It’s undeniable that a lot of DJs who have entered the field in the last decade lack proficiency at one of the core skills of DJing – beatmatching records by ear. Today, guest contributor Steven Maude shares insight on using features in DJ software to your advantage while learning how to beatmatch.
MORE THAN BEATMATCHING
There’s a view (one often propagated by people who were DJing long before Traktor and Serato came along) that using software on laptops doesn’t really “count” as DJing because you don’t need to beatmatch. Algorithms for beat detection usually work well enough these days that software can usually have a good go at this for you.
It’s a slightly odd opinion, and one that might actually do DJing a disservice. The implication is that beatmatching is so important that there’s little more to DJing than that. Just get the beats matching up or push the sync button, and, that’s it, congratulations, you are now a DJ and your membership card will be in the post!
Track selection and sequencing, transitions between tracks, EQing, and harmonic mixing are major skills that sync won’t handle – and lot of it is down to personal preference and choice, as well as the type of music you’re playing. Beat matching or syncing should also be that same personal preference, but knowing how to do both is extremely advantageous…
WHY BEATMATCHING IS WORTH LEARNING
Having said all that, there are still good reasons why it’s still worth learning:
- Lets you use other equipment: Imagine you only ever rode a bicycle with training wheels; great, you can ride a bike all day long – until you have to use a bike without them. It shouldn’t be too much of a struggle to adjust if you end up playing on CDJs or vinyl/DVS.
- Sync is good, but not always perfect: Annoyingly, Traktor still uses a fixed beatgrid. (Serato actually has beat warp markers) Provided a track has a well-defined BPM, which most electronic dance music does, it does pretty well at detecting it. However, a simple beatgrid can break down with tracks with live, unquantized percussion or where there are particularly unusual rhythms or switch ups. Knowing how to handle cases where sync fails completely or where minor adjustments (e.g. with tempo bend) are necessary is essential to keep beats from drifting.
- No need to analyze and beatgrid tracks in advance: Analyzing is always a good idea, as Traktor’s tempo-based effects and looping will be off without a correct beatgrid. On the other hand, being able to throw a new track into software and immediately play it without worry is really convenient.
- Mixing into the end of someone else’s set: Some DJs will start afresh; some will beatmatch into it. Choice is a good thing. No DJ software beat matches to an external sound source (as far as I’m aware).
- Beatmatching is good practice for listening closely, especially when you’re trying to selectively “tune” in and out from the track being faded in. This is useful regardless of how you’re beatmatching (e.g. for EQ purposes).
A BEATMATCHING WORKFLOW WITH DJ SOFTWARE
First, you’ll consider the computer to no longer be a focal point – but a reference and grading device for your attempts at matching two records. We recommend:
- Putting the laptop off to the side
- Dimming the screen brightness completely
- Covering up the waveforms + BPMs with other windows or even a sticky note
You can beatmatch manually with any controller that has jogwheels or (of course) with digital vinyl systems. Need a guide on the core concepts of matching tempo and phasing? We recommend watching this classic DJ tutorial from Ellaskins (note that he’s got cards over the BPM readouts).
WHAT TRAKTOR OFFERS FOR A BUDDING BEATMATCHER
Traktor has several features to aid beatmatching. If you’re learning to do this manually, the natural inclination is to think, “OK, if I’m learning to do this myself, I shouldn’t use any of these tools .” But when you’re learning to manually beatmatch, these features are can be used as self-teaching tools.
Phase meter: You can practice with the phase meter to see how far off you are after you think you’ve beatmatched correctly, or just check how far off the beat you are when hitting play or scratching in a track. The phase meter shows you how far ahead or behind the current track is relative to the playing master track. If the bar is in the middle of the phase meter, the track is in phase with the master. In the example above, the track is over a quarter of a beat ahead.
(Note that both tracks you’re playing need to have correct beatgrids otherwise the phase meter is likely to be misleading.)
Of course, you can always use your ears for this, but the phase meter gives you a quick visual indication of how well you’ve done.
BPM counter: You can check BPMs immediately when you think you’ve matched tracks as well as possible. The best way is to add a BPM counter to the deck header (Preferences > Track Decks > Deck Header.)
This gives you a direct indication of how far off a match you actually were; if you’re only a couple of hundredths of a BPM out from the track that you’re mixing into, you’re doing pretty well.
Importantly, you can see that you’re improving even if you haven’t quite got the hang of it. To reuse the bike analogy, the learning curve is pretty steep. First, you fall off a lot, then you start riding albeit a little wobbly. I found beatmatching pretty similar: for quite a while, I couldn’t manage it, then all of a sudden I could (though quite badly). You then become steadier and grow in confidence with practice.
(One gotcha with beat gridding is that if Traktor may well have detected a BPM half or double what it should be, e.g. tracks at 140 BPM might be detected as 70 – this doesn’t mean your beatmatch is incorrect)
Sync: One exercise often mentioned in beginner beatmatching tutorials is to mix two identical tracks. When starting out, I found this sounds cluttered and slightly confusing. Unsurprisingly, it’s sometimes really hard to distinguish the two tracks as they sound the same.
Using different tracks might be easier. However, the tracks you’re using might not be the same speed which leads to the chicken-and-egg problem: how can you beatmatch before you’ve learnt to beatmatch?
If you’re not sure what a “perfect” mix of the current two tracks should sound like, the sync button will give you that too. You can then nudge one track slightly out of phase with the other using tempo bend to easily hear the difference (for example, what it sounds like when a monitored track is ahead versus the live track).
Recording: It’s not always easy to judge how well your beatmatching is while you’re actually doing it. Recording your practice and listening back to see how it actually sounds to a listener is pretty simple with one click. Are the beats matched together perfectly or not? Did you let the beats drift at all through a blend?
A TIP FOR LIMITED MIDI CONTROLLERS
Many MIDI controllers have pitch faders that tend to be on the small side. This makes it difficult to accurately beatmatch, since precise adjustments (hundredths of a BPM) are tricky. A great workaround is to MIDI map a knob as a fine pitch control with a much smaller range. This lets you lock in to the rough BPM using the pitch fader, then use the knob to make very small corrections.
As long as software doesn’t perfectly get beatmatching correctly with zero preparation, there’s still a need for beatmatching. Not only that, software can actually help you practice and improve too: I self-taught myself beatmatching with Traktor and a MIDI controller. Let me know if you’ve done the same.
Steven Maude’s article originally appeared on his blog – follow him on Twitter here.
Last time I checked, all that automated and cheat shit could be deactivated/hidden in Traktor pretty easily. I don’t know why you’re bothering with putting stuff to the side or using post it notes. Just turn every waveform, phase meters, and BPM counters off. In VDJ, you can hack the XML skins.
I have a question. Say your track B has an ambient intro with no percussion. Let’s complicate things more and say the intro’s instrumental rhythm are not perfectly in time with the main track (it’s improvisational piano, for example not following a specific BPM). Regardless, the analysis will create the beat grid based on the main percussive parts of the song, and run that grid from the start of the track (obviously) so I can have my loop from the end of track A, running over this intro of track B, and know that once the percussion of B starts, it will be perfectly sync’d with A. How the hell would you do this without sync on the fly?
I can think of a couple of ways: You can edit track B so that position 0s in the song is perfectly on a down beat and the beginning of a bar. That way, all you need to know is the BPM of track B, make sure it matches Track A and launch track B on the at the beginning of a bar in Track A. If you’re playing with software (Traktor or CDJs) then Track B won’t drift and will still be in sync by the time the percussion starts. Another solution is to set a cue point at the beginning of Track B, also on the downbeat at the beginning of a bar. Same idea, different implementation.
Turn down the EQ on the outgoing track and work the EQ like you would the two channel strips when mixing without the cross fader, to minimize its impact on the combined sound. You will have to play with the knobs on both tracks, but it works.
[…] while back, we explained how you can learn to beatmatch with Traktor. What we didn’t cover was what you should look for if you’re a new DJ and buying hardware with […]
[…] while back, we explained how you can learn to beatmatch with Traktor. What we didn’t cover was what you should look for if you’re a new DJ and buying hardware with […]
Ey Guys Does This software Pioneer DJS Function as CDJS even Beatmaching?
Hello! I’m a bit late to the discussion but i just saw the article. I always used sync, because i dj the tunes i like as a hobby for myself and maybe at some friend party, so not being able to beatmatch was not a big deal to me since i don’t do it professionally. Recently i thought it would be fun to be able to beatmatch by ear, so i just assigned the rotaries of my X1 to jogwheel and tempo. Honestly, after two hours of practice i could beatmatch pretty much every track i have (deep tech, minimal and tech house stuff, so yeah not difficult stuff).
The point is i don’t think beatmatching by ear is all that difficult like someone say’s here. Just hide your phase meter and bpm, set your controller sensitivity correctly, and start turning the knobs until you get the feel. Having an high resolution controller does help. I previously used an old nuo 4 which doesn’t have a sufficently high resolution but with some pitch riding it was doable.
I’m sure with vynil wow and flutter it would be a little bit more difficult. But my main concern was to be able to start a set without interrupting the music flow when someone dj before me, so being able to do it with the x1 solves the problem.
I’m with the autor that it’s simpler to use two different tunes at the beginning; it’ easier to hear if the tune is faster or slower that way. In the end i think that for someone who already dj digitally since a little bit and know his phrasing and tunes, picking up beatmatching is a matter of two weeks top. For someone djing a lot of different stuff it could take a bit more time but current tech house and similar it’s not that difficult!
[…] Why you should learn manual beatmatching (and tips) with Traktor by DJ Tech Tools. […]
Thanks for the post. I’ve been working on beatmatching with less assistance so that if I need to jump up somewhere using cdj’s, it’ll be a much smoother transition.
It’s also worth practicing with the phase meter turned off (I forget which preference it is- probably Deck Appearance).
Not to mention- hopefully, you know some other DJs who play in different styles. Get comfortable on CDJs and Vinyl, even if they aren’t your chosen media.
Phase meter off is a good tip, one I’d be using but forgot to mention here (as is removing the waveforms entirely by switching to a more minimal deck layout).
I can already beatmatch, learnt on technics many, many moons ago, just come back to dj’ing digital with a controller, it looks like traktor has all of the issues sorted that serato doesn’t, I honestly thought it was me, until I looked harder at how the software works, I have a limited pitch controller (128 steps), serato dj just doesn’t have the facilities to remap pitch.
Glad I bought traktor on a black friday deal 😀
“A great workaround is to MIDI map a knob as a fine pitch control with a much smaller range.” Anyone got a step by step for mapping a knob in Traktor and/or VDJ?
MIDI mapping is one of my least favourite parts of Traktor but, as a quick guide, go to Preferences > Controller Manager > click Add In… (under the Assignment Table) > menu pops up, highlight Deck Common > then click Tempo Adjust.
Click Learn, move the knob you want to map the pitch control to.
How I have it setup is Type of Controller: Fader/Knob, Interaction Mode: Relative, Assignment (whichever deck you want the knob to operate), Rotary Acceleration: 0%, Rotary Sensitivity: 18%. You might want to play around with sensitivity depending on what kind of range you want the knob to have.
Don’t have VDJ, maybe someone else can help you with that setup.
Actually, as long as the DJ software is capable of sending MIDI Beat Clock, you can easily ‘sync’ from one set to another.
I used to do this with Torq and motion dive.Tokyo and even with two different Torq rigs to patch the sync from one to the other.
More recently i’ve done this with Traktor and Maschine. 😉
While not ‘common’ it’s certainly ‘possible’ to automatically sync to another DJs set. But just because you can, doesn’t nullify the need to learn beat matching as a valuable skill in the DJ toolbox.
Cool solution; hadn’t even considered what MIDI could do! (My idea for a feature was feeding in external audio, either via mic or line in, to a “deck” and then the DJ software analysing the track on the fly.)
sounds like a lot of hassle & preparation for something you can effectively do with only your ear & pitch control.. way to go for over complicating things haha.. Sync MIDI clocks to sync up to another DJ’s set.. personally I think if someone, especailly one calling themselves a ‘DJ’ can’t manually match into another set then you don’t belong behind the decks & probably blew someone, a la Paris.
A video for this?
Hi Steve, Ive been digitally djing for about a year now and after reading your article and especially watching the ellaskins video I got right into practicing manual beatmatching with my S4, at first it was a mess but I got better as I kept repeating that drill ellaskins shows you. Thanks for writing a great article and giving me new found confidence to master manual beat matching!
Hey, great to hear my post motivated you to give it a try; exactly what I hoped for when writing!
Hey Steve when beat matching with Traktor Pro, did the offset buttons give you problems with the tempo of the tracks? Because the position on fader should be set in center to start on hardware and it maybe in a different position on the software, is this were the soft takeover comes in by holding shift then moving fader?
I’m using a VCI-100, so don’t have offset buttons like on the S4, so can’t advise directly, but I can give more details on how I use the VCI-100. Maybe it’ll help.
Like I pointed out, my workflow when beatmatching is use the fader to roughly dial in the tempo, then make fine adjustments with a knob.
Because of this, I find things easier and smoother to work with the faders with “latch”-like behaviour via soft takeover. The tempo adjust mappings to my *faders* on my setup have soft takeover selected. The tempo adjust on the *knobs* are set to relative, with the rotary sensitivity set to a value which gives me +/- a few tenths of a percent (maybe around 0.7%? can’t remember offhand…)
If I find I’ve initially made a mistake in matching with the fader, then the range of the knob might not allow me to shift enough to match another track. So, I need to move the fader. Without soft takeover, when you move the fader, the tempo will just jump back to around whatever value the fader’s at once you move it even slightly. If you only need to make a slight adjustment, it’s distracting as you’ll have to probably have to adjust the fader again to get back to how close you previously were with the knob adjustment, then actually fix go about fixing things.
You sometimes have to “unlatch” the fader if you wish to move it by adjusting the knob or wiggling the fader slightly, but I prefer this behaviour to the tempo jumping around more unpredictably.
[Of course, the ideal solution would be for more controller manufacturers to make bigger faders, and for me to save enough to be able to buy one :D]
Hope that helps! If not, feel free to ask me again.
Hey Steve thanks for the reply, can you elaborate on what unlaching the fader means and do you recommend me remapping my pitch controls for finer pitch adjustments?
By “latching”, I’m referring to using soft takeover. For example, set the tempo fader to some position with your S4, now change the position of the same fader in the computer user interface (i.e. with a mouse). Now, with soft takeover, the software Traktor control won’t respond to the hardware fader any longer until the hardware fader has moved past the point where the software fader currently is set (in either direction). So, the hardware fader is “latched” and unresponsive until it catches up to the position the fader has in software.
As for remapping, it’s up to you. Not sure how sensitive the S4’s faders are; maybe someone else can comment…
If you want to quickly check them for yourself, change your deck display to show the current BPM for a track (not the track’s true BPM, but the BPM it’s playing at right now; Preferences > Track Decks > Deck Header, add BPM to one of the deck display rows. Make sure you turn this back off again when you’re practising beatmatching! You really want to use your ears alone and not be able to see the BPMs, or waveforms either for that matter.)
Now, try moving the fader. How small a change in BPM can you get? For comparison, several current CDJs have a 0.02% pitch resolution (calculate this by dividing the smallest adjustment you can make with your fader by the track’s actual BPM, then multiply by 100 to calculate).
To blend tracks for a few minutes without needing to constantly tempo bend a track to keep the beats drifting out of sync, you really need to be able to get the tracks within a few hundredths of a BPM of each other.
If you find it difficult to achieve sufficiently small changes consistently or you can’t even get accurate enough pitch resolution with the mapping you have now, then you could map a button to switch the fader between pitch ranges (see S7YX’s comment) and stick with the fader entirely, switching it from e.g. 8% or 16% range for rough adjustment, then to 6% range for more fine control. Alternatively, use a separate knob like I do. Try both and see which you prefer. My mapping is in a reply to LN elsewhere in these comments.
Thanks alot Steve, i will check out s7yx’s mapping and yours happy mixing!
I was having a conversation with another of the older turntablists today about the digital platform unnecessarily overcomplicating the djing experience with too much kit/software etc and as much as I love this site I think you’ve just proved my point. There’s really no need to add an extra level of interaction inbetween your ear and the speaker.
Those two things alone are the perfect learning tools to get the job done.
“A great workaround is to MIDI map a knob as a fine pitch control with a much smaller range.”
The way I mapped it in Traktor is as follows (using Xone K2, but you can use it on any controller with a fader)
– Map tempo adjust control to a pitch fader, using “relative” as interaction mode and rotary sensitivity at 100% (so you can reach the whole pitch range)
– Map a modifier to a button (most controllers typically have a SHIFT button or such)
– Map tempo adjust control to the same pitch fader, using “relative” as interaction mode and rotary sensitivity at 25%, assigning the modifier condition to this control
This gives you full pitch range using the fader and micro adjustments (.01 BPM) when the SHIFT button is pressed. This disables the need for an additional knob or encoder
Wanting DJs to learn to beat match before they use sync is like telling new audio engineers they need to learn how to use a tape machine before they can use Pro Tools. Practice, track knowledge, and crowd reading are the foundations for a great DJ, not the ability to keep wavering tracks in time. Using sync allows me to utilize my time actually performing instead of having to compromise a huge FX build to nudge my track back into place (and who doesn’t love drum flam!). To the DJs who feel learning to beat match is part of paying dues, the time I spend warping tracks for SDJ and Ableton Live are my payment. Plus the time spent warping also allows me to get intimate with the track, learn its structure, and go ahead and get a feel for what might mix well with it. But we can keep telling kids that if they can’t load paper into a type writer and use it to do their research paper then they’ll never appreciate their laptops or that using calculators now means you don’t have to learn math.
but surely if they don’t understand the principles & basic functions of said tape machine, wouldn’t they have no idea when they start using Pro Tools? Yeah, things progress but having an insight into how things came about is invaluable. TRhe reason people emphasise beatmatching is that usually you spend a few years honing your craft, getting actually good enough to play out, and then actually go get a gig.
These days I can’t help feel that all the newbies are more worried about getting the gigs & perfecting their DJ-logo, then once they have the gig (or a bit of fame), then they finally go “Oh shit, better actually learn what I’m doing where”.
At least beatmatching forced you to put in time 7 in that time you learnt other DJing skills like key matching, phrasing, etc…
It really doesn’t matter anyway as all the sync-only DJ’s will fall out of love with DJing soon enough as it won’t (and never really did – be honest!) be enough of a challenge & keep ’em satisfied (video game generation)
Soon enough they’ll realise they’re fakes & when being the DJ goes back to just being the guy playing music & not some psuedo-rockstar they’ll swap EDM for next resurgence of Grunge, Punk & X-games crap
You might be right about the fleeting infatuation of the younger generation, but we’ll get a small percentage that will figure out incredibly creative. I’m not talking about current gens like Ean Golden or turntablist/battle DJs turned hybrid like Craze or Shiftee, either.
As controller mapping and controller design opens up new ways of performing, we will see this tiny, dedicated percent do for digital controllerism what Grand Wizard Theodore, Flare, Q, Jazzy Jeff etc. did for the vinyl decks.
Someone name a universally respected DJ who doesn’t know how to beatmatch.
Mickey Finn apparently, according to a previous poster whose name I didn’t bother to remember haha 😀
Beatmatching is as important to a dj as swing is to a drummer. Also everyone who said they learned how to perfectly mix on turntables in a few days is lying or never played gigs.
The more we make a big deal about beat matching as an important part of dj-ing, the less newcomers worry about what really matters: Playing the right track at the right time.
The barriers to entry for DJ-ing used to be beat matching, music knowledge, and reading the crowd. Somehow, everyone forgot about the other two and started thinking that beat matching made you a DJ. The people who criticize others for not beat matching are just as guilty as anyone for this trend.
Stop making a big deal about this. Beat matching doesn’t matter. The music matters. Learn the real craft.
If your tracks arent phased correctly; then flux mode or your effects will be off a tick.
But I also use the metronome to make sure.
But I agree; it is the music selection…as you can beatmatch all night; if youre not playing the right tunes, the floor will clear REALLY fast.
Well the skill to beatmatch manualy is nice but the only thing that matters to me is the music! The mixing side has to be as easy as possible because youre goal is to entertain the people thats why using sync is great. if you get a hard on from being really skilled with beat matching fine! But the only thing that really is important are youre tracks and how you use it.
ich bin eigentlich gar Nicht da.
Ich bin nur die Gedanken von Mad Zach (für die Gläubigen in “Schrödigers Katze”)
The DJ Essentials- 5 Mix Techniques files are missing. Fix that!
“It’s a slightly odd opinion, and one that might actually do DJing a disservice. The implication is that beatmatching is so important that there’s little more to DJing than that. Just get the beats matching up or push the sync button, and, that’s it, congratulations, you are now a DJ and your membership card will be in the post!” <–Win.
Any one here from the old school guys remeber tape decks with pitch buttons? now try to beatmatch with that…atfer that, anything is possible my friends 🙂
lol… or cutting and taping ribbon loops and over dubbing. ahhh… to be a kid in the ’70’s and 80’s. how many people can say that they remember their first vinyl being a disney read along.
Or keep it reel (to reel) 🙂 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X6qRkUai5WM
Quite possibly the most difficult medium to spin with… magnetic tape can break whenever it’s stressed too much… these guys ride that line in addition to the beat.
You can actually turn a lot of traktor’s features off to emulate the feeling of using vinyl to an extent. Here’s a mapping I made that just does that and a video telling you how to make it yourself.
Nice work! Will be trying that out, for sure.
“No DJ software beat matches to an external sound source (as far as I’m aware).”
Traktor S4 has a MIDI-IN which will accept a tempo as a slave unit (or master if you prefer). I used it to synchronize MASCHINE and Traktor Pro together.
MIDI is not sound.
Yeah, that’s right; you can’t sync to, say, sound coming from a line-in or a mic pointed at a speaker (again, that I know of). Kind of surprising no-one’s added that as a feature, it would be cool.
Trembler switches can be set up for this purpose, but why would you want to automate this? http://wiki.answers.com/Q/What_is_a_trembler_switch
oh snap.. pwnage
My face says it all.
This article make me feel like something was just invented to perfectly carve weapons without any effort and some people are still trying to find many points to persuade you that anvils are still useful.
If you really want to beatmatch by hand then you dont even look at the bpm counter. Actually if you REALLY want to beatmatch by hand you dont even use traktor because you buy vinyls. Using digital material involve a totally new approach of mixing made of old things automated and new things that requieres a lot of new skills.
“traditionnal” beatmatching is kinda dead. And soldiers have guns now, not swords. Sorry!
You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.
Regretablly, many DJ’s today bitch about the new generation of DJ’s, and they just don’t understand that they have a mechanical skill that has been replaced by a simple machine.
The big problem is that many DJ’s consider manual beatmatching as the pinnacle of DJing, without realising that they are just hanging on manual beatmatching because they can’t admit the fact that a new and better generation is taking over the craft.
Manual beatmatching is a great skill for anyone who thinks they will ever be likely to play out on Vinyl/CDJ’s, but keep in mind;
Manual beatmatching will not make you a better DJ, it will not make you a better performer, and it will not help you know or understand your music any better.
Know your tracks, listen to them methodically, and religiously, that’ll make a DJ out of you, the crowd doesn’t even care if you train wreck, most likely they prefer you to chop or cut straight from one great tune to another. As long as you got the music right, everything else is mostly masturbation.
I’ll finish off with a long tale:
Many years ago, before the arrival of the first DJ, when someone wanted music for a public venue, they would hire a band. Bands that were formed out of several musicians, who spent years honing their craft, who practiced every day on their instruments, only to be replaced by a low cost shmuck with a machine.
Does that mean that DJ’s aren’t musicians? or does that tell us that the skill set required for a musician has evolved, transformed and new skills has arrived that can replace the old ones with minimal damage.
But people still do play instruments, that skill hasn’t gone away, and so will manual beatmatching, but the sync button is a new skill, beatgridding is a new skill and somewhere down the line, musicians (including DJ’s) will be bitching about something else, stating that sync is the best way to REALLY(!!) learn how to be a DJ.
And remeber, more time you spend bitchin’ about other people is less time you’re making music, and that’s just a shame..
“or does that tell us that the skill set required for a musician has evolved, transformed and new skills has arrived that can replace the old ones with minimal damage.”
I don’t know if the new skills have entirely replaced the old ones. To me, it seems like what new tech makes possible is an addition to what’s largely been the bread and butter of DJing since it began. It’s not a steady progression where the old immediately becomes obsolete.
I’m equally happy listening to someone doing an amazing controller routine or just playing good tracks and letting them ride out (this is sometimes a relaxing change of pace from people relentlessly quickfire mixing, though this can be awesome too if done well). It’s all good: people trying out different things is going to lead to more creativity.
“And remeber, more time you spend bitchin’ about other people is less time you’re making music, and that’s just a shame..”
+1 on this, and on getting the music right.
hehehe… speak for yourself 😉 this dog learns as many new tricks as possible… it maybe the cure for gettin’ “old”.
Actually, I think you can teach old dogs new tricks, I learnt to dj on belt drive decks and technics in the early 90s, I’ve had about 10years away from dj’ing but came back to it in october and totally embraced the new technology.
I totally agree about new skillsets, it’s all an art in itself, the digital controller DJ prepares more, learning to dj using sync first can I think enhance how you approach djing, for instance, if you’re having trouble beatmatching, possibly you’re having trouble phrase matching which doesn’t help when trying to tell which tune is doing what, the visual clues in software is a massive bonus to anyone in being able to ‘see’ what you should be doing.
you can see that the intro runs for 48 bars and that bar 49 looks like a darn good place to drop the next track in and then in another 32 bars it’s ‘oh my, did those 2 tracks just drop together?’ 😀 Which means you’re actually starting to think entirely like a performer, learning form and structure, from that point it stops being so much guesswork and you actually understand that you’re an artist not just a person who mixes.
1:1 beat matching really isn’t difficult to learn, you listen for the downbeats and line them up… teaching your brain how to work with your body to make the tweaks *just-so* takes a little time (and it’s different for everyone).
The thing I think is the toughest is mixing at some fraction of the beat. If I’m trying to synchronize two tracks where one is 120 and the other is 90, I know it’s going to take 4 loops of the 90 track to be on the same downbeat as the 120 track, but I don’t play well with strange numbers like 117 and 92 I mean, I’ll fade down the beat of the out-going track, try to move the tracks closer together in tempo so I can play them 1:1 for beat matching, and set the cross fader in the middle, but this often just sounds weird (people can tell).
I’ve taken a calculator to a gig just to try finding the Least Common Denominator (and play with fractions, but I have a hard time setting this manually and/or doing this math in my head. Any tips on doing conversions?
your best bet is to activate a 3/4 loop or roll on the 120bpm track and then just mix in the 90bpm. It will make a hell of a lot more sense in your brain than doing what you are saying… I can’t even believe that’s possible to not sound like a mess doing it your way. K.I.S.S.
It’s actually pretty much like the “row-row-row your boat” song but with the two songs coming into convergence. The parts are long enough that the difference between the two sounds like swing… and I’m mainly singling out different ranges of the songs when I do this, just as you would with minimal house.
Genius. I usually just wait for the beat to drop with just a vocal or build, throw an echo on, and scratch the next track in.
learnt to beat match years ago on vinyl. Now on Digital I admit I use the sync for some things. Maybe I’m just getting lazy in my old age but I will hit sync when I load a new track to get the tracks close enough the like to switch it off and let the tracks ebb and flow with light pitch adjustments. So still having to beat match a little, but not set them initially. Also going off beat makes some mixes more interesting.
Another technique for learning I would use is get on track looping for 32 bars and just keep trying to match it and tweak the pitch of the loop each time and try again.
Traktor doesn’t get it right so learning to tweak on the fly is also an essential skill I still practice a lot.
i generally just do it by feel and use my ears 😀 to me, traktor is just really fancy milk crate, filled with hopefully awesome tunes
I picked up beatmatching in a day, it’s really not that hard. Takes a few more minutes to get everything in phrase (1 on the 1s), but everyone makes it out to be a huge thing.
I am happy not to do it any longer so I can have more fun with the tracks using flux mode or scratching or playing with the tap button on my drum machine to make it in time as well.
There is also the ability to match up the beats… and then there is the ability to KEEP them matched up. This isn’t much of a problem on CDJ’s, provided you have the pitches “close enough”, they will drift at a fixed rate… and you can easily nudge the platter to correct your mistake (without anyone even hearing if it small, and particularly if master-tempo on).
With vinyl, things are quite a bit harder. Even with Technic’s or other high end turntables with low wow and flutter. The pitch sliders tend to be longer but less accurate (a 1200’s pitch slider is +/- 8%, whereas something like a CDJ-2000 can be set to only +/- 6%)…
Then you have the fact that there are differences in the quality of the record pressings, and the physics of how there’s slightly less drag on the needle as the tone-arm gets closer to the center… All of this means that spinning on vinyl, you have more opportunity for drifts.
Personally I’ve never favored nudging/dragging the platter for corrections, or even touching the spindle. It’s way too easy to over-correct, and the turntables with quartz lock overcompensate trying to “fix” the speed back to normal as well.
The real skill with vinyl is learning to ride the pitch… keeping your headphones on, and listening constantly to the mix… when you start to hear slight phase changes, knowing instinctively to slide the pitch slider up or down a few millimeters, then back… And all doing this WHILE you are fading, EQ’ing, and handling phrasing.
That’s what really learning beat matching is, and why it’s actually difficult. The benefits are that during this entire process of learning, you are improving so many other key fundamentals of your mixing.
Of course the type of music being played makes a difference as well. If your transitions are quick, it’s not so important, if you are mixing for 2 minutes, it’s VERY important, because there is almost no way you are going to lock two vinyl records together for 2 minutes and not have it go out… (I know some people will argue this, but practically, it’s very very difficult to achieve).
I’d love to try on vinyl, for these reasons, to see how much more difficult it is than on CDJs or controllers.
They’re all different and all have their quirks. Controllers for instance, to use to their best advantage really need all of the beatgrids etc. setup, The difficult part with controllers is using all the spare time in a productive manner, which means mastering effects and loops. Saying that though, like the article says, they all share the same techniques for mastering dj’ing, beatmatching is essential to all 3 but it means nothing if you can’t put it all together in a meaningful way and that remains the same no matter what you’re using.
Meanwhile, on vinyl, you just don’t have the same visual clues as to what’s going on/about to happen (apart from reading the change in density between loud and quiet bits) and you’re totally reliant on your hand-ear co-ordination, knowing your tunes inside out. You can be fairly clumsy on controllers/cdjs but then the entire way you approach the platter is different, on vinyl, it’s spinning, so rather than on a controller/cdj, where you just move the platter to where you think it should be, you have to have a light touch to achieve the same effect, my preferred method was always to run the track fast, then use a finger on the strobe to adjust it to where it needed to be whilst dropping the pitch to match, it’s without doubt the safest way.
Playing catch up is fraught with problems, mainly where to attempt to speed the vinyl up, can’t do it on the strobe on the side of the platter, so that leaves the actual record itself, which means timing when you put your finger on the record and how hard/soft to push whilst moving it to match the record, or you can grab the spindle itself and try twisting it faster. Of course you can ride the pitch but I never found that a particularly successful technique with the bpms I was running at.
Like you say, totally different challenges on vinyl since it’s actually moving rather than just a control wheel (which is why I’d like to try!)
Actually, the pitch control on a technics is more accurate and I’ll tell you why. yes -/+ 6% percent is cool, but you can still only move in increments of .02% because the pitch control is digital. On a technics, the pitch controls are analog. They are not limited to .02% increment adjustments. On a technics, you don’t have to constantly nudge. If you’re good enough at the micro adjustments possible with an analog pitch control, you can match two records up and go take a shit. When you get back they will still be on. This was my biggest gripe and the first thing I noticed when I moved from vinyl to cds.
Ive heard this before, but in practice it’s not really true. On a CDJ-2000, move the pitch by .02. Sometimes it’s so small you can’t accurately even do it. Extrapolate that out to an +/- 8% slider and it would be even smaller… Can’t do it, physically. Theoretically yes, practically, not really. The digital resolution is high enough where analog vs digital doesn’t matter.
And no, you cannot regularly get them matched up for minutes at a time. Once in a while you’ll get lucky, but good luck doing that for every mix… You’d spend forever trying to get the adjustments correct. In practice you match as best you can, and then ride a little bit. You shouldn’t be riding massive changes up and down, that would sound terrible… I’m talking millimeters every minute or so.
(I have technics m5gs now (digital pitch, by the way). Previously I had mk5s, and I also have cdj 2000s. So I definitely have experience on all of them.)
But use what you like and works best for you!
I noticed when dj’ing with vinyl that yes it does drift but you have the facility to do everything about it, the analog pitch fader is a lot longer than a lot of the pitches I’ve seen on controllers, 128 steps on mine which is clearly pitiful resolution at 0.125% of the orginal bpm, in serato dj, with a limited pitch fader, you cannot successfully match BPMs, it’s technically impossible, unless the tracks have the same bpm to start with. What makes it worse on serato is that they only display bpm to a single decimal place, again pitiful, so even if you have got full resolution pitch faders, you’re still not going to be able to ‘see’ how close you’ve got it.
imho All of the technology is there to be embraced, whether it’s vinyl, controller, cdjs, it doesn’t matter, it’s what comes out of the speakers that counts and if we’re going to have all this technology we should be able to use all of it to it’s best advantages.
Overall i dig what you’re saying but I find that the biggest advantage to mixing vinyl is the resistance in the pitch control. Its so much easier for me mixing vinyl because when i ride the pitch the resistance causes the pitch control to stop accurately in a very specific spot where with CDJs the lack of resistance makes it near impossible to control pitch on the fly. Its really frustrating too having to IMO dumb down my mixing when i play digitally and use the BPM counter. I guess things like cue points make up for that.
Love what your comment says Ryan. So spot on! Music Matters <3
I didn’t realize that turntables were only +/- 8% and CDJs +/- 6% in spite of their long pitch faders. I use VDJ and used the registry tool to set pitch to +/- 2%. On one hand the Denon MC3000 I use already has short pitch faders but it keeps me honest in that I’m not trying to beatmatch songs that are more than 4 or so BPM from each other, especially since I refuse to use key lock.
stomm is right. with a continuous analog pitch the mixing is more human and instinctive making it easy to match tracks and then have a dump. having used 1200s for years and now a kontrol s4 the difference between an analog vs. a digital pitch is noticeable. with analog there is always the possibility of a perfect match. with digital, there may not be because the speeds won’t line up with the current resolution
I’ll tell you even though I use Traktor there’s no better sound than two tracks in perfect phase with each other! Sync be damned! I don’t reconfigure my tracks so that the beatgrid starts at the correct point either. I find the beat on the waveform, then cue up at that point, and when its time to mix let ‘er RIP! From there I adjust or nudge as needed to fine tune my mix all with my natural hearing. Just throw whatever controller, CDJ, or Turntable at me and I’m ready to fly. You just never know what you may be up against at any particular venue or gig? I’ll make whatever work whenever I need to.
the best beat match therefore also only works if you heeded the mood of the music.
each title has its own mood. There are dramatic, or cheerful, etc.
have two cheerful tracks. that will you kick out of your mood into ….. let’s take a look
Music is like a rainbow. But when you are an official artist, it can also be an fart.
but, for me, it is very important, that most of the peoples know that there is not only an fart outside.
Musician vs. “Musician”
i remember learning to beat match in ’95 on a pair of pyramid tables and a radio shack mixer with +8 vinyl. beat matching has always been the first baby step of a dj. you learn to walk when you finally figure out how to pattern match and run when you start too mesh harmony. i’ve always judged the quality of a dj by his transition and not track selection. a dj’s talent is not something that you can purchase.
Its the very first thing I was taught to do. That should be the way for anyone. You cannot mix unless you learn the basics first and foremost.
Yeah, I completely agree that beat matching is an important step in developing as a DJ. It’s just one that’s easily skipped by new DJs who start with software.
“i’ve always judged the quality of a dj by his transition and not track selection”
That’s an interesting point. I think both are important. For me, the most memorable DJs are those that dig out something amazing that I haven’t heard before, new or old, especially as there’s just so music out there these days.
At the same time, I’ve been blown away by technical skills too; I love DJ EZ’s 2012 Boiler Room set (on just 2 CDJs), even though I’d heard a few of the tunes before; the transition from 14-15 minutes here is just spectacular: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qQaEWVYuyXU)
Agreed that Boiler room set is one of my fav’s, that wee guy is amazing. Some DJ.
the genre that i started in, was at the time defined by decks, fx and 909’s. when i talk about “track selection”, i speak of the dj’s that play the same old top 40’s or only buy off the beatport 100 for the bookings and the money, instead of the music that they feel.
finding the perfect track is important, but a good dj isn’t defined by the fact that he is playing the most popular new track that been dropped in club 3 times by the other dj’s.
hear, hear! 100% in agreement.. just like the baby scratch is the FIRST step to learning scratching, so too is beatmatching to DJ’ing.
It was always the gold standard you judged dance-music DJ’s against, like hiphop does with DJ’s scratching
Even when two beats are perfectly aligned it still may not sound correct. Sometimes, in particular the kick drum, sounds better when they are very slightly off from one another. Not a lot but something that takes a small tweak with the jog wheel and sync to be off. I’ve heard a lot of synced mixes where DJ’s seem unable to hear this and it’s not something you ever hear in manually beat matched sets. It’s not all about perfect alignment it’s about what “sounds” correct.
There are other factors to take into account when you’re more advanced. Key being a major factor. Knowing your music also goes hand in hand with this. Well said RootGinger.
depends on the style of kick drum, some are naturally longer than others, so adjust accordingly, keeping an eye on snares and hats will tell you when it’s in the sweet spot.
You won’t believe how many DJs don’t use the phase. They push sync and fade the track in. What do they think are jogwheels for? For looking good and professional?
These days it seems beatmatching can be made out to be this incredibly difficult art that takes months and months to learn and perfect. It isn’t. I started DJing in 1991 on a pair of awful belt drive turntables, and was beatmatching within days. Provided you can clap your hands in time with the beat and identify the beginning and end of a phrase, you should be able to pick it up pretty quickly. It’s not that hard, and I’m not saying that to try and make myself look good! I teach ten-year-old kids (and younger), and they have to learn (on 1210s) by ear before we go to the software. Most of them pick it up within a few weeks, and that’s with only being able to practice for a couple of hours at a time. It’s definitely a skill worth having, but I don’t think it’s the be all and end all of DJing. You want to learn something difficult? Get into scratching, then you’re talking years to really get good.
Man f#$% that. I’m so tired of people talking this line. When I first started out, I spent 2+ years practicing with vinyl and honing my ear to be able to beatmatch quickly, accurately, and consistently before I felt confident that my mixes were consistently and repeatably clean enough for a dancefloor. Yeah, it’s simple to mix disco-house records that are all written at the same BPM. But try navigating through a bunch of slovakian techno from 120-150 and not make a single mistake. It’s not scratching, but it’s not as simple as people make it out to be. Otherwise I would never hear terrible trainwrecks from shitty DJs.
Okay, I’ll hold my hands up and admit that I don’t know much about Slovakian techno… But I started out just as the hardcore scene was really taking off in England, so there was always a huge bpm difference to take into account. But still, I stand by my post; it’s not that hard to do, even with sloppy breakbeats that are all over the place. Sure it takes practice, but if you’re tired of people like me ‘taking this line’, I’m equally tired of people who insist that the ability to beatmatch is something akin to alchemy.
@Darth Another thing. How important is it, really? When I was going to raves in 1990-93, my favourite DJ was always Micky Finn. And he couldn’t mix for shit – occasionally he’d get it right, but more often than not he’d be all over the place. But fuck me, that guy had the tunes. Every time. And it’s that, ultimately, that I care about when I listen to somebody DJ in a club.
Wow, i though Micky Finn was the best mixing dj of all time, does that tell you anything about my state of mind when attending AWOL??
Haha! He got better, I saw him at AWOL once, about ’94. But ’91/’92 not even a fifteen quid pill could cover up his mistakes!
Showing your age there, S4racen!
what does it say about my age if i took my daughter to see him when she was 3 and a half… now she’s 15. lmao
That made me chuckle.
THAT just proves you’re a twat. Mickey Finn is a shit DJ who can’t beatmatch!? You’re having a laugh, aren’t you? Sure you weren’t pinging off your tits & THOUGHT it sounded messy? man you can talk some shit..
beatmatching within days? teaching 10-year olds? sorry to be pessimistic, but at least one of those statements is bollocks.. it would take you days just to get your head around beatmatching & translating it into actual body-english. And yet you managed to do it. In 1991. on belt-driven turntables! PFFFFFFFFFFFFFT! o_O
Neither of those statements are necessarily false. If you think about it, elementary school music classes teach rhythm, the basics of keeping a beat, and playing in time with others early on, well before 10 years of age. At least they used to here in the States (not sure if they still do). It’s all relative really, as some people will have the innate ability to grasp these things fast, whereas others will need more time to really get it together.
Beatmatching is just as vague a term as TSPRO’s beatgrids are to the tracks. TIMING, its all about timing. As it would be if you played in a band. If you have bad timing then you will always mess up. The ONLY way to improve timing is to practice…and practice..and practice. It is the timing & practice elements that are missing when you jump right in and either hit sync or use BPM counters. The old analogue ways meant there really was nowhere to hide. You either had a good ear for timing or you didn’t. And that usually meant you haven’t practiced enough. And I strongly agree it is always important to learn the music you plan to play out. Never simply download and hit play. Thats a good way to make an arse of your mix. You NEED to be aware of any breaks and tempo changes approaching.
My key to beatmatch with or without Traktor (or Serato) is knowing really well the songs you’re about to play. If the next song is sung then I first sing it by myself listening to the first song then moving the cue to the next song and see how much its speed is different between “my” sung version and adjust it.
One thing you learn is that same numbers on the BPM counter of Traktor DO NOT always mean “beatmatched”
You can still beatmatch even if the BPM numbers do not match. Its your ear that will tell you when a track is bleeding out of phase.
And by the way, using vinyls, some touches on the record may phase everything for a while. That’s what I love about vinyls
I’ve heard of perfect pitch before, but never perfect tempo! If you can beatmatch by humming or singing along to an incoming track, I’m impressed!
tee hee! o_O
Ok, I’ll admit it: I’m one of those kids who hasn’t learned how to beatmatch and is destroying DJing every time I play out. Sorry .
I do really agree that its a skill that makes sense to learn and these are some pretty good tips. gonna give it a go!
I was one of those guys too, but I bought a set of turntables and some records and went to work. Nothing beats the feeling of getting your tracks in line by ear and banging a nice smooth mix. It’s given me a newfound respect and appreciation for the craft, and I’m a better DJ because of it. No waveforms or loops to fall back on, you just have to really listen and understand your music.
…and if your eyes are good enough you read the grooves and can see where the drops are.
…but there’s no way to enable this feature in Traktor 😀
Well that’s not exactly difficult, there’s a big difference in the color of the vinyl where the music drops out and comes back in 🙂
Always baffled me how people got that so accurately
I can read vinyl well enough to see different parts of a track but could never use it accurately to double drop DnB for instance.
That said, I can needle drop to my favourite samples on scratch records i know well.
Definitely; it just *feels* right as you bring the tracks closer in line. You can do disable waveforms in Traktor too by switching decks to micro mode…
A bold admission! thanks for being honest, and good luck learning. It’s not that hard, but like Steven notes, it’s very much like learning to ride a bike. At first you won’t be able to, and then you’ll be able to very poorly, and then slowly you’ll get better.
Glad I’ve converted you! Start practising regularly and you’ll get there. One thing I didn’t mention is that it’s actually quite fun once you do start to get the hang of it 🙂