When we talk about the main types of remix in dance music we basically mean a different type of arrangement. Arranging a remix means starting a track from nothing to a more noticeable peak through builds-up (where most of the song elements are playing) and then back to nothing again.
The remix style depends on what elements and how many of them you are going to deal with. A minimal style will involve slower build-ups, with a subtle change on each section. By contrast, a more dense track would likely use elements more quickly, as there are many of them.
What types of arrangement you should consider in dance music then? Let’s have a look to the most common ones.
Club Mix (or Extended Mix)
The club mix is the most common of remixes and is normally provided even if alternative remixes are requested.
A Club Mix, also called extended mix, should have the following structure:
- DJ-friendly intro
- Small “breakdown” leading into first verse
- First verse/bridge/chorus
- Short instrumental section
- Second verse/bridge/chorus
- Main breakdown
- Last chorus (possibly double length)
- DJ-friendly outro
The structure above can be different depending on the song you have to remix. However, there are two elements to include that you can’t miss: DJ-friendly intro and outro. If the song is not DJ-friendly then many DJs will find hard or impossible to mix your remix with other tracks.
The 8-bar rule
In dance music, depending on the track and the genre, sections work well if they last 8 or 16 bars. Sometimes this rule is being applied even for Radio edits. Repetitions allow people to learn the pattern quickly and dancing without challenging the club. After some elements become familiar, we can add something new and so on.
it’s a technique through which you includes one bar (sometimes two) of absolute nothing, where only tails from reverbs or delays have place after a previous breakdown. if executed properly and at the right time, it can generate a great the impact of the track, especially when it gets back after one or two seconds. That’s why it’s something to do no more than once in a track.
The “DJ-friendly” principle
A DJ-friendly intro will generally begin with just a kick drum, as it’s the best reference for the DJ in charge in order to mix the track. Avoid syncopated or less regular beat to make DJs ‘s life easier. People in the club will not actually be completely aware of the track before the first 45-60 seconds.
The majority of club mixes have a one minute (or longer) intro. The same thing happens to the outro. Intro and Outro are the overlapping sections that a DJ use to crossfade between the former track, gradually dropping elements out, and the next track, which will bring elements in smoothly. From the listener’s perspective, the result is a soft transition while keeping the same dynamics.
After 16 bars you might think to add more percussions, as the transition process would be already done.
Simplified or Filtered form
When new elements are introduced, especially in the Intro section, it’s a good practice to not reveal them in their full sound, or playing their complete pattern. The first option is the use of a low-pass or high-pass filter, and opening the full sound up later. Whereas the second option consists of playing a simplified version (perhaps using a single note instead of following the whole progression), revealing the an entire pattern later in the track. A second option, actually, could be combining both the two in a creative way. For example, bass and pads can be used in this phase, as they wouldn’t show up a recognisable hook too soon like riffs basically do.
Late-Intro or Pre-Body
Between 50 seconds and 1:10 you will be around to the 32 bar. Now you have two choices: continuing to develop the intro for 16 more bars or starting the body of the track. Assuming that you are going through the last part of the intro, you could start putting some vocals on it, while avoiding to reveal the full hook too soon though. Another option could be masking the hook sound using a lot of effects and processing.
Its presence depends on the genre, but it can be very useful for manage efficiently the energy within a song. Building the dynamics as the track progresses it’s the main rule, but a small breakdown can help in order to reserve some elements for later in the track, especially for the chorus which should sound bigger than verses or bridge.
It doesn’t need to be dramatic: dropping the kick drum or the bass, or both of them will be enough. Or keeping one or both of them and dropping the other instruments.
Verse 1, Bridge 1, Chorus 1
It’s a pretty straightforward process which involves you deciding how the first verse will lead into the first chorus. The latter can have a different progression than the former or it can use the same chords, but with a different melody on top, even with the presence of some music hooks or more complex percussions taking place only during the chorus.
Short Instrumental after Chorus 1
The role of this section is similar to the small breakdown leading to the first verse, so to the first chorus. The main difference is that we are going to build into the second chorus keeping few more elements than before with a slight increase of energy. This means that the track can gradually raise in power, even comparing the first and the second chorus.
Verse 2, Bridge 2, Chorus 2
Verse 2, Bridge 2 and Chorus 2 have most of times some more elements than Verse 1, Bridge 1 and Chorus 1. It’s a way to differentiate them changing a bit their structure (shorter or longer verse) or adding some harmonies.
At this point the leitmotif will be more familiar and perhaps people will start to sing along the Chorus 2.
Short Instrumental after Chorus 2
If we added a short instrumental after Chorus 1, we probably should add one after Chorus 2 in order to not sound weird. If we didn’t add it yet we still can introduce one at this point.
A breakdown at this point will be useful to let people rest a bit before the big build-up into the final chorus.
Breakdown option 1
A sudden drop to almost nothing with a slow and subtle build back up as the breakdown goes ahead..
A long build up, followed by a further drop while a shorter build-up leads back into the last chorus.
Breakdown option 2
The second is basically the opposite: elements are gradually dropped to nothing, then a quick build back up goes into the last chorus.
Breakdown option 3
It’s a combination of the first two, with a gradual drop while a build back progresses until the last chorus.
Last words about breakdowns
You can grab sounds from other parts of the track and filter or fade them during the progression of the breakdown. These include also FX transition sounds, like risers for example (sounds which rise in volume, brightness and sometimes in pitch), which build tension and create a sense of anticipation before progressing into the last chorus.
Beside the Intro, the DJ friendly principle is applied also to the Outro, which means giving a solid timing reference to the DJ (keeping the kick drum is a must) while helping a smooth transition. The main difference is that this time you will gradually remove elements, most likely starting from the bass lane (perhaps by filtering or using the volume fader) in order to avoid clashing with the next track, then gradually dropping also the other percussions without necessarily going down to nothing.
Sometimes it may happen that clients consider the Radio Edit more important than a Club Mix.
Two possible scenarios
There are two possible scenario when you are asked to remix an original radio edit: the scenario when you have to speed up the tempo and the one where you have to make the track slower.
In the first scenario the remix is probably gonna to have the same length of the original; as you accelerate the vocal, there is a small chance to be creative. However, you have the space to add an extra section and make your remix more interesting.
In the second scenario things are a bit more complicated. If you slow down the track at the same time you should avoid exceeding the planned length. Cutting partes of the song is not easy for several reasons. In particular, you might ruin the balance of the song built on a specific structure. Another important reason is related to the artist. They may think you are going to destroy their original work, as they might focus more on the artistic side rather than a technical aspect of the project. So, the best thing to do is communicating with the client since the beginning and explaining all potential problems in order to sort out all these kind of issues quickly for the mixer and painlessly for the artist..
General rules of thumb
- The first vocal part (verse or chorus) in the track should come in within 10–15 seconds
- No dead air time. Parts where nothing is going on are removed, which means no breaks between verses and choruses or between choruses and verses
- No long breakdowns, keep them short
- The ideal length should be between 3:00 and 3:30 (some U.S. record labels allow radio edits lasting up to 4:00)
- There should be a defined and clear end instead of a fade out
There are no strict rules for the intro section, apart from that it should last no more than 10-15 seconds. A Radio Edit intro could start in the following ways:
- with a bang going straight into the body of the track
- with a drum fill rather or a reversed cymbal
- with a short FX sweep
- straight into a shortened chorus version (with or without the vocal) and lasting 4 bars
- straight into a 4 or 8 bar long instrumental version of a verse.
Verse 1, Bridge 1, Chorus 1
It follows the progression and dynamics of the original song. The verse will lead straight to the bridge (if there is one) and the chorus.
Short Instrumental after Chorus 1
After the first Chorus, you will generally go straight into the second verse. However, sometimes you may have space for a very short instrumental in between. This small section will last let’s say 2 or 4 bars, but no more than that. Then straight into the second verse. You will go through this sub-structure also for verse 2, bridge 2 and chorus 2.
The breakdown should last 8 or eventually 16 bars (only if the original track included a middle 8 lasts exactly 16 bars). While in a club mix the breakdown has the role of giving the people in the club a chance to chill out before the last chorus build-up, a radio, mobile or record player listener doesn’t need that. Anyway, it can loose the dynamics just enough to perceive that last chorus more appealing.
The last chorus is generally longer than the other choruses. If you are allowed to, it would be better double-length if there is no one in the song. A longer chorus at the end will add something more to your track
As we mentioned before, the trend is to end radio edits at a defined point without using long fade out. A short build-up over the end of the last chorus could anticipate a final crash cymbal, or the last beat could be followed by the FX tail applied on a lead instrument such as a vocal hook or riff.
Club Mix and Radio Edit: which one should I start from?
It depends. The most important thing is not spending all time on one version and rushing on the other one to meet the deadline. Some people prefer to start from the Club Mix and they find easier to shorten it for creating the Radio Edit. But this is just one side of the story. Let’s say you are in a meeting with A&R persons from the “pop world”, who are not too much into club mix mechanics. They would probably get bored from listening a long intro and end up to skip the first minute or so looking for the body of the track. In this case, a good initial feedback from listening a Radio Edit version can clarify if you are on the right direction and allow you to use your time on the Club Mix more efficiently. In conclusion, depending on the genre and the situation, you should evaluate on your own what is the best thing to do.
The dub mix is the remix type that needs the most work. Here is the main difference since its introduction:
Early years: they used to drop most of the arrangement and put on the remaining vocals a lot of reverb and delay.
90s-2000s: they kept same musical elements but few of these might have changed their sound. Some extra percussions might have added in combination with simplified chord progressions and a reduced use of vocals.
Nowadays: dub mixes tend to preserve the same original production now, which means same sounds and percussions, but with simplified chord progressions and a minimal use of vocal.
Use of vocals
There are several ways of using vocals in a dub mix. You might decide to keep just few lines of the original vocal or maybe you may want to use a full chorus along the entire song, perhaps dropped in some points, with a lot of processing during the verses.
You might think to use a sentence along the song in such irregular way, just in few spare moments, making some other instrumental elements in charge for creating contrast along the song.
A very cool technique is mashing up two vocal lines with different effects on each of them. The aim here is to create a sort of morphing of the tone and keeping the interest level of the listener continuously high until the end of the track.
Many dub mixes build the energy of the track by introducing new layers instead of the traditional chord progression changes that supported the full vocal line in the original song. As a consequence, a dub mix is more focused on the groove and the music and less a sing-along track.
You might think that an Instrumental Remix it’s nothing more than a club mix with the vocal muted. That’s simply something a label probably will ask for. However, they may ask you to find a new balance within the track, especially if vocals are not just a hook in the club mix and they represent the lead part the audience would be focused on.
How to find a new balance?
Shortening verses and playing with filters (for example opening them during the choruses) it’s a valid idea to consider and start with.
Other remix types
Other remix types include: Tv Edit, Mixshow Edit and PA Edit.
Hope you enjoy the article and catch up soon, bye!