DA Studios: Illenium’s top 5 tips for remixing
Welcome to DA Studios, a feature that dives into the world of production. In partnership with Point Blank Music School, DA Studios is returning weekly, with a variety of installments that will include guest posts from artists offering inside tips, detailed looks into the minds and tools of producers, diary entries from Point Blank students and much more.
Hear from your favorite artists and learn about their worlds when they leave the decks and hit the studio. Dancing Astronaut and Point Blank’s weekly series is educational for music students and informative for fans.
This week’s guest is Illenium, a producer you may be very familiar with off of this summer alone. His original “I’ll Be Your Reason” dropped on Skrillex’s Nest HQ this June, but that’s neither the start nor finish of his playbook. The Bay Area bass artist has also flaunted his remix skills with work for tracks like Galantis’ “Gold Dust” and more recently Kaskade’s “Disarm You.” It’s those tricks to remixing that Illenium brings you today via DA Studios and Point Blank.
1. The Magical Element
The beauty of remixing something is that you get to start with something that already catches your ear. Whether that is a vocal, a melody, or a specific sound, you have somewhere to begin that is already powerful. For me this is definitely the most important aspect before I start the track. I am very picky when it comes to this aspect because it is where a ton of the inspiration comes and without that inspiration, I won’t make a good tune.
2. A Solid Intro
My favorite remixes all have a similar structure, with that ‘magical element’coming in fairly early in the song. I’ll always try to grab the listener’s attention in the first section(s) and then bring in my own elements that simply emphasize that key aspect. I generally don’t get too crazy here and I keep the layers minimal. I love piano, so I use a lot of that to fill in atmospheric space and introduce a chord progression but the noise itself is replaceable, as long as it doesn’t take away from the introduction. Some artists start their production with the drop but I figure the intro is the first thing people hear, so I always start with that.
I think this aspect is overlooked by a huge majority of people. It’s never in your face or super upfront, but I think it’s an extremely important aspect of putting the listener in a certain space. The atmospheric sounds themselves can be simple (i.e. vinyl noise, any long decayed reverb from a piano or another sound such as, a vocal reverb effect, vocal chops, etc.) They create a sort of canvas for the song. From there I think about adding the necessary aspects to fill in the canvas.
This might be my favorite aspect of producing because if this comes together with the ‘magical element’it can be bone shivering. A good melody isn’t generally the most complicated thing, but it is what drives a good remix. When it is powered with a well thought out sound, it really creates something special. I like introducing this element in the build to let the listener get acquainted, and then during the drop really milk it and leave them singing it in their heads. A great way to know if you have a good melody is if you can listen to it on repeat for days/months and not be sick of it.
Take everything you have learned as a guideline. There are obvious production rules you should follow but as far as songwriting and remixing, there are no limits. The beauty of producing today is you can save infinite versions of a song, so don’t ever be afraid of taking risks. There are a million producers trying to make a song that sounds the same as the huge hits but when you challenge yourself and never give up on an idea it can create something that has never been heard before and make you have a unique sound. Remixing songs is an awesome way to experiment, learn music theory, and create something that already has a base element that grabs your attention early on.
For more expert tips, visit Point Blank, the award-winning music production and DJ school with classes in London, Los Angeles and online. Six-time ranked ‘Best DJ & Production School’ by DJ Mag, Point Blank offers ground-breaking courses taught by expert instruc-tors including songwriters, producers and Grammy award winners. Former students include: Claude VonStroke, Nicole Moudaber, Gareth Wyn, AlunaGeorge and more. Head to their site for production tips, tutorials or to sample an online course for free.