Why Every DJ Should Be Making Edits
In today’s article, DJTT contributor Tenova is back with an article all about the importance of making your own edits. Taking tracks and chopping up their song structure to make them easier or more fun to mix into a DJ set is a great practice. Keep reading to find out why every DJ should be making edits – and how to get started.
Not Every Mix Will Be Perfect…
As with many new DJs, when first learning I asked my mentors, “Should I preplan my set?”. Unsurprisingly, I was met with a resounding “NO,” from each of them, stressing the importance of reading the room properly, and making decisions for what records to play “on the fly.”
They were correct…and yet, I felt that they were missing out on another great opportunity to improve their DJ sets – specifically around how song structure affects your ability to mix a track you’re not as familiar with.
“remembering the intimate details of a record is a time-consuming, inefficient process“
As DJs, most of us strive to get that perfect mix each time. The biggest challenge we face is that almost no two records are identical, and remembering the intimate details of a record is a time-consuming, inefficient process that might leave too much room for error. What happens if you don’t play or listen to a same track for three months, and then find yourself needing to play it?
I won’t remember much about a record’s structure after not listening to it for while. When bombarded with hundreds of promos each week, how can any DJ?
Why Should DJs Make Their Own Edits?
DJs’ audiences notice when we make mixing mistakes. It’s our job to minimize these mistakes with a solid foundation of preparation. The commonly touted solution to this is, “Know your tracks!” But for DJs constantly adding new tracks, how can you get to know tens or hundreds of records each month?
Luckily, there is a better way forward. Seamless mixing is made easier by making your own edits.
No matter what type of DJ you are, making your own edits can offer the same advantages that pre-planning a set may. Making edits helps a DJ know when the record is going to breakdown, when vocals will begin, etc. This allows heightened awareness when mixing, and ultimately the creative freedom to breeze through a crate with ease.
Additionally, making edits can be a fantastic way of getting DJs acclimated to the world of production, a skill that becomes more necessary to adopt each year.
Sidenote: Many DJ platforms have integrated beat jump features, allowing for perfect phrasing and quick error corrections. Beat jump can partially negate the need to edit tracks for structure. Unfortunately, most older CDJs are not equipped with this function – and jumping in a track while playing it can become tedious and risky.
How To Make An Edit
There are infinite ways to edit a record. Mashing it up with another track, adding in a DJ drop, changing the structure to best suit your mixing style – the possibilities are endless. In this article, I’ll focus on the latter – we can cover more advanced techniques in the future.
My good friend DJ Strobe has put out a YouTube video on making such edits. He’s using Ableton Live, but this process can be replicated in any digital audio workstation.
Don’t Forget! Bounce your tracks out in 44,100Hz .WAV format! For converting to MP3, you can simply use iTunes.
You can also make BPM transition tools fairly easily in a similar way – watch this great tutorial from a few years ago on DJTT:
My DJ Edit Process
I begin by downloading records from Beatport. If I am using one of my favorite record pools, there are usually short edits already prepared. If the record is in need of a short edit, using the pre-made edits from pools like DMS, ClubKillers, or DJCity can save time.
Next, I drop them into Ableton Live. When playing House, I typically like to have a 16-32 bar intro prior to being able to swap the bassline to that of my incoming track. Even seeing the waveform in Ableton for a few minutes begins the process of getting familiar with that record.
Consider using Mixed In Key (before starting) and Platinum Notes (after your edit is finished) to keep edits in key and at good levels.
- If the intro is already 32 bars long, I will sometimes leave it be, or perhaps even shorten it to 8 or 16 bars. This works great for dropping in classic tracks that may not have been designed with today’s club environments in mind.
- Often times, I will find that a breakdown is too long, or that the producer has chosen to make a drop longer than what I feel would work. These can also be adjusted using DJ Strobe’s simple method of copying, pasting and deleting on the grid in Ableton.
- I always ensure that a suitable outro exists. Since looping is so simple on all platforms, I worry less about the length of the outro. Even still, I often find 32 bars to be suitable.
After editing, I then import my new tracks into Rekordbox, set memory points at both my mix in and mix out point, and head off to my gig!
An Example DJ Edit
Double ‘99’s RIPGROOVE is an absolute classic banger of a record, but it has a breakdown that never seems to work with my club sets. I’ve done a short edit using the above methods that allow me to mix in and out of it quickly:
DJs must be careful when making an edit not to disturb the soul of the original track. Every record was produced in a particular way on purpose. This care is a skill that only comes with experience, and yet many DJs pick it up with ease.
Each style of music will be edited differently. Playing all quick hitter edits in a Tech House set makes as much sense as editing Hip-Hop tracks to have 32 bar intros. Ask yourself, how can this track be made better for my sets?
Making edits has saved me endless amounts of time and made my sets far cleaner. If you have any questions or your own tips for producing edits, please share them in the comments below!