Beat matching is one of the most important techniques when it comes to DJ mixing. Sure, often you can just use a sync button - although knowing how to do it manually will set you apart from other DJs.
If you don't know how to beat match, you can't call yourself a true DJ. It can take a while to master the technique, but if you follow the information in this guide then you'll have it locked down in no time!
In this guide, I'll share a bunch of useful beat matching tips that I've learned from years of experience.
TL;DR - Perfect Your DJ Beat Matching Techniques#
Beatmatching is an essential skill for DJs.
Beatmatching ensures tracks play at the same tempo, keeping the groove rolling.
Learning to manually beatmatch can be difficult, but it's worth it.
Software like DJ.Studio makes beatmatching a quick and easy process.
1) What is Beatmatching? Why is it Important?#
Beat matching is a core technique of DJing, it's is the main system that ensures a DJ can transition smoothly between songs - even if they are originally released at different speeds.
There are two subcomponents to beat matching:
First is tempo matching, where the DJ makes sure the BPM (beats per minute) is the same between the first track and the second track. If the tracks playing have the same tempo (for example, 120BPM), you can transition between them while keeping the same groove rolling.
The second component of beat matching is beat alignment - making sure the beats within a bar are synchronized between the two songs. For example, most music is counted in four - 1, 2, 3, 4.
You want to make sure that beats 1 to 4 are all aligned between the first playing track and the next track before you bring up the volume of the second track and start your transition
Why is Beatmatching important?#
Beat matching is important for several reasons.
The main reason is to ensure that two tracks play at the same speed when the DJ wants to mix songs together. This lets the listeners stay in the groove when they're dancing.
By playing tracks at the same BPM, the DJ can create seamless transitions where it seems like two songs are blended into one. This is important because it prevents clunky transitions where the beat is all over the place and the music's flow is interrupted.
Another important reason for beat matching is to make sure that the instrumentation, particularly the rhythm section, is aligned between track b and a. It's not just about getting two tracks to play at the same speed, but also that the arrangements are lined up in a complimentary way.
For example, you want to make sure that the kick drums and snare drums of both tracks are in the same place, otherwise, it will make for a confusing transition that interrupts the groove of the dance floor. If two tracks are beat matched and the songs still clash, you can use eq mixing to improve the transition.
In the next sections, I'll explain some core concepts within beat matching and the precise steps to match beats when you're DJing.
2) Beat Matching Concepts to Understand#
Here are some key concepts to understand which relate to beatmatching.
Tempo, also known as Beats Per Minute (BPM) is a concept in music that measures how fast the beat of a song is.
The majority of music uses a consistent pulse which keeps your head nodding at a continuous speed.
This pulse is measured in BPM, which is a blanket measurement for analyzing the overall speed of a song based on how many times beats are counted per minute.
BPM measurements are given as a number, which typically falls between 80 to 180 for most dance music.
Different genres of music are known to use specific BPMs. For example hip hop is between 80 and 100, house is around 120, techno is anywhere from 120 to 150, dubstep is typically 140, and jungle and drum and bass are between 165 and 180.
Understanding these tempos makes it easy to mix music that already has similar speeds which overall will make the process of mixing and beat matching easier. You don't always have to mix the same genre, but it helps because they are already close in speed.
You can use BPM counters to easily measure the speed of a track, although much modern DJ software does this task automatically.
Beats are a basic concept of time and rhythm within music theory.
Typically music has four beats in a bar which means you count 1 2 3 4 on repeat throughout the music.
The purpose of beats is to divide music into micro phrases which just makes it easier to count.
The origins of music theory surrounding beats were from written classical music where composers needed a system to synchronize the players. However now beats are used as a system within DJing to make sure the two tracks you play as synchronized together.
This diagram and video show you the specifics of what beats are and how to count them. Essentially beats are counted as the main pulse of a song typically one for the kick and one for the snare in repeat
Synchronization & Phase#
Synchronization and phase are slightly more advanced concepts initially, however when you understand beats and bars you will easily understand these.
Synchronization is the term that describes when two pieces of music are playing at the exact same time in the same place - becoming synchronized.
However, for true synchronization beats also need to be synchronized in phase.
The phase of a beat simply means whether the 1, 2, 3, and 4 counts of each track is aligned on the same beat.
For instance, if beat 1 of track one is playing at the same time as beat 2 of track two this would mean that the beat matching was out of phase and sync, even if the tempos were perfectly matched.
The BPM could be identical and perfectly matched, however, if the phase of the beats is not in perfect synchronization, the elements of the beat would be playing at the wrong times. So you'd have the kick drum of one track playing with the snare drum of another which would sound confusing. You can think of this as the beat grid being out of alignment.
3) How To Beat Match: Step-By-Step#
This section shows you the best process for matching beats.
Load up two tracks. Let's call them tracks 1 and 2. Track 1 is the master beat. Play track one out of the main speakers (to your crowd). Track 2 is monitored privately in the headphones with your other ear, so only you can hear it while you match beats.
Work out the tracks' BPMs. Working out the BPM of a tack manually is pretty easy, even if it is an obsolete process given the power of most DJ software. The easiest process for working out a track's BPM is to use a BPM counter tool. These let you simply tap along with the beat of your track to determine its BPM. Most DJ software automatically detects the BPM of tracks and makes a note of it in your library, so you only need to use this as a backup.
Adjust the tempo slider. Once you've worked out the two BPMs of the tracks, you can adjust the tempo control of the second track to raise or lower the BPM to match the speed of the first track. You can either do this by ear or literally by calculating the difference in BPM and then adjusting the percentage of the tempo slider as necessary.
Match the beats and phase. Once the tempos are the same, it's a matter of aligning the beats to make sure that both tracks are in the same correct phase position. So beats 1, 2, 3, and 4 of both tracks are hitting at the same time. The easiest way to do this is by counting the beats of track one and then using the cue button to trigger the second track to start at the right point.
You can make this process easier if you set the cue point for track 2 - where you want the track to come in. If this is supported by the software or gear you are using.
You can repeat this micro-process to achieve the perfect tempo and beat match.
Count 1-2-3-4 (or whatever is the main time loop) on track 1.
Hit the cue button on deck 2, on the first beat of track 1.
Hold it down for a couple of bars.
Listen to see if track 2 is faster or slower than track 1.
Adjust the tempo slider accordingly - increase or decrease the speed.
Repeat these steps until the tempo is perfectly matched.
Double check it's in sync quickly before you start mixing the upcoming track into the front-of-house speakers!
Now, you can drop the second track in. Hit play on beat 1, and then you can start making your transition from track one to track two however you desire.
Transitioning is another important skill that DJs must learn to master. This is a large topic that won't fit in this article however check out our other guides which explain transitions in full.
Extra Beat Matching Tips#
Here are some extra tips to improve your beat-matching skills.
4) Practice Makes Perfect#
The ultimate tip to improving your beat-matching skills is to practice as much as you can. The more times you practice beat matching, the more you will get used to the process.
After you spend a few hours doing it, it will feel more natural. If you repeat this on a consistent basis, for a few hours a day, or a week, then eventually it becomes second nature. You won't don't even need to think about what you're doing and you can just beat match.
Even though most modern gear and software have a sync feature that does the task for you, you should still learn how to beatmatch by ear. This is what sets professionals apart from other DJs. Sure, you can just use the sync button on a DJ controller, but beatmatching is one of those DJ skills which makes your life easier in the long run. Traditional DJs will tell you this is an essential skill - even if you have access to a sync function.
5) Understand How You Can Use Jog#
You can use jogging to correct mistakes mid-mix. Using the jog system (or nudging technique) helps to quickly slide tracks in time with each other when they slip out.
Because tempos are a very fine number, they can be out of place by fractions of a percent. This means that you may not have precisely matched the tempos of your tracks.
While they may be playing at the same time enough to retain a relatively consistent tempo match. You will need to occasionally slide them back in time with each other using a jog wheel.
You can use jog wheels to either push a track forward or backward to realign the beats if they slip slightly out of phase. Then readjust the pitch fader to more accurately pin down the tempo of the tracks.
This technique isn't so important with modern software which has automatic synchronization features, however, is still useful to learn just to understand the basic concept
6) Learn How To Beatmatch Several Genres#
Certain types of, more minimal and repetitive, music, are easier for beginners to beat match. These can be a good place to start.
The more types of genres you practice beat matching the better your skills will become. If you just stick to one genre the whole time then you'll only get used to mixing that genre and you won't have a deep grasp of how beat matching works, or develop your technique to a more advanced standard.
Just expose yourself to mixing as many different types of music as you can from slow genres like hip-hop to fast genres like drum and bass. The more you mix and practice your beat matching, the better you'll become and the better suited you better equipped you'll be for any DJing situation you may find yourself in
7) Get Used To Counting Beats And Feeling The Pulse#
Manual beat matching is all about being a good listener and having well-trained ears to detect the beats and bars of music. You can always practice this whenever you're listening to music - just by counting the beats and getting used to feeling the pulse of music.
Learning how to count and feel the beat is an essential component of understanding how to beat match, so make sure you practice this as much as you can. You don't even need to be around a pair of decks to practice this as you can just listen and count beats when you're listening to music on your phone on the bus for example. Get used to getting in the groove and understanding how beats and time work. Then in your head imagine mixing in another track.
8) Use Software Like DJ.Studio To Visualize The Beatmatching Process#
Nonlinear software like DJ studio makes it easy to see how beat matching works by displaying the properties of songs lined up. This is called waveform information and it makes it easier to see how beats are aligned on the grid. While this doesn't particularly help you hear beat matching, it gives you the advantage of seeing it with your eyes which can help to understand the process of how beat matching works.
9) Try Beat Matching On A Range Of Different Equipment.#
If you're considering being a professional DJ then you never really know what kind of setup you'll be using. I'd recommend practicing on everything and anything you can from old-school vinyl setups to modern DJ controllers to CDJs to strictly using software. The more things you practice on, the broader your experience will be making you more equipped to deal with the DJing setup and situation you may have at hand. You never know exactly what kind of club gear you might have to use.
10) Beat Matching in DJ.Studio#
This section explains how DJ.Studio makes the beat matching process super easy and accurate.
Unless you need to perform it live, it's much easier to use studio software like this to arrange your mixes on a timeline, precisely and cleanly.
DJ studio makes the beat-matching process incredibly easy and quick.
As soon as you import tracks into DJ studios library it automatically detects their BPM and labels it within the library system.
From here you can then import a playlist from your library to create the basis for a set.
Then you can use the automix feature to automatically align and arrange a set based on either the BPM or the key of your music. The automix features does most of the work for you and automatically lines up the songs by adjusting their tempos and placing them in the correct place on the grid.
Although sometimes it isn't perfect and you may need to adjust the placement of tracks and correct the BPMs.
You can also move the tracks around on the grid to change when they come in and make sure that the phase is correct.
In the rare case the automatic beat detection slips out of accuracy, you can check out this guide to fix it.
Summary - Enjoy Matching Beats#
The key to improving your beat-matching skills is simply practice and time. If you put the effort in, you will quickly see yourself improving. After I practiced beat matching regularly for a couple of months, it quickly became part of my muscle memory so now I barely have to think about.
Use the tips above to accelerate your beat matching skill progression! Or read the article on other more advanced mixing techniques.
FAQs about DJ Beat Matching
- Is beat matching hard?
- What is beat matching in music?
- What is the secret to beat matching?
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