Beat Matching Everyone has seen or heard a DJ perform at some point in their life. The type of disc jockey I am referring to isnt a radio DJ that just plays songs for people to listen to. I am referring to what is best know as a “club” DJ; one that uses two turntables and a mixer. Most people dont even pay attention to what exactly the DJ is doing behind the turntables; and to tell the truth most people dont care. The final product produced is good music that is blended together to make a continuous mix of music.
It is not a very easy process to accomplish even though everyone thinks that it is easy and that anyone can do it. The process that a DJ goes through when they are mixing is a process called beat matching. Beat matching is a very complex process and takes an extreme amount of practice. The process includes about sixteen steps, but can be described in four steps: play one record on the turntable and listen to other record in the headphones, “grab the beat” of one record and release it on beat with the other record using the pitch control, analyze then re-analyze the two records, and finally blend the two records using the cross-fader. If you dont know how to match beats it is almost certain you will not succeed as a DJ.
The main equipment used by a professional DJ is two turntables hooked up to mixer in the middle with a cross-fader for selection. There is other equipment used such as CD mixers, but the main type is the turntable set-up. The main purpose of this process is to make one record blend with the other record at the same speed to create one sound. The first step in the process is to play one record off of one turntable through the main sound system. The cross-fader on the mixer should be to the side of the turntable that is playing.
At the same time play the second record through the mixer using the cue switch on the mixer. That record will not be playing out of the main sound system, but it will be playing in the headphones that are connected to the mixer. By listening to one record in the headphones this gives you the opportunity to listen to a record before you play it. It also allows you to start the main step in the beat matching process. Once you have selected the record you want to play next you must match the beat to the record that is playing out of the main sound system.
The way to do is by “grabbing the beat” of the record in the headphones and releasing it with the record playing. Almost all records are produced with a four/four beat for easier mixing. “Grabbing the beat,” means to use your hand on the record and move it back and forth with beat of the record playing. When the record playing repeats the four/four beat you release the second record on the first count of the four/four. Once you have accomplished that the next step is to use the pitch control on the second record to speed up, or slow down the record to the same speed as the record playing. That is the part of mixing that takes years and years of practice to perfect.
There is a lot more to it, but that is the main step in the beat matching process. The rest of it is relatively easy, but can also be very difficult at the same time. The final step in the whole beat matching process is to mix the two records together. It is always important to analyze and re-analyze the beats to make sure they are matched before you bring the record in. To mix the two records you use the cross-fader on the mixer.
The record that is playing in the headphones should slowly be brought in using the cross-fader. If everything went as planned both records should be playing at the same time out of the main sound system. It should not sound like two records; it should sound like one. The only difficult part of this part is knowing when to mix out of the record and cross to the one that was playing in the headphones. The only way of perfecting it is to practice.
After you complete the mix you start the whole process again. As you can see beat matching is a very complex process and can only be mastered by practice. It may seem simple to someone who is watching a DJ play, but is actually a very hard process to complete. Once you have learned to match beats it becomes extremely fun and you wont want to stop. Even though there are a countless amount of steps it can all be summed up in four steps: playing the records, “grabbing the beat”, analyzing the record and mixing them together.
Maybe by reading this you will give a little more credit to the DJs that produce continuous dance mixes for everyone to enjoy.