Think back to the last time you attended a school dance. I’m willing to bet that the songs you remember dancing to most were a combination of two songs mixed together, or what folks in the business refer to as a mashup.
If your friends were like mine, they threw their hands up in the air and raved about how cool it was to dance to an EDM song and an acoustic guitar song at the same time. If I’m touching on a nerve, it’s because mashups are really cool. And if you have even just a single musical bone in your body, you’ve probably thought about how to mix songs for a dance yourself.
But if you’ve ever attempted to do it on your own, you’ve probably found that mixing two songs together is much harder than it seems. Have you given up hope of creating the next great mashup? Don’t quit just yet. In this guide, we’ll show you how to mix songs together and get everyone you know dancing.
Where to Start When Mixing Music
Let’s assume that you’re starting from scratch, except for maybe a laptop. Figuring out how to mix two songs together can be overwhelming, to say the least. Before we talk about how to mix music, let’s make a quick checklist to help you wrap your mind around the software and tools you need:
- Audio files
- BPM tool or software
- Key matching software
- Audio editing software
The good news is that we’re not dealing with a long list, but there are still a few things to think through in each item. Let’s take a closer look at what you need to create your first mashup.
What You Need to Mix Music
Many of the items on our list are software products. This is great news if you’re on a tight budget or don’t have a lot of extra space in your home. Unlike many other music guides we’ve written, there are only a few options to choose from in each of the following categories. That eliminates a decent amount of research, but it also means that the learning curve for some of the apps we’re about to explore might be steep.
Of course, that doesn’t mean they’re impossible to learn. Let’s explore some (or in some cases, all) of your options.
You probably don’t need us to tell you that you need music to mix two songs together. But getting music can be a bit more complicated than just grabbing a few files from Apple Music or Spotify.
Let’s say that you want to mix the instrumental track from one song with the vocals of another. While you could go down the rabbit hole of extracting individual tracks from a fully mixed MP3, take it from personal experience: You’ll just want to throw your laptop out the window.
Instead, look for studio acapella tracks on sites like YouTube. Popular artists often release them for folks like you to play around with and remix; the most popular songs tend to be easier to find. Below you’ll find an example of an acapella vocal track from the popular David Guetta song “Titanium”
There are a couple of caveats to note as you learn how to mix songs for a dance. First, these are not royalty-free tracks. You’ll notice in the YouTube clip above that the person who uploaded the video states that the rights to the music are not his. Additionally, you’ll need to rip the audio from the YouTube video. Several options make it easy to grab audio from YouTube, but remember that your remix is ultimately not your intellectual property.
If you’re looking for other solutions, consider sources such as Acapellas4u, from which you can purchase acapella tracks to remix.
BPM is an acronym that stands for “beats per minute.” It’s also another way to describe the tempo of a given song. And when you’re learning how to mix two songs, it’s really important to use tracks that are the same tempo.
In some (rare) cases, the songs you want to use have identical BPM numbers, which makes it insanely easy to start experimenting with a remix. But what happens if you want to learn how to mix two songs that don’t have the same BPM? There are a few tools to take a look at.
First, MixMeister is a piece of software that analyzes the BPM of songs that you’re considering for your mashup. It’s available for download at just $3.99. If you want to adjust the BPM of two songs, tools such as BPM Studio automatically match the BPM of the two songs you’re working with.
Key Matching Tool
In addition to ensuring that your songs are in the same tempo, it’s important to adjust your music to be in the same key signature. Imagine trying to mix one song in the key of F# major with another that’s in the key of Eb major. It would…not be pretty.
One of the most popular software solutions on the market for anyone learning how to mix songs is called Mixed In Key. It offers a variety of tools, including a master tempo setting, a key analyzer to help you identify songs that are a tonal match, and even a powerful audio editor, which eliminates the need for a separate DAW.
Audio Editing Software
Some of the previous apps that we’ve discussed in this guide have built-in audio editors. If you want to get into the nitty-gritty of adding your own effects, you might want to consider purchasing a separate digital audio workstation (DAW).
If you can swing the cost, consider a high-end DAW such as Logic Pro or Ableton Live, which pack huge libraries of sound effects and features that will take your remixes to the next level. However, if you’re looking to get started on a limited budget, Mac users can get many of the same features in GarageBand, while Windows users can tinker with their remixes in applications such as Audacity, both of which are free.
Now that we’ve gotten the technical details of how to mix songs out of the way, let’s dive into our step-by-step guide and start creating your first mashup.
Step 1: Analyze the Songs You Want to Use
In an ideal world, the song structures of both tunes in your mashup would be identical. But the beauty of making music is that you can play around with things such as song structure—and in many cases, the two songs you want to mix won’t match up.
So before you start cutting sections out of your tracks and mixing them together, take some time to listen to each of the songs you want to combine. Try to answer the following questions while you analyze each song:
- Would the vocal line of the first song’s chorus sound good over the instrumental of the second song?
- Where might I add instrumental breaks or vocal-only sections?
- Does each song maintain its feel even at slightly faster or slower tempos?
Above anything else, get creative! While you’ll have to learn how to cut sections of audio tracks out in an editor, don’t limit yourself to what you think will perform well at a dance club or on the radio. Tinker around with different songs, song elements, and different beats to create the mashup that you want.
Step 2: Take Your Mashup to a Mixer
You’ve matched keys and time signatures. You’ve picked songs that you want to mix together. Now it’s time to add even more of your own flair to the mashup.
Export your mashup to your DAW of choice. In the example above, you’ll see how the audio engineer is editing a small region of the audio track. Take a listen to your mashup after you’ve imported it into the DAW and see where you might want to add effects such as reverb or delay. You can read more about our favorite DAWs here, but as you dive into editing your mashups, you might feel overwhelmed by all of the options at your fingertips. If that happens, remember to trust your own ears. Does the mashup sound good to you? If so, start sharing it!
Step 3: Share Your Mix
One of the most difficult things about creating art is sharing it with an audience. What if someone hates your work? What if you discover that the two songs you mixed together make for a horrible mashup? What if you made some horrible mistakes while editing it in your DAW? Those are really hard questions to discover the answer to—but they’ll also teach you some important lessons for future mixes.
SoundCloud is one of the more popular platforms for aspiring mashup artists to share their work. We’ll be honest: It’s scary to share what you’ve done with such a huge audience. But as you’ve seen in the example above, even novices like me share tracks. Don’t be afraid to publish your work and comment on other tracks that you like. You’ll be surprised by how quickly your mixes will improve once you start interacting with like-minded artists on sites like SoundCloud.
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