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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.
Extending a track to a 32 bar intro for mixing purposes.
  • 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:

A before and after screenshot for a quick edit of RIPGROOVE.

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!

  • Al No Mor

    I’m with most of these people here, edits are a waste of time, having a good cue point system in place across your collection, and dialing in your awareness of the whole wave form size / track length relation with a lot of time spent actually practicing should result in an program timing that is spot on without a whole lot of conscious thought, like each track has X amount of cues, 1 is always for this kind of mix, 2 is for that kind, 3 is for another kind, maybe 4 or 5 will be your emergency reboot mix that drops into one of those 4 beat microbreakdowns right before some dope shit goes down. and getting comfortable with on the fly auto-looping, you know when to release the loop simply by reading the wave forms.

    My feeling is that people who rely on applying formulaic cookie cutter editing strategies to their tracks as opposed to simply developing a good cue point system strategy and actual on the fly technical skills is that it places this huge limitation on creativity and the development of a technically diverse mixing style. Suddenly every mix falls into the same parameters instead of each mix being unique, and custom with several potential jump points and an almost infinite amount of potential executions, with the technique and timing completely open to what came before.. Getting all edit happy I feel is in a sense a move towards locking in ones skill around a particular style of mixing or genre, instead of developing a much broader understanding of the underlying and universal aspects of music as well as a broad awareness of many different styles, genres, and their staple arrangement formulas. edit driven mixing vs technical trick mixing is like coloring books vs collages. Personally I could never stand to be defined between someone else’ lines.

    • Thomas Hricik

      Many CDJs lack the ability to use cue points. I don’t use a laptop most of the time anymore. Additionally, you’d be amazed at how many parties I’ve played in major cities that only have 2000’s (non-Nexus) or below available. Lastly, if you’re not using quantize and sync, using cue points leaves too much room for error in hitting it at exactly the right moment in my opinion.

  • Cez

    Every mix not b perfect!

  • Yup. Edits and originals. You have to bring it these days.

  • synapticflow

    I love making edits. I hate the amount of time that I put into them. I mostly do them for songs that are too short. I might need to add an intro or outro to them. Sometimes I will take out a section where a song makes a bizarre change. And of course there is the removal of the occasional F-bomb.

  • Lylax

    i bought traktor for cue points…..for live edits.

    i mean if I wanted to get jump on a table for every drop and yell 1 2 3 here we go…..then i would make my own edits……but im not named after a jet puffed treat.

    • Thomas Hricik

      Traktor is great, but all laptop based solutions are far less stable and much more of a hassle to set up than a good old flash drive. To me, it’s entirely unnecessary when playing a House set to have Traktor or Serato. I strictly use either as a tool when playing mixed format.

  • nothingnatural

    The break/build/drop in Ripgroove is the whole point of that track. It’s 1998 garage channeling 1994 jungle, and the break/build/drop was *essential* to those tunes. I appreciate what this article is teaching, and I certainly make edits as needed, but man… if you played that Ripgroove edit out and robbed me of that dubdubDubDubDUBDUBDDUUUBWIIIIISE[backspin] build I’d leave the dancefloor.

    • Thomas Hricik

      Hey mate. You know, I actually agree. I always leave the second breakdown for that. Always works better than having two for the shorter cultural attention span, millennial crowds I often play for. I wish there were more people like you at my parties, I’ll say that. 🙂

  • Jen Tim

    You can try https://www.freefileconvert.com/wav-mp3 to convert wav file to mp3 format.

  • Funk Hunk

    I’m addicted to making re-edits, i love chopping up WAVs quite a bit. The enhancement of an old track into modern dance floor fire is all i’m about.
    https://soundcloud.com/funkhunk

  • Rick

    people mention shortening a breakdown.
    for me a breakdown is an essential part of what i play (trance) where the layers are built up one by one to then hit the main section.

    • Thomas Hricik

      Trance is indeed a rare exception. I have nothing against playing through breakdowns, yet occasionally I find one where the juice isn’t worth the squeeze.

  • Rick

    i dont like edits, or cue jumping a track.
    you loose any delay tails/decays/reverb tails when you chop it up, or cue point jump

    some tracks it might work with, but not for the majority of tracks id listen to / dj with.

  • Stephen Nawlins

    Really to be honnest I don’t think Edits are a Need for a DJ in those times in which with digital Mixing, we have the possibility to make Live-Edits using Loops, CUE and HOTCUE Points.
    You don’t remember the strucutre of a Song??? Well Dammit Nowadays you have a Waveform loaded in seconds that Shows you your structure.
    Well I’m a fan of freedom for everyone, so if one things he Needs Edits…OK do it…but it’s not necessarly a plus for me.

    • I agree with this. I have several mental edits of songs I do, but at this point I feel like its more fun to just do them live. Redrums and remixes are obviously a different story, but most of my edits I just do live thanks to technology

  • FUNK SINATRA

    I basically love editing!!! this is a major part of how my name got bigger over the last decade, and my sets more fun!

    https://soundcloud.com/funksinatra

    • Funk Hunk

      Fire edits my man!

  • Albatross

    I totally get a shortened breakdown, but I find most of these issues can be handled with well labeled cue points. I’ve made edits where I need to, but my cues save me a ton of time in knowing when and where I can mix a track.

  • Pingback: Why Every DJ Should Be Making Edits – dPico AUDIOS()

  • Godrik Gen

    I think edits can bring a lot of value to the (DJ) table. I have a variety of Re-Drums, Intro/Outro and Acapella In/Out Edits, that can give the crowd that wow-effect you are looking for. One (extremely cheesy 😉 ) example is my Acapella Out Edit of Taylor Swifts Shake it Off, which perfectly blends into Lenny Kravitz’ Fly Away. It just didn’t work as well without the editing.
    Audio Example: http://www37.zippyshare.com/v/3e8xaHr4/file.html

  • Carl Williams

    why do you think serato came out with flip 3 years ago. the rip groove edit is such a bad idea, you could def shorten the break down but just to lop it off makes it pointless as its a classic. really editing is really only done well by older djs that understand what the track is supposed to do and feel to the crowd. i.e. in the rip groove ex, its a basic loop, it needs to break. Saying you dont know what to do is kinda weird if you have any experience in live/club djing. Most ppl will take that time to get on the mic or drop sound efx. With Serato Flip, you can have the orig or the edit with the press of the button. pretty dumb the guy didnt even look into this feature esp for ppl that dont have the program or knowledge to use daw’s or wav editors

    • Thomas Hricik

      Getting on the microphone will not fly in most underground settings.

      The second breakdown is where it’s at in that record.

      Most electronic DJs do not use a laptop, let alone Serato Flip.

  • “Often times, I will find that a breakdown is too long,” <– seriously I find that it's a constant struggle. I usually handle it by playing doubles and swap to the version that i've beat-jumped ahead but handling this with some edits ahead of time would be helpful.

    • Al No Mor

      I run into this problem all the time on the dance floor, while DJing I don’t really any more, because I source better tracks. I use a 3 pass collection technique, the first is usually broad, lots of skipping around within the tracks, and compile a large number of candidates out of a much large list of new releases. Round 2 is all about thinning the heard, at this point I actually take the time to listen to the entire track preview, and if at any moment I become bored… GONE. If it sounds too much like another song, GONE even a hint of reservation, GONE. The third pass is somewhat similar but I tend to do it with unwitting guinea pigs in the room, I let shit play while people whose taste I believe to be solid and true, and watch their body language as these tracks play in the back ground, and also cut out anything that has become less engaging to me at this point. If I’m not more stoked than the first time it’s probably not memorable or great.

      • Thomas Hricik

        That’s smart. Maybe I’ll try that.