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This question might not be fit for this stack, but I didn't find any other. My apologies to music students out there :)

When is a song a remix, and when is it a cover?

Lets take Corona - The Rhythm of the Night as an example.

The cover by Bastille (which is also a mashup) is clearly a cover? No original sample has been used in this one.

But there are remixes (remakes?) where they only keep the lead singers voice, and everything else is new: Simon from Deep Divas - The Rhythm of the Night. Is this a cover or a remix? And this one actually has remixes of itself too.

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    +1 Nice question! Seems to me that new versions of songs are often going to be on a spectrum between obvious covers (new artists, new recording, old song) and simple remixes (at their most basic, a remix of the originally recorded material). I think you've probably hit-the-nail-on-the-head by mentioning "the lead singer's voice", but I'm looking forward to seeing how other users respond to this question. – Bob Broadley Sep 10 '14 at 13:20
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    This type of questions will be a perfect fit for the Music Fans SE, which is in commitment phase currently. Sign up at area51.stackexchange.com/proposals/61574/music-fans. – Meaningful Username Sep 10 '14 at 14:28
  • It can also be sampling. For instance when Timbaland used Glenn Rune Gallefoss' cover of "Acidjazzed Evening" as basis for Nelly Furtado's "Do It". He muted the bass line and added a beat and song on top if it and called it sampling. – liftarn Sep 11 '14 at 7:50
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I think the difference is in the context, methods, tools, and limitations.

1) "Cover" is often used in a singer/band context, where the artist performs a song from another artist, most commonly associated with pop/rock. "Remix" is used in a production context, where the reconstruction is made using DAWs, effects, synths, edits, etc, most commonly associated with electronic music.

2) In general, a cover remains similar to the original in many ways. Melodies, structure, harmony, lyrics, etc, most elements will remain the same. If there are any changes, they'll tend to be in the arrangement. A remix, in the other hand, can drastically change the source work: different harmony, structure, add/remove/change lyrics, etc. The remix can hold no resemblance to the original, while the cover tends to try to resemble the original.

3) The remix uses material from the original (recordings, sequences, synth patches, etc). The cover doesn't (or tends not to).

4) Because of the above, generally, a cover implies performance and can be done without sound edit tools. A remix implies sound edit tools, and can be done without performers.

5) There's also difference in how the work is presented. Cover performers tend to replace the original author in the work's presentation: Morris Albert - Feelings, The Offspring - Feelings. Remix authors tend to present the work with the original and remix authors included, separately: Nathan Fake - The Sky was Pink, Nathan Fake - The Sky was Pink (James Holden remix).

Lets take Corona - The Rhythm of the Night as an example. The cover by Bastille (which is also a mashup) is clearly a cover? No original sample has been used in this one.

"No original sample" can mean different things. No sample from the original track? It doesn't fit the remix description. No original sample as in no originally created sample as in all samples are from the source track, then it fits the remix description. If structurally it resembles the original (harmony, melody, lyrics, rhythm, etc), it is on the cover area.

But there are remixes (remakes?) where they only keep the lead singers voice, and everything else is new: Simon from Deep Divas - The Rhythm of the Night. Is this a cover or a remix? And this one actually has remixes of itself too.

It depends. How was the structure and harmony changed? Do they try to resemble the original or are they trying to do their own thing? If only the voice is preserved, if really "everything else is new" as in harmony, melody, key, structure and everything else was changed, then it hardly fits the cover description and is more on the remix grounds.

Reinterpretations can be both covers and remixes (and neither), at least as defined by this answer.

  • I'm just a music fan, so a few of the technical terms are a bit over my head. But in the EDM-realm where I mostly live you often see titles like "Original Artist - Original name (Remix Name)" and the new piece incorporates almost nothing of the original piece. The main tune, maybe only the chorus, is kept, and everything else has changed. Is that really a remix then? Or is it a cover? – Christian Wattengård Sep 10 '14 at 17:02
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    @ChristianWattengård My answer addresses that question. The resemblance with the original is not important in a remix context. In covers resemblance with the original is more important. So yes, it is a remix. – Jamm Sep 10 '14 at 18:29
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A remix uses source material from an existing, recorded piece of music, which has been re-arranged with technology, changes made to that sound and extra material added.

A cover is a new performance of the same piece, usually with some changes to instrumentation, styling and approach.

Basically, a remix is the same sound, and a cover is the same song.

A different singer, singing the song over exactly the same recording is known as karaoke.

  • Would you say the RunDMC/Aerosmith version of Walk this Way is a cover or a remix? – Bob Broadley Sep 10 '14 at 13:54
  • @BobBroadley By this answer's definition, it is both, with some Karaoke elements. – Jamm Sep 10 '14 at 14:13
  • @BobBroadley The original being an Aerosmith song, they will probably have played the instrumental parts again. There's some scratches in there, but they're almost certainly extra material instead of using the original track. Basically, it's a cover. – AJFaraday Sep 11 '14 at 12:43
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In the purest form, a cover is played all out by an artist and recreated musically through practice and memory of the song and introducing and showing their influence by this specific song and/or artist.

A remix is all done after recording in a studio or on a live Mixing table with LPs and or computer technology. The recorded parts are split up and rearranged to form different sounds and different riffs. It can also be spliced with another song or two to signify the relationship between the two songs and compliment it.

you can liken this to someone remaking a movie (cover) and/or producing a parody and/or misheard lines videos (placing funny/different words in a section of the original film for comic affect) (Remix)

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I would say that a cover pertains more to the performance aspect of a song and a remix pertains more to the recording aspect of a song.

Using one of the comments by a user in another answer, he asks what about Run DMC's version of Walk This Way. Performance-wise, you could say that Run DMC covered Walk This Way. Recording-wise it was a remix because it used pieces of the original recording by Aerosmith.

Another point to make is that a remix incorporates the original recording in a different recorded arrangment. A cover is an actual performance of an existing song (whether recorded or not) by a separate artist.

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