While working as a Quality Assurance Engineer for Cakewalk I have the privilege and duty to test the latest builds before they are available to the public. While testing SONAR X2a and the CA-2A T-Type Leveling Amplifier I decided to work on an MGMT inspired remix of new song written by Cakewalk Graphic Designer Dan Kaplan. Dan gave me the stems from his studio sessions and from there I remixed the song using SONAR X2 Producer, the CA-2A, and Z3TA+ 2.
When I first listened to Dan Kaplan’s song Sink or Swim one of my favorite things about the song was the dynamic between the male and female vocals. I thought it would be interesting to try and approach the song more as a duet or at least feature the female vocal more than in the original. I started by putting the original stems in one folder in SONAR and began setting up tracks for the remix in another. I created some instrument tracks for Session Drummer 3, Studio Instruments Electric Piano, and Z3TA+ 2. I then brought in sections of the bass and piano stems and began working on the first chorus trying to get the vocal dynamic working. I added Kick samples and built a pad to fade between chords using Z3TA+ 2. The Bass needed to be a lot more aggressive and the saturation knob in combination with some EQ got the sound I wanted. I used a synth sample from the original stems for the instrumental sections that reminded me of a MGMT riff and layered some different snares and claps to add more energy. Things were already moving well towards the end of the song but I needed to figure out how to get to the first chorus. I found a great background vocal sample from the end of the original track that reminded me of something the band FUN might do and thought that it would be a cool way to start the song. Using 4 different instances of SD3 I built the giant drum circle intro and added some of my own guitars using TH2. I put some rhodes and strings in the intro as well which to me kept the space that was there but left some nice texture. The strings also really helped the transition into the first chorus when the pad comes in and takes over.
I’ve always liked well planned vocal arrangements in pop music and wanted to build a 3 or 4 part vocal section for the end. I copied and moved the original chorus to the end and began playing around with other vocal samples to see where other phrases could come in without hurting the melody. It started with the female sample “There’s one more step” which besides adding to the context of the song helped setup the lead vocal when Dan repeats the same lyrics. I then used it for the bridge as well. I cut up the lyrics “Sink or Swim” that Dan sings and also layered that in a few choice spots.
I added some splashy electronic cymbal hits for added effect throughout the song and chopped some of the kick and snare samples to give it some life and not be too repetitive. I found a great long kick hit in the included sample library that I reversed for the sub swells along with reversing some other samples and sections of the guitar. Each track went through the A-Type console emulator which I think adds more air to the track and used a lot of the BREVERB SONAR plug-in for reverb on tracks and busses. To get the weird watery effect on the female vocals in the bridge I pulled out the original Z3TA+ which can be used as an audio plug-in also and found a preset to start with and tweaked it so the words were still understandable.