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The difference between them confuses me.

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  • You're looking for a difference that doesn't fundamentally exist: the concept of "musical mashup" may coincide with that of a DJ mix, and it may not as well. In practice, the difference is so subjective to the perception of those two terms (including how they're perceived in their context usage) that trying to make a distinction is quite pointless. It's similar to asking for "what is the difference between blue/black and white/gold". May 14 at 3:04
  • word soup used to describe music-based creations should not be confused or conflated with actual music.
    – danmcb
    May 14 at 9:39
  • I disagree with the close votes, esp. those with the "identification" reason, and whoever voted "needs details or clarity" should comment explaining what's needed. I think this question can be answered. Both terms are used a little loosely or sometimes perhaps misused, but there definitely are definitions to be had. E.g. wikipedia for mashup. May 14 at 13:39
  • (For that matter there's also a wikipedia entry for "DJ mix"). May 14 at 15:16

1 Answer 1

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Since these terms are used in multiple contexts, we can find multiple uses for them, just as "DJ" can describe some pretty different activities, from radio disc-jockeying to Grandmaster Flash to Tiesto. But we can find some core definitions.

A mashup is usually a work that incorporates elements from one or more source works into something that is its own new work. In a sense it's a "remix," except a remix of multiple songs at once. It usually blends or layers the source works throughout, so that you hear bits of the originals combined or juxtaposed all the way through, rather than hearing one song followed by another. I sometimes hear the word "mashup" used for the latter—a sort of medley in which you hear one song and then another—but this would be better described as some kind of "mix"; more on that later.

An example of a mashup might be how Jonathan Coulton combined this song by Chicago...

... and this one by the Beatles...

... to make this:

From the start, Paul McCartney's vocals are supported by Chicago's iconic guitar riff, and eventually we hear the play on the lyrics "sixty four" and "six to four" juxtaposed. Another favorite of mine is an admittedly simple take on a Rickroll, simply using Rick Astley's vocals over Nirvana's instrumentals:

This video, made to demo a piece of software, gives pretty good insight into the mixing choices being made in real time:

Or, for an entire album, Danger Mouse's The Grey Album is made up entirely of mashups of Jay-Z's The Black Album with the Beatles' "White Album":

Meanwhile, "DJ mix" is a looser term. (Also, mashups are typically made by someone who might describe themself as a DJ.) A "mix" or "mixset" is simply a number of songs that have been connected by a DJ. Anyone can make a playlist, so what makes a DJ a DJ is the ability to connect them seamlessly. At the least, this often involves synchronizing their beats and tempos, and the period in between songs in which the DJ "mixes" them together might grow and evolve to be quite lengthy, and bits of the the songs might overlap, just like in a mashup. And the act of creating a mashup definitely requires the skills of "mixing," so you might hear the word "mix" used for it as well. But for there to be any meaningful distinction, a "mashup" combines its sources throughout, while something that keeps its sources mostly sequential, occupying one part of the track after another, is better called a "mix."

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