If you want to start mixing techno music like a pro, then this is the guide for you!
Techno is a genre that has gone hand in hand with the development of DJing. With diverse and fascinating origins, techno is a huge genre with many styles and variations.
It is a fun genre to mix and is a great way to express yourself on the dance floor.
In my early days of DJing, techno was one of my favorite genres to mix - and I still love it today! There's something about mixing techno that gives you a lot of freedom and creativity.
In this guide, I'll first give you a basic step-by-step tutorial for mixing. Then I'll explain each of the key concepts and techniques in more detail. Finally, I'll show you some software that makes techno mixing a breeze!
Techno is an exciting genre that is ideal for DJing.
The key things to consider are beat matching, transitions, and grooves.
While harmonic mixing is helpful, you can find a lot of percussive/atonal techno which doesn't revolve around keys.
Software like DJ.Studio helps you make perfect techno sets with minimal time and effort.
How To Mix Techno: Step-By-Step Tutorial#
First, I'll outline the basic technique used to mix tracks together, then I'll explain the core concepts in greater detail!
Choose your tracks - You can either plan out the entire set in order or improvise from track to track. The key to good selection is by starting from a large music library and studying techno music, it's history, and related genres. When you have a good collection of music (that you know in detail) you will easily be able to put together some cool mixes.
Load and play the first track - Start off the set by playing your first track - whatever you feel is right, and that matches the energy you want to start off with. If you are taking over from another DJ, play something that connects well to their last track.
Play your song through the main speakers if you're mixing live, or load it as the first in your set if mixing with the studio method.
Pick the next track - Now you need to pick a song to play after the first one. The choice is up to you. You could base the progression on mood and energy, a story, or use a technique like harmonic mixing (explained later) to pick a melodically related song for seamless transitions.
Beatmatch the new track - You want to make sure that the incoming track is in time with the outgoing track. In this stage, you beat-match the second track to the first, in your headphones. This means that you make sure track 2 is playing at the same speed as track 1 - with the beats in sync. This is a relatively complex skill which is explained in full later in this guide.
Start the transition - When you get to the right point in the first track, you want to start the transition over to the next track. Hit play on the second track, and use one of the many techniques to introduce it into the mix. You can transition in basically an infinite number of ways, which is explained in more detail below.
Turn off track 1 - When the transition is complete, start to turn off track 1's volume until it's completely silent and only track 2 is playing.
You just mixed techno! Congratulations, this is the core process to DJ techno. Simply repeat the above process as long as you need - by selecting a new track, beat matching it, and transitioning.
Note on recording
If you want to record your mix, the process is a bit longer as you need to connect some recording gear and start the recording. Although, as you will find out later in this guide, software like DJ.Studio makes this process a lot simpler.
How To Mix Techno: The Techniques Explained in Detail#
If you want to learn how to mix techno, you first need to understand the core principles of DJing. Understanding the basics of DJ mixing will make it easy to mix most genres of music, from hip-hop to drum and bass - and of course, techno music.
The process of mixing techno is relatively similar to most electronic music, although there are a few extra considerations and options.
If you want to learn how to mix techno, the following points are foundational concepts you need to understand.
What Equipment Do You Need To DJ Mix Techno?#
Equipment is one of the first things to be able to mix techno, although you don't actually need as much gear as you might think.
These days, you can get by using a laptop and a piece of software like DJ.Studio alone.
Although, if you want to have a more hands-on experience, it might be worth investing in a DJ controller, or a pair of decks and a mixer. Ultimately it depends on what approach you'll take to mixing - whether you want to mix with the 'Live' or 'Studio' method - which I'll explain later on.
Essential Gear For Mixing Techno
A laptop or computer
Some DJ software
Headphones and/or speakers
A DJ Controller
A pair of CDJs or Turntables
A DJ Mixer
Approach to mixing - Live or Studio
When it comes to mixing, there are two schools of thought in terms of the basis of techniques. Either - Live or Studio mixing.
You can learn both techniques, although each type has its unique advantages and certain situations where they are more suitable.
Find out the full details in our guide - How To DJ - but here is a basic outline:
Live Mixing - Involves the use of DJ hardware. This is a more complicated and more expensive technique, although has the advantage of allowing live performances in clubs/parties/events.
Studio Mixing - This is a more modern technique that uses a custom type of DJ software. Essentially you arrange the tracks on an audio-editor style time, allowing you to tweak the set with more accuracy and detail. This is a much better choice if you need to produce finished mixes, but don't necessarily need to record them live in real time. Examples include radio shows, YouTube mixes, pre-recorded soundtracks, and events like fitness classes or long journeys.
Essential Techniques and Concepts for Mixing Techno#
When it comes to mixing techno, there are a bunch of essential concepts and techniques which need to be understood and implemented to create good DJ sets.
Beat matching is the process of matching the BPM (beats per minute), and beat positions (1, 2, 3, 4 count) of the tracks you blend together. This makes sure they play at the same time, and the same speed, creating a seamless rhythmic connection.
Because techno revolves around a steady beat, it's important you beat-match to make your transitions smooth and not break the groove of the dance floor.
Beat matching is a relatively complex topic, so check out our full guide for a detailed tutorial - How to Beatmatch.
Harmonic mixing is another largely important technique to understand when mixing techno (and other genres).
This is a large topic, so see our full guide on Harmonic Mixing, but here is a rough outline:
Most music fits into certain keys, any of the 12 major or 12 minor keys, which is determined by the combination of notes used in a track.
Keys connect in certain ways thanks to the notes - some keys are compatible, and others are incompatible. This means that some songs sound great together, while others sound awkward and clashy.
Harmonic mixing is the practice of analyzing the key of songs and making sure that the tracks you mix are compatible. You can also use this technique to control the energy, as certain key changes affect the mood in unique ways.
Techno tracks aren't always as harmonically focused as other genres, so this isn't always necessary with more percussive beats. Although, there is a lot of melodic and harmonic techno out there where this technique is essential to create seamless and professional-sounding mixes.
Famous techno DJs tend to take harmonic mixing into account to make sure they create a seamless mix from one track to the next.
Transitions and Effects
There are all kinds of transitions that you can use to spice up your DJ techno mix. Transition techniques determine how you bring in the new track playing with the old one. Remember, for the best transition make sure the two tracks are at least beat-matched - and preferably harmonically mixed too.
This is just a short outline of how you can use transitions to create interesting techno mixes. Check out our full guide on 16 DJ Transition Techniques for more inspiration!
Since most techno tracks are typically quite long with extended intros and outros, you can use this to your advantage and create slow, progressive, seamless blends. This means you can create a clean DJ mix without an overwhelming amount of instrumentation.
There are two sides of transitions - the tools, and the timing/intensity.
The transition tools simply refer to the types of controls you can use to make transitions more interesting or seamless, typically:
Gain/volume controls - Channel faders, crossfaders, or channel gain controls.
EQ - Bass, Mids, and Treble, which can either be cut or boosted.
Filters - Either a high-cut or low-cut filter, which can sweep away the high or low frequencies.
Delays - These add an extra layer of rhythmic repetition.
Reverbs - These blur out and extend the sound, which can be used to create a washed-out drone effect.
Loops - These are handy for extending certain parts of tracks to give you more time to transition in or out.
Any of these tools can be used with a certain transition style, based on the timing and intensity when applying the effect.
All of these can be created in DJ.Studio's transition editor. The parameter automation lines let you create custom transitions in any way you want.
You can combine any effect with any automation style, to create an infinite number of custom transition variations. Experimentation with these is the best way to discover what is possible.
Besides using these tools as creative elements, there is also a certain level of technical understanding that needs to be implemented when transitioning. It mostly revolves around the concept of making sure that you aren't overloading the frequency bands, so you can still hear distinct elements from each song.
For example, techno tends to be a relatively bass-heavy and centric genre. When you're mixing in a new track, you want to make sure that you control the bass frequencies so they don't clash.
For example, you could either:
Slowly fade out the bass on the first track, using an EQ, before you start playing the second track. When you bring in track two, there will be no other bass line competing for space. Or,
Completely cut the bass on the second track before bringing it in. Then, when you start playing the second track, it won't have the bass in. A filter can then be used to slowly remove the bass frequencies of the first track, making room for the second track's bass. You then 'drop the bass' in from the second track when the time is right, creating an impactful drop.
Use a Bass Swap preset. This lets you choose a place where the bass EQ swaps over, cutting out the old bass and bringing in the new one instantly.
These are just some ways you can do it. This concept also applies to other areas of the frequency spectrum. Essentially you don't want too many sounds to be competing for the same space, so use the EQ to cut or boost frequencies where necessary.
You can also use the filter knobs to modify the low, mid, and high-range frequencies. For example, if you are transitioning from one bass-heavy track to another, then you could set the incoming track's bass to zero.
Then, as you gradually crossfade from the master track to the incoming track, you can gradually increase the low-frequency range of the next track, bringing it back to the normal range once the transition is complete.
This way, there is a reduced risk of the two bass frequencies clashing, resulting in a more pleasant and seamless transition.
When you use DJ software like DJ.Studio, you can automate this process by drawing horizontal lines that tell the software when to modify a specific parameter.
If you want to add the element of surprise when you mix techno music, then you could have a more dramatic transition with a Stop/Start effect.
To do this,
Wait until the last bar of the master track is about to play.
Then automate the volume to rapidly decline to zero at the start of the last bar, replicating the effect of pressing the Stop/Start button on real DJ equipment.
Then, once the last bar is played, your chosen section of the next track will immediately start playing.
Framework: Sequencing, Selection, and Intensity
The term framework describes the approach you take to the overall flow and progression of your mix. This is a useful concept to understand when mixing techno and gives you some direction in the way you craft your mixes.
Framework essentially determines the sequencing, selection, and intensity of your mix - basically describing what kind of journey you take your listeners on.
Most DJ mixers and DJ software have some kind of looping functionality. Loops can be a highly valuable tool for techno DJs, and give them the chance to create custom DJ remixes on the fly.
Looping gives you the ability to repeat sections of a song. This could be anything from a longer 8 or 4-bar phrase to a single beat, or anywhere in between.
Looping lends itself well to techno music because the tracks tend to have a lot of repetitive beats in them already, which makes it easy to loop up.
Loops can be used in basically an infinite number of ways.
They're great for transitions, but you can also use them to change the flow of a track on its own and create more interesting and hyped build-ups.
Another excellent use for loops is if you ever mix with more than two decks - perhaps in a three or four-deck setup.
This means you can layer in different percussive elements, melodies, chords, or bass lines from different songs, creating a totally unique and high-energy sound.
Multi-Deck mixing is one of the more advanced DJ mixing techniques that will really make you stand out from the crowd.
This is more suitable for skilled DJs who've already mastered the basics, but it gives you an exciting new dynamic to your performance.
Using three or four decks, you can layer in loops and a wider range of sounds and tracks. This changes the dynamic of a techno DJ performance.
Rather than the DJ simply moving from one track to the next, it becomes a wall of shifting noise and textures, letting the DJ manipulate the groove of the dance floor in more detail and expression.
This is something that any techno DJ should try at some point. The extra level of difficulty also makes regular 2-deck mixing feel easier afterward.
One of the most important elements of DJing techno (and any genre) is your music library. Having a diverse and extensive music library gives you more freedom and options in your mixes.
With techno being such a huge genre, there is plenty of room to grow a sizeable collection of music - from the ancient classics to modern beats.
Techno also relates closely to other genres of music, like house, electro, acid, and all the subgenres and hybrids - like tech-house, deep house, dub techno, and so on...
Try to discover as much exciting music as you can. Develop your own unique style and tastes, and work out what gives your DJ sets a personal and interesting sound.
I also can't understate the importance of keeping your music library well organized (and backed up).
When you build a large collection, you'll want to make sure that you can quickly and easily find the song you are looking for. Ultimately the system you use is up to your preferences.
These are some of the most common ways that DJs organize their music collections:
Alphabetically by artist or track name
Year of release
By vibe or energy
You can also combine any of the above organizational methods.
The final thing to understand is the importance of practice.
While discovering music is one of the core elements, you also need to know how to make mixes sound good, and practice the techniques, - particularly if you want to DJ live.
Practice is key.
The more time you spend mixing, the better you will get. It sounds obvious, but many people think they can just go straight into DJing - but there are a lot of skills and techniques you need to master first (which are explained above)!
DJ.Studio - The Best Software for Techno DJing?#
As mentioned earlier, there are two approaches to creating techno mixes. You can either use the Live method or the Studio method.
Both have their own sets of advantages, and they aren't mutually exclusive as using both workflows can give you more flexibility and power.
Ultimately, it depends on the context. But DJ.Studio is a unique piece of software that has many advantages over traditional methods.
For example, here is a techno mix created in DJ.Studio!
Here are the unique features of DJ.Studio:
Powerful music library - Integrated with many DJ software and music platforms. Including YouTube, Apple Music, , rekordbox, Traktor, Serato, Mixed In Key, and many more!
Revolutionary AI-powered automix engine - Our proprietary AI scans through every possible sequence of your chosen playlist to create the perfect order, based on your choice of beat matching, harmonic mixing, or somewhere between the two.
Unique timeline editor - Harness the power of non-linear audio editing for DJ mixing, with the one-of-a-kind DAW-style DJ tool.
Limitless transition creator - Design transitions in infinite detail, giving you more expression and control than the possibilities of any other DJ hardware or software.
Fast, diverse export engine - Send your finished mixes to a range of sources from directly within the DJ.Studio app, and record at up to 5x speed!
Built-in video creation tool - Create mesmerizing, audio-reactive visuals from inside DJ.Studio, and easily export them to YouTube.
These are just some of the powerful elements DJ.Studio has to offer. So, to find out for yourself...
Closing Thoughts - Good Luck on Your Techno DJ Journey!#
You should now understand both the basic and advanced techniques involved with mixing techno music.
Remember, mastering the basics like beat matching, harmonic mixing, and transitions are the foundations of building your skills to the advanced techniques.
If you master the core principles, you will quickly be able to create more engaging and professional-sounding mixes, and then start exploring the deeper concepts.
I'd suggest experimenting with both with DJ.Studio, and some more traditional live mixing DJ software like rekordbox or Traktor.
FAQs on DJ Mixing Techno Music
- What are the origins of techno/electronic dance music?
- What defines techno music?
- How do you mix techno music?
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