How to Re-edit a song in Ableton
In this post I walk you through a simple approach to re-editing a song for DJing. Obviously, this is also an exercise in personal taste but I hope it empowers you to do your own edits?
In the video at the end of the page, there is no voice at all, just me going through the process of a re-edit.
Here are some techniques I am using
1. Cut Copy Paste Duplicate – These are be FAR the most important editing techniques. If your song is properly warped, these simple tools make editing a breeze.
2. Effect automation – In the same way you can draw in your volume levels, you can also draw in and automate any effect parameter you like. Some very simple but effective effect are using reverb or delay are a send/return track & ramping things up in big sections. Once you get the hang of it, you can move on to more complicated effects. Remember though, your goal is to make people dance, don’t overdo effects and lose the dancefloor.
3. A spare audio track – This can be really important. Say you are editing a section out of your track but there is an element in the part you are cutting out that flows into the next section that is now missing. What I will do is copy from 1 to 4 bars previous to the new section and paste it onto a new audio track. Since there is a part already playing on the main track, I’ll cut out the low frequencies with EQ, then I’ll ramp up the volume that leads to the next section, often also adding a bit of reverb. This makes for a much cleaner transition.
The things you can do in a re-edit are really only limited be your imagination but remember, if you are over editing a track, maybe this track isn’t something you would really want to play & you’re just trying to compensate. Stay focused on the real goal, a great set & a great night out for those who come see you.
Why re-edit a track?
There are a number of reasons, but I’ll tell you my personal reasons for doing a re-edit.
1. I like a 16-32 bar intro, preferably without melodic elements. This makes it easier to blend tracks & be able to predict when elements are going to kick in. It also allows me to mix in a track that is not in the same key without causing a lost of clashing.
2. I like a 16 bar outro, preferably without melodic elements – This reasoning is the same as above. I also like to keep a solid kick up until the end, this way I can loop the section if I want & choose when I want to switch the kick energy from one track to the next.
3. I want to remove a vocal part I’m not vibing with – I do this quite a bit as I find songs with an amazing groove but feel a vocal part kinda kills the vibe (again, personal taste here). What this means is that I’ll copy a non-vocal part and paste it over the vocal section.
4. I want to shorten or eliminate a breakdown – I hate to say it, but the art of a purposeful breakdown seems to be lost on some producer’s even though otherwise their tracks are excellent. A lot of producer’s think they need a breakdown just because “that’s what you do”. For me, I find a lot of breakdowns cause some serious boredom on the dancefloor. For this reason, I like to shorten breakdowns or add elements that keeps people nodding their heads and waiting for the big payoff. If you can’t deliver this as a DJ, your audience will stop trusting you when songs break down & take it as a sign to leave the dancefloor.
5. I want to extend a section that I think is too short – Many producer’s are afraid to let a part run too long. While in the studio, things can seem like that are getting boring while on the dancefloor, they hypnotize you & further lock you into the groove. By changing things too soon, it loses some of the vibe that is building.
6. I want to shorten or remove a section that I’m not feeling – This can happen too, where I love 75% of a track but a certain section or element kills the vibe for me. Instead I’ll duplicate the parts that work or just shorten the track by removing the offending parts.
7. Edit elements that make mixing difficult – Sometimes a song with have a great bassline or melody that is a bit complex or has changes that make it hard to introduce a new song on top of. In these cases I’ll find a simplified loop section that I can repeat toward the end of a track to make mixing much more smooth.
8. I want to beef up drums or other parts – At times I’ll find a track I really like but find the kick is getting lost in the mix or there are some sections that can use a bit of white noise or percussion to make things more danceable. This borderlines on remixing but I find it very effective in making an unusable track usable.
9. I want to add interest – Often when DJing live you might add some effects like reverb, delay, beat juggling, filter’s and a number of other things to make big moment bigger. I like doing this as well, but I find the effects available to be a bit limiting or distracting when wanting to do something complex. I find it a lot of fun to tweak the song ahead of time. For me, Ableton gives me so many options, that I can do endless things not really possible in a live situation. Also, although I do a bit of tricky routing, I like to keep things fairly straight forward when performing live. Getting lost in effects and routing can take your focus away from the beauty of picking the right songs and finding a perfect way to mix them in the moment.
Here’s the video. If you are a Producer’s Playground member, I’ll be uploading 2 more videos (about 30 minutes of footage) showing other techniques with a bit more complexity.
Happy music making!
With that said, if you are benefiting from these posts, you will absolutely love my 2 bestselling books:
The Mental Game of Music Production
The Process for Electronic Music Producers
You can also Check out the: Ableton Courses & Instruments
If you are looking for personal guidance with your music production or Ableton, you can set up a free chat with me to go over exactly what your best next steps are to create the best music of your life. If it seems like a good fit, we can move forward from there. https://musicsoftwaretraining.com/private-coaching
Happy music making!
Nice article! I’ve recently begun to create ‘DJ Edits’ for mixing again (hadn’t mixed much in years, mostly creating my own tracks in Ableton/Maschine/etc).
I like all your points on ‘why’ to make edits, they are the same reasons I make edits. I do a lot of listening to pro DJ mixes (or fairly well-known/reputed DJ’s anyway) and I don’t notice a lot of edits in their mixes , of course with regard to songs I am actually familiar with. I guess genres and DJ style determine whether edits are useful ie: Electro House 128-130 BPM stuff is perfect for quick edits to extract and loop the best parts of songs for these hi energy sets where the focus is on DROPS etc. Deep House , use of edits isn’t an often used technique, at least not for the majority. I see with higher BPM the use of edits becomes more useful.
I often look up tracks with Soundhound etc and then I will analyze the mix the DJ made further to see what logic they used behind the mix (ie:new song came in 32 beats after last drop, cut to new track after rise, mixing breakdowns etc etc). Lots of techniques and tricks of course, and with todays technology , DJ edits are super easy and help maintain ‘groove’ as you mention.
I use Ableton occasionally for this but also use ‘Mashup’ by Mixed In Key. I really dislike the manner in which Ableton displays waveforms, its very very limited in its color scheme and lacks information that other apps , even very simple ones offer. Even Traktors waveform viewer is limited. I think the MIK guys’ waveform display is quite informative and more conducive (in my opinion) to properly determining what is happening where on a track VISUALLY, because after all, SEEING a track is more important than ever (harkens back to the days of looking at your vinyl at an angle to see the grooves!).
Thanks for the article!