It goes without saying that beatmatching is a must for any DJ. Be it hip-hop or a psytrance DJ. Beatmatching means playing another track on the same ongoing beat.
Beatmatching on Hip-hop track is harder than any other 4-signature beat i.e. house or psytrance track. This is because in house genre, kick & bass is repetitive in 4×4 style and the new sound element is introduced in every 4 bars. Whereas in Hip-hop genre, every track is written in different beat signatures. And it’s difficult to find or mix the next track of similar beat, energy or key.
I’ll share my story. Initially, I didn’t have any equipment or DJ software. All I wanted to do is mix two songs. So I used a normal CD player and a cassette tape player to blend one song into another. Using in-built treble, bass and master volume controls on two different players. That time I got my hand on Bohemia’s first album ‘Paisa, Nasha, Pyaar’ and a couple of pop English songs like a candy shop, still dre, boom boom boom, etc that I used to listen. While playing with such tracks I noticed that to match beat of the second track with the beat of the first track I need to play it exactly at the same time. Reverse and a forward button weren’t that useful to land on the exact beat. So I recorded the required part of the song onto another CD or cassette. And blending from one track to another track was much cleaner if not accurate to milliseconds. Technically in terms of djing, I was trying to create a ‘cue’ point in the track. When I got my hands on real CDJs, I used to cover the bpm screen with paper and try to beat match. The ear is your first sense and you should always trust them.
Cue point is the key to beat match. A right cue point will help to better beat match, maintain the energy of the mix and overall much smoother listening experience. To beat match the basic controls are cue button, play button, headphone cue (where you hear upcoming track), pitch forward & backwards. This article is not a beat-match tutorial, although I’ll share a good YT video tutorial link on same below, it is to tell the importance of matching beat manually rather than always using a sync button.
A sync button is good but has some limitation. I won’t talk about hip-hop and drum & bass style. In psytrance or techno or house, some tracks due to their complex composition don’t sync up correctly. The DJ software analyse the track and divide into bar segments with their advanced algorithms. You can see four-beat vertical line over waveform of the track, making it one bar. The software matches those lines with lines of another track. Sometimes tracks are not written in that usual frame may be to make the track more advance and complex to achieve experiment idea the producer has in mind. Due to that software doesn’t sync correctly with those tracks. So manually reversing or forwarding the tracks helps to beat match better.
The second reason, even after software correctly beat matches the track and even you’re mixing harmonically the bass creates a problem. Imagine kicks and basses of both tracks are exactly on the same point. You can hear muffling of bass or kick. Usually, in this scenario we quickly chop the bass during mixing. But not all tracks could be mixed with this technique and it changes the energy of mix quickly which might not sound smoothing to some listener. So intentionally you can delay or advance the next track by milliseconds. This creates pumping energy in the mix.
Some of you might not consider because you want a systematic approach towards mixing. This is correct to some extent but when you’ll mix across different tempos and genres you will realize the importance of manual beat matching.