Mixing Techniques for DJs: 5 Creative Tempo Changes

Have you ever wanted to mix in a greater variety of tempos into a set but were to afraid to screw up the mix? That is the case for many DJs, new and experienced alike. Dropping songs of different styles and tempos can be scary territory but potentially rich with reward.  Now with digital technology we have a wide variety of tools. many of which can help bridge the gap between songs of various tempos while keeping the blend smooth and natural. In today’s article I will cover 5 mix techniques that will help you do just that!

Today’s article was inspired by a readers letter:

“I have a friend that asked me if I would DJ a fashion show for her….Upon receiving the playlist the first thing I saw was that the BPM’s were all over the map! Songs went from 125 to 94 to 78 back to 100 and so on. Aside from completely reworking the songs in Ableton or just doing a quick fade I’m at a bit of a loss as to what else I can do to make these transitions somewhat natural. Any suggestions?” – Phil

Thanks for the email Phil! It inspired me to put this video together and share 5 of my favorite tricks for blending hard songs together. Do you have a DJ challenge you are facing? Tell me in the comments and perhaps that will be the next video.


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  • Serato DJ FX vs Traktor Pro FX: Which Is Better? - DJ TechTools

    […] Both Single and Multi FX mode include a beat multiplier so DJs can adjust the timing and rhythm of the effect. It’s also possible to have dotted and triplet counts to get some swung variations. By default the effects will sync to the track BPM. The BPM for the effect unit can also be tapped in manually, this makes it a great tool for BPM transitions. […]

  • Paddy Og Mallon

    I came across this article while searching google for information on the relationship between time and pitch while mixing vinyl sets as a dj.

    Unfortunately i cant fully comprehend the fundamental of what that is yet and how i can apply it in realtime with my vinyl dj sets so i have the ability to call out when a track with a different bpm and possibly/or not possibly the same key, will mix together in the current bpm held by the lead track.

    I wonder if you had any thoughts on this concept?

  • That Guy

    Sometimes you get lucky and a 120-130 BPM track will have a dotted eighth instrumental outro. A 124BPM dotted eighth is a 186BPM quarter note. Gradually slow the outro down, then drop in the faster track. Takes some practice but kills every time. IIRC Sasha did this very nicely towards the end of his Glastonbury Fields set.

    • That Guy

      excuse my math there. 124 -> 165

  • Christopher Allen

    from doing a lot of foreign/international cross genre parties, I have a lot of experience in this. i start off around 70 and work my way up to 160 or so, then back down to 80. there are so many different genres that mix well with each other to not learn how to do things such as this. i have seen many djs sync their tracks to 128 and play progressive house all night. similarly i’ve seen people do a horrible job in trying to drag songs of varying bpms down to the same tempo. 135bpm track will never sound good at 110! gradually stretch tempo by 5s every song and the transition will be seamless

  • VJValtanen

    Everybody’s talking complex stuff about softwares and here I sit with my DDJ WeGo and Virtual DJ 7 LE looking for something smooth to my small scale mixes

  • vinyl

    hahahahaha laptop-dj-tricks with skrillex&friends…. hilarious

    • vinyl

      would love to see him “dj” without a sync-button

  • John McCullough

    One of the most helpful videos I’ve ever watched. Ean is genius!

  • Adam

    So…. any ideas for tracks that go from 120/130 to 70/80 BPM? Seems’ like Deksel’s list is gone…

  • babipsylon

    Very nice vid.

  • Instigator D Snail

    Can you show me how to use dj drops on traktor S2

  • Aaron Seymour

    where can i get that version of live your life without the vocals?

  • ????Simba

    great vid

  • Santiago

    Could you do a longer tutorial on the Half Time Tempo tip? 🙂

  • fucking_dj_pape

    Ean you’re a man. Fuck yeah.

  • Dion Mavath

    Nice how-to-video and great basic tips for the starters.

  • Fat Mandy

    Good to see a few of these tricks compiled together, I’ve been using a few of these for a while and tempo changes can really really help to switch up a set or take it in a new direction (which sometimes can really pump the crowd!). If anyone is interested in hearing most of these tricks in the wild I’ve got a bunch of tempo changes in this mix here: https://soundcloud.com/fatmandy/simple-harmonic-oscillation and here: https://soundcloud.com/fatmandy/the-clock-that-went-backward
    Glitch hop + retro / reggae / ghetto funk…
    Thanks for the the great tips again! Gotta love DJ Tech Tools!

  • Gunnar

    Hey EAN can you do a tutorial on how to simulate or do this same effects that Richie uses on this video at 13:13, 17:04, 17:23 and so on and on. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UJ-BUN4Lb9Y

    I’ve seen quite a few djs doing it likes Luciano, Dubfire, Paco Osuna and Richie just to mention the must famous ones.

    • Pelado

      Richie uses a Lexicon PSP42 for those.

  • Mario Santiago

    Great theories/techniques demonstrated here. I’ve used all of them and they have helped in my open format sets. Kudos on your demo.

    • kinnik

      What do you mean? Why not think about BPM?

  • Aromat

    Hey Ean,

    Thanks for sharing the techniques – great stuff man!

    Are you going to do a tutorial on the macro for the freeze effect on one button? that would be awesome!

    Big up from Denmark.


  • Sebastian Rattansen

    Great article! Very interesting and useful tips. Changing up tempo is a great way to keep the mix interesting.

  • Seville Lilly

    Lots of great info in this video! Points the way to doing this tastefully and creatively and not just as a gimmick.

    A couple extra points to add:

    – 3:01 In Traktor, turn off Preferences > Loading > Activate Fade In & Fade Out Markers when using the red fader flags as a visual reference. Otherwise Traktor will load a new track into the opposite deck when it hits the flag, if Cruise Mode/ Autoplay is active.

    – 3:01: Consider using a Fade-IN flag for the (second) track you’ll be mixing into, and not Fade-OUT flags in both. You’re setting it up at home and you’re thinking “there’s no way I’ll forget which version I play first and which I play second,” then you’re in the heat of battle live and you DO forget. Two different markers can help remind you which is which.

    -4:23-4:59: Instead of turning Sync on and then off, you could (w Sync turned on) click the “Master” button of (in this example) Deck B, which will re-assign the Master Tempo to Deck B, including your tempo change. It’s Shift + Sync on the NI S2 and S4, or you could just click onscreen. On the S4, remember to use Shift + Deck B tempo fader to re-align the fader with the current tempo (both arrows over fader light up) before you speed it up. On the S2 you just have to hit the reset button over the fader.

    By manually re-assigning Master back and forth, I never have to turn Sync off or on except for technique 5. I don’t have to be at 0.0% tempo on either deck. AND I can leave both decks in the mix for longer, if it sounds good (like if Deck A is playing a kickless break, as heard in this vid).

    Note: DON’T reassign Master unless both decks are Synced, or you will often get an out-of-time jump in playback.

    -5:02 totally agree quick beats gradual 9 times out of 10. I recommend bookending the tempo change range visually with markers, to remind you where to start and end your tempo shift. Differentiate it from the crossfader flags somehow (a different symbol, or two flags an 1/8th beat apart, for example). I suck at intuitive tempo transitions, so i plan out the best approach at home and then flag that for live. The vid makes it look easy… it takes some practice.

  • Gonne

    where can i find that tutorial about building macro fx????

  • Aleksandar Todorovic

    Actualy, you don’t have to use the ear when beatgridding a track that has a changable bpm. For instance, I got a song that goes from 128 to 140. I would make two copies of that track, load the both tracks in a different decks. One would be beatgrided at 128 and the other one would be beatgrided at 140. I would take a house song that I played before it and synced it with a 128 beginning. Then, I would load the second version, play them both at a same time and quickly make the transition so we’re up in 140. Then I would just load up another track at 140 and sync it up with the second version of my changeable track.

    • Seville Lilly

      Not sure how this helps. you’re still turning off Sync and beat-matching manually to get the two files of the same song to match up.

  • Berry Good

    yooo, i just figured out that that delay freeze effect can be done with the wormhole macro effect too

  • Champagne

    So helpful when i am mixing parties with requests from any kind of edm to hip hop to country! Thanks. Cheers

  • Pete Operand Simpson

    Of course there is focus on tempo, it’s dance music…

    Use loops, echoes, spin down, scratching, crazy dub siren effects, breakdowns with few transients and beats, you can change tempo during the transition it will be noticed less. Nothing wrong with the wedding DJ fader swipe technique either.

  • Deksel

    ‘Going around the horn’ is what I call Gappin’.

    Here’s a playlist of songs with the right tempo’s (145- 165 BPM and 70-85 BPM). I did n’t include dubstep because nearly all dubstep will be the right tempo, so that’s easy (and I don’t play much dubstep).


  • Anonymous

    Going from 100bpm to 75bpm can be done by looping the 75bpm track at 5/4, it will work great if one of them have a vocal in the break.

    • erikado

      This might be a dumb question, but what do u mean by 5/4?

  • Kutmaster TeeOh

    These are all things you should know to mix, great tutorial. These are not “tricks” this is just how DJs should mix. Before you even start playing out or using effects you should be solid in knowing how to transition tracks. If you are jumping from 100 bpm to 130 you should be fired. If you are mixing 2 songs they need to be within +/-10 of each other (which goes for halftime too: If you are at 70, you can mix into a track that’s 130 you just need to take the lead track down 5. 65+65=130)

    If you have a setlist at something like a fashion show, talk to the director about the flow of the show. Every event has a flow, who better to judge that than a dj? You don’t want to go from 130 to 90 in a mix but in a setting like a fashion show, it may be a non-mixing event. Sometimes simply fading out one and bringing in the other is what is needed to change the mood. Talk to the director about how the event will flow and you can help create a build up and climax just like you would in a live show. Just simply mentioning it will give you professional points and usually ends up in them rearranging the event to have a better flow.

    The “halftime” mix is something hip hop djs do constantly. In a hip hop club you have to play everything from 65 to 130 bpm. The “Give & take” is standard too (raising the lead tracks bpm and lowering the next tracks so that they both cut the difference in half). “Around the horn”…don’t know where that term came from but it’s just a fancy name for mixing across BPMs and genres. Taking the crowd on a rollercoaster type ride with music is what hip hop djs do regularly, can’t speak for EDM style djs but I’m sure we all know you can’t expect people to dance at 140bpm all night. lol

  • Robert Wulfman

    about echo freeze, can’t you just gradually turn up the knob on the delay in group mode (maybe throw in some reverb or iceverb) and then pause the track or set it post fader and turn down the volume? seems to get the same effect but it’s in group mode then. Also the looped tempo change is a great way to switch from disco to french house because french house is built upon loops from disco tracks. But why no mention of tone play? if you practice those mixes first you can get some pretty crazy transitions

  • Ronald Edwards

    This is really useful information for DJs. I wish this was a required course for ALL DJs before they start playing in a club. This is exactly what people are looking for when they come to DJTT. I think one of the most important parts of the video was at the very end about testing the waters and reading the crowd. If you have eyes, use them. People will show you what they like by their involvement, very good call on that.

    I had only heard the term “Going around the horn” but didn’t know what it meant even though I had been doing it for years.

  • 0Notice

    I have a foot pedal that is always my Echo. Works great.

  • Carlos JunkieDildo Solis

    Don’t forget to use Reverb (as an alternative to Echo Freeze), spinbacks before the downbeat, apply a break (slowly stopping the playback of the track) to a breakdown or an atmospheric buildup, or even a progressive (but aggressive) tempo increase done at a buildup and change to another track instead of reaching the drop, also get musical and set some cue points so you can play with a suitable track phrase or section with some finger drumming that introduces rhythm for another track….

  • Darren Solomon

    Great tutorial video Ean. How about putting the Camcorder on something more steady? 😀 Also, how about some examples using Serato DJ/Itch? TIA!

  • tr4gik

    good basic tips, have used them all. Just don’t abuse the echo freeze don’t use it on every BPM change transition every time

  • John McRae

    That Traktor specific echo trick can also be done in Abelton if you feel the need…. Use one of 2 effects, Fade to Grey or Washed out. Cheers

    Also…. it’s not as though you would need it in Live since Live essentially matches all your songs to a master tempo…. buuuuut, I have used it to drop in the next song while at the same time manually adjusting the master tempo to more closely match the tracks original tempo and this technique just covers up the odd noises made while doing this (mostly its the sound of a key adjust)
    and I only use it with massive tempo jumps !

    • Benjamin Gilsdorf

      I do it on my external mixer all the time, just make sure you have post fader effects and put on a delay with higher feedback for the tail and your set. Works awesome.

  • Levi Logic

    Great tutorial, i’d say i use very similar techniques anyway, i’d like to add another 2 of my own tempo tricks might be worth the read!

    1: Im not sure about traktor/serato im more of a CDJ DJ, but i know you can deffo do this trick in virtual DJ.

    Bassically you click the ‘lock’ icons near the pitch slider and its locks both pitch sliders together, so you can bring in your other tempo track, and as you move the pitch slider on deck A, deck B’s slider will be locked and they’l move in sync allowing you to change tempo’s during the mix

    2: More complicated and after alot of practicing im getting more used to this trick, best used on CDJ’s… (master tempo is needed for this trick)

    Bring in your next track at the same tempo as your current track, When you want to shift the tempo up for down (up for this example) you basically knock Deck A’s pitch up 2% and then t instantly give Deck B’s jog wheel a good knock forward, while bringing It’s speed up 2%, and then back to deck A and repeat until at desired tempo, its very tricky and needs to be practiced but has great results, Speed is key!

    Hope these have contributed to a Great Tutorial!,

    • Ronald Edwards

      There are some programs that sync both tempos to one side of the crossfader (0% A, whatever the adjusted % is on B) and as the crossfader moves to the other side, the tempos move (synchronously) in step to the other song’s tempo (0% B, whatever the adjusted % is on A) thereby effectively adjusting volume AND tempo at the same time.

  • Bryan Isaac

    Awesome video.

  • Ryan Supak

    I think there is too much focus on tempo in general. (The modern tools’ preoccupation with tempo exacerbates this).

    It’s most important, the way I see it, to look beyond the nuts-and-bolts and focus on the overall feel of the songs. Sometimes that is related to the BPM but just as often it isn’t.


    • Scoop

      Show me a good mix with constant tempo change. Live, not an Ableton mix, and I’ll be on board with this train of thought.

    • concretecatharsis

      I’m not trying to create waves in the thread, but I don’t think that this comment could be any more vague.

  • dual citizen

    Excellent tutorial! Thanks for this.

  • Eoghain

    Great little tutorial

  • Anthony Rice

    i tend to skip watching these videos as alot of them use traktor specific techniques but this video i liked as i can use the techniques into serato too (other then the first one)

  • BilNye

    There is an amazing way to do this with the master tempo function also

  • KIO

    Surprises me that a software as elaborate as Traktor is incapable of setting beatgrids with different tempo’s in one file.

    • Stephen Dub Bub Almada

      it can…..just lay down another beat grid marker….and change the beatgrid tempo to your choice……play the track and when the tempo changes at your 2nd beatgrid, your metronome should be spot on.

      • KIO

        Then why did Ean opt to set only one grid for the song with the bpm’s?

        And how about multiple beat grid markers? Itch doesn’t mind if I chose to set a new downbeat marker for every bar. Surely, that is a bit much, but on some tracks where the bpm’s go up and down a bit I tend to set a new grid every 8 or 16 bar phrase.

        • Ean Golden

          you can use more than one beat marker – which I did to set 2 loops at different tempos. However only one BPM can be stored with the file. Sync works off that BPM- and not the current beat grid.

          • KIO

            Since the metadata is designed to hold single BPM info it makes sense that only one BPM is stored in the file. It however makes no sense at all that Traktor apparently syncs based upon this metadata BPM instead of the beatgrid. That is like simple sync in ITCH. ITCH syncs the whole grid, so even if I have set many downbeat markers ITCH keeps all the parts of the song synced to the master tempo. Again, I’m surprised that it seems Traktor cannot do this.

          • Seville Lilly

            You can always make a duplicate of the file and set a BPM for the “other” tempo in the duplicate.

            I think it’s much easier though to set one file to the exit BPM and then manually beat-match to the intro BPM with Sync turned off, as demonstrated in the vid. You’ll have a hell of a time trying to start the second file in just the right spot… you’re right back to turning Sync off and manually beat-matching in cue for that to work.

    • Anonymous

      MixVibes cross can do this

      • KIO

        ITCH can do is as well, which is the software I use. Therefore it surprised me that the video seemed to imply that Traktor could not.

    • KIO

      By the way, while demonstrating the technique of the song with two tempo’s you didn’t necessarily need to use sync. You mixed a quick transition of the song, so since you know that the tempo will be 85 BPM you can simply set the new song at 85 BPM and use a few pitch bends to micro adjust the tempo mismatch between the songs. At such a slow tempo of songs combined with a mix of just a few bar, the songs will not play that much out of phase that a few pitch bends won’t be able to fix.

  • Remote

    Plus 10 internets to anyone who can find that Bill Murray track.

    • Paul Montgomery

      double the bounty

  • Thomas Dehaeze

    love it 🙂

    • Mariu5

      So…trivia time. Ean talks about going “around the horn” which we outta say like so: “around the Horn” with a capital H cuz the Horn is a place. Homey is making a historical/geographical reference which is cool for music because the word also can refer to brass instruments. “The Horn” is “Cape Horn” at the very bottom tip of South America. Back in the days of wooden sailing ships, going around the Horn was a really big F’n deal because the weather down there is really really bad and the seas are super violent and unpredictable. Ships would go from the Atlantic ocean “around the Horn” into the Pacific Ocean and they’d often get lost and sunk down there…but if they made it through, they’d go from this really energy chaotic dangerous place into smooth sailing as the environment changed pretty quickly.

  • DJ IcantGetNone

    Nice to hear another how-to-video from the man himself.