DeathBoy (deathboy) wrote,
DeathBoy
deathboy

How To Make a Remix Pack

This is a public service announcement!

(By which I mean I hope it's useful and certainly not as a criticism to anyone I've remixed ;))

There's an etiquette to remix packs that people pick up over time and nobody seems to have ever explicitly told me, so if you're considering diving into the wonderful world of remixing, here's my take on what you should consider providing (or, if you're about to remix, what you might like to request if you have the chance to specify a preference):


File Format:

MP3 is not great (because it's lossy). FLAC is much better - it compresses losslessly, saves a bunch of space, gobbles up any mute track parts and is quickly converted back into WAVs.

One of the main reasons people get pissy about this is because the remixer WANTS to give a GREAT remix. If the source material is given in a poor format, then their remix might sound sub-par. Then we get into the inevitable blame game of why a track didn't work ;) If you can, offer your stems in a lossless format. Also, you worked hard on this track, share it at top quality! Give 'em the best you can! :)

BUT - If the originator proffers MP3, politely ask if they have WAV/FLAC and if they don't, do not cuss them out, just politely take what's given. Often, at decent bitrates, it's okay.

Compromise is a big thing in working with other people who might not have the same values you do ;) I'd rather get a good remix out that could have been sonically better, compared to never working on the track because of an argument over formats.

BPM:

As this is the one bit of meta-data that can waste somebody's time, it barely needs a text file to mention it (though that's fine and dandy), you can just put it in the filename of the .zip (you are zipping your bundle up, right? ;)).

ie: deathboy_remix_pack_145bpm.zip

- then nobody has to email you and ask!

You don't want to waste the time of your remixer (unless you're paying for it! but hey, who does these days?) - and you don't want them to think "oh, for fuck's sake, I don't even know what BPM this things is in!" and give up.

If you get a remix pack and no BPM, google 'BPM counter' or try: All8's tool and just tap along to the track.

Reference Track:

THIS IS A BIG ONE. DO NOT ASSUME THE RECIPIENT HAS A COPY OF THE ORIGINAL TRACK!

Seriously, you should bundle a copy of the original track or if you are paranoid about leaks, then a URL to a streaming version. I consider it a bit rude to link to a PAID version of the reference track if I'm being asked to remix somebody, but that's happened and I've just bought the track because again, why be a dick?

Ideally, though, clearly label a reference copy of the whole track. Mp3 here is fine, but again, WAV/FLAC is lovely if you can. Please don't bundle a reference track that is from a different mix (or, oh god, different BPM) to the main remix files, because that will really confuse people.

Think about the process of the remixer: they MUST know what the fucking original sounds like! (unless you're being pretty insane - fair play if you don't care). DO NOT ASSUME the remixer knows your original track inside out. They might have heard it at a gig and you were chatting and they said "that's ACE, let me remix it!" - they're not you or your biggest fan, a copy of the original is often left out and very valuable (even if it's to ensure the remix is a million miles AWAY from it!)

Normalisation:

People differ in opinion on this. I would rather receive tracks that are all at the same relative gain so that when I put them into my DAW and hit PLAY, the track sounds like the reference track. The outlier case is when that means the track is *so* quiet that it's barely usable. Some people prefer normalised tracks in the name of audio clarity. If you have the chance, agree this in advance. If you don't know, I'd say: pick a volume level where the quietest thing still has a healthy-enough looking waveform and nothing clips, and export everything at the same level so the above-mentioned scenario works, ie, when played all at the same time with no adjustment, the track sounds like the reference track.

If an individual track is ridiculously quiet, you might consider supplying a copy exported at higher gain for better fidelity (and name it as such).

Wet/Dry:

In much modern music, the balance of effects added to any given recording (instrument, vocal, synth, whatever) can have a huge effect on the sound.

In remixing, it's a tough call to determine if the remixer will want to recreate the effects themselves (or alter them utterly) or work with the effected version.

Generally: You get a full pack of wet tracks. If you want to re-treat a track, you have to re-create it from scratch (often hard!) or add extra effects to an already FX-sodden track. It's common and it's a bit lame if you want a remixer to truly give you a new take on your track.

In my view, if you want to make the least effort, you give everything dry and assume the remixer has the skills to recreate the necessary effects.

Often, in modern production, there will be some massive part of the track that hinges on the effects the original artist brought to bear on the parts and this leaves the remixer listening to the dry copy and wondering where the fuck to go next. If that's the case, see the next point.

Medium view: if a track only has stock effects like reverb and delay on it, provide it dry. If a track has a really interesting effect without which it's not comparable to the dry version, ship it wet. You can even take off the delay and reverb but leave on that crazy distortion+glitch you found.

Better: Provide a full dry set, then a wet set with everything left on.

BEST: Dry set, wet set + versions of individual tracks with reverb/delay stripped, but other processing left on, so these can be re-applied to taste. though to be honest, I suspect this is going above and beyond the call of duty.

---


This is a very subjective document.

I've done a LOT of remixes and given out a lot of remix packs.

I hope that anyone who reads this might pick up some tips either from the side of producing a remix pack, or in asking for remix material.

Mostly, I hope it's acknowledged by people MAKING remix packs, because we all package our songs then move on to make more music. And it's rarely fun or enthralling to do that shit a year later when one of your tracks randomly becomes AMAZING.

When I finish mastering a track that I think might have some life to it, I try to take the time to construct a sensible mix pack, along those lines.

I break all my own rules :) But I hope as a guide it shares some of the perspective between the writer and the remixer.

If you have comments, please do feed them in.

If you like it, please do share :)

Thanks!

-Scott
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