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9 DJ Tempo Change Techniques - Tips For Creative DJing!

Are you ready to take your DJ mixing skills to new heights?

Mastering DJ tempo change techniques is an exciting way to create captivating mixes that keep the dance floor energized.

Not only do these techniques help you to mix music with drastic differences in BPM, but by learning how to change tempos in an interesting way you can control the groove of the dance floor and create more fluid and expressive DJ sets.

But before you can dive into advanced DJ mixing techniques, it’s crucial to build a strong foundation in basic mixing techniques, such as beatmatching, phrasing, and EQ control.

Let’s embark on this exciting journey together and elevate your DJ skills to the next level!

TL;DR - DJ Tempo Techniques#

  • Learning tempo change techniques gives you more options as a DJ.

  • There are many ways to make large BPM transitions feel seamless.

  • Tricks like looping, breakdown mixing, using polyrhythms, and half-time mixing are some examples of useful tempo change tricks.

  • DJ.Studio makes it easy to mix using these techniques and create unique DJ sets.

What Are Tempo Change Techniques#

DJ tempo control

Utilizing tempo change techniques is an advanced DJ skill that helps you to transition tracks - even if they have large BPM differences.

Tempo change techniques essentially revolve around the process of changing the current BPM, usually by a large amount.

This makes it easy to mix two tracks, even if they play at a completely different tempo, for example mixing a house track with hip hop.

There are several methods for performing these types of changes (explained later in this guide). Mastering these can help your DJ set become more engaging and exciting for the audience.

Rather than setting two tracks to the same BPM, these types of changes use a bunch of other creative options to move to the BPM of the next track.

10 Reasons Why DJ Tempo Change Techniques Are Useful#

Why tempo change transition DJ techniques are useful

Tempo changes can be extremely useful for DJs, adding depth, variety, and excitement to their sets. Learning these tricks can help you to express yourself better through mixes, and make more dynamic sets exploring a broader range of music.

Here's why tempo changes are beneficial for DJs:

  1. Dynamic Energy Control: Changing the tempo allows DJs to control the energy level of the dance floor. Speeding up the tempo can intensify the atmosphere while slowing it down can create a more relaxed or hypnotic vibe. This dynamic energy control keeps the crowd engaged and responsive.

  2. Genre Fusion and Transition: DJs often blend tracks from different genres. Adjusting the tempo makes it possible to seamlessly transition between songs with varying BPMs, creating smooth and interesting genre fusions. This versatility helps DJs appeal to diverse audiences and keeps the set fresh.

  3. Building Set Progression: Tempo changes contribute to the overall progression of a DJ set. Starting with a slower tempo and gradually increasing it can build anticipation and excitement, leading to peak moments. Conversely, slowing down the tempo after intense moments provides a breather and sets the stage for a new buildup.

  4. Surprise and Creativity: Unexpected tempo changes can catch the audience off guard and inject an element of surprise into the mix. This unpredictability can create memorable moments and showcase the DJ's creativity and skill.

  5. Mood Manipulation: Tempo changes allow DJs to manipulate the mood and emotions of the crowd. Faster tempos often induce energy and enthusiasm, while slower tempos can evoke deeper emotions, introspection, or sensuality.

  6. Mixing Acapellas and Instrumentals: DJs can creatively blend acapellas (vocal tracks) with instrumentals by adjusting the tempo. This technique enables them to layer vocals from one track over the instrumental of another, creating a unique and personalized mashup.

  7. Cleaner Transitions: If you want to mix two songs with vastly different tempos, you need to use these techniques to make a smooth mix. Otherwise, it can be clunky and awkward - especially if you don't beat-match the rhythms.

  8. Showcasing Technical Skill: Skillful tempo changes demonstrate a DJ's technical prowess and ability to manipulate tracks on the fly. DJs can showcase their expertise by seamlessly transitioning between tracks of different tempos without disrupting the flow.

  9. Personal Signature: DJs often develop a signature style that sets them apart from others. Well-executed tempo changes can become a defining element of a DJ's style, making their sets memorable and recognizable.

  10. Crossing Boundaries: Tempo changes can bridge the gap between different musical eras or cultural influences. DJs can mix classic tracks with modern ones, showcasing the evolution of music and appealing to a wider audience.

Incorporating tempo changes requires a solid understanding of music theory, beatmatching, and the technical aspects of DJing. When used skillfully, tempo changes can elevate a DJ's performance, making it more engaging, diverse, and enjoyable for the audience.

Software like DJ.Studio can make this process easier, letting you incorporate these techniques even if you've never mixed music before! Find out how later on in this guide.

9 Creative Tempo Change Techniques#

Now, let's have a look at some of these tempo change techniques - practicing these opens up huge realms of possibility in your DJ sets!

1) Speeding Up#

Speeding up BPM DJ Transition

One of the easiest tempo change techniques to use is the 'Speed Up' method. This helps you to move from a slower genre to a faster one, for example, from hip-hop to house music.

This technique can increase the energy and excitement in a mix, making the audience's hearts beat faster by playing music at a higher speed.

Depending on what gear you are using, you may be working in a limited changeable tempo range, for example, many DJ controller models have a limit to their BPM control.

You can use this method to make a big BPM increase:

  1. Start playing a song.

  2. Beat match the next track to the master tempo track (making sure it's sync locked - so it stays matched).

  3. Now, slowly increase the speed of track 1 using the tempo slider, until it gets up to, or close to, the tempo of the faster track 2.

  4. Start a transition between tracks 1 and 2, perhaps using the channel fader or crossfader. Find out more about Crossfader Techniques!

  5. End the first master track, and you have now made a smooth BPM increase transition.

This type of transition works well during build-ups in dance music and electronic music, although it isn't restricted to any specific genre.

2) Slowing Down#

Slowing Down Dj BPM transition

In contrast to the above method, the 'Slow Down' technique is ideal for bringing the pace of a mix down, making it more relaxing and groovier.

Using both the slow-down and speed-up methods gives you the opportunity to make a dynamic DJ set, where the slower moments create even more tension for when the faster moments hit.

The slow method lets you move from fast-paced music to slower beats and brings down the energy of the dancefloor by mixing a new track with a different bpm.

  1. Start playing a track.

  2. Determine the lower BPM of the incoming track. (How To Find Track BPMs)

  3. Slowly bring down the tempo of track 1, until it matches the speed of the incoming track.

  4. Now, hit play on track 2, so it plays in time with the slowed track 1.

  5. Now you can start to bring the transition from track 1 to 2.

  6. Silence track 1, and you have successfully achieved a slow-down tempo change.

Playing slower tunes can help to contrast faster moments, creating a more exciting experience for your listeners!

3) The Half-Time Switch-Up#

Half Time DJ mixing

Another highly valuable tempo transition technique is the Half Time Switchup!

If you bring in a new track at exactly half the BPM of the first, you will be able to beat-match them and create an interesting transition, which makes for a super groovy switch-up.

For example, you can move seamlessly from a 160 BPM drum and bass track into a slower 80 BPM hip-hop beat. Alternatively, you could go from a 140 dubstep track into a 70 bpm dub or reggae groove.

This change in groove and beat emphasis can make some really nice transitions that change the pace of the set but in a slick way.

To achieve a half-time switch-up:

  1. Start with the faster track playing - work out it's BPM.

  2. Pick the next track, making sure you can play it at exactly half the BPM of track 1.

  3. Beat match the first beat in the bar of track 2 to the same place in track 1.

  4. Now, you can play track 2 and start the transition.

This type of tempo transition works best with a faster cut, rather than a longer crossfade, although the latter can still work well.

For even more punch and professionalism, time the transition with a buildup and drop. So just as the buildup of the faster track is about to break, you switch it up to the drop of the second track. This will take some planning and you'll need to set cue points. This is a really easy transition to achieve in DJ.Studio though, which is much easier than pulling it off in real-time.

4) Double Time#

Double Time DJ mixing

The Double Time transition is essentially the half-time switch up in reverse.

Here, you start off with a slower track and mix in a faster track which has exactly double the BPM of the first. For example, moving from 80 BPM reggae into a 160 jungle beat, or 70 bpm dub into a rapid 140 dub techno or dubstep groove.

Double Time changes are a nice way of picking up the tempo and energy of a DJ set, in a more instantaneous way than the 'Speed Up' method explained earlier.

  1. Start by playing a slower track - work out the BPM.

  2. Choose a second track that can be played at exactly double the BPM of track 1.

  3. Beatmatch track 2 to track 1. The 3rd beat of track 2 will align with the second and fourth beats of track 1.

  4. When the time is right, play track 2 and make the transition.

Similarly to the Half Time change, a Double Time transition generally sounds better with a faster cut. Although it can be quite nice to tease the faster elements (perhaps the intro) over the slower track, before cutting over.

You need to be precise with the beat matching to pull this off smoothly, otherwise, you risk a cluttered transition. DJ.Studio can help with this.

5) Tracks With Speed Changes#

DJing tracks with BPM changes

Certain tracks have built-in tempo changes, which make the perfect DJ tool for a seamless transition.

Typically, most tracks stay at a consistent tempo, although you can find a wide range of tracks with speed changes.

You'll need to do some research to find the perfect track for your needs, but just google "genre X to genre Y transition track" and you should be able to find some. For example searching "120 house to 140 techno transition track".

These types of tunes make it easy to make slick tempo transitions, although they do take some more preparation and research, and aren't as easy to pull off 'on the fly' as the methods above.

  1. Work out the start and end speed you need to transition and find a track that makes that change, call this 'the transition track'.

  2. Start on your first track.

  3. Beat match the start of the 'transition track' to track 1.

  4. Play the transition track and make the transition.

  5. Now, pick the song with a speed that matches the second half of the transition track.

  6. Beat match the new song to the transition track, and make the transition.

  7. You've now mixed through three tracks, using a transition track to make the perfect change in tempo, without needing to make any drastic BPM changes.

6) The Build and Drop#

Build up and drop Dj mixing technique

This unique transition lets you switch from one BPM to another, completely unrelated tempo. If you pull this off right, it can make for an unexpected and shocking speed change, which can be the perfect hit your audience needs.

With this transition, you can mix tracks that have no BPM connection. While it will be more seamless to use some related BPM, you could use this to go from an 120 house track into a 72 BPM hip hop beat, or from a 80 bpm reggae groove into a 140 dubstep tune.

This all revolves around timing the buildup of one track with the Drop or breakdown of another. (Understanding the Phrasing DJ Technique helps with this!)

In essence, you prepare the next track to come in at a high-impact moment. Then, as the first track builds up, you switch them over just as the drop hits. This creates the effect of one track building up and dropping in to another - maybe with a completely different tempo.

  1. Play a track with a distinctive build-up.

  2. Pick another track with a punchy section. Set up a cue point so you can start the track at a drop, or other impactful moment.

  3. Wait for the buildup of track 1 to develop.

  4. Just as the buildup ends, play track 2, and cut track 1.

This high-impact transition is a great way to completely switch up the groove, without even needing to use a related BPM. It can be a bit hard to pull off, but this technique can add suspense and excitement to the mix.

7) The Breakdown Crossover#

Dj Mixing Breakdowns

Another vital tempo change technique is using breakdowns to seamlessly blend from one track to another, which can accommodate large BPM changes.

Many tracks feature a 'breakdown' section, typically composed of a sparser musical arrangement. Some of these even feature no rhythmical elements and are purely textural and ambient.

These types of breakdowns are ideal for making a breakdown crossover, as you can mix in another track with a different BPM, without needing to worry about clashes and beat matching. (Provided the tracks are harmonically mixed).

Any good DJ will have a stockpile of tunes in their collection which have these types of breakdowns. Again, this type of mix requires a bit of preparation as you need the right tracks in your library, although it's a super easy tempo change to pull off.

  1. Pick and play a track that has a sparse, preferably beat-less breakdown.

  2. Prepare the second track.

  3. When the breakdown of track 1 starts, you can introduce track 2.

  4. Make sure you silence track 1 before the breakdown ends and the beats start again, otherwise, you'll get clashing rhythms.

This type of tempo change is super easy if you have the right tunes!

8) Key Lock#

Key Lock DJing

Key lock is an incredibly useful feature that helps you maintain the original key of a track while adjusting its tempo, resulting in a smoother and more seamless mix.

By using key lock, you can create seamless transitions between tracks with different BPMs, allowing you to blend tracks with different keys without needing to manually adjust the pitch.

To take advantage of key lock, simply enable the feature on your DJ software or hardware. Once enabled, you’ll be able to adjust the tempo of a track without affecting its pitch, giving you even more control over your mixes.

With key lock at your disposal, you’ll be able to create seamless transitions and captivating mixes that showcase your DJ skills and music production knowledge.

9) Polyrhythmic Mixing Techniques (Advanced)#

Polyrhythmic DJing

Polyrhythmic mixing techniques involve using multiple rhythms and time signatures to create interesting and dynamic mixes. By mastering polyrhythmic techniques, you can create unique and engaging transitions that will energize the dance floor and showcase your DJ skills.

In this section, we’ll explore the exciting world of polyrhythmic mixing and how you can incorporate these techniques into your DJ sets.

Understanding Polyrhythms

In essence, a polyrhythm is when two or more interlocking rhythms (with different phrase lengths) are played together. This creates unique, rolling, hypnotic grooves.

By recognizing the different rhythmic patterns and time signatures present in music, you can develop a better understanding of polyrhythms and how to incorporate them into your DJ mixes.

To master polyrhythms, it’s essential to listen to a wide variety of music and pay close attention to the different beats and accents present in each track.

Memorizing specific phrases that emphasize the rhythm or mimicking the phrasing of simple sentences can also help you develop the ability to hear and feel polyrhythms.

With practice, you’ll become comfortable with recognizing different rhythmic patterns and time signatures, allowing you to incorporate polyrhythmic techniques into your DJ sets.

This method does tend to be easier with more minimalistic music, although it can theoretically be used with anything.

Applying Polyrhythmic Techniques

To get started with applying polyrhythmic techniques, experiment with layering different rhythms on top of each other or using a drum machine to create a polyrhythmic pattern. Don’t be afraid to experiment with different tempos and time signatures to create something truly unique.

The beset implementation requires a bit of mathematics. Essentially you can mix any BPMs together that are in some way mathematically related.

For example:

  • You can mix a 60BPM beat with 120, 180, or other divisions of 60 bpm.

  • Take the original BPM, and divide it by 3, 4, 5. (Other numbers work but not as well). Any result indicates potential BPMs for polyrhythmic mixing.

This is one of the most advanced DJ mixing techniques out there, and even many professional DJs wouldn't even know where to start. If you want to use this technique, I suggest you do as much research on polyrhythms as you can!

Summary#

You should now have your eyes opened to the wealth of DJ possibilities presented by tempo change techniques. These can really elevate your DJ sets to the next level, moving away from stale, unprofessional mixes, to a dynamic, slick, and exciting set.

Some of these take a bit of practice to learn, but mastering these techniques will give you a huge creative boost, and is an important step in developing your professional DJ skills.

DJ.Studio is a great way to practice and conceptualize these methods without having to physically use a pair of decks - try it now!

Noah Feasey-Kemp
DJ/Producer
I started DJing when I was 15. Started a record label, residency by a club in Bristol. I’ve played at all the biggest clubs in Bristol (and the small ones) and have entertained thousands of dancers! I love writing about music, DJing, and technology. I've been blogging for DJ.Studio since the start of the project, and am always happy to answer questions and help fellow DJs out!

FAQs About DJ Tempo Change Techniques

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