More Than a Mashup

Jan 18 2008

A mashup (AKA bootleg) is taking two songs and beat-matching them together to create a new blended mix of both songs. For example, the classic mashup of Kylie Minogue’s “Can’t Get You Out of My Head” and New Order’s “Blue Monday.” It’s often done using full stereo mixes (with vocals), or, alternately, an a cappella and a stereo mix (possibly an instrumental). To hear a variety of well crafted mashups, check out Party Ben.

Mashups became such a hit on the dance-floor that some producers (such as Richard X) went on to remake parts of the original songs in order to clear the entire mashup for commercial release. For example, the 2002 UK hit by the Sugababes, a combination of the lyrics from Adina Howard’s “Freak Like Me” and the music of Gary Numan’s “Are Friends Electric?”

The point behind my little history lesson is, you don’t always have to play a traditional instrument, or even record a track, in order to be wonderfully creative with music. I have the privilege of working with music production students at all levels of experience, some are seasoned musicians while others are just starting piano lessons. Obviously, for our production project in class, I expect students to create their own tracks, one way or another. It’s a snap for experienced players to record a performance, but a serious challenge for students just beginning an instrument to record something decent. As an alternative, I encourage the use of MIDI files, a cappella mixes, and sampling. (For educational purposes only, of course.) These resources can provide a signal and a musical performance with which to practice your production chops whether you play an instrument or not.

However, if you have never worked with samples or imported a MIDI file, taking advantage of these resources can be intimidating. One of the best ways I know to explain the whole process is to show you in a song. So, without playing a darn thing, just using my ears and production skills, I produced a mashup in Reason 4 using an a cappella, a MIDI file of a cover tune, and a sample of the original tune — all items I found for free on the Web. This mashup features Tone-Loc’s “Funky Cold Medina” and Kraftwerk’s “The Model.”

You can download the Reason 4 song file below (it’s about 8 MB) and explore the production, from its samples to its mix. To download an MP3 of the mashup, visit my myspace page.

Cold Medina Mashup

    Not on my studio computer right now but will download this tomorrow and check it out. What I can’t quite grasp is where you found the midi files for these songs. There can’t be a midi file from a stereo recording so you must have had access to a midi file of every single instrument in the song right?

    I’ll download tomorrow and see for myself! :)


    Ready for some links?
    One of my favs,
    Google MIDI files, SMF, .mid, Karaoke :)
    And, for the vocals,
    hip-hop & r&b,
    (I’ve got this buddy who, in order to better sell his hip-hop beats, has been flying hip-hop a cappellas over his own beats to demo his beats. Talk about smart marketing. Really helps to sell the track.)
    And, if you want to remix the Beastie Boys, (an a cappella for nearly every track they’ve ever recorded! Mare super smart marketing.)

    There ya go. Have fun!

    I am very interested in this process and I was wondering if every song ever made is available to be remixed for a price or if you should research the song you want to mix first? A reply would be greatly apreciated.
    p.s. I enjoyed your site very much and will be back on a regular bases


    It’s a case by case basis. Sometimes remixes are released without the artist/label’s consent (called a “bootleg” or “white label”). Sometimes, if a bootleg remix is selling a lot of units, the artist/label will approve it, and sometimes not (as in lawsuit and you owe us all the money). So, it’s a good idea to always ask before releasing a remix for commercial sale. You can learn more about the entire process in my book, The Complete Guide to Remixing,

    Hi Hawksins,

    Thanks for the tutorial, they are quite helpul.The reason file link seem to be broken. Can you send me the file or is there a better way to get hold of that file?

    Dj Bossruu

    Dj Bossruu,

    Yes, it disappeared for some reason. I’ve uploaded it again and it seems to be working fine now. It’s a Zip file.


    This is the most wonderfully bizarre mashup I’ve heard in a long while.

Leave a Comment