How can I learn to beatmatch? This is a question that many DJs ask when they’re just starting out. These days, technology does a lot of the hard work for you, but learning to beatmatch by ear is still a fundamental skill that will ultimately make you a better DJ. In this blog, we’ll explain step-by-step how to seamlessly blend two different tracks together. Good luck and have fun!
What is beatmatching?
As its name suggests, beatmatching is the term used to describe the process of matching the beats of two different tracks so that they are in time with each other. If the tracks are playing at different speeds, you’ll have to adjust the new one so that they’re both playing at the same speed before you can beatmatch them. To beatmatch correctly, you’ll need to ensure that the first beat of the bass drum on both tracks occurs at the same time. Normally, beatmatching is done on a DJ controller, a tabletop DJ set or a set of turntables.
Finding the cue point
Before you can start beatmatching, you’ll need to find a suitable cue point. A cue point is a place in a track you can start it from. In dance music, this is commonly the first time the bass drum is heard. You can set up cue points yourself during your DJ set, but DJs who works with software like Rekordbox, Traktor or Serato often set them up beforehand. Cue points determine where a new track will start when you mix it into your DJ set. Most music, including dance, normally follows pattern counts of 4, 8, 16 or 32. For a seamless mix, you should start your new track exactly on the first count of the bass drum of a new pattern.
As soon as you start a new track, you’ll need to listen to check that it’s playing at the same tempo as the current one. If you’re using a media player or DJ software, this will normally show you the BPM (beats per minute) of the tracks that are playing. That said, we still recommend you learn to beatmatch the tempo of two tracks by ear. Using the pitch control (normally a fader), you can adjust the speed of the new track until it matches the speed of the other. It’s easiest to begin with tracks that are in 4/4 time (aka common time). These are tracks that have a beat you can count as 1, 2, 3, 4….1, 2, 3, 4. Music styles like EDM, house, techno and trance almost always have this time signature. When you’re not working with electronic music, you’re often faced with a real drummer which means the tempo is not always 100% consistent making it slightly more of a challenge.
Once you’ve got two tracks playing at the same tempo, it’s time to match the beats. It’s best to go back to the cue point and start the new track again from the first count in the beat. If you do this at exactly the right time, your tracks may already be beatmatched or at least be very close. You can make minor adjustments using the jog wheel as necessary. If you’re DJing using turntables, you can make minor adjustments by gently nudging the vinyl record in the direction it needs to go or even stop it for a brief moment. If you find that the tempo is not sufficiently matched after all, you should go back to the pitch fader and start again.
In principle, anyone can learn mixing and beatmatching techniques. Knowing exactly when to use the crossfader, however, comes as much from feeling as it does from knowledge and experience. It doesn’t normally sound good if you go from one track to another when vocals or a strong melody line is playing on both tracks as they often then interfere with each other. You can always use the EQ or isolator to dampen offending low or high tones on the new track, of course. Mixing two bass lines together doesn’t normally work either. Some DJs transition from one track to another relatively quickly, while others are happy to play both tracks together for a longer period of time. There are no rules when it comes to mixing, so long as it sounds good! Watching and listening to your favourite DJs is a great way to pick up little tips and tricks they use in their performances. Don’t be afraid to try out what they do and sooner or later you’ll develop your very own DJ style!