Mashups are cool! They exploded in popularity in the 2000s, but even today, a masterful mashup can capture the attention of many.
Not like it is brand new, but I’m often reminded of the 2011 film Just Go with It, in which the emotional The Police / Snow Patrol mashup gripped the viewing audience.
You may occasionally find yourself listening to a song and think to yourself “Wow, this song sounds an awful lot like another one I know! I wonder if they would go together?” And that’s the very basis of mashups. In this guide, you’ll discover how to make a mashup.
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It Is Okay To Make Mashups?
This is still a very hotly debated topic and no one entirely agrees on legal implications.
It's fine to make mashups you enjoy privately, but it may be an entirely different matter if you plan to release the music, for instance, on YouTube.
If you're thinking about releasing the music in any capacity, we suggest going through the appropriate channels for clearance.
Choose Your Music
Whether you plan to make your new mashup idea a reality all by yourself or hire someone to do the heavy lifting for you (we cover both approaches later in this guide), the process begins with music selection.
I’m not going to lie – the more you know about how music works and why certain songs sound the same, the better the chance you’ll be able to create seamless mashups that blow people away!
In a perfect world, you’d find two (or more) songs that:
- Have the same key signature.
- Are around the same tempo if not the same tempo.
- Feature a very similar arrangement (e.g., intro – verse – chorus – bridge, etc.).
The more the music you’ve chosen meet these criteria, the less work you’ll ultimately need to do when combining the tracks.
But I’ll be honest – in most cases, there will be more work to do, especially if you plan to do it all yourself. So, let’s move onto the next steps…
Gather Your Files & Tools
So, you’ve decided to take on the project yourself. Bold move! But where do you even start? Well, you’re going to need to gather your files and tools to get the job done. Here’s what you need:
You can’t very well make the mashup without the music, can you?
Now, this may seem like a simple thing on the surface, but it can be kind of nuanced. You can’t just purchase a couple of MP3s and go on your merry way!
You’ll want to think about how you want to fuse the songs together. Some seem to think the only way to do this is to take the vocal track from one song and the instrumental track from another.
Well, if you want to give yourself more options, you might want the isolated tracks from both tunes – vocals and instrumentals. That leaves far more room for creatively fusing your chosen songs.
Isolating vocals (or instruments) in a track used to be a bit of studio wizardry that the common person simply would find far too complicated a process.
Nowadays, though, there are freelancers you can hire, there are AI vocal isolation tools, and there are even digital audio editors like Audacity to isolate vocal tracks.
We’ll talk more about audio editing software in a moment, but the point is that if you want to make a mashup by yourself, it’s never been easier. I’m not saying it’s easy, but I am saying that the process is far more streamlined than it used to be.
So, make sure you have the isolated vocal and instrumental files for all the tracks you’re looking to combine. Then, it’s time to get your…
Audio Editing Software / Digital Audio Workstation
If you already use a DAW for editing podcasts, making beats, or recording music, then you can simply use what you already know. It’s better than trying to learn a new application from scratch.
If you’re looking for free or low-cost software, I recommend the following.
- Audacity. Audacity is a free, open-source, and popular digital audio editor. It’s not a full-fledged DAW, but it’s well-loved for audio editing purposes. You can find plenty of tutorials on Google and YouTube.
- Tracktion Waveform Free. This is my go-to for everything audio. I’ve gotten so used to it over the years that I simply can’t imagine using anything else! I think its workflow is its strong suit, as it allows you to work efficiently. Tutorials may be a little harder to come by, but they are out there. It’s such an amazing thing that a great tool like this is available for free (although there are premium versions too).
- Soundtrap. Soundtrap is a easy enough to use online music collaboration tool / DAW. It’s free up to a point, but the paid plans are moderately priced too.
- Cockos REAPER. REAPER quickly rose through the ranks to become one of the most popular DAWs among independent producers and small studios, thanks to its affordable cost and functionality, which is on par with professional grade DAWs.
There’s a good chance you’ll be able to accomplish more using a tool like Waveform Free and Soundtrap than Audacity, so to me those are the logical choices for those just getting started.
REAPER is a good option if you’re okay with spending a bit of money and you’re planning to get into audio editing or music production more seriously.
Make Your DIY Mashup, Step By Step
You’ve chosen your music and you’ve gathered your tools. Now you’re ready to start making your mashup.
Before you go any further, though, I want to make sure you’re aware that there is editing involved in this process. It was implied in everything I’ve shared with you so far, but some people come this far only to realize, “oh wait, there’s work involved?”
Yes, there’s work involved! And I wanted to make sure you knew.
With that, let’s get started.
Load Your Music Into Your Audio Editing Tool / DAW
All DAWs have a convenient import option or equivalent. With some applications, you can even drag and drop your files directly into the program for editing.
Once your audio files have been added to your DAW, you’re ready to begin the process of editing.
Match Up The Tempo Of Your Tracks
In an ideal world, the tracks you’ve chosen would be the same bpm. This is easier said than done, though, and there can be slight differences (like one to five bpm) that can drive you insane during the editing process.
Before you do anything else, check to ensure that you’ve chosen tracks that are close in bpm. Otherwise, you may find that the mashup doesn’t work as well.
Note that music with half tempo can also work. So, if you have a 120-bpm instrumental track and a 60-bpm vocal track, the two should fuse very nicely together.
Most DAWs have tempo mapping options, and some may even have convenient “sync” functions you can use to quickly match up the tempo of separate tracks.
The exact process will vary from one application to another. Seek out tutorials for best results.
Match Up The Key Signature Of Your Tracks
If you’ve chosen songs that are in the same key, you shouldn’t need to do this at all. If possible, we recommend finding tracks that are already in the same key, because while pitch shifting and pitch correction are available in most DAWs, getting it just right can take a lot of trial and error.
Align Your Clips, Trim & Edit
Now that your tracks are at the correct tempo and pitch, you’re ready to start blending them together.
By default, all your sound clips will probably start at 00:00 in your DAW, and while that’s fine for your instrumentals, you’ll want the vocals to start at a specific time (i.e., after the intro), right? So, you’ll need to drag the appropriate clips into the right places.
This is easier said than done, and it’s usually more art than science. Drag the clip where you think it will sound best, hit play, and listen. Not quite right? Make smaller adjustments to the clip as you edge closer to the right position.
There may still be more work to do at this point, as the instrumental may have been designed for a different kind of vocal part. Some songs, for example, have longer pauses between vocal melodies. So, you may need to split the vocal clip into separate parts, repeating the process of dragging each clip into position.
Summarily, because songs generally have different arrangements, you’ll probably need to keep manipulating, dragging, chopping, trimming and/or looping the clips until the vocal and instrumental parts all fit together.
This part can be a lot of fun, but it can also be a little confusing for the beginner. Again, consult tutorials as necessary.
Process Your Tracks With Effects
There’s a chance the tracks you’ve gathered have been processed already. But when you blend two or more tracks together, they may not fit together exactly as expected. Or you may be working with dry tracks entirely. For a final coat of polish, you may want to apply EQ and other effects to achieve desired results.
Mixing is a skill that can take a lot of time and effort to learn. But the goal is always the same – to blend the vocals and instrumentals together such that they are seamless.
Use EQ to subtract clashing frequencies from the vocals. If they aren’t cutting through the mix, it may be necessary to add a bit of a boost around 15k as well.
If you’re working with dry vocals, you’ll probably want to add saturation, compression, de-essing, and doubling or reverb as well.
If you don’t know your way around your DAW’s EQ yet, now would be a good time to learn!
Have a brilliant idea but not sure how to make it happen yourself? Think the process might be a little too complicated for you? No problem! Let’s get someone else to make your creative vision a reality.
Fiverr is a great place to find an array of freelancers from across the world that can handle all types of jobs, including creating music mashups. Not to mention, you can often get it done very cheaply if you do some shopping around.
How To Make A Mashup, Final Thoughts
And now you know everything there is to know about making mashups. The process can be a little technical, especially if you’ve never used audio editing or DAW software before. That said, if you hope to create many more mashups, you’ll probably want to learn all the ins and outs of audio editing anyway. So, study well!