Mixing Songs That Don’t Have a ‘DJ Intro’: 4 Common Techniques
When you’re playing a set and selecting from tunes that aren’t designed with DJs in mind, mixing can be challenging. In today’s article, guest contributor Aden Russel shares four common DJ mixing techniques that can be used to tackle these more challenging tracks.
Mixing Intro/Outro-less Tracks
Not every producer is making music with DJ sets in mind. It’s not uncommon for tracks to have short intros and outros – this has been the case in other genres (like hip-hop) for years, and for DJs who play more commercial tracks in the realms of pop music the situation is similar. That’s why record clubs have made DJ Intro edits for these genres for decades. But within dance music, the standards are being challenged – and even within genres like house and trap (which typically have some form of intro for DJs).
So, rid yourself of those club concerns and play those fresh tracks you’ve been scared to. Here are four different ways you can seamlessly mix between tracks that lack that typical 32-bar intro and outro.
The old-fashioned and most trusted way of mixing out of a track with a short outro, and/or intro a short intro! Make the outro yourself by:
- Chucking on an appropriate loop size and mixing the track in as if it had a full length intro/outro. The key here is to loop the track at a part that doesn’t sound abrupt and doesn’t cut off any key material, so usually a drum loop or percussion part works best.
- Release the loop just as the old song is mixed out so it comes straight into a main part of the track. Using loops of 4-16 beats usually work best for these kinds of songs.
In the video example below, I used a 16 bar loop to bring in that piano/clap into but extended it as I was fading out the other track, which had more of a longer outro. If the first track was shorter, I could have used two loops, one on each track. Simply have the fader down on the second track, and slowly bring it in, adjusting the EQ and slowly bringing the bass in. Slowly fade the bass out in the other track, and release the loop just as the other track ends.
This is a simple-but-effective trick to get a seamless blend between two tracks that may not blend together very well. The concept is easy: quickly switch the audio to the incoming track at a great transition point and people won’t even be able to tell.
Snapping into a major phrase change – like the start of a breakdown or into a drop – can work wonders. The process for this technique is:
- Beatmatch the tracks using headphones
- Let the outgoing track build up to a phrase change (learn more about the importance of phrasing here)
- Start the incoming track so that the phrasing aligns
- Quickly crossfade, filter, or change the volume faders over on the first beat of the bar.
This particular trick works well on tracks with a well-defined beat, and genres that are a bit heavier like dubstep or trap (where long blending could sound quite messy when you’re trying to keep it high energy). The tracks in the video example above are similar BPMs, and I brought the second track in right when the beat comes in, so it sounds seamless.
This technique is a gradual fade between two tracks that have similar phrasing. If done correctly, it can sound very natural and professional. The idea is to pick to parts that have more melodic content, without drums and percussion, and blending them together to create a ‘wash’ of sound. If done right, the audience can’t hear a deliberate fadeout.
This trick shines when you have tracks that don’t beatmatch well together, or vary vastly in BPM. This technique can be paired with FX as well (see the next tip).
In the above example, I used two tracks of widely varying BPMs, one at 99 and one at 60 (120). You can see the vocals come in around when I start to mix out the first track, which gains the audience’s attention right away. This is a great way to engage your crowd, as often the lack of percussion can leave a bit of a break in the dancing, and you don’t want that for too long.
The tracks are in the same key so it sounds pleasing when transitioning. Just use the faders to bring in the incoming track, and once it is up, bring down the volume of the outgoing track before it kicks back in with any percussion or beat.
This technique involves using DJ software or mixer’s FX to create a nice transition between tracks. This works especially well between tracks that, once again, vary widely in BPM, because beatmatching while changing tempo could sound very off depending on the track (see our techniques for tempo changes here).
The best effects for this tend to be reverb, delay, and echo – all of which have a “tail” that can be used as a natural transitional element. This technique is killer in the more chilled-out genres, like lo-fi hip-hop, ambient, deep house, downtempo and etc.
In the above example, I use Traktor’s Reverb effect on both channels and dial the dry/wet in, to blend the sounds together, then I mix between the tracks, and bring the dry/wet back down. I have the effect already engaged and at the desired setting, so I’m not changing unnecessary knobs while doing the transition. You can have the effect live on the incoming track and outgoing track at the same time, or just on the first one.
Even More Options
Beyond these 4 different ways to mix tracks that don’t have a particularly DJ-friendly intro or outro, you might consider:
- Making your own tempo transition edits
- Learning how to mix between wildly different tempos
- Making your own DJ edits of tracks
Hopefully these tricks save you next time you have to quickly mix out without killing the dance floor!
Share them in the comments!