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Tutorial: Make Space In Your DJ Mix For New Tracks

In a DJ set, when you start to add more tracks to the master output, it’s really easy to combine too many elements and overwhelm the audio spectrum. Today in Ean’s “good for everyone” tutorial, learn a few tools for creating room in your mix for new tracks. The tips start out with the basics, but even well-seasoned DJs will appreciate the last technique.

Make Space in Your Mix

One of the best tools for seeing how “full” your master output are your VU meters. When the master output of DJ software starts clipping, you can hear it start to compress the audio. When combining tracks together, it’s pretty easy to understand that if you’re going into the red on multiple channels, the final output will likely be very busy.

Worth noting: a VU meter doesn’t tell you anything more specific than volume. An audio spectrogram is better for that, but that’s a tool that’s rare to find on DJ gear or in software.

Don’t want to watch the video or need a refresher? Here are the basic tips tips that Ean discusses in the video:

  • Pick a section of the incoming song that has a lot of space. The most easily discernible example of this is when you play two tracks that have vocals happening at the same time. This can happen with other audio in the spectrum, so carefully choose what part of songs you’re mixing together.
  • Use your channel faders to carefully control volume of your tracks – turn one track down while the other is going up. This is pretty basic stuff!
  • Utilize the EQs to swap out different frequencies while mixing. The most common method of this is “swapping the bass”. This means turning down the low EQ on the incoming song, and then at the end of a phrase, turning it up while at the same time turning down the low end on the outgoing song.
  • Use the filters in a similar way to the EQs to exchange frequencies.

The Advanced Techniques

He then goes a bit more advanced with his other tips, including using advanced FX techniques:

  • Use reverb to “spread out the sound” on an outgoing track. This has a “widening effect” on the audio – and a new track coming into that reverb’d mix will have space to come in naturally, with a bit more clarity.
  • Ean uses reverb freeze at the end of transition when taking the song out – making for a less abrupt transition.
  • Activate a delay / delay freeze. This technique will keep a slowly fading echo of the old track in the mix, which feels very natural.
  • Use a bi-pole filter effect (Ean uses a Filter:92 effect in Traktor). In his example, Ean uses this to remove some of the audio from each end of the spectrum. Watch the video for a full explanation as it’s a bit more advanced – skip to 10:00 in the tutorial to see it!
Have a unique technique that you like to use for making space in a mix? Share it the comment section down below.  
  • Be

    Interesting, I had never thought to use a dry/wet knob with a prepared filter effect like that.

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  • I do this as a matter of habit.

  • synapticflow

    A very useful tutorial with some things to practice. I like all the idea presented here except for one. I pretty much hate using reverb, so I never touch it.

  • This is something that I absolutely loved about my Electrix EQ Killer! It’s not 100% the same with resonance control of either end, but you have sweepable crossover points which allow for some really cool and even sweeps.

    http://www.effectsdatabase.com/model/electrix/eqkiller

  • I miss the delay freeze in traktor. Since NI removed the jogs, I switched to rekordbox DJ.

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  • another important thing to note beyond frequencies when doing heavier layering of tracks (like in mash-ups, double drops, 3+ deck mixing or production) is the brain can only really understand a few key musical elements at a time. beyond 4 main elements at once like drums, bass, vocals, harmony, ect. things will start to sound overwhelming and confusing. you can control this partly with tools like in the video but those tools are usually too broad to completely isolate one part of the song from the rest of the audio. Instead, make careful note of what is coming in and out of the tracks you’re working with to make sure there’s not two parts fighting for your attention. You can also use advanced tools like cue points, beat jumping or stem mixing to get more control of what is playing at any one time.

    This is probably a topic for a different article though…

    • This is absolutely vital information to anybody except Paul or Phil Hartnoll.

  • Juan Vega

    Great techniques. I personally use the delay freeze effect especially when doing genre changes.

  • Andrew Schulz

    I know it comes down to personal preference but what are the advantages/disadvantages of the different Eq and filter types in traktor?

    • They all (with one exception) emulate real world filters and add color to the sound. I think they add too much low end.

      The one exception, is the original eq. It is transparent and doesn’t add any dirt to the sound. It is my preferred EQ.

      • I’m not too familiar with the differences between Traktor filters (Ean’s the expert here). By “color”, you mean that they have different amounts and types of resonance? Or are you referring to other qualities that they each have?