Movie series is famous for its comic remix of various well-known horror movies such as Ring, Scream, and Saw. This form of remix is also used in advertisements, creating parodies of famous movies, TV series, etc. For example, McDonald's published a commercial poster that parodied the movie Dark Knight.

In 1995, Sega released Virtua Fighter Remix (バーチャファイター リミックス/Bāchafaitā rimikkusu) as an update to, just months after of Virtua Fighter release on the Sega Saturn.

Virtua Fighter had been released on the Saturn in a less-than-impressive state. Sega had attempted to make an accurate port of the Sega Model 1 arcade version, and therefore chose to use untextured models and the soundtrack from the arcade machine. However, as the Saturn was incapable of rendering as many polygons on screen as Model 1 hardware, characters looked noticeably worse. Many claim it to be even worse than the Sega 32X version, thanks to the added CD loading time.

Virtua Fighter Remix was created to address many of these flaws. Models have a slightly higher polygon count (though still less than the Model 1 version) they are also texture-mapped, leading to a much more modern-looking game that could effectively compete with the PlayStation. The game also allows players to use the original flat-shaded models.

In the west, a CG Portrait Collection Disc was also included in the Saturn bundle. North American owners would get Virtua Fighter Remix for free if they registered their Saturns, while Japanese customers would later receive a SegaNet compatible version. Sega would also bring Virtua Fighter Remix to Sega Titan Video arcade hardware. [31]

Because remixes may borrow heavily from an existing piece of music (possibly more than one), the issue of intellectual property becomes a concern. The most important question is whether a remixer is free to redistribute his or her work, or whether the remix falls under the category of a derivative work according to, for example, United States copyright law. Of note are open questions concerning the legality of visual works, like the art form of collage, which can be plagued with licensing issues.

There are two obvious extremes with regard to derivative works. If the song is substantively dissimilar in form (for example, it might only borrow a motif which is modified, and be completely different in all other respects), then it may not necessarily be a derivative work (depending on how heavily modified the melody and chord progressions were). On the other hand, if the remixer only changes a few things (for example, the instrument and tempo), then it is clearly a derivative work and subject to the copyrights of the original work's copyright holder.

The Creative Commons is a non-profit organization that allows the sharing and use of creativity and knowledge through free legal tools and explicitly aims for enabling a Remix culture. [32] They created a website that allows artists to share their work with other users, giving them the ability to share, use, or build upon their work, under the Creative Commons license. The artist can limit the copyright to specific users for specific purposes, while protecting the users and the artist. [33]

The exclusive rights of the copyright owner over acts such as reproduction/copying, communication, adaptation and performance – unless licensed openly – by their very nature reduce the ability to negotiate copyright material without permission. [34] Remixes will inevitably encounter legal problems when the whole or a substantial part of the original material has been reproduced, copied, communicated, adapted or performed – unless a permission has been given in advance through a voluntary open content license like a Creative Commons license, there is fair dealing involved (the scope of which is extraordinarily narrow), a statutory license exists, or permission has been sought and obtained from the copyright owner. Generally, the courts consider what will amount to a substantial part by reference to its quality, as opposed to quantity and the importance the part taken bears in relation to the work as whole. [35]

There are proposed theories of reform regarding the copyright law and remixes. Nicolas Suzor believes that copyright law should be reformed in such a manner as to allow certain reuses of copyright material without the permission of the copyright owner where those derivatives are highly transformative and do not impact upon the primary market of the copyright owner. There certainly appears to be a strong argument that non commercial derivatives, which do not compete with the market for the original material, should be afforded some defense to copyright actions. [36]

Stanford Law professor Lawrence Lessig believes that for the first time in history creativity by default is subject to regulation because of two architectural features. First, cultural objects or products created digitally can be easily copied, and secondly, the default copyright law requires the permission of the owner. The result is that one needs the permission of the copyright owner to engage in mashups or acts of remixing. Lessig believes that the key to mashups and remix is "education – not about framing or law – but rather what you can do with technology, and then the law will catch up". [37] He believes that trade associations – like mashup guilds – that survey practices and publish reports to establish norm or reasonable behaviours in the context of the community would be useful in establishing fair use parameters. Lessig also believes that Creative Commons and other licences, such as the GNU General Public Licence are important mechanisms which mashup and remix artists can use to mitigate the impact of copyright law. [32] Lessig laid out his ideas in a book called "Remix" which is itself free to remix under a CC BY-NC license. [38] [39]

The Fair Use agreement allows users to use copyrighted materials without asking the permission of the original creator (section 107 of the federal copyright law). Within this agreement, the copyrighted material that is borrowed must be used under specific government regulations. Material borrowed falls under fair use depending on the amount of original content used, the nature of the content, the purpose of the borrowed content, and the effect the borrowed content has on an audience. Unfortunately, there are no distinct lines between copyright infringement and abiding by fair use regulations while producing a remix. [40] However, if the work that is distributed by the remixer is an entirely new and transformative work that is not for profit, copyright laws are not breached [ citation needed ] . The key word in such considerations is transformative, as the remix product must have been either sufficiently altered or clearly used for a sufficiently different purpose for it to be safe from copyright violation.

In 2012, Canada's Copyright Modernization Act explicitly added a new exemption which allows non-commercial remixing. [41] In 2013, the US court ruling Lenz v. Universal Music Corp. acknowledged that amateur remixing might fall under fair use and copyright holders are requested to check and respect fair use before doing DMCA take down notices. [42]

In June 2015, a WIPO article named "Remix Culture and Amateur Creativity: A Copyright Dilemma" [42] acknowledged the "age of remixing" and the need for a copyright reform.

The Avernian hex key is going to be one of the “hands on” sections of the Remix: We’re going to set up the scaffold here, but there’ll be some finishing work you’ll probably want to do before running it.

To stock the Avernian hexcrawl, I will be:

  • drawing locations from Descent Into Avernus,
  • pulling material from a variety of Avernus-related supplements on the DMs Guild, and
  • creating original content.

Most of the locations in Descent Into Avernus were originally and primarily designed to be part of the Choose Your Railroad structure that the campaign is built around. The key below assumes that you’ll have access to the Descent Into Avernus book, but will be providing notes focused on how these locations should be adapted in the absence of this railroad.

In cases where I’m using material from the DMs Guild, you will similarly need to either obtain the original supplement or swap those hexes out for your own creations. The notes below, once again, focus primarily on how you can adapt the published material to good effect. (Harvesting published scenarios like this is something I almost always do when stocking hexcrawls.)

Original content is also unlikely to be a in a play-ready state, but should be sufficiently detailed that you’ll be able to flesh out the details.

Throughout these locations we will be seeding:

  • The four components required to repair the dream machine.
  • Clues related to Lulu’s memory mystery.
  • Clues related to the Avernian Quest.


A vast tarpit several hundred feet across. The is hot enough to burn (1d6 fire damage) and it is constantly bubbling. Dangers include:

  • A large gas bubble explodes, spattering those within 10 feet with hot tar. DC 12 Dexterity saving throw or 1d6 fire damage.
  • Getting stuck in the tar. (It counts as difficult terrain and requires a DC 14 Strength check to pass safely or a DC 18 Strength check to escape once stuck. If stuck, the victim will slowly sink into the tar, becoming submerged 3d6 rounds later.)
  • Jets of flame spontaneously erupt from particularly strong outgassing.
  • The gas itself can be toxic, requiring a DC 16 Constitution saving throw. On a failure, characters are affected as per a confusion spell, rolling on the custom table below once per minute to determine their actions. At the end of each minute, they can attempt another saving throw.

There are several small outcroppings of rock and solid-ish land dotted throughout the tarpit. On one of these is a giant boulder of gold that gleams in the strange, reddish light of Avernus. (The boulder is actually pyrite fool’s gold.)

d10Tar Confusion Effect
1-2Uncontrollable laughter, as per a Tasha's hideous laughter spell
3-5Believes the tar is delicious food and will attempt to eat it. (The tar inflicts 1d6 fire damage, or 3d6 fire damage if swallowed. It is also poisonous, requiring a DC 12 Constitution saving throw to avoid an additional 2d6 damage accompanied by vomiting.)
6-7Move in a random direction (possibly motivated by hallucinations).
8Takes no actions.
9-10Attacks a random nearby creature.


A set of astral pistons within the obelisk are intrinsic to Ubbalux’ prison. The pistons can only be accessed if Ubbalux is freed.


  • As described in Descent Into Avernus, Ubbalux has heard of the Mirror of Mephistar (Hex I1) and believes Mephistopheles can unravel the riddle.
  • Bel built the prison and could free him. Ubbalux can also point them towards Bel’s Forge (Hex H2). (If it seems reasonable, Ubbalux might still be under the impression that Bel is the Archduke of Hell.)
  • You can also solve Bel’s original “riddle” (see below).

INVESTIGATING THE STONES: Bel told Ubbalux that the secret to escaping the prison was hidden in the arcane runes etched across the standing stones. The trick is that crucial information is located on the outside of the stones, where Ubbalux can’t see it.

  • A DC 12 Intelligence (Arcana) check indicates that each of the outer standing stones is associated with one of the schools of magic.
  • A character who speaks Infernal or succeeds on a DC 18 Intelligence (Arcana) check will notice that each standing stone has a cartouche containing two syllables, one of which is either the first or second syllable of the associated school of magic in Infernal and the other appears to be a nonsense syllable.
  • A similar cartouche appear on the inside of the stone (where Ubbalux can see it, although you can also look across the circle and see them from outside) with a similar pairing of the first or second syllable of the associated school of magic in Infernal (whichever one isn’t on the outside) and a nonsense syllable.

SOLVING THE RIDDLE: Combining the two “nonsense” syllables on each stone forms a command word associated with that stone. You can intuit the correct order of the syllables by looking at the matched syllable from the school of magic. (So the syllable in the cartouche with the first syllable of the school of magic should be the first syllable of the command word and the second syllable should be the second.)

To release Ubbalux, you need to place your hand on each stone and speak the associated command word (suffering the effect described on pg. 98 of Decent Into Avernus). Once this has been done with all eight stones, the energy field drops: Ubbalux is freed and the central obelisk can be accessed.

Stone (by School)Outer Cartouche (Infernal)Inner Cartouche (Infernal)Outer Cartouche (Translated)Inner Cartouche (Translated)Command Word


Treacherous stone steps are carved into the cliff face surrounding the Pit of Shummrath, leading down to a miserable village which has been built upon a shelf of rock which thrusts out into the green ooze.

A pair of piscoloths and a gaggle of sahuagin overseers dominate a population of enslaved half-fiend goblins who dredge sludge from the Pit and bottle it. These are shipped to the piscolothian cities in the dark waters beneath the ice of Stygia, where the oil-slick like telepathic emanations of the sludge are a kind of delicacy used to spice food.

Asmodean Cavern: The mouth of a cave at the base of the cliffs in the goblin village leads to several chambers containing ancient fiendish pillars. The four faces of each pillar are covered with worn runes in an archaic form of Infernal and the bas reliefs of various devil faces. Touching the runes causes the devil faces on the matching pillar to animate and recite them. Collectively they tell of the Trial of Asmodeus and the rights given to Asmodeus under the First Law by the ruling of Primus, Lord of the Modrons. This site is recorded as being one of sixty-six such memorials erected to record this epochal event.

The goblins lived in these caverns, but several years ago they were flooded by a sudden undulation of the Pit. Shummrathian ooze still lingers in the depths of the cave, creating a hostile environment for the goblins who still squat here.


The Arches of Ulloch allow the mass transport of entire armies, but they require the use of a tuned keystone (similar to the planar tuning fork required for a plane shift spell) to align them with a particular plane of existence.

One of the arches currently has an ancient Avernian keystone, allowing teleportation to anywhere within Avernus.

Creating a new tuned keystone requires:

  • Either the original plans (located in Bel’s Fortress, Hex H2) or a DC 20 Intelligence (Arcana) check to reverse engineer the existing keystone.
  • 50 soul coins worth of raw materials.
  • An appropriate workshop (such as those located in Bel’s Fortress, Fort Knucklebones, or other Warlord armories).

Note: There is an unkeyed keystone in the Dump (Hex H1).


This is the lair of Kolasiah, the Infernal Medusa, and the Lost Golgari, who have come to Avernus from Ravnica. Kolasiah seeks a way of returning home and would value any news of a powerful spellcaster not allied with Zariel.

Entrance Ramp: Infernal warmachines come roaring down the ramp and are parked in a cluster around the central stone pillar.

Forge: In the central pillar of the rock at the bottom of the entrance ramp there is a forge and garage run by Malargan the Oni. See Forges of Avernus, p. 4. A set of astral pistons can be found here.

For more details on the Avernian warlords, see Part 7F of the Remix.

Design Note: As written in Warlords of Avernus, the Lost Golgari have been reduced to a fraction of their former strength. You can either lean into that (with chunks of their base here being deserted) or I would potentially go the other way and bolster her to have a larger number of infernal machines and riders.


For more details on the Avernian warlords, see Part 7F of the Remix.


For Arkhan’s Tower, we would like to prep:

  • A complete map of the tower.
  • An adversary roster of the denizens. (Descent Into Avernus, p. 110-11 does provide a comprehensive list of creatures to add to the roster.)

For the map, I will recommend PogS’ excellent original cartography.


There are charonadaemon ferry stations on both shores of the Styx here. There are commissions available for travel up- and downriver, but most regular travel simply crosses the river to the other station.

Sudok’s Mart: The station on the contra-Dis side of the river is larger and contains a small market overseen by a yugoloth named Sudok.


The Alvskraema caravanserai is located next to the bridge which crosses the Pit of Shummrath. It is jointly operated by Brarumoch, Haskari, and Meltrus.

Brarumoch: Operates the common room and runs the kitchen. The caravanserai’s specialty is elf meat. Brarumoch has a supplier who hunts and butchers elves on the Material Plane here they are considered an expensive delicacy known as alvskraema.

(This doesn’t mean that any elf walking through the door will be set upon and butchered. That’s not the sort of thing you do to a customer.)

Haskari: Operates a weapons forge. He specializes in creating cacophonous weapons, which allow those wielding them to speak and understand Abyssal. (See Forges of Avernus.)

Meltrus: Specializes in repairing and building infernal machines. He and Haskari are constantly squabbling over shop space.

Design Note: Note that the name Alvskraema is more or less “Elfscream” in Old Norse. It’s designed to echo the Elfsong Tavern from Baldur’s Gate. Thanks to Flallen from my Twitch chat for the suggestion of Elfscream Tavern.


Tasha keeps a summer home in Avernus, as described in Dance of Deathless Frost. She is aware of Kostchtchie’s phylactery, knows that Baba Yaga knows its resting place, and is able to summon Baba Yaga’s hut.


Red Ruth has a heartstone.


A large meteor impact crater formed by a huge skull (more than ten feet across) that’s partially embedded at the center of the crater.


This is the lair of the warlord Algoran and his gang, the Soul Collectors.

Shrine to Eskarna: Algoran discovered an ancient shrine dedicated to the demon Eskarna. It was built countless aeons ago at a time during which the demons had pushed the front lines of the Blood War deep into Avernus. Long abandoned and forgotten, it was discovered by Algoran and converted into a gladiatorial arena.

Gladiatorial Arena: Watched over by the well-worn statue of Eskarna, Algoran hosts gladiatorial competitions here which attract a varied crowd of visitors and competitors.

Cogbox: Algoran recently acquired a modron slave as a wager during the gladiatorial fights. The modron has a Nirvanan cogbox. The modron might be willing to trade it for anyone who can help them gain their freedom alternatively, if Algoran learns its value, he will seize it and try to make a deal (or wager) himself.

Shaaksuraar’s Armory: A “mountain of a sahuagin-werebear” called Shaaksuraar oversees a productive weapons forge for Algoran. This is located in the river cavern Shaaksuraar goes on swims through the subterranean river and also quenches his fresh-forged weapons in the waters here. See Forges of Avernus, p. 3.

For more details on the Avernian warlords, see Part 7F of the Remix.

Design Note: The concept of Eskarna comes from Dyson’s original key for this map, although we have reduced it to an ancient ruin here. In Forges of Avernus, Shaaksuraar manages the Goregut Armory, but the Goreguts’ lair (Hex J3) in the Remix has been destroyed by Princeps Kovik (Hex J5). I’ve reassigned Shaaksuraar to Algoran, but you could also make this part of his backstory: That he worked for Raggadragga until his forge was destroyed by Kovik. (To add extra drama, perhaps Shaaksuraar betrayed Raggadragga to Koviks for a large payment of soul coins before transferring his services to his new forge here.)

Preparing Your Remix

Once you’re set on wanting to make a legal remix (and not a bootleg), the first thing you’ll need to get your hands on is the stems of the original work.

What are stems?

“Stems” are the individually supplied pieces and layers of the song provided for a remix. Each stem is a separate file that you can listen to, use, and chop up as you please in your remix.

Some songs are broken down into stem categories, such as Drums, Bass, Vocals, Instruments, and FX. Other songs are broken down into much finer levels, some including a single stem for every individual element.

The benefit of having additional stems is that you have greater flexibility in choosing which elements from the original song to keep in your remix, and which to get rid of.

Where can I find stems?

Stems for songs can mostly be found in a few separate places - sample packs, DJ pools, and remix competitions.

Sample pack websites such as Splice and Loopmasters are home to hundreds and hundreds of sample packs, and many of them contain full licks, chops, and vocal phrases from original songs. If you find the right pack, you can have your hands on a full set of vocal lyrics ready to be remixed. The benefit of using stems from these types of sites is that you’ll be given permission to use the samples in your music, and you won’t have to worry about the legality of making a remix.

Alternatively, you might be able to find acapella tracks (vocal stems) and instrumental track stems on DJ pool sites such as DJ City, BPM Supreme and Acapellas4U. Plenty of popular tracks come with downloadable vocal-only acapellas, which can be handy for creating remixes. The risk with the DJ pool approach is that you don’t necessarily have permission to redistribute the stems in the form of a remix, and you risk being flagged for copyright infringement.

However, your absolute best bet at finding legal stems is to search for active remix competitions.

Remix Competitions

Remix competitions are producer challenges put on by the original song’s artist or label.

During a remix competition, the label will provide stems for the original track, often along with permission to post any remix submissions online. Labels use remix competitions as an opportunity to spread the word about a particular artist and to tap into new genres, so they’re eager to have remixes shared publicly.

How do they work? Simple - the label posts the stems online and opens the remix competition for a specified window of time. During the window, anyone can enter and submit remixes for judging, and fans and followers can vote for their favourite remix. At the end of the competition, the judges (usually a combination of the label and the artist) announce a winner.

Splice Remix Competition Page

What’s in it for you? Apart from having legal permission to post the remix, entering a remix competition can be well worth your while. If you win, you could receive label and artist support, with your song being played out at festivals and live venues. Even if you don’t win, you’ll collect some plays, attract a few new fans, and garner some helpful feedback.

Remix competitions exist far and wide across the internet, but there are a few sites that tend to stand out amongst the crowd. For the biggest, most mainstream competitions that are tied to major labels, check out . Another great option for popular competitions is Splice - on top of having sample packs, Splice also hosts remix competitions alongside beat challenges. If you’re looking for something more underground, check out the remix contests at

Once you’ve found your stems, it’s time to get going on your remix.

How do I remix a song—legally?

Before you dive right in, let’s just make sure you don’t get into legal trouble by making this remix, right? For the sake of this article, we’re discussing legality based on United States copyright law.

A remix is technically defined as a “derivative work,” meaning that it has been created from an original work. The copyright owner has the sole authority to authorize the creation of derivative works. Because of this, the copyright owner for the original track—often the artist or releasing label—has the legal ability to grant or deny you permission to make a remix.

If you make a remix without the consent of the copyright holder, or if you are denied permission and make the remix anyway, this is an example of copyright infringement. We won’t go into the bloody details, just know that big artists and labels take infringement of their copyrights VERY seriously, and usually won’t not hesitate to take legal action.

You may initially only get a cease and desist letter, but the copyright holder may seek financial damages as well.

However, an aspect of copyright law called Fair Use can provide an exception. Fair Use exists in order to prevent copyright holders from stifling innovation and parody.

If an unofficial remix is claimed as copyright infringement, the infringing remixer can claim Fair Use on the basis of four main points:

The purpose and character of using the original copyrighted material

The nature of the original copyrighted material itself

The amount and importance of original copyrighted material used

The effect that using the original copyrighted material will have on its value

As you can probably tell, the answers to these questions are all rather uncertain in the case of a remix. However, the copyright owner doesn't have to prove your remix isn’t covered by Fair Use to accuse you of copyright infringement. It’d be your responsibility to prove your remix is Fair Use.

So, while Fair Use exists and can be used to defend a remix done without permission, it isn’t a good idea to assume Fair Use will be proven. Also, larger artists and labels—those whose work is more likely to be remixed—tend to have bigger budgets than the accused, and they’re happy to put that budget toward defending their intellectual property. Overall, it’s best to make sure that your remix isn’t infringing on anyone’s copyright.

So how do you actually make a legal remix?”

The best-case scenario is to get permission from the copyright holder. This can be done through a variety of ways, most commonly through an official remix. A remix—or even an EP of remixes—can extend the shelf life of an expiring song. This can give the original artist, the label, or both an incentive to grant permission to create a derivative work.

If you’ve gained some traction as a producer, artists and labels will see the opportunity to tap into another market and may approach you to create a remix. This is mutually beneficial, especially if you’re a smaller artist than the original.

Otherwise, directly reaching out to artists and labels isn’t necessarily a bad idea if you hear a track that you’d like to remix. Keep in mind that cold-calling like this can be inconsistent, especially if you’re approaching bigger artists and labels who likely receive plenty of similar requests.

However, one email back saying “yes” could completely change your career, so asking is worth a shot if done in a respectful, professional, and non-intrusive way.

Apart from official remixes, another great option is to enter remix contests. There are plenty of these contests available through several platforms online, all of which can be big opportunities for growing producers.

Remix contests generally have prizes for high-ranking entries, plus additional prizes for the winner. This can include official releases on record labels, conversations with the original artist, equipment and software, and more. All of these reasons alone are enough to make entering a contest worth your time, as they’re just potential bonuses on top of practicing your production and having content for your artist portfolio.

Hands-on with YouTube's remixing and real-time chat tools

YouTube's new "TestTube" arena highlights cool new experiments like Audio Swap and Streams. Also new: personalize your profile page.

YouTube went offline last night for updating. The new version is live now. Features include the capability to customize the colors and content on your personal profile page, and a new Google Labs-like feature, TestTube, where you can experiment with new YouTube features. The TestTube projects are the interesting thing here.

/>Better than a talking head: one bobbing to the music. CNET Networks

For example, TestTube has the new Audio Swap feature (previous coverage), which lets you replace your video's audio with a music track from one of several artists that YouTube has made arrangements with. The interface to make the swap is easy, and the selection of musical themes is pretty good. This isn't where you'll find millions of tracks by famous artists, but for making your talkie into a musical, there are decent options. Once you make the audio swap, the artist is supposed to get a credit on your video, but I didn't see anything to that effect in my testing.

The major snag with this feature is that it completely overwrites your video's audio track. There's no way to fade the music in our out or to duck it under voice. For that, you'd need a more full-featured video editor, which Google/YouTube doesn't yet offer. (See JumpCut -- but, wait, that's a Yahoo product now. Oh well.)

/>Chat about vids in YouTube's new real-time Streams. CNET Networks

Also new: Streams. These are fancy video channels with chat rooms attached. Users can add videos to a stream (that the stream moderator can later remove) and chat about what they're watching. It's a nice swipe at adding some real-time interactivity to YouTube, but I did find the chat window hard to follow--when there are a lot of chat messages flying by, it's hard to tell which videos in a channel are being talked about, despite the little video preview thumbnails that are attached to each message. There are some other snags in the system: I couldn't switch videos in a stream easily. That's why the feature is still in the test kitchen, I suppose.

Lycos and Stickam also have video-based chat rooms, but YouTube's Streams should ultimately be better, because it's so easy to add a video from the enormous YouTube library to a stream, and then begin chatting about it. Streams could become a very fun place to hang out online.

Chapter 4: The Practical

Congratulations on making it this far. We’re halfway through now, and on to chapter 4.

You know what that means? It’s time to get practical.

In this chapter, we’ll cover:

  • Warping stems and acapellas
  • The super popular deep house vocal technique
  • How to pre-arrange with an acapella
  • Finding MIDI, making chords and melodies
  • How to choose stems
  • Creative ways to use stems

Warping stems and acapellas

For the sake of brevity and the fact that the most popular DAW among EDMProd readers is Ableton Live, I’m only going to cover warping/tempo adjustment in Live.

If you use another DAW, I advise you to consult the manual, or search “sync acapella [your DAW]” in Google.

How to warp acapellas in Live

So, let’s say you’ve downloaded an Acapella that’s at 128BPM, and you want to bring it down to 120BPM. How do you do that in Live?

If the acapella doesn’t have any timing issues, then it’s a pretty straightforward process.

When you drag a stem into Live and click on it, you’ll be presented with the below dashboard.

You’ll see there are a number of different settings here. What we want to focus on is the Warp section.

My acapella is currently at 128BPM, and I know this for a fact. If you don’t know the tempo of your acapella, a quick Google search will suffice or you can simply use the Tap Tempo tool in Ableton (look at the top-left of your screen in Live).

I’ll enable warp and change the Seg. BPM to 128.

Note: I like to use the Complex Pro warping algorithm. It’s worth playing around with each and listening to the difference. Most people opt for Complex or Complex Pro when remixing.

It’s worth double-checking that it’s in time, so I’ll click play and have the metronome enabled. If you do this, make sure that the acapella is actually in-time with the metronome to start with. It will always sound wrong if it doesn’t play in the right place.

Now, this acapella that I’m using is fine. I don’t have to do anything beyond this, but sometimes you’ll come across acapellas that don’t follow the same tempo throughout or haven’t been edited that well.

How do you deal with them?

Fixing timing issues

There are two ways to fix timing issues with warped acapellas: manual editing/chopping, and using warp markers.

The first is self-explanatory, you simply chop pieces of the acapella and move them around so they’re on beat.

The other approach is to add warp markers to points where the vocal moves off the beat or comes in a bit too early/late.

Simply right-click above a transient and click on Insert Warp Marker(s). You’ll then be able to move this around to adjust.

Warning: this will affect the acapella as a whole. It’s sometimes a better idea to chop the acapella up individually if it’s a one-off problem. Manual warping should be used if the acapella is ridden with timing issues that manual *chopping* in the playlist can’t really fix.

We’ll go through this in more detail during the walkthrough.

The Deep House Vocal Technique

I wasn’t sure about including this in the guide because it’s genre-specific, but a lot of people asked for it.

I’m going to use this technique on the Calvin Harris Sweet Nothing acapella I warped earlier. I’ve taken it from 128BPM to 120BPM.

I’ll take one phrase from this acapella and duplicate it in a new track. Here’s the section I’m using:

The next thing I’m going to do is transpose the duplicate phrase down 12 semitones and apply some EQ. This part is going to lead into the drop.

The next thing I’m going to do is transpose the duplicate phrase down 12 semitones and apply some EQ. This part is going to lead into the drop.

Finally, I chop up the vocal in the drop to make it a little more groovy.


Normally when I work with an acapella, I have a general idea of how I want the remix to sound. I won’t have the whole picture, but there’ll be glimpses of sections repeating in my head.

Taking the Calvin Harris acapella again, let’s hypothetically say that I’m making a 128BPM progressive house track with a length of around 4 minutes.

Because I have these guidelines in my head, I can drag acapella in and start pre-arranging it.

What does pre-arranging mean?

I use pre-arranging because it really comes before the arrangement. It’s a very simple starting point. I’ve only got one instrument (the acapella), but I know that it’s going to play in certain sections and be absent in other sections, so instead of arranging after I have all the instruments in place, I do it beforehand so I can fill in the gaps where needed.

As you can see below, I’ve arranged the acapella in a certain way and added markers. This is subject to change. I may move pieces around as I add in more instruments, but for now, this is the basic arrangement.


Sometimes you’ll be given an acapella without any other information. You won’t know what key it’s in, what chords should play underneath it, and while this is a great challenge for some – it’s also a nightmare for newer producers.

The most helpful thing to do in this situation is to figure out what notes constitute the chord progression or melody, and recreate them.

So, how exactly do you do that?

1. Finding MIDI

Your first solution should be to use Google. Unless you’re extremely quick at transcribing audio to MIDI, or you want to train your ear, then there’s no point taking longer than necessary.

Simply search for the song name + MIDI. For example: “Calvin Harris Sweet Nothing MIDI”

The first link that comes up is a link to download the MIDI file on NonStop2k. Assuming the MIDI file was good, I could download it and use it as a starting point.

2. Audio to MIDI

Many modern DAWs will have an audio to MIDI function. If you’ve been given stems without their respective MIDI files, then it can be a good idea to use this tool to get a general idea of how it’s composed.

Note: audio to MIDI technology is not perfect yet, so you will have to clean the file up a bit, but it gives you something to start with.

3. Transcribe from tabs

Before I got into music production, I played guitar for 4 years. I still play every now and then, but I’m incredibly grateful for learning how to play.

Because if I can’t find MIDI for a popular song, I’ll look up its guitar tab (or chords). So, let’s take the Calvin Harris acapella from earlier and look at the accompanying guitar chords for the track.

There we go, the chord progression is E B G#m F#.

At this point, I can simply plug those chords in to the piano roll, adjusting where needed. If you’re following this strategy and you don’t have good theory knowledge, just Google the structure for each chord.


There are hundreds of different ways to use and manipulate stems. I’m going to cover just 4 of them, but I encourage you to experiment yourself. You can use these 4 as starting points for experimentation.

1. Sample them traditionally

Most people think of stems as whole pieces of audio. Something that should be kept more or less intact.

A creative way to use stems is to view them as something to sample.

If you get an old jazz vinyl from the record store, you’re not going to view the song as a stem, are you? You’re going to look at it as something to sample – to extract little parts that catch your attention.

So, let’s say you have a bassline stem from the original track. Why not take one or two hits from that bassline and use them as a starting point for a more unique bassline? Or you could manipulate the sample and turn it into something completely different, like a percussive sound.

Creating vocal chops from an acapella is the same thing. You’re looking for individual parts in the stem that stick out and could be used for a different purpose.

  • Bass/lead/pluck stems:
    • Sample a single hit and layer it over your own lead/bassline/pluck
    • Double or halve its speed
    • Rearrange hits so it plays a different sequence
    • Time-stretch a single hit to use as a grain FX sound
    • Cut-up individual pieces to use as vocal chop
    • Re-arrange words and phrases to create a unique sequence
    • Transpose and time-stretch for interesting FX sounds (like the deep house technique shown above)

    2. Chop ’em up like crazy

    Stems exist to be mangled. You can completely change the vibe of a bassline stem or melody by chopping parts out.

    You can take a bassline like this…

    And with a couple of quick cuts, turn it into something completely different…

    Seem basic? That’s because it is!

    3. Wash out

    If you need to fill in your remix with a bit of atmospheric FX, one technique is to take a stem from the remix pack and chuck a ton of reverb on it to wash it out, and then place it in the background.

    You can do this with vocals, synths, almost anything.

    I’ll take the Sweet Nothing acapella and apply the following effects.

    4. Make them lo-fi

    Want to add a vintage feel, or simply make a stem more unique? Apply some EQ and slight bitcrushing and you can have something distinctive in no time.

    Using the same vocal phrase as above, I’ll apply some EQ and Redux to get something unique.

    Prog Legends GENTLE GIANT’s “Free Hand”, remixed by Steven Wilson, is now available for Pre-order. The album will be released on 25th June.

    “Free Hand” was Gentle Giant’s seventh album originally released in July 1975. This album was the most commercially successful of the band’s career reaching the top 40 albums in Billboard Magazine. It stands as the culmination of the band’s maturity, following the successes of “In A Glass House” & “The Power & The Glory”.

    Having toured Europe & North America non-stop in the years prior to this release with artists like Jethro Tull, Yes, Frank Zappa etc, the band had gone from strength to strength. By the time “Free Hand” was released Gentle Giant had become a major headliner in its own right. All the members were multi-instrumentalists. The band was never afraid of surprising an audience with a 4 part recorder ensemble followed by a vibraphone solo, all the while rocking the audience and thoroughly enjoying themselves onstage at the same time.

    Gentle Giant’s albums featured many songs with both literary subjects as well as social and personal commentary on life as rock musicians. “Free Hand” has more than most. The album’s title & first track was named “Freehand” because the band had just changed record labels and management and felt unshackled by prior contractual obligations. Putting these issues behind them upon its first release, Gentle Giant embarked on an extensive tour of North America and Europe, plus a short tour of the UK, to promote the album.

    The incredible range of Gentle Giant’s music is evident throughout this album. From the intricate vocal fretwork of “On Reflection” and the delicate medieval flavor of “Talybont” the Celtic-tinged rock of “Time To Kill” and the jagged rhythms of “Just The Same” all those diverse elements which made the band so strikingly original are skillfully blended and perfectly executed.

    Award winning producer and musician Steven Wilson has added his delicate touch in remixing “Free Hand” in Dolby Atmos & 5.1 surround sound. His tonal range and painstaking attention to sound quality make “Free Hand” sound as fresh today as it did on first release. A fitting tribute to the compositional skills and expertise of five dedicated musicians.

    Steven Wilson’s remixed version of “Free Hand” will be released in Dolby Atmos, 5.1 surround sound and accompanied by custom animated visuals for each track on Blu-ray. In addition, the original flat mix, original 1975 quad mix and an instrumental mix will all be included in a digipak CD.

    A double vinyl album will also be released with both the original flat mix and the Steven Wilson remixed version. The initial first pressing will include a limited edition transparent red version. Releasing June 25, 2021

    Get a first look at the Pre-Order announcement video:

    The video for “Just The Same” taken from the “Free Hand” Blu-ray will premiere on YouTube on Sunday, May 2nd at 5pm BST/12pm EST/9am PST.

    Good Writers Borrow, Great Writers Remix

    This morning I took my cup of coffee and laptop to a desk to work on an old short story I’ve been kicking around when I made the greatest mistake any writer can make: I opened Facebook.

    Between posts on the current horrors of the Trump administration, my timeline was filled with discussions about Sadia Shepard’s debut short story “Foreign-Returned” in this week’s New Yorker, which the author Francine Prose had been attacking in a series of Facebook posts. Prose was offended by the fact that Shepard’s story used plot elements and even language from a story by the late Mavis Gallant: “the only major difference being that the main characters here are Pakistanis in Connecticut during the Trump era instead of Canadians in post-WW II Geneva,” Prose said, calling the story a “travesty.” Other authors pushed back, with Marlon James, for example, noting that he didn’t notice this “self righteous venom being dished out […] when Jonathan Safran Foer took as much as he wanted from Jessica Soffer’s “Beginning, End.”

    The short story I had opened, and then abandoned as I fell into the social media hole, is titled “A Feeling Artist.” It is an homage to Kafka that takes the plot of “A Hunger Artist,” but sets it in a version of the contemporary world where a “feeling artist” finds his popularity eclipsed by young cellphone app and YouTube artists who do rapid-fire feeling acts instead of his carefully crafted longform sadness performances. I don’t know if this story will work or not, but I know that taking an element or two (or even three or four) from a work I love and reconfiguring them into something new is one of my most generative practices. So I immediately got sucked into the debate.

    In the comments of Prose’s posts, other authors said they were contacting the New Yorker to complain and many suggested they’d never read something that was inspired by another piece or used similar structures or plots, because they wanted to read “original” pieces with “imagination.” No matter how one feels about Shepard’s story, the ahistoricity of these comments, though predictable, was still surprising. We know, for example, that William Shakespeare’s plays frequently borrowed plots, characters, and even names from other plays. And we know that countless great works of art have been created by adapting Shakespeare’s plots to different settings (Kurosawa’s Throne of Blood) or reworking his characters in a new way (Tom Stoppard’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead). And yet time and again I see authors act like homage, pastiche, and remixing is some kind of lesser form of creation. That it doesn’t count.

    An artform is a conversation between artists. Literature is massive ballroom stretching through time in which authors debate, rebut, woo, and chat with each other. (A genre is perhaps a dialogue in one corner of the party.) They steal ideas to make them better. Or to make them different. Or to expose the problems in them. We know all this, and influences are regularly discussed in English lit classes. And yet, in the world of contemporary creative writing, people get upset when that dialogue is something we overhear.

    But why? Why are we writers supposed to pretend? The idea that “finding your voice” means existing in a vacuum, never touching or being touched by other literature, is both absurd and stifling. It also seems to me to be a particular delusion of the world of literary fiction. Poets regularly write response poems and borrow lines. Science fiction and fantasy authors do not hide their influences or who their work is responding to. (The difference here may spring from the different audiences. Genre writers expect their readers to be versed in the tropes and history of the genre, whereas many authors of “literary fiction” still hold to the deluded dream of writing for a general audience or, as one teacher lectured to me, “the guy on the back of the bus.” Why professors assume that men or women who enjoy affordable public transportation can’t be sophisticated readers is another question…)

    This false insistence on originality in the literary world hardly ensures more original work, it just encourages a different kind of borrowing, where writers avoid another author’s plots or characters yet mimic their style—anyone who has read a slush pile and perused the stacks of Raymond Carver, Lorrie Moore, and George Saunders imitations knows what I mean. Isn’t it more interesting to see something familiar in a new context with new ideas than it is to see a pale imitation?

    As a young writer, one story that blew open my view of writing was J.G. Ballard’s “The Assassination Of John Fitzgerald Kennedy Considered As A Downhill Motor Race.” Ballard’s story is funny and surreal, making you rethink one of America’s darkest moments in a new way. It is also a complete rip-off. It is, as Ballard notes, a rewriting of French symbolist Alfred Jarry’s “The Crucifixion Considered as an Uphill Bicycle Race.” Ballard uses the same structure, same beats, and some of the same language, but by putting it in a different context produces new meaning.

    I loved it! I loved both the playfulness of the work—something I found so lacking in most of the literary fiction I was assigned in college—and in the possibilities of pouring new ideas into an existing story’s form. (I once even attempted a story called 𔄡/11 Considered as a Super Bowl Game,” though luckily abandoned it. Trust me, it did not work.) It isn’t the best story I’ve ever read, yet it gave me a key to opening an entire way of writing. In the years since, I’ve found that many of my favorite books do some form of “remixing”: Angela Carter’s brilliant subversions of classic fairy tales in The Bloody Chamber, for example. Or Victor LaValle’s recent rebuttal and homage to Lovecraft, The Ballad of Black Tom. You can insert your own examples: Jean Rhys remixing of Jane Eyre in Wide Sargasso Sea. Nathan Englander’s What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank.

    Reworking an existing text is not proof of a lack of originality, it is a tool to create new works. It is an essential part of how art moves forward, while at the same time connecting us to the art created in the past. It is akin to writing in a form, how infinite poems can be created out of the structure of a haiku or a sonnet. Jonathan Lethem laid this out in his famous, and excellent, essay “The Ecstasy of Influence,” where he gave examples of the generative power of appropriation across artforms and throughout history.

    None of this is to say that there aren’t issues to be navigated. That authors can’t ape a piece too closely without doing anything original, or that straight up plagiarism doesn’t exist. There are some works that are more fertile for new growth, that present more opportunities for subversion and reinvention. In general, the more famous a work is, and thus the more it has entered the cultural conversation, the more opportunities it presents for remixing. And there are power dynamics: difference between a young writer riffing on a famous novel and an established writer stealing elements from an unread writer without attribution. The legal limits for what should be allowed or what shouldn’t are far too thorny to deal with her.

    Is Mavis Gallant, a celebrated author in Canada who is not widely read in the United States, famous enough to remix without attribution? If I were the author or the editor, I would probably have put “after Mavis Gallant” below the title to acknowledge the inspiration. I would do that with Shakespeare too. But I hardly think its omission is a high crime. Not even a misdemeanor when you consider that in the New Yorker’s accompanying interview Shepard is quite open about her influence: “This story owes a great debt to one of my favorite short-story writers, Mavis Gallant, and specifically to her story ‘The Ice Wagon Going Down the Street.’”

    These are, of course, separate questions from whether the piece works or not. You should read it and decide for yourself! On Facebook, Shepard responded graciously to Prose. She thanked her for discussing the piece and explained her ideas behind it: “my intention in writing ‘Foreign-Returned’ was to rethink/adapt Gallant’s classic story for the present day with Pakistani characters and situations from my own context and community into Gallant’s structure, and in so doing to provide some commentary on our current political climate and the lives of American Muslims.”

    Prose, for her part, replied, “it’s still a bit of a mystery, since presumably you have stories of your own to tell, and one would hope that your workshop leaders and editors would have encouraged you to do so.”

    If you’re a writer, I say ignore this noise. They may not be your stories to tell, but they are your stories to retell. Take whatever you need, from wherever you want. Stick a Jane Austen character in a Stephen King story. Grab a Dickens plot and bend it around until has a new shape. Mix up Marquez and reimagine Joyce. Jumble up genres, mash together settings, and Frankenstein new living stories out of everything that catches your eye. Remix. Remodel. Rewrite. Use everything and anything you can get your hands on.

    Watch the video: Hands off Remixing - Automated Remixing (October 2021).