Creating a mashup is rather simple and yet the results are nothing short of spectacular.
Every novel combination of tracks generates a completely new perspective on very familiar songs that we all may hear constantly playing on the radio and yet, much like cover songs but with only a fraction of the effort, learning how to make a good mashup can boost your popularity as a DJ.
In addition, if you are into YouTube publishing, or simply revel in the joy of having created a professional quality song (that cost the artist and recording studios thousands of dollars to produce) with a few clicks of the mouse and tweaks on your mixing board, this tutorial will walk your through several simple steps showing you how to create a mashup today.
Step 1 – Pick a Couple of Songs with Similar BPM
- Select two songs with similar BPMs.
As you begin to research your two songs to mashup, you might be very surprised how tricky it is to line them up so that they sound cohesive at the very beginning.
The first concept that must be grasped at a very high level is BPM or Beats per Minute. In music, beats per minute is a measurement of tempo that in simple math terms is how many equally spaced-out beats occur in a one minute span of time.
Tip: Most pop songs range from 100 BPMs to 130 BPMs or more.
BPM is so important in electronic music that many Electronic Genres can be associated with a very specific BPM setting such as Goa at 140 BPM, or HardStyle Mixes surpassing 170 BPM. Of course, we can’t leave out German Happy Hardcore (think Blümchen – Boomerang) at a whopping 190 BPM!)
If you are confused by the references above, for one of the greatest tutorials on electronic music we have ever found online showing the entire evolution and breakdown of genres check out: http://techno.org/electronic-music-guide/
This site has been around for many years.
- How to figure out what the BPM is of my songs?
A number of years ago you would have been hard-pressed to determine what the BPM is of your song without a stopwatch handy, now software such as Serato DJ has built-in analysis tools that make your job 1000 times easier.
If you have Serato DJ, there is an analyze library function that can auto-detect the BPM of your entire playlist and tabulate this data for ease of mixing and creating your mashup. If you do not have Serato DJ, consider online BPM analyzers.
Songbpm.com is one of the best online BPM search tools available that you can use right away to give you BPM information of any track in its database: https://songbpm.com/
Step 2 – Get the BPMs exactly the same
Your songs do not have to match BPMs exactly when you first choose them. This is where a little studio engineering (Tenacious D reference), ingenuity, and music craftsmanship comes into play.
Manually match the BPMs as precisely as you can so that it sounds like you are hearing 1 song and not 2 songs.
- Use the Pitch Fader
With standard DJ equipment and Serato DJ, simply use your pitch fader and toggle it to match BPMs. Most DJ software will display the BPM of each track you are tweaking so that matching them will be as simple as reading the digital display.
Who would have guessed learning how to mash songs together was so easy!! – Ok, we are definitely not done, but you are 50% of the way there. If you were to play both songs together at this point, you might be looking for another online guide to show you how to make a mashup…
Step 3 – Cut out the Bass and Add the Vocals
The third step is to take the acapella (only vocals) from one song and the instrumentals from another song so that they blend together really well.
- Start by tweaking the bass down so that you won’t be hearing the bass or beat from one track. This will isolate the vocals and bring them out to the forefront.
- You’ll only hear the instrumental coming mostly from the other track.
We can save you a bunch of time and having to mess around with bass control on your 2 or 4-deck DJ controllers with one massively simple trick.
Many record companies not only produce the full studio produced track but make the acapella tracks available for the main use of DJs creating cover songs or using the Acapella tracks in mashups.
Here are our top picks for where to find Acapella tracks online!
1. Looper Man
Looper Man offers audio-loops, royalty-free Acapellas for use in production and on set. This is a great advantage over other sites. The site is also easy to navigate yet the many of the uploaded songs are not screened and sound quality can be an issue.
Check out the site here: Looper Man
2. Acapella Heaven
Acapella Heaven has some of the highest quality audio loops and acapella tracks you can find online. This is a professional site that requires paid membership. Quality sometimes does not come cheap but is worth the cost.
Check out: Acapella Heaven
3. Loop Masters
Finally, we introduce Loop Masters. Rather than a subscription based format, Loop Masters is an online store with an extensive supply of royalty-free Acapellas and vocal samples along with many other loop samples available.
One benefit of this site is that once you purchase a sample or track, you have indefinite use of it in production and live shows!
Their site can be loaded here: Loop Masters
Step 4 – Check that the Harmonics match!
Many people miss this basic step. Ensuring the two tracks you are mixing are performed in a similar key and harmonic sequence is not only necessary but missing this step will potentially create a cacophonic mashup that will be sure to empty out a club in no time.
- Get the right Software
Fortunately, there is software available for everything. Check out Mixed in Key in order to quickly discover whether your tracks you selected will work well together harmonically.
You don’t have to be a classically trained musician to recognize that if a song is played in the key of C then your mashup song you select should be in a harmonic key to C.
- The Science behind harmonics (for your inner Geek)
From Wikipedia’s definition, A harmonic series is the sequence of sounds where the base frequency of each sound is an integer multiple of the lowest base frequency.  And that is about all you need to know about harmonics other than they sound great when played together in any sequence – another reason why harmonically tuned Mashups are so great!
As a modern era DJ, you should always have access to audio software available such as Fruity Loops, Audacity (Completely Free), or something more professional if you can afford it. You can edit your tracks to remove bass yourself with these tools in so many different ways (equalization, bass reduction effects, compressors, the list goes on.)
Step 5 – Begin the Mashup
Start out with the instrumentals and slowly bring the vocals in or start them both at the same time. If your song has a cool vocal intro, let it play out a bit before the beat comes in, then trigger the beat in at the perfect moment.
Again, this can be accomplished with software or with your DJ controller and combination thereof.
- The Importance of Timing your Cues
Timing is everything. Line up the beats and cue in each track at the right moment. Be sure to listen to Mashups which are infinite in supply on YouTube for some inspiration on what is possible with a bit of creativity.
Bonus: Take it a step further with Silence
1. Isolate the vocals using your crossfader at periodic intervals.
Silence in music is as important as sound. Create segments where the vocals stand out on their own and the instrumentals drop in at the right moment.
Following each step above on how to create a mashup will help set you up to create your first high-quality Mashup which you can record and publish online for other to listen to.
Practice the sequence of steps above so that you will be prepared to perform your next live set with your eyes closed. In DJing, mashing up two songs is the basis for creating all transitions between tracks.
Lining up the BPMs, knowing when to queue in the overlapping track, and making sure the bass and harmonics are lined up can make or break your performance. We have been at far too many live shows where the DJ messes up one of the steps above and the result is a poor transition or mix between songs that is cringe-worthy.