Last week we discussed the emergence of MP3s and making the
transition from DJ to producer. This week we’ll discuss the natural
progression of going from a DJ to a remixer.
8. From Deejaying to Remixing – For most DJs remixing is a
natural progression because when you are blending two records, you are
in essence, remixing those songs. You may not be aware of it, but what
you are doing is creating your own personal version. When you take an
instrumental from one song and blend it with the vocals of another,
this is even more evident. Remixes are a great way to bridge the gap
between playing records and making records. If you can establish a name
on the club scene by producing hot mixes for DJs, you will begin to
garner attention. This activity can be used as a platform not only to
land official remixes, but to create interest amongst label personnel
for production opportunities. If you possess the ability and talent to
produce and create original tracks, this will give you a major
advantage. This remix tactic has been used by several DJs as a way to
get their “foot in the door” into the production arena.
Surfing the net, you’ll come across all types of DJ remixes, some
hot – some not. Most are unofficial because the tracks that are being
used would cost a fortune to have cleared. However, if you’re able to
create enough excitement around that particular mix, the artists’
record label might attempt to clear the music and purchase it. These days, most hip-hop remixes usually consist of a performance by another well-known artist incorporated onto the original track. This tactic is
used by the artist or the record company to give the record a “new
life.” When the song has peaked and begins to decline, after being a
hit for a few months, this maneuver can resurrect the song or at least
sustain the club and air-play.
Other remixes merge the original vocals from a song with a different
instrumental. These remixes are generally used to attract the attention
of a different audience. A variety of mixes are used to cater to a
particular region or musical genre. (ex. Reggae-Mix, House /
Techno-Mix, Down- South Mix, West-Coast-Mix, Pop-Mix, Bass Mix etc.)
Other remixes, on a much larger scale, are used by the record company
to assist in attaining overseas club and air-play. A lot of the
countries overseas prefer the up-tempo dance tracks so the vocals are
usually pitch-shifted up to a faster tempo. Pitch-shifting enables you
to speed-up or slow-down the tempo of the vocals while maintaining the
original key or pitch.
Most remixes come into play when the original version of the record
isn’t getting the desired play or isn’t creating a significant initial
buzz. Sometimes the new track adds an element of excitement and aids in
giving it that appropriate launch. Another style of remixing is
incorporating elements or entire sections from other records and simply
doing your own arrangement. These mixes are generally released on
underground DJ compilations and are designed strictly for the clubs and
for promotional use only. Another style of remixing, in a more extreme
case, is when the vocals and the music are totally revamped. (New
chorus, new verses and a new track) This remix style is rare because it
takes time and money for the artist to go back into the studio and
recreate all of the vocals, whereas conventional remixes contain, most
or all of, the original vocal performance. Our company, K.O.
Productionz, produced several remixes including one for R & B
artist Monica where we kept her original vocals, produced an entirely
new track and we recorded and incorporated a few rhymes from the
legendary Biz Markie. Her label liked our mix so much that they
pressed-up vinyl and CDs and it received many spins in the clubs and on
radio stations nationwide. As a DJ, use your network of radio DJs, club
DJs and artists to your advantage.
Another advantage to the DJ / Remixer is the mass access to
instrumentals and acapellas. These versions are at your disposal for
experimenting and sampling. My partner Brian O. frequently blended
acapellas from 12 inch records with one of our original beats just to
envision how the track would sound with a particular artist. Sometimes
a track might sound empty and feel like it needs more instruments, but
occasionally the vocals are that essential and final element required.
Sometimes a line or two from an acapella can be sampled and processed
to become a chorus-line or hook for an original track. The options are
limitless depending on your creativity. Another advantage to DJs is
their familiarity of what tracks are currently working in the clubs.
These advantages, along with having a good ear for mixing and blending,
are the motivation behind DJs being requested for remixes.
Stay tuned for more DJ tutorials and interviews in weeks to come.
Also, for info on my forthcoming book, classic clips from our radio