Com Truise: Remixing Small Black’s “Duplex” (Video)

+ This video lesson is presented courtesy of Com Truise’s Mid-Fi Synthwave Slow-Motion Funk course. To access this and hundreds more in-depth videos and tutorials, subscribe to Soundfly.

The Com Truise remix of Small Black’s “Duplex” came together pretty quickly for Seth Haley. Relying on some favorite tools, well-honed processes, creative instincts, and the fact that he liked the song to begin with, Seth was able to bring his unique sound to the table while staying true to the original material.

Let’s take a closer look at how he did that, in this lesson taken directly from his exclusive course on Soundfly.

Source Material

The song “Duplex” by the chillwave group Small Black features mesmerizing vocals and a treated piano sound — two elements Seth was very conscious of while working on his remix. Here’s the original track:

In his version of the song, Seth incorporated some really interesting production tools, techniques, and ideas, including a drum effects chain, a Moog One bass line, and a piano loop made using granular processing software. Check it out and see what else you hear:

Now, let’s break down some of the details that go into Seth’s remix process and how they were incorporated in the making of this track.

Some of Seth’s General Remix Tips

1. Keep the reference close at hand and check it often.

When Seth does a remix, he puts the original track right into his DAW project, leaving it there throughout the process so it’s easy to reference. While other producers may use multiple stems for this, he likes having to work a bit harder to figure things out for himself. Plus, it allows for a greater likelihood of the kinds of “little accidents” that can help make it feel unique and more his own.

2. Determine the tempo. 

Whether he intends to make adjustments in this area or not, Seth figures out the song’s original BPM pretty early on. In the case of a vocal-heavy track like “Duplex,” he’s less likely to make changes, as he’s not a fan of the sound of vocal parts that have been stretched for tempo-fitting purposes.

3. Incorporate go-to’s to make it your own. 

As mentioned earlier, using some familiar strategies and sonic ideas helped Seth give the remix a real taste of the Com Truise sound. In this case, a few specifics include the sound of that Moog One bass line, his use of the Capitol Chambers plugin on the drums, and the incredible breakdown.

The Mangled Piano

One of the first things Seth focused on for his “Duplex” remix was the piano part that remains a pretty consistent character throughout the original track. He wanted to keep it in a similar role, but transform it somehow. For that, he used Slate + Ash’s CYCLES plugin, which the company describes as “an innovative and powerful loop manipulation and granular synthesis environment.”

Here’s another taste of how Seth used CYCLES on the piano part in “Duplex:”

The Vocal

Initially, Seth didn’t do much to the vocal, but after being asked to push it somewhere new and interesting, he most definitely delivered.

Some parts were reversed, creating variation and adding a stronger sense of push and pull. He also chopped things up here and there using Ableton Live. 

Seth also chose to stretch some vocal samples, but in an intentional and selective way as opposed to trying to shoehorn a lead part to fit a new tempo.

For the most part, the vocal changes Seth happen early in the song. That’s largely because as the song progresses, there’s more and more synth work at play, making the latter part of the track a more naturally fertile environment for incorporating the Com Truise sound.

The Breakdown

One of Seth’s signature moves with remixes as well as original work is to end a track with a crazy, glitched out breakdown that feels almost like an entirely different song. As he puts it, “it’s as though you just dropped the computer in the pool or something.” People have often told him that these breakdowns are some of their favorite moments, and that each of them is kind of like a track within a track.

In the “Duplex” remix, that breakdown begins a little over three and a half minutes into the song. Here it is on its own:

Lots of creativity and experimentation goes into this and after listening to Seth describe the artistry involved, we suspect there are aspects of the process that are special and unique to each breakdown.

That said, he essentially builds these breakdowns using moments pulled from elsewhere in the track that he affects and assembles in different ways. He may change pitches, slow things down, stretch them out, add distortion, and so forth depending on what the project seems to call for.

For “Duplex’s” breakdown, Seth made heavy use of pitch bend as well as Output’s granular FX plugin, Portal. Here’s another taste of that:

When you find inspiring tools like that and incorporate them into your work (whether you’re infusing your sound into a remix or creating something from scratch), you open yourself to an endless world of sonic exploration and compelling musical ideas.

Don’t stop here!

Continue learning with hundreds of lessons on songwriting, mixing, recording and production, composing, beat making, and more on Soundfly, with artist-led courses by Kimbra, JlinKiefer, RJD2, Ryan Lott, and of course, Com Truise: Mid-Fi Synthwave Slow-Motion Funk

Com Truise: Mid-Fi Synthwave Slow-Motion Funk

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