The Beginner DJ Blog
How To Beat Match
Learning how to beat match is the most essential skill for any beginner DJ.
Unless you plan to only play songs back to back, you’ll need to learn how to beat match if you are serious about DJing.
Learning how to beat match isn’t an extremely difficult to learn the fundamentals but it does take many years to reach the professional levels of the greatest DJs.
Once you understand and can accurately beat match, you’ll be on your way to creating your first mix.
What is beat matching?
The purpose of beat matching is to match the BPM and phrasings of two records so they can be mixed together in order to blend together as if they are a single song.
Beat matching allows a DJ to create a mix that lasts for hours without ever stopping.
Understanding the beat
To understand beat matching, you must first understand music.
Every song has 2 major aspects:
- Tempo or Beats Per Minute (BPM)
Phrasing in music helps break up each note and creates music sound like… music. Phrasing creates a continuous flow of the notes instead of sounding like single one-shots.
In order to mix correctly, you will need to
The tempo or beats per minute (BPM) is the speed of the record.
In electronic music and many other genres, the speed of the record is measured by the number of beats each minute.
Counting bars is one of the fundamentals to beat matching.
With most electronic music, songs use a 4/4 (on the floor) beat; this keeps the song at a steady tempo.
The easiest way to understand counting bars is to put on your favorite track and, out loud, count the beats on the kicks drums.
When the kick on a track begins, you begin counting.
On each kick drum count one…two…three…four…one…two…three…four.
If you did not catch the first kick just listen for little indications of the next bar. This indication could be a sudden snare hit, a new bassline or the start of a synthesizer lead.
Soon you’ll be listening to tracks, completely understanding the pattern to the song.
Once you’ve trained yourself to count bars correctly, you will be able to anticipate what will happen in a song. That snare roll that keeps building up? Keep counting out one…two…three…four and when you’ve reached the final bar, the track will change up and break into bass, lead or any various sounds.
Selecting your music
Now that you’re able to count the BPM of a record, you’ll want to know which songs you should mix.
To be honest, there is no defined rule to what you plan to mix – that’s the greatest thing about DJing.
However, there are a few guidelines to consider when beat matching and creating a mix.
You may want to stick with a similar genre in the beginning.
Because you’re just starting out, it would probably be best to pick a genre to practice with and continue to do so until you feel comfortable with trying to mix two different genres.
The reason behind this is because the BPM and phrasing are completely different between, let’s say, a Drum and Bass track and a House track.
Keep the same type of “mood”
If you have a very fluffy, bouncy track playing you’ll really cause a clash if all of a sudden you mix in a very aggressive, dark track.
This isn’t to say you shouldn’t experiment with mixing everything but you’ll want to select tracks that follow the same sort of “mood” and gradually change it instead of drastically.
Keep within the available BPM
Much sticking with a similar genre, one of the main reasons behind this is that the BPM of various genres may be entirely too fast to beat match correctly.
Even with pitch control, you won’t be able to slow a Gabber track down to the same speed as a Dubstep track.
Figure out the structure of the song
Each genre, although similar in some ways, may be structured completely different from one another.
A Trance track may have a 128 bar build up while a Hardstyle track may kick right into it. Mixing the two genres of music will be difficult because each of them break down differently.
First listen to your tracks to understand where each break down, build up and plateau – this will help you understand when to begin mixing in the second track during your beat matching.
Starting your first mix and beat matching
So, you’ve should now understand how to count bars and select your music but now’s the biggest step of them all: mixing and beat matching.
Whatever system you’re using (vinyl, CD or digital), start up the first song.
Don’t worry about mixing right away; you may want to give the song a listen or two first in order to pick up the essence and structure of the beats.
Once you feel comfortable with the first song, it’s time to…
Queue up the second track
While the first song is playing, queue up the second track.
The first thing you’ll want to do is to find where you want to begin mixing in your second track. For the purpose of learning how to beat match the first time, simply get your second track to the start of the first kick.
What you’ll want to do at this point is to rock the track back and forth on the first kick. You should hear a sort of “oompf” sound as it goes backwards and forwards over the kick.
Now, while you’re rocking the second track back and forth, you’ll want to be counting the BPM and bars of the first track.
There’s no ‘perfect’ time to mix in the next track but you most often don’t want to mix in two sets of vocals on top of one another because this causes a clash.
Instead, you may want to start the second track as the first one is beginning to end.
Most tracks have a buildup and outro. During this outro, you’ll want to push the second track forward at just the right time as the kick on the first track hits.
If you started the second track at precisely the right time, the two tracks should sound in sync with another.
However, having your second track start and sync with your first track may not always be possible, which leads us to…
Controlling the pitch of the record
So, you’ve started the second track and the beats are somewhat in sync with one another. Good good, but now comes the slightly advanced part to beat matching: controlling the pitch to keep the tracks in sync.
While the first track is still playing over the speakers, you should be listening to the second in your headphones. The key to correctly beat matching is being able to count the beats and bars of the first track at the same time of the second.
When the two songs begin to go out of sync, you will hear a galloping sound – a ‘badump badump bump bump babump’. If you hear that your songs are out of sync with another, it’s because the pitch (speed) of the two songs aren’t matched.
There are many different ways to sync up your two songs, including:
- Touching the platter or platter nub
- Using the pitch control
Although touching the platter or platter nub may be the easiest and quickest solutions to syncing the two songs, it’s not necessarily the best practice – this is what the pitch control is made for.
With the pitch control, you are able to increase or decrease the speed of a record.
If the second track sounds like it’s faster than the first, you’ll want to reduce the speed by going negative (-%).
If the second track sounds like it’s slower than the first, you’ll want to speed up the track by going positive (+%).
These pitch control adjustments aren’t going to be drastic because the two tracks may only be off by a fraction of a percent.
Play around with the pitch control until the two tracks sync to each other; you should hear both of the kicks hitting at the same time which will make a semi muted sound.
The tracks should be hitting at the same time, the first track is about to break down and exit and now you’re ready to bring in the next track…
Mixing the two songs
As the first track begins to break down, you’ll now want to begin sliding the mixer slider from track one to track two.
Play around with mixing in the next song at what you feel to be the best time.
You may not want to mix in the next song in the middle of the first’s if it’s still playing vocals or lead, but there are no rules to this.
If everything goes correctly, you should have a clean mix between the two songs.
You’ve not only beat matched two songs but you’ve also done your first mix!
The trick now is to keep this going until your set is over, that’s the theory at least.
Remember, these are only basic guidelines to beat matching and by no means the ‘rules’ of doing so. There are many different ways to create a mix but knowing how to beat match is the first step in your process.
Practice, practice, practice.
As long as you continue to practice your beat matching, you’ll be able to sync your songs together. As soon as you become comfortable with beat matching, you can then move onto creating and structuring your mix.
Where to go from here?
You may not always be able to match two songs that are similar, try mixing in different genres of music.
Throw some screwballs at yourself such as trying to do a very quick beat match and mix as if you’re trying to play as many songs within a time period as possible.
See how long you can keep two songs matched with one another. Try throwing one track out of sync and then use your beat matching skills to resync them.
It may take a little while but once you have the fundamentals of beat matching down, you’ll soon be on your way to DJing.
The How to DJ Fast Video Course by DigitalDJTips.com has launched and it’s incredible. The video course covers everything from equipment to learning to mix – if you’re just starting than I highly recommend you take a look.
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- The Beginner DJ Equipment Guide: Building Your First DJ Setup
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- How To Beat Match
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