The process is a huge mess. You’ve been warned that this post might read like that too. It's long because I'm obsessive and there's a lot to say, so bolded points are for skimming if you hate reading.
Here’s my quasi-philosophy of mashups:
A) Song production. should sound relatively different from originals, create a nice soundscape with good sound quality.
B) Integration. medleys aren’t mashups, integrate and make them one.
C) Craftsmanship. After the skeleton arrangement is done, working on detail is my favorite part. this goes for arrangement, sound/note choice, EQ, mix, etc. Shine a light on this, so people who don’t know what/who this is can get to know me.
E) Keep discovering. new things will pop up that you didn’t know you liked doing.
From song choice to footage editing, I try to follow these points. I’ll reference the discussion back to them.
I) Song choice
The hardest part is deciding on songs. Lately, I seem to enjoy mashing songs I can’t stand with songs I love. Music preference is so freaking subjective that I don’t think it’s useful to discuss why I dislike the songs I do. (but the easy answer would be that to my ears, they sonically and melodically don’t go anywhere.)
Examples of Likes // Dislikes:
Some Day My Prince Will Come // Payphone
Rainbow Connection // Moves like Jagger
50 Ways To Leave Your Lover // Happy
Everyone then asks, “Why would you do songs you can’t stand?”
Because it’s easier to rip the song apart if I hate it. (A) If I like it, I’d want to do it as is, which is why most covers are the same. (C) If I throw away most of the song and force rebuilding, I’ve just freed my brain up for imagination and fantastic exercises - 1) save the parts worth saving and make the rest mine, which by the end will lead to 2) discovering your preferences, sound, brand (E). Creatively, I just get more bang for the buck if I worked on songs I can’t stand.
Mashing it with a song I like is a happy break. I’d want to include so much of the song that this is usually where I pull ideas to make the song more lush. My likes/dislikes are usually so different that it’s actually interesting to see this partnership happen.
I’ll have four+ tabs open.
1) song 1
2) song 2
3) song 1 lyrics
4) song 2 lyrics
Jump to different parts of song 1 and sing lyrics of song 2 over it. Vice versa to see which feels more like foundation. I’ll have other song options, try things out, sleep on it. really amoebic. One permutation will usually pop out over the others in time. in the case of Some Day My Prince Will Come, I knew I wanted to do that song and considered mashing it with Lady gaga, maybe katy perry. Tried all the melodies over Some Day's chords, I was surprised at how well Payphone’s chorus fit over Some Day (1:45 on the video). A small moment like that can win you over, and (B) changing up stuff to make them fit gets easier after that. If I had to do that video again, I’d mash them up more and sooner in the song. but I’m happy with the pacing and vibe because it’s not fast/annoying, almost too slow for the teenage A.D.D. youtube demographic, so whoever ends up liking this has patience and attention to detail (E).
The big picture for all mashups in existence: 1+ hint 2, 2, 1+2
Happy//50 ways structure:
Happy verse 1 + hint 50 Ways (hook line)
Happy Chorus 1
50 Ways Verse 2 + Chorus
Happy Chorus, + 50 Ways chorus, end on a hook line.
I knew I wanted to tear Happy apart, but wasn’t sure how. One night I was listening to Paul Simon’s Graceland and re-listened to his other stuff. Landed on 50 Ways and was blown away all over again. tried these two together and it was just a happy accident. oh god no pun intended. As a song, 50 Ways is very much about that one hook line and the greasy chorus, so keeping that vibe as a foundation was important. I wasn’t gonna pull off funk on the rhythm section since I was doing everything myself, so I decided on a synthy modern vibe to keep the 50 Ways sexy vibe as much as a janie could. I knew I wanted an organic instruments breakdown, but it was so different from the rest that it sounded disjunct - So disjunct that calling it out would make sense, hence the monty python reference (B). After that, integrating it all together was easier. putting the bells at the end pointed toward the breakdown, bell/jar at the beginning foreshadowed.
Training our instincts: (C) like improv of all sorts, it takes practice to react well and make better decisions every moment. Most gut feelings about weak spots, not-quite-there-yets are right, and the more you do (esp stuff out of your comfort zone), the better your instincts will become.
III) Production - what to use where
My apartment is a WRECK during this because there’s zero order in my head either.
Drum and bass first. organ patches are great for thickening into the chorus. layers of short guitar or synth lines help define the song very well. Once the basics are done I literally start looking around the apartment for stuff. try stuff (E), the delete button is always available. Once I find a sound I will want the best possible sound quality of the thing (A). EQ-ing the suitcase lid so the bass came out, pulling the mids out of typewriter to enhance the high pitched tat-tat, panning stuff to sides to create space, all trial and error. (panning is a fantastic tool to de-annoy any sound. i.e.: shakers/tambourines can be heavy additions, putting them to one side lightens them up beautifully.)
With synth sounds, I sit there and try out sounds one by one to see what fits. Yes this takes forever - hundreds and hundreds to go through. but worth it. once I find something, I’ll come up with a line. record it, hate it, delete, record 27 variations, then re-record the original having moved it over by a beat. add an echo. or a response line on another sound.. I never actually know.
EQ-ing and putting tracks through effects have become a fun tool for me. It’s good to know what EQ fits my voice, how/where I like it to sit in the track, what works for my gear, etc. In Happy//50 Ways, the vocals run through a guitar amp plug-in only in the verses. At the end when the songs are super mashed-up, 50 Ways vocals have no filter, Happy vocals are run through the guitar amp, giving some separation & shape to the ridiculous amount of vocal tracks.
I could go on, but really it’s nothing profound and it all has to do with those 4 points… and it’s just now that i noticed i forgot the letter D. Well damn it I’m keeping it ABCE. Anyway, I’m not a prolific uploader because I’m freaking obsessive, and there’s certainly some conflict between quality of content and channel upkeep. I'm inherently lazy anyway, so I decided that I’d rather do obsessive work and not upload super often. I do believe that this finds itself the right audience accordingly. so now go make stuff!