Mash-up making 101?
May 12, 2008 9:34 AM   Subscribe

A beginner's guide to making a mash-up? How would one go about making their own mash-ups like the Kleptones or Dj Lobsterdust?

I have experience with making music, and own a copy of FL Studio and Audacity. Without spending much (or anymore money) how could I start making my own mash-ups?

Major issues for me:
-How can I isolate vocals?
-Do I need to pay attention to the key of pieces, and if so, is there an easy (software) way to figure it out?
-Is there an easy way to figure out the Beats-per-minute of a piece?
posted by drezdn to Media & Arts (8 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
* I've had some success with using multi-band filtering to remove some sonic parts of a song. It's rarely perfect and usually requires some work. Sometimes you can get lucky and do somerthing like invert one of the channels, and merge left and right together into a mono track. This will often remove the voice, because the voice will be present on both left and right, wheras the instruments may be positioned off center.

* Yes, of course you need to pay attention to the key. Easy way to figure it out? I don't know if there's really a software way to do it. I usually figure out some chords and some pieces of the melody. Not all music even really follows key conventions and tons of pop music has grooves that even while they're in a key, have so little harmonic content that it doesn't matter *that* much. Almost all audio-processing software can change speed and/or key.

* Beats per minute: there are manul and automatic methods. Audacity might have a beat-detection thing, I don't remember, been a while since I used it. The manual methods I use are:
- play the song, use a tap-tempo function (or, crop a 60-second part of the song and count the number of beats)
- use something like Transcribe! and place beat markers, and select a portion of the song and let it calculate it for me (this is basically the same thing as above since I just type "m m m m" for new measures as the song plays. This is basically the same as above but if I'm going to transcribe the song it's really helpful to have measure markers put in anyway)

* The Kleptones, and I'm sure almost everyone who is successful at making mashups, take shortcuts. like, on "A night at the hip-hopera" the kleptones managed to find stuff that already had vocals taken out, like karaoke tracks or something. They had some other sources that I don't remember.
posted by RustyBrooks at 10:45 AM on May 12, 2008

I haven't used Fruity Loops for many versions, but if it's still set up the way it was, it's not great for this kind of sample manipulation. You'd be better off with something like Acid or Live. Maybe someone else here knows a good freeware/open source alternative.

This is not to say it can't be done - just that the beatmatching part is going to be harder. But: once you've got your two or more songs beatmatched, hack them up into samples. Rearrange and stack those samples and you've got a mashup.

Short of tracking down an acapella copy of a song, I don't know of a good way to extract just the vocals. You can pretty easily do the reverse though:
1. Import a stereo track into Audacity (or whatever)
2. Split into two separate tracks and make them both mono (in Audacity, click on the track name dropdown on the left)
3. Select one of the tracks and invert it
4. Export as a mono track
This effectively drops out everything that was mixed dead-center when the studio did their mastering. This usually includes the vocals, and also sometimes parts of the drum kit, etc.

You absolutely should pay attention to the key of a song, but that doesn't mean that you have to know what the key is - only whether or not two songs have the same (or substantially similar) key. Don't bother looking for software - just train your ear. Play both songs together and you should be able to tell pretty easily whether the notes match.
posted by echo target at 10:46 AM on May 12, 2008

There's a textbook for that class.
posted by genghis at 10:47 AM on May 12, 2008

Scour the 'net to see if you can find some vocals-only versions and/or music-only versions of songs. I'd hit up Get Your Bootleg On
posted by radioamy at 11:30 AM on May 12, 2008

Ooo, thanks, radioamy.
posted by echo target at 12:47 PM on May 12, 2008

I like this howto. Tells you how to do it using specific software.
posted by autojack at 2:03 PM on May 12, 2008

drezdn: Major issues for me:
-How can I isolate vocals?
-Do I need to pay attention to the key of pieces, and if so, is there an easy (software) way to figure it out?
-Is there an easy way to figure out the Beats-per-minute of a piece?

1) I'd use the free VST plugin kn0ck0ut or drop $0.90 on the better Extra Boy. Most of the time, though, you just get the pieces of the tracks from elsewhere. Acapellas4u is a great site for vocals.

2) Definitely pay attention to the key. If it's off-key, it'll sound bad. With a bit of time, you can tell if it's off, though. Personally, I use Mixed In Key because it was part of the suite of music programs my friend gave me, but I've heard good things about the free Rapid Evolution.

3) Both of the programs in #2 do this, but you can get this standalone BPM analyzer for free.
posted by flatluigi at 5:52 PM on May 12, 2008

(Oh, and please follow up, I'd love to see what you've made.)
posted by flatluigi at 8:47 PM on May 12, 2008

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