I'm Nathan. I'm 21, and I like good music. I listen to a lot of things, and occasionally I'll make mash ups or mixtapes of stuff that I like.
You might find me blogging:
Alternative or Indie Rock
Chill Out or Downtempo Music
Classic Rock or Metal
Electro House (also Progressive and Tech House)
Disco and Indie Dance
Drum n Bass
etc etc ETC BASICALLY anything which sounds good to me. I try not to write off entire genres if I can avoid it - music should be about keeping your ears open to new sounds and just liking what sounds good, regardless of what it's classified as.
Follow me on soundcloud: http://soundcloud.com/fishtrek
I find mashups to be very hit and miss for me. Some producers have ways of making 2 or more songs sound ridiculously good when put together in creative ways - but for every one of these mashups there are a hundred shitty ones from beginners who have no idea what they’re doing.
Now I don’t claim to be some almighty expert on putting these together, but here’s some simple tips for making things sound a bit better if you feel like making one of your own.
1. Mix in key
Make sure your songs are in the same key signature or are at least harmonious with one another. If you’re going to make a megamix of songs from one particular artist, you may need to alter the key of some of their songs first.
Check the key of a song by importing it into a program like Mixed In Key, Rapid Evolution or even VirtualDJ. Use the Circle of Fifths below to find adjacent key signatures which work well together. Using the same key signature for each song in a mashup will likely sound better, though.
2. Beat Matching
This should be a given, and yet I’ve found some mashups which don’t do it. One of the most off-putting things to me in a mix is hearing a steady 4/4 beat for a minute or two — and then suddenly hearing the timing go out of sync. Make sure you’re using a program that lets you compare waveforms so you can line them up correctly and get your timing right.
Also make sure you analyse each song with a program like Virtual DJ first to get the BPM. If one of the songs is out of time, use Audacity to adjust the tempo for you. If you’re using an acapella, the bpm doesn’t matter too much but you should test mixing the two songs live first using something like Virtual DJ just to see what tempo to set the acapella to.
3. Check the volume
(this is actually from Sony Vegas Pro 10.0, but you get the point heh)
It may look different depending on your Digital Audio Workstation (or DAW), but this is a Volume Unit Meter. Mastered tracks will touch the red every now and then, at 0dB.
By laying one track over another in a mashup, you are increasing the volume. Increase the volume too much and you’ll get clipping - a nasty effect which turns music’s natural sine wave into a square wave by chopping off the peaks of the sound. Some producers may use it to achieve a desired effect, but more than likely if this happens to you, your music will sound shit.
(above: a sine wave with clipping)
There might be some sound engineers out there who will know more on this topic than I do, but typically I’ve found that I’m able to mix up to +3dB before clipping occurs. If you find yourself above this threshold, try adjusting the gains of each your songs and lowering their volume.
Here’s an example of a mashup which was made without adjusting volume, and includes clipping as a result. The 91 people who downloaded may not have noticed, but if you played a song like this on a big sound system it would sound 100 times as terrible.
4. Do something interesting
This might be a bit vague and general, but it’s self explanatory. Don’t just hit play on two similar tracks at the same time and then switch between them at will. Maybe find two songs that sound completely different and put them together. Find parts of the song which would sound more interesting with something else layered over the top. Switch parts of the songs around so that they’re less predictable, so that they surprise audiences.
Just be careful if you’re using more than 2 songs, so that you keep it sounding like a mashup rather than a miniature DJ mix. Maybe use one song as a base of sorts, with everything else layered on top. Or if you introduce a new song halfway through the mashup, make sure it’s got part of a previous song layered on top of it so that it relates back to the rest of the mashup.
Here’s a fantastic bootleg by DJ/Producer Kap Slap. The basslines - Breakin a Sweat (Zedd Remix) and Slam the Door by Zedd - switch and are mixed over the top of each other throughout the song. Sometimes one will change suddenly to the other, but in these cases it’s the vocals layered over the top which hold them in place like glue - making it sound like a single track instead of a miniature mixtape.
And on the other end of the spectrum - here’s a great mashup which was a bit more simple to produce, just with a really great and unique idea. Works really well.
Mashups are about having fun, and blending memorable sounds with each other to create something cool and inspiring. There’s no real rule to what you should or shouldn’t be putting together - just make sure it sounds good. Hopefully this helps one or two people out there. :]