Remix Clinic: Final Passes

At the end of the mixdown phase on any given song, it''s customary to print several different versions of the mix, including an instrumental and an a cappella. These are part of the group of mixes
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At the end of the mixdown phase on any given song, it''s customary to print several different versions of the mix, including an instrumental and an a cappella. These are part of the group of mixes (aka the final passes) that make up the master recording. Actually, the instrumental and a cappella versions are only two in a running list of what the label or artist may require. Other industry-standard passes include the main pass (full mix), as well as the main pass (vox up) and main pass (vox down), which have the vocals slightly up or down. There''s the radio edit (shortened for radio) and sometimes a TV track (a mix minus the lead vocal). A clean pass may also be needed for broadcast for a song with explicit lyrics.

With a dance remix project, there are two types of passes that you''ll always need to do: the extended pass and the radio edit. In album situations, the extended pass can serve as the main mix of the song. It has extended intro and outro sections of about a minute each. These sections allow DJs to mix the song in and out with others in their sets. The radio edit is cut to less than four minutes in length.

Once I have a handle on the direction and basic groove and structure of the remix, I''ll start working on the extended version, which will usually be somewhere in the neighborhood of six to seven minutes long, featuring purpose-built intro and outro sections and geared toward beat-matching and DJing.

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FIG. 1: To get a quick start on your extended intro, move the existing tracks about a minute later in the timeline, and copy and paste the drums to the new bar 1.

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FIG. 2: One way to create your outro is to copy the intro and flip it so that it starts fully built up and winds down.

I''ll move all the regions I''ve created toward the right side of my DAW''s timeline, creating about a minute of space in the front (I''ll tighten the timing later) to work on the intro section. I''ll then copy the drum tracks from the main part of the song, which I''ve already worked on, and paste them at the beginning of the extended intro. I''ll use them as a starting point for that section (see Fig. 1). I''ll then experiment with muting various mix elements and auditioning different track combinations until I figure out how I want the intro to build. Even though it''s an extended section designed for DJ transitions, you still need to make it as creative as possible, populating it with signature elements such as synth parts, featured loops, and anything that will give the record its own identity and help lead into the main part of the song.

Once the intro is mostly fleshed out, I''ll copy it to the end of the record and create a quick outro by flipping the arrangement (essentially creating a mirror image of the intro with the fuller part at the beginning instead of the end; see Fig. 2). I will come back to it later when the other sections are exactly how I want them and make it more interesting and precise.

After the extended mix is complete, I move on to the radio edit. Only if I am in a major time crunch will I carve that from the stereo file of the extended mix. I prefer to create the radio edit directly in the extended mix''s multitrack session. Doing so allows me to maintain consistency so that if I change an element along the way, it will get translated across both mixes. Also, by using the multitrack session, I have much more creative control. If I''m editing the 2-track file, there may be a sound effect, cymbal crash, or other sustaining element that ends up getting cut off or cut short due to an edit. If there''s a long breakdown section, which is typical in dance mixes, editing it down in the multitrack allows you to re-create it to fit the shorter format and still have control over all its elements.

The first thing I do when making a radio edit is to copy all the regions for the entire extended mix to later in the timeline, which is where I''ll work on editing it. Make sure to also copy all the automation. Depending on your DAW, you can do this either through a preference setting or with a simple copy and paste. For sound effects and other elements that have very important automation data, I might bounce the track in question as a new audio track. In Apple Logic, I can set the automation to be region-based so that it is more visible and always travels with the region.

After everything has been successfully copied, I start carving down the radio edit. The easiest places to start chopping are the intro and outro sections. These can be cut almost entirely out, leaving only eight to 16 bars to get into the first main musical section. As mentioned, the other section that can often be cut is the breakdown. I will typically edit it down to be eight to 16 bars in length and see how it sounds. Sometimes, those two steps are enough to get the mix to be less than four minutes.

If so, I''ll then make sure that the overall arrangement holds up at the new shorter length and balances the contrasting song sections effectively. The trick to maintaining the same energy and feeling as the original mix is to not cut out sections entirely but shorten them. In the clubs or on an album, you can take longer to build your arrangement. On the radio, things need to happen faster, so aim to catch people''s attention in different ways and get to the main sections quickly.

Once both versions are complete, I begin printing the final master passes. I have my own standard list of mixes that I print whether or not the label or artist asked for them: extended mix (main pass), extended mix (instrumental), extended mix (a cappella), radio edit (main pass), radio edit (instrumental), and radio edit (a cappella), all in both full-bandwidth 24-bit WAVs and 320kbps MP3s. The vox up/down passes are not as critical nowadays as that is an easy recall within the DAW session if it is needed.

Vincent di Pasquale is producer/remixer who works out of his project studio. He has remixed songs for One Republic, Madonna, Nelly Furtado, and many others; and is the author of The Art of the Remix, a comprehensive interactive remixing course available at