4 Easy Steps To Making Your First Ever Mashup

mashup-e1326567555756

Want to try your hand at making mashups? Follow our painless introductory steps and we'll have you going in no time. Pic: Mybigmouthblog

Right, you have heard all of this talk about making mashups. You know it's a better idea than making mixtapes. And naturally, you also know you've got a good ear for what sounds "right". So why are you still no nearer to making your first mashup?

Maybe you think you need special software. Maybe you're scared of beatmatching with acappellas. Or maybe mixing in key is what's holding you back. Today's article is designed to get you over all of these hurdles. You can use your normal DJ software, we'll show you how to beatmatch your acappella, and tell you the truth about key mixing.

Four easy steps to making your first mashup

So here's how to get going. It probably won't make you a masterpiece, but it will match the BPMs all up nicely for you, give you an easy way to experiment, and cut out all of the mystery. This should give you the confidence to then take mashup creation further.

  1. Find a tune that you have an acappella, a full vocal version and an instrumental of - If you haven't got one, go and look for one. It must all be the same mix - so for instance, an original version, an original instrumental, and then the accapella. (It's not as good having the instrumental of one remix and the vocal of another.) If you're just missing the acappella, try the excellent acapellas4u.co.uk
  2. Set the BPM of the acappella to the same as that of the instrumental version - Unfortunately you can't just press "sync", as your DJ software probably won't be able to guess the BPM of the acappella, as it has no beat. But because you have the instrumental version (and the vocal version), you already know the BPM of the acappella - it's the same as those two! So manually set its BPM to that
  3. Recreate the vocal version of the tune by dropping the acappella over the instrumental - This is a step that I've included to help you to get used to the process. As you now have an acappella at the right BPM, you can start the instrumental playing on one of your DJ software's decks, then at the right time, start the acappella playing. (Not sure where it starts? Refer to the vocal version - that's why we've got it.) Now you have effectively the same track as the full vocal version, but composed of a separate vocal and instrumental. Feel free to mess around with your EQs, crossfader, filters etc to "remix" the track on the fly
  4. Replace the instrumental with a different song's instrumental - When you've had enough of that practice run, stop everything, get the acappella back to the beginning, and on the deck that you have the instrumental loaded on, load the instrumental of a different song. Match its BPM to the BPM of the acappella - hitting "sync" will do it. (You know the BPM of the acappella is correct, because you set it earlier.) Now start the instrumental playing, and wherever you feel it is right to do so (hint: count in eights), start the accapella playing. Use your nudge controls to get it exactly in time if you need to. There you go - your first properly beatsynced mashup!

"But it sounds awful..."

I'd be amazed if your first mashup created in this way sounded good. For mashups to work, two extra things need to fall into place as well as getting the elements properly BPMed:

1. Getting the song structures right
First, the song structures have to match (it helps if verse / chorus / verse / chorus etc. all drop at the right time, for instance - if not, you have to start cutting and looping things, which gets complex for sa beginner). Also, it helps if other elements within these such as chord progressions "match" or contrast nicely - it's very much intuition and trial and error.

But that's fine - just keep choosing different instrumentals, start your vocals in different places - it's part of the fun. You may want to mark cue points on your acappella so you can start sections of it in the right place on your favourite instrumental.

2. Matching musical key
Second, you almost always need to pick an acappella and an instrumental that are in the same or a related musical key. However, I've left mention of this till last because you shouldn't let worrying about this stop you experimenting - I was doing mashups with vinyl for years just using my ears to decide if they sounded good or not. You should do the same.

Try with the "keylock" function on your software on and off (either or both decks), for no reason other than that this will usually give you a couple of different sounding options to audition.

What next?

Head into the "studio"...

Mashup

Mixed in Key's Mashup software is designed to help with this process, not least by auto-matching musical key for you.

What you're doing here is creating "live" mashups. If you want to record them, you have to hit "record" in your DJ software and perform the mashup live, hoping you get it all how you want it.

If you want to pre-prepare your elements to get everything just-so, you need to use digital audio workstation (DAW) software. Audacity is free, or you could invest in Mashup, a new and relatively cheap program that's designed to help you make such mashups fast.

Match those keys...
If you want to start mixing in key, the free Keyfinder software or paid-for Mixed in Key will analyse your collection - or if you're a Virtual DJ user, key analysis is built in. That will take the guesswork out of matching acappellas and backing tracks - although make sure you put "key lock" on on both decks.

Finally...

As always, trust your ears above all else. If it sounds right, it probably is! If you're not sure, just save your efforts and listen again tomorrow - you'll soon hear whether they're good enough.

And if you're lucky enough to have a gig you can test your first mashup at, please do play it live - the audience reaction is the one that counts, and there's nothing like the feeling of playing something you created for the first time and getting a good reaction.

If this article has inspired you to have a go at doing your first mashup, please come back and let us know how you got on in the comments below.

Get access to all our free DJ training!

Join 100,000 Digital DJ Tips members to get access to an exclusive area of all our free training articles & resources plus twice-weekly emails with the best of our tutorials, reviews and DJ news. It’s free, and you can unsubscribe at any time!

Comments

  1. Important for everyone who wants to get in the remix business:
    Figure out how to create loops and how to timestretch them to the target tempo. If you got that right you can start with your first mashups and remixes. Simply drop additional percussion over a track, or speed an existing track up to make a whole different genre out of it.

    MOST IMPORTANT: Get things done! It is not important if you use loops from Loopmasters, or use Traktor to record your mashup. The only thing that counts is that you have finished something people can actually play. Having something that sucks and everyone hates is still more valuable than having nothing. And if there is at least on person on your soundcloud who says nice track then you have already achieved more than most others.

    Additional notes:
    Make it downloadable for free (otherwise it doesn’t exist)
    Unless you had a hit or are already a superstar nobody is giving a shit about how you make your beats. Things change once you have achieved something. therefore use the freedom you have whilst nobody cares and try things out. Also nobody will judge the stuff you made before you became a superstar…

    • Good advice, and the perfect next step once you’ve achieved what’s outlined in this article. I especially like your “MOST IMPORTANT” section – perfectionism is the enemy of productivity.

    • “Make it downloadable for free (otherwise it doesn’t exist)” – be careful about that one, I’ve known quite a few people get into trouble with labels over stuff like that, even over really small parts of tracks being used.

  2. I’ve been working on this type of creativity for the last few years….these were done on my dj controller(either vestax vci-300 or Numark NS6):

    http://soundcloud.com/mr-maniacal

  3. yeaaah. Can’t download the acapellas in the site accapelas4u.com. The download button doesn’t respond. -_-

  4. Great article! I’ve made some bootlegs/edits :)

    Hope you like it!

    http://soundcloud.com/oliverforce

  5. Did you register with them? Also, it should give you a countdown of 60 seconds before you can press the download button. I use that site all the time.

  6. itszantac says:

    Sound advice. You can check my first (public) mashup here:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GdagAJlpEB8

    :)

  7. Great article, Paul.

    I’ve been perfeccioning my mashups since last year and found them to be a great tool to promote my set when playing live as people sometimes ask what music is that and you say it’s your creation….

    Cheers from Rio,
    Leo Nogueira

  8. Radoswave says:

    Great article!
    Here’s an example of a mashup I recorded today on traktor kontrol s4. It’s a live remix of Gotye’s Somebody that I used to know mixed with Zion Train’s Dub To Power and Stefano Noferini’s remix of Good Music (by John Acquaviva & Dan Diamond).
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Uw5k5SfBoG4
    What do you think?

  9. All of this comes so naturally to me. Already followed all of these steps and more without even having to think about it.
    http://soundcloud.com/lewislace/advancedwobbles

  10. celtic-dj says:

    very good article,,,thanks alot..

  11. Cybertrash says:

    Er… Is that Acapellas4u.co.uk actually a legit site? It looks a bit… weird.

  12. Actually started making some quick mashups a while ago… heres one : http://soundcloud.com/overdress/rolling-in-el-norte
    and another one: http://soundcloud.com/overdress/charleston-dragonfly

  13. Soooo, is a mash up essentially the same thing as a remix then? I know this is probably a stooopid question, but I’m a complete noob……

    • Mashups tend to be two recognisable elements put together for effect, remixes take a finished production and “re-produce” it.

      • Cheers Phil. So, are mash ups normally played as part of a continuous mix or are they released as stand alone tracks – i.e. elements of the two tracks put together and played through to the end?

        Don’t know if this question makes any sense as I wasn’t sure how to word it!

  14. I would recommend getting feedback from friends & family
    on your mash-up before playing it out in front of the crowd.
    It’s a great feeling getting a good response to your mash-up.
    It will also do serious damage if it sucks.
    If people are paying you to do a proper job, rather make sure your mash-up is a winner before you put it out there.
    You will gain more respect by always being professional, than taking chances & gambling at the expense of the venue.

    • That’s true, although one of the skills of being a DJ is to trust your judgement about “the next record”, whether it’s something you’ve done or something you’ve just decided to play. As mashing up is basically mixing, you ought to have a good feeling about mashups without needing too much outside approval. But if you’re in any way unsure, then of course – best to check with someone! By the way, that’s why I advise waiting before judging your own work.

  15. Here’s mine! Free for download of course!

    http://soundcloud.com/hugo-chadi/im-punx-and-i-know-it-hugo-1

  16. Great article…but the most valuable piece to me is the quote “perfectionism is the enemy of productivity” I was kinda getting frustrated trying make my mixes perfect.

  17. Great article…but the most valuable piece to me is the quote “perfectionism is the enemy of productivity” I was kinda getting frustrated trying make my mixes

  18. Di Bartdi says:

    I casually made my first mashup (Gangnam and I know It from Sexy and I Know it and Gangnam Style) a week ago with two songs that had very similar structure (found it hearing them randomly on itunes) in my case, I did it with FL Studio which altough not the best, is a software Im familiar with. Changed the tempo with Traktor (seems easier for me) and recorded the 2 different instrumentals and acapellas. Then, it is just a matter of playing around and cutting sounds :P I was afraid as it was my first mashup ever, but as the two songs had almost the same structure, it all came round.
    Here is a youtube link if you want to hear it:

  19. Hey Phil,

    What about sidechaining, because I can almost never hear a clear vocal, when making mashups?

    Thanks

  20. [email protected] says:

    For who are fan of acapella, remix, instrumental, mashup, the interprise like Audionamix made ADX Trax software isolator vocal, instrumental and unimix sound. I think that they forgot to say how to do remix and don’t have problem with Law.

Speak Your Mind

*