Phrase Mixing: Throwback Thursday DJ Technique

Beyond beatmatching, one of the most important things a DJ can do when lining up two tracks is to match a song’s phrasing. This means both songs will begin and end musical phrases in time with each other. Today’s Throwback Thursday technique from Ean covers the fundamentals of phrase mixing two songs to get them aligned in the mix!

Phrase Mixing For DJs

For many DJs, counting phrases comes naturally as a result of having mixed so many songs together over the years. But not everyone learns how to do this correctly – we’ve even seen headlining artists do this incorrectly in recent years as producers-who-DJ have become the sought-after act. So let’s take it back to the basics in this tutorial and count some phrases!

To understand how phrase mixing while DJing works, remember that there’s three elements of a phrase that you should be keeping track of:

  • Beats: Individual counts of a song, four of which (in most dance music, which is 4/4) make up a….
  • Bar: A collection of beats, usually 4. Each bar of a song will have the same amount of beats in it.
  • Phrases: These are the longer sections of the song which are made up of a set number of bars – usually they also indicate the start of a new melodic or instrumental element in a track. Often phrases are 16 or 32 beats – or even more!

To match up two songs, you have to make sure that your second song starts aligned with the phrasing of the first. This really starts to make a difference when mixing in an intro of a song with just drums or simple elements – if you time it right, the musical phrase on the first song will end and your second song will start its first major melodic element (like a synth line, or vocals, or bass) right in time.

Want more? Watch more THROWBACK THURSDAY tutorials here!

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  • Josh

    You would not believe how much this is overlooked in modern DJing and its In my opinion the most important thing other than beatmatching. Great throwback article.

  • Jerr1233

    Great video that explains a fundamental that so many DJs don’t get. My mix style is based completely around phrasing. Aside from crowd reading and track selection, IMO there is no skill more important the phrasing. Whether you are doing long mixes or just dropping it on the one. It all has to be in phrase. For me, one of the hardest things to do is mix songs with different time signatures because it throws the phrasing completely off. Thank god that most songs are standard 4/4 time signature.

  • Jesse James

    I love this method and it’s what I use in all my sets. It gives you this feeling of nostalgia.

  • Linz

    Not really a “throwback”, as much as a fundamental part of dj’ing.
    Thanks though.

  • Martin Wilson

    Pretty fundamental but if you don’t know about phrases, you’re never gonna get rid of those clown shoes.

  • Schallweller

    True story. Went to a few parties over the year and many DJs seem to have never heard about phrases what results in bad build ups and total loss of energy with the next track mixed in. They pulled the people up again and again and always soaked the energy away instead of just counting and letting it com in at the right point. I went home always very early. 🙁

  • David Brown

    I like how this one is less dependent on traditional equipment/styles of performance. Almost anyone who can reasonably classify their performance as “DJing” needs to know this one well. One thing that would be great in future articles could be tutorials on more intellectual, but no less critical, topics such as 4-deck mixing techniques. Great videos, Ean. Keep up the good work.

  • Kris Marsh

    Great video. Dig the Stephen Hawking book in the background too!