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Q. How are remixes done?

I'm a subscriber and musician with a modest home recording setup. My question — which I'm sure could form a very interesting series of articles in SOS — is this: how do people do a remix? Sounds like a stupid question, but seriously, I can't imagine how I could remix a recent release without access to the multitracks! I hear about DJs remixing all the time, but surely they would be limited to stereo material which they could manipulate with EQ and sampling to extract parts or sections from a mix?

Mark Woods

Senior Assistant Editor Matt Bell replies: You have correctly worked your way to the only sensible conclusion — remixing (at least for commercial release) is only ever undertaken when the multitracks are available. There's simply no other reliable way of getting (for example) vocal tracks isolated for use with new backing.

Of course, once you have access to the multitracks (or, more commonly, a DAT with the composite parts presented separately as stereo tracks), the process of remixing is relatively easy — just sample the bits of the track you want and drop them into a new backing track that you construct yourself. The exact methods vary, but they're all based on that underlying principle.

DJ remix compilations are slightly different, in that they usually just feature the stereo tracks crossfaded into one another, with a little bit of extra care and attention taken as to the order and tempo of the tracks, so that the rhythmic starts and ends crossfade well into one another. Of course, for those with studio experience this is fairly easy to achieve, with no access to the multitracks needed. Very occasionally, DJs do mixes which take sections they've EQ'd to extremes from a stereo track (without multitrack access) and drop them into their own backing, but these are usually only for white‑label release. Sometimes, if the makers of these white labels have hits with the 'underground' remixes, they get asked to do a 'real' remix and the main record company gives them access to the multitracks, or a DAT with the parts on it.