Pretension is a Brisbane based electronic producer who is determined to make his mark on the Australian dance music scene. This blog explores how he uses various production techniques in his past and present releases. Check them out!

How do I Approach a Remix?

A fellow producer asked me this question a few weeks ago. It’s a pretty interesting topic and I am sure that lot of people approach remixes fairly differently. I thought I’d get my thoughts out there with the hope that it might spark a bit f discussion.

There are a couple of reasons that I may be doing a remix:

  1. I want to do a bootleg remix of a song for my own use in a live show or promotion.
  2. I have been asked by an artist or label to create a remix for single release.
  3. I want to enter a remix competition.

Now even though I approach each of these situations slightly differently, I generally ask a couple of questions beforehand:

Who is the audience and who has the final say on style, sound or genre of your remix? Are there certain parts of the original that should or shouldn't be used? What of the original, in your opinion, could be improved?

Genre + Style

For example when doing a remix for a competition they sometimes give you a style or genre they want you to work within. Easy, stick to that. Sometimes, however, they’ll say “any genre welcome” so then it’s up to you to produce something that fits within the label’s sound, the sponsoring website’s style or is just damn amazing in your genre of choice. I’ve heard some pretty cool metal remixes of house tunes that really challenge the listener and pull the track into a completely new context. Your remix might even open the track up to other different audiences.

When producing a remix for a label for single release I often stick to the sounds and genres that the label is pushing. If you are doing a remix for a label that releases underground minimal and techno, don’t get too pissed off when they turn down your ‘hands-in-the-air’ commercial trance remix with ten thousand stacked saws.

Some labels can be pretty diverse, however, so your trance mix might sit really well next to their disco, big room and tech house remixes. That’s why it is sometimes good to think of how your track will fit in the package of the single release. The label may be looking to open up the track to as many listeners as possible.

Stick to what you’re good at

I find that the remixes that have turned out best, are the ones where I haven’t gone crazy inventing genres or producing styles that I don’t normally produce. If you are a gun at producing progressive house with slow builds and long drops, do a progressive house remix. You know what works and what sounds good and you’ll also know how to twist the original to fit into that genre or style. Play to your strengths and skillz and you can’t go too wrong.

The Hook

I try to write a hook into most of the tracks that I produce and it’s no different for a remix. For a remix, however, I start off by listening to the original (or the parts of it) and identify the hook. It might be the vocal, or it may be a synth riff or something else - just work out what it is. Now decide, are you going to use the hook or create a new one?

It can be easiest to reuse the hook. It’s the most recognisable part of the track and will easily get the listeners attention when they hear this rad new remix of that track that they really love. Maybe the hook is great but the rest of the track is rubbish. Just remember that you don’t have to leave it dry; you can get creative. Chop up the hook, stretch it, squash it, filter it, drag it out but leave enough of it there so the listener can recognise it. Maybe try swapping out the main synth, try a different patch to better compliment the genre that you are producing.

If you want to mix it up completely, try writing a new hook. This is where your own unique sound can come into play. You may use a similar synth patch but with a different melody. Even try using the sounds that you get in the remix pack but chop them to pieces and use them in a different context. Where there was a simple guitar chord in the original, you might now have a stabby house chord by adding a little distortion and playing with the envelopes. Maybe the original is drum and bass and you want to create a house remix. I can’t stand tracks that just speed up or slow down vocals to fit a new BPM (and yes I have been guilty of this in the past) so I take this opportunity to be creative. I’ll try slicing vocal snippets out of the original to use the words as an instrument in their own right. Sometime it may be as easy as cutting out one good vocal grab. It might be one line in the lyrics that you really like or sounds good. There really aren’t any rules.


Earlier this year I entered the Lychee Martini remix competition run by The original track was a chilled out dubby tune that was chugging along at about 80BPM. The vocals were clean and interesting and the instrumentation was fantastic. Now 80BPM lends itself quite easily trip hop or even d’n’b (by doubling the tempo) but these genres are by no means my forte. I write house music so the challenge was set to get the track to fit into the 120-130BPM range.

I always like a good chord progression in my tracks and the original had a pretty cool one to begin with.

However, I needed to get it to fit into my house tune. Slice-to-midi, a bit of eq and some other effects processing and the gentle strums were now sharp and stabby.

I also had fun playing with the percussion in the track. As the original comprised real musicians with real instruments, the recording quality was top notch. Take this clicky percussion sample for instance.

After a bit of chopping and looping, I now had a forward moving percussion loop to work with.

The vocals on this one were great to work with. To try and avoid speeding up or slowing down the vocals to fit the BPM I decided to chop them up and use them like an instrument. I went looking for vowel sounds and this what I came up with.

I then picked one phrase from the original to use as the vocal hook.

Another remix competition that I entered this year was for the We No Speak Americano remix competition put on by Spank Records. I must admit that I really liked this tune when it 1st came out. It was funky, the horns were great and it chugged along quite nicely. I did however think that it lacked a little progression. There was no real melody apart for the main hook and could certainly do with a good dose of funk.

You can download this one for FREE!

Last but not least I also entered the Christopher Lawrence Remix Competition. I took the original pad sample, chopped, looped and sidchained it to suit.



Check out the other remixes that I’ve done here:

Got any comments? How do you approach a remix?

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