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Legion Kreinak

Remixing - How is it done?

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Alright, I'm still venturing into the world of music creation. As of now, I've used FL Studio only. I made a few songs, but I'm still an amateur. I'm learning about using synths and everything still.

What I don't understand is - how do you guys remix video game music? I mean, what programs are used? How do you get the song laid out in a program, then tweak and add to it? I never thought to ask this, but when I think about it now, it baffles me.

What programs are typically used for remixing video game music? I'd like to start toying with remixing as well as creating stuff from scratch.

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Well, the only way I know of to pull in notes from the original song is to find a midi online that someone has created and import it into a music program (like fl studio) and tweak it from there. Pitfall is that it's easy to fall into "midi ripping" which is basically taking a midi from the song and assigning new instruments/sounds to the notes (not allowed per site standards).

This is why I prefer another method...

You listen to the original song and then construct an arrangement based on what your ears can pick up. This, I'm guessing, is how most people remix. It's not about pulling in the original song and changing it, but really starting from scratch and pulling your arrangement together.

EDIT: And what Gecko said

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You listen to the original song and then construct an arrangement based on what your ears can pick up.

QFT

I wouldn't do it any other way than this, otherwise your mix will either sound like an original with a vaguely similar tacked on extra melody, or like a bland midi-rip (In my experience at least)

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QFT

I wouldn't do it any other way than this, otherwise your mix will either sound like an original with a vaguely similar tacked on extra melody, or like a bland midi-rip (In my experience at least)

yes, if i use a midi it pretty much destroys my creativity.

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What I don't understand is - how do you guys remix video game music? I mean, what programs are used?

If this were a buddhist monastery I'd slap you and tell you to go sweep the temple courtyard. Twice. With a toothbrush. For asking the stupid, wrong question that keeps you away from nirvana.

Start with the really simple stuff.

Use a keyboard with a piano sound. I don't care if it's a cheap Casio or an awesome graded hammer-action board. Just get that in front of you.

Then, listen to the melody of the original song.

Then play it. Repeat it. Try different styles; put a different emphasis on the notes. Add some swing. Substitute chords. Transpose. Play faster, slower, try to cram it in 3/4ths. Improvise over it. Add a counterpoint.

Eventually you'll find something that sticks and sounds different. You're halfway done; after this, you'll get out of the rest of the instruments, and fill in stuff.

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If this were a buddhist monastery I'd slap you and tell you to go sweep the temple courtyard. Twice. With a toothbrush. For asking the stupid, wrong question that keeps you away from nirvana.

Start with the really simple stuff.

Use a keyboard with a piano sound. I don't care if it's a cheap Casio or an awesome graded hammer-action board. Just get that in front of you.

Then, listen to the melody of the original song.

Then play it. Repeat it. Try different styles; put a different emphasis on the notes. Add some swing. Substitute chords. Transpose. Play faster, slower, try to cram it in 3/4ths. Improvise over it. Add a counterpoint.

Eventually you'll find something that sticks and sounds different. You're halfway done; after this, you'll get out of the rest of the instruments, and fill in stuff.

Tough love; thanks.

I can't play the piano, so trying to play the melody on the keyboard wouldn't be the easiest thing for me.

And yes, I still need to buy a MIDI controller.

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Are you asking where the ideas come from or how we go about actually executing them?

Answer to the first question: Ask ten different remixers this, and I bet five will give you completely different answers, and the other five (inlcuding me) will say "I have no idea."

Answer to the second question: there are many ways to do it, and it varies a lot from person to person. How much money are you willing to spend?

If you want to do it for free, there are free programs (modplug, noteworthy composer, synthfont, audacity, and others) and free samples (www.hammersound.net) that will help.

If you want to do it for cheap (relatively speaking), FLStudio seems to be a good place to start. I've never used it, but it's popular and I've heard some top-notch remixes done with it.

In the higher range are programs like Sonar, Cubase, Reason, etc.

As for hardware, it really depends a lot on how you're going to go about remixing, and it varies a ton from person to person. Some (but not all) find it easier to use a midi controller. Some (though not many) use full-blown keyboard workstations. Some do it entirely by mouse.

And then if you want to record live, that adds another set of expenses (mics, mixers, etc).

Whatever your methods, it would probably be a good idea to invest in a decent soundcard. I've used an E-mu 1212M and a Creamware Scope Home card, both of which sound excellent but are a bit complicated and will probably scare the crap out of you if you're just starting. There are probably other people who could do a better job of giving reccomendations here.

It would also be a good idea to get a decent set of headphones. Eventually, if you can afford them, good monitors would also be a worthy investment; however, good monitors are quite expensive, and generally require other gear (mixer and/or poweramp) as well.

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Answer to the second question: there are many ways to do it, and it varies a lot from person to person. How much money are you willing to spend?

If you want to do it for free, there are free programs (modplug, noteworthy composer, synthfont, audacity, and others) and free samples (www.hammersound.net) that will help.

If you want to do it for cheap (relatively speaking), FLStudio seems to be a good place to start. I've never used it, but it's popular and I've heard some top-notch remixes done with it.

In the higher range are programs like Sonar, Cubase, Reason, etc.

As for hardware, it really depends a lot on how you're going to go about remixing, and it varies a ton from person to person. Some (but not all) find it easier to use a midi controller. Some (though not many) use full-blown keyboard workstations. Some do it entirely by mouse.

And then if you want to record live, that adds another set of expenses (mics, mixers, etc).

Whatever your methods, it would probably be a good idea to invest in a decent soundcard. I've used an E-mu 1212M and a Creamware Scope Home card, both of which sound excellent but are a bit complicated and will probably scare the crap out of you if you're just starting. There are probably other people who could do a better job of giving reccomendations here.

It would also be a good idea to get a decent set of headphones. Eventually, if you can afford them, good monitors would also be a worthy investment; however, good monitors are quite expensive, and generally require other gear (mixer and/or poweramp) as well.

It was the second question. How is it executed?

Not sure how much I'm willing to spend. Enough for FL and a MIDI controller, at least.

I have no interest in anything live, so that saves me cost there.

I don't need headphones, do I? What's the purpose other than not to disturb others? That's not an issue here.

So if people just listen to the song, then emulate what they hear and tweak it, how is it you get the right sounds to match what's heard in a lot of VG music? Is it just trial and error? Searching endlessly through packs of presets and sound effects until you get something good?

Or is it more a matter of making the melody or beat the same, albeit with a slightly different instrument/effect?

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So if people just listen to the song, then emulate what they hear and tweak it, how is it you get the right sounds to match what's heard in a lot of VG music?

For SNES sounds, it's simple; the sound is just a lower quality sample of what you're supposed to hear.

For the NES and Megadrive, you have to imagine what the sound's supposed to represent. All composers draw on their knowledge of real instruments and have to deal with the unrealistic or completely different sounding version on the console. Worse, their entire array of tricks doesn't work.

On most NES games, this is hard; squarewaves are the easiest to do, but the result is that every instrument in the track sounds similar. Still, it leaves you with discernable portions of the bass, the padding and the lead. Replace it with something similar that fills this role until it clicks - sometimes it's indeed just that.

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For SNES sounds, it's simple; the sound is just a lower quality sample of what you're supposed to hear.

For the NES and Megadrive, you have to imagine what the sound's supposed to represent. All composers draw on their knowledge of real instruments and have to deal with the unrealistic or completely different sounding version on the console. Worse, their entire array of tricks doesn't work.

On most NES games, this is hard; squarewaves are the easiest to do, but the result is that every instrument in the track sounds similar. Still, it leaves you with discernable portions of the bass, the padding and the lead. Replace it with something similar that fills this role until it clicks - sometimes it's indeed just that.

Then what about the music from newer consoles? I recall someone mentioning to me that more modern video game music used programs like Absynth (among others), which is why I went to check it out in the first place. I guess the sounds I want will be in there some where.

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Absynth has a forte in screwed-up sounds, long, ambient soundscapes and just wild, unrecognizable effects. It's got some stuff in there that can score an entire J-horror movie just by holding a single key. But, eventually, it's all variations on the old "hey, let's scare people by playing high, jarred notes on a violin" in

- but because synths don't care about physical limitations (ow my arm gets tired), you can draw out its duration and let it spend its jolly time on a crescendo. It can do "regular" sounds too, but most owners would ask you why you wanted to do that - you have "regular" synths for that ;).

Anyway, modern game soundtracks are tougher; mostly because there's a lot more storage room for the music. This means that the recognizability of the theme isn't there so much (unless it's a movie adaptation which usually has a number of distinct themes and melody "hooks"). Second point is of course that the music is no longer bound to a particular soundchip.

On older consoles, you had to do everything with the limited number of voices or sample storage, and there aren't any tools like effects (reverb; chorus can be faked) or dynamic treatment (compressors). That, plus the limited memory means that music had to get to the point pretty fast (no elaborate introductions), but also not bore you to tears when playing it for a long time.

As for your sound palette:

- one plugin/module/keyboard for realistic sounds. It's called the "bread & butter" - basically you have a reasonably big library with pianos, strings, brass, etc.

- one plugin/module/keyboard for non-realistic sounds. This can be done by Absynth - but a lot more options are available.

- one sampler (or any plugin/module/keyboard specifically geared towards playing back your own recorded sounds or samples). The difference with the first one is pretty much nothing anymore nowadays; it's just that samplers usually didn't have libraries included (except for some factory sounds) while the first is switch-on-load-up-go. This sampler will handle the percussion and effects sounds.

That's it, basically. The reason people have more of 'm? Very simple; you can split up the bread & butter in various libraries. Something like this here: http://www.luxonix.com/home/en/products.html?id=ravityS - that's all thrown in one.

To split this up, you'd buy:

http://www.ilio.com/vienna/index.html - for all the orchestral sounds, http://www.native-instruments.com/index.php?id=akoustikpiano_us for the piano, B4 for the organ (since this is modeled it won't slurp up absurd amounts of room). It just depends on it how crazy you want to make things; splitting up is converting cash to added realism.

Don't underestimate the bread & butter; it's very useful. It's also something Absynth generally won't do for you (exception: some programmer with wayyy too much time could make a beautiful-sounding violin on it; just don't ask for other instruments).

Then there's the problem of stalwart genres. Older sound chips just sounded like nothing else at the time; a modern soundtrack sounds like everything else, because a composer has everything at his disposal. So, per scene or level or whatever part of the game, you get a soundtrack that fits best; it discerns itself more by the instruments used than by the pace and melody. As a composer, you want to convey atmosphere; as a remixer, you want to take a look at the piece of music on its own and change the atmosphere to your own liking; since it's no longer attached to a certain phase of the game.

Or you just want to replace the arrangement with more realistic instruments. Rob Hubbard (Commodore 64 composer and pretty much god, along with a few others) once said about a certain remix that it sounded exactly as he imagined it should, if he didn't have the limitations of the SID-chip. On the other hand; if he didn't have it, the tune wouldn't have sounded like that at all.

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So if people just listen to the song, then emulate what they hear and tweak it, how is it you get the right sounds to match what's heard in a lot of VG music? Is it just trial and error? Searching endlessly through packs of presets and sound effects until you get something good?

Or is it more a matter of making the melody or beat the same, albeit with a slightly different instrument/effect?

For the most part, I try to choose different instruments than the original song, but I also sort of know what I want something to sound like in my head, so I'm trying to match that instead of the original instrument. Same principle, really. I think some of matching is trial and error, and often settling for something not quite what you imagined, but that works. But for the most part, it's a quick process to match an instrument. I know where to start looking for a specific sound and it doesn't take me that long to find the right thing. Sometimes I'll have used a similar sound in a previous song and it's just a matter of looking it up. It gets easier the more you do it (like anything).

As for copying from a MIDI, I like having the MIDI around as a reference, for songs with weird chords or quick melodies. I'm pretty bad at getting the notes exactly right otherwise, if I'm trying to get them right.

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Absynth has a forte in screwed-up sounds, long, ambient soundscapes and just wild, unrecognizable effects. It's got some stuff in there that can score an entire J-horror movie just by holding a single key. But, eventually, it's all variations on the old "hey, let's scare people by playing high, jarred notes on a violin" in
- but because synths don't care about physical limitations (ow my arm gets tired), you can draw out its duration and let it spend its jolly time on a crescendo. It can do "regular" sounds too, but most owners would ask you why you wanted to do that - you have "regular" synths for that ;).

Anyway, modern game soundtracks are tougher; mostly because there's a lot more storage room for the music. This means that the recognizability of the theme isn't there so much (unless it's a movie adaptation which usually has a number of distinct themes and melody "hooks"). Second point is of course that the music is no longer bound to a particular soundchip.

On older consoles, you had to do everything with the limited number of voices or sample storage, and there aren't any tools like effects (reverb; chorus can be faked) or dynamic treatment (compressors). That, plus the limited memory means that music had to get to the point pretty fast (no elaborate introductions), but also not bore you to tears when playing it for a long time.

As for your sound palette:

- one plugin/module/keyboard for realistic sounds. It's called the "bread & butter" - basically you have a reasonably big library with pianos, strings, brass, etc.

- one plugin/module/keyboard for non-realistic sounds. This can be done by Absynth - but a lot more options are available.

- one sampler (or any plugin/module/keyboard specifically geared towards playing back your own recorded sounds or samples). The difference with the first one is pretty much nothing anymore nowadays; it's just that samplers usually didn't have libraries included (except for some factory sounds) while the first is switch-on-load-up-go. This sampler will handle the percussion and effects sounds.

That's it, basically. The reason people have more of 'm? Very simple; you can split up the bread & butter in various libraries. Something like this here: http://www.luxonix.com/home/en/products.html?id=ravityS - that's all thrown in one.

To split this up, you'd buy:

http://www.ilio.com/vienna/index.html - for all the orchestral sounds, http://www.native-instruments.com/index.php?id=akoustikpiano_us for the piano, B4 for the organ (since this is modeled it won't slurp up absurd amounts of room). It just depends on it how crazy you want to make things; splitting up is converting cash to added realism.

Don't underestimate the bread & butter; it's very useful. It's also something Absynth generally won't do for you (exception: some programmer with wayyy too much time could make a beautiful-sounding violin on it; just don't ask for other instruments).

Then there's the problem of stalwart genres. Older sound chips just sounded like nothing else at the time; a modern soundtrack sounds like everything else, because a composer has everything at his disposal. So, per scene or level or whatever part of the game, you get a soundtrack that fits best; it discerns itself more by the instruments used than by the pace and melody. As a composer, you want to convey atmosphere; as a remixer, you want to take a look at the piece of music on its own and change the atmosphere to your own liking; since it's no longer attached to a certain phase of the game.

Or you just want to replace the arrangement with more realistic instruments. Rob Hubbard (Commodore 64 composer and pretty much god, along with a few others) once said about a certain remix that it sounded exactly as he imagined it should, if he didn't have the limitations of the SID-chip. On the other hand; if he didn't have it, the tune wouldn't have sounded like that at all.

Wow, tons of info there. And that Vienna orchestral package is INSANELY expensive.

This actually reminds me of another question I had. Although it's not cut and dry, when making songs (not remixes, really), there's almost always some stuff in every song that fills out the soundscape. I've noticed you tend to have:

Hats, Snares, Basses

Ambient sound effects (cloudy/airy for happy trance, darker/eerie for dark trance)

Pads created in synths (the melody of the song, kind've)

I notice I don't fill out the scape enough on my songs, they sound like you can escape - from what I understand, you want a person to be totally enveloped in the song. No matter where they turn, it's like...a sound is there. The highs, lows, and all in the middle.

What I wanted to ask was pretty basic - what else is used to fill out the sound? I mean, I know you can layer multiple drums and the like, but are the things I mentioned above generally what songs will consist of?

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I do pretty much what Yoozer is talks about earlier, if I can I find the sheet music for the song then just sit down and play it, mess it up, mix it up, make new melody lines, chord progressions, mix it with other songs etc. Then try it with some other sounds for inspirations.

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My first post! Yay!

I'm not exactly good at any of this stuff, but I can say with a little bit of confidence that first you need the basic tools to get started. Then, using these tools, try to duplicate some of these songs you hear... you have to learn how to use your setup first. Just keep doing this with different songs until eventually using the setup becomes second nature and you don't have to think about it. That's when the bottleneck between what is in your head and what comes out becomes negligible.

From there you can do anything really... if you want to remix a song then you can do what these kind people said and load up a midi, or play it by ear. Personally I like to listen to the song myself and recreate it instead of loading up an already created version of it... they aren't always so accurate in my experience.

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This actually reminds me of another question I had. Although it's not cut and dry, when making songs (not remixes, really), there's almost always some stuff in every song that fills out the soundscape. I've noticed you tend to have:

Hats, Snares, Basses

Ambient sound effects (cloudy/airy for happy trance, darker/eerie for dark trance)

Pads created in synths (the melody of the song, kind've)

I notice I don't fill out the scape enough on my songs, they sound like you can escape - from what I understand, you want a person to be totally enveloped in the song. No matter where they turn, it's like...a sound is there. The highs, lows, and all in the middle.

What I wanted to ask was pretty basic - what else is used to fill out the sound? I mean, I know you can layer multiple drums and the like, but are the things I mentioned above generally what songs will consist of?

Since you're using FL studio, I would recommend getting around to looking at dragor's tutorials if you get a chance. They're not a one-stop solution, but they've got some neat ideas regarding "fullness" as he calls it, and it sounds like it might address your questions.

keep in mind that songs aren't usually ALWAYS full--there's gotta be some variation, for instance one section of the song might have the bass drop out, or maybe suddenly everything goes away except for a low pad. This is how you achieve variation...

There's also a writing lurking around somewhere about the "four-man combo" approach (it is four, isn't it? correct me if im wrong guys) but I can't find it at the moment. essentially, you can separate your instrumentation into drummer, bassist, lead, harmony...you get the idea.

as for remixes, most of the remixes on this site use vastly differing instrumentation than the original (though some use sampled sound FX). That's why we have Castlevania done in rock guitar, as opposed to Castlevania done in bleepy square waves.

...right now you still need to get much much more familiar with the program and the tools, it seems like. then you can worry about the more advanced stuff.

as for the production aspect, start listening to really good songs, particularly songs of the genre you want to produce (i'm guessing some kind of electronic music based on what you've said already). analyze the song--what's going on in each section of the song? what's the overall structure? how are chord progressions, layered sounds, call-and-response melodies, etc etc etc used?

also, if you haven't already read Zircon's remixing tips (found in the "guides and tutorials" section here) i would strongly recommend it.

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Personally, I rarely import midis, partly because I trust my ear more than I trust most people who create midi's ears.

I mean, importing a well-made one can save some time. It's usually a good idea though to change some things in the midi notation, so it's not the exact same as the original, and you generally want to only import certain tracks of the midi, not just the whole thing verbatim. Like, ffs, make your own drums, except maybe for some particular drum part that's essential you'd like to preserve, but even then, find some way to be creative with it.

I find that between tracking from scratch, and importing select midi data and tweaking it, they make for drastically different, umm, i'm a little drunk and at a loss for the specific word/term i'm looking for here, but drastically different.. ways of composing/arranging. Meaning, were I to start a remix of a particular song using one method, and finish said remix, and then travel back in time forgetting all about said remix, and do it this time using the other method, the final results would be quite different.

Like I said, I prefer the from-scratch method. I find that it's much more conducive to my creative juices. Rather than asking myself "what do I alter?" I'm asking myself something more like "what do I track in next?"

I can't think of anything else to say.. really, I think some of the previous posts in this thread have a lot more useful information than I've provided here, but, just felt like adding my 2 cents.

If you have any further, perhaps more specific questions, I'd be happy to oblige.

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JJT's method of remixing vgm (may vary from remix to remix):

1) learn the chord structure and melody on a piano

2) play said chord structure/melody many times

3) write a simple drum/bass track in FruityLoops

4) record either guitar or piano parts over drum/bass tracks

5) go back and refine drum/bass tracks to compliment what i've recorded

6) do the same for guitar/piano/whatever tracks

7) repeat steps 5 and 6 as long as neccesary

8) touch ups (re-record some parts, edit some parts etc)

9) mix/master

10) ocremix!

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Since you're using FL studio, I would recommend getting around to looking at dragor's tutorials if you get a chance. They're not a one-stop solution, but they've got some neat ideas regarding "fullness" as he calls it, and it sounds like it might address your questions.

keep in mind that songs aren't usually ALWAYS full--there's gotta be some variation, for instance one section of the song might have the bass drop out, or maybe suddenly everything goes away except for a low pad. This is how you achieve variation...

There's also a writing lurking around somewhere about the "four-man combo" approach (it is four, isn't it? correct me if im wrong guys) but I can't find it at the moment. essentially, you can separate your instrumentation into drummer, bassist, lead, harmony...you get the idea.

as for remixes, most of the remixes on this site use vastly differing instrumentation than the original (though some use sampled sound FX). That's why we have Castlevania done in rock guitar, as opposed to Castlevania done in bleepy square waves.

...right now you still need to get much much more familiar with the program and the tools, it seems like. then you can worry about the more advanced stuff.

as for the production aspect, start listening to really good songs, particularly songs of the genre you want to produce (i'm guessing some kind of electronic music based on what you've said already). analyze the song--what's going on in each section of the song? what's the overall structure? how are chord progressions, layered sounds, call-and-response melodies, etc etc etc used?

also, if you haven't already read Zircon's remixing tips (found in the "guides and tutorials" section here) i would strongly recommend it.

Dragor's tutorials are causing errors in FL. It says it can't find the Delay Bank, Reverb...something, and a bunch of other things when I try to open it. What gives?

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Hey, you know, if you make remixes by emulating the sound as best you can, then how do people make remixes of things like Final Fantasy VII's One Winged Angel?

I have one of those remixes, and it has the chorus and chanting and everything. How is something like that done?

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Hey, you know, if you make remixes by emulating the sound as best you can, then how do people make remixes of things like Final Fantasy VII's One Winged Angel?

I have one of those remixes, and it has the chorus and chanting and everything. How is something like that done?

again, most remixes here do NOT aim to emulate the sound of the original. (what would be the point?)

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Hey, you know, if you make remixes by emulating the sound as best you can, then how do people make remixes of things like Final Fantasy VII's One Winged Angel?

That's the opposite of what most people do here. The "remixes" on this site are basically original arrangements and material based off of themes from video games and such. To me, it's the same as writing an original piece except now instead of thinking of new ideas to start with, you already know what you're going to be building on and what you're working with. If you try to emulate the original versions, it probably won't get accepted.

I have one of those remixes, and it has the chorus and chanting and everything. How is something like that done?

By using samples of chorus and chanting. There are free soundfonts of chorus singing and such but if you want to get expensive there's sample libraries like Symphonic Choirs where you can actually build words out of different syllables, sounds quite realistic.

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That's the opposite of what most people do here. The "remixes" on this site are basically original arrangements and material based off of themes from video games and such. To me, it's the same as writing an original piece except now instead of thinking of new ideas to start with, you already know what you're going to be building on and what you're working with. If you try to emulate the original versions, it probably won't get accepted.

By using samples of chorus and chanting. There are free soundfonts of chorus singing and such but if you want to get expensive there's sample libraries like Symphonic Choirs where you can actually build words out of different syllables, sounds quite realistic.

Yeah, but it's not just some generic chorus sample that sounds similar. It's the exact track used in FF7.

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