What Is Beatmatching?
According to Wikipedia, Beatmatching or pitch cue is a DJ technique consisting of pitch shifting or time stretching an upcoming music track to match its tempo to the beat of the currently playing track, and to adjust them such that the beats (and, usually, the bars) are synchronized.
So, how do you mix music using the beatmatching technique?
- Beatmatching requires a mixing program such as Serato DJ, Traktor Pro, Virtual DJ, or any other DJ software program.
- Once you have the program up and running, the following steps will explain to you how to Beatmatch.
- Play one music track on the left deck (deck 1).
- Load another music track you intend to mix into on to the right deck (deck 2).
- Next, adjust the tempo of the music track on deck 2 to match the tempo of the music track on deck 1.
- Finally, on deck 2, make sure you play the track so that the kick and snare on both music tracks (deck 1 & deck 2) hit at the same exact time when both records are played simultaneously.
Most importantly, it’s important to learn how music is structured so that when you’re mixing, you’re music mixes flawlessly. Meaning, one track ends and the next track begins, almost as if you’re keeping a magical flow of music and rhythm!
Example of Beatmatching
For example, If you were to play the same EXACT song (any 1 song) on both decks at the same exact time, you would hear their kicks and snares simultaneously play together. Duh right? It’s the same song! It has the same kick, snare, and tempo! What if it’s two different songs? Stay with me…
Every single song that you’ve ever listened to consists of a tempo. The tempo is the speed at which a song is played, or the beats per minute (BPM) of a song. Beatmatching songs with the same exact tempo (BPM) is important to the process of beatmatching.
Two Songs; Different Tempos
Simply put, you can change the records tempo on deck 1 to synchronize to the songs tempo on deck 2. Simple right? Usually, you’ll see DJs listening to their headphones to deck 1 while deck 2 is playing for the crowd. Once the DJ gets deck 1 to match the tempo of deck 2 and hears them synchronized, step 2 comes. Well, step 1 was the easy part. In fact, in order for you to master beat matching and mixing music so it sounds really well, you must learn a lot more than just matching tempos!
Practice! Practice! Practice!
Beat Matching on the decks takes a lot of practice and determination. It’s very important that you understand song structures and how to count bars before you can learn how to beat match music.
Song Structures & Bars/Measures
Listen to a song, any song. Listen for the kick. The kick usually sounds deep in bass and has a thump to it. You hear a kick every time a drummer kicks the drum with his foot petal or a producer electronically installs a kick into a song.
Now listen to the snare of whatever song you are listening to. The snare usually follows after the kick. The snare is a higher pitched drum than the kick drum. I’m sure you’ve noticed these sounds before, but I want you to start thinking of these sounds as something different than just drums…
Numbers. Think of the kick drum as the number 1 and think of the snare drum as the number 2. Stay with me for a minute. In the image below you can see where 1 is the kick and 2 is the snare.
Kick 1, snare 2, kick 3, snare 4. Beats are broken down into measures or bars.
There are 4 bars in the image above. The kick starts out as the 1st bar and the snare falls on the 2nd bar, the kick falls on the 3rd bar, and the snare falls on the 4th bar.
Kick = On the 1 & 3
Snare = On the 2 & 4
Sometimes you may not hear a kick or snare when your counting your bars depending on how the beat is constructed, but you can count on counting it whether it’s there or not!
Be sure to check out, “5 Tips on How To Mix Better“, to find out more tips on mixing!
Example of Beat Matching With Serato DJ
The pink arrows are pointing at the tempo (BPM) of the two tracks. These songs both have tempos of 130 beats per minute (BPM).You can see the tempo (BPM) in two sections on both deck 1 and deck 2.
Notice the green arrows pointing at the harmonic key. Both songs share the same 2A key.
I’ll explain more about keys later, but for now, just know that there are different moods to every song you hear. Bright, happy, dark, or gloomy. Keys can help determine the mood on the dance floor!
Notice the yellow rectangle? I inserted the yellow rectangle to show you that this section of your Serato Dj program is VERY IMPORTANT! When those red and yellow lines vertically line up, this means the two songs have matched tempos.
This graph is a sure way to tell if your tracks are matched! In order to get good at beatmatching, you need to get in the habit of using this feature rather than just matching numbers. DO BOTH! In fact, some DJ programs may not get the BPM perfect on the first try so going by the numbers will eventually run you into a really bad mix!
How can you mix these songs together?
The songs above are not mixing together in this photo but sense they share the same tempos, it would be very easy to mix these songs! Even if they didn’t share the same tempo, as long as it’s not too far away from matching, you could adjust your tempo’s on both tracks to meet in the middle.
Song Structures & Bars
Songs are broken down into sets of 4 bars at a time. The beginning of a songs beat, the intro, may play 4 bars until it goes into the chorus or a verse of the song. It may play 8 bars. Your job as a DJ is to count these bars in your headphones so that when the left decks song is ending a verse/chorus, the right decks intro is ending and starting it’s verse/chorus of the other song.
Song Structure Mixing Tips
A verse/chorus may start right away with no intro. These songs are harder to mix with but if you can find a part of the song that has a catchy 8 bar beat than mixing a song that has words right away is a good idea! Also, you can mix in a looped beat on deck 1 to an already playing track on deck 2 and make sure you have another cue point set to the beginning of a verse/chorus on deck 1 to jump to when you’ve counted your bars right as your beat matching.
Song Structure Table
Intro – Maybe 4 bars, maybe 8 bars, etc.
Chorus– Usually 8 bars, sometimes 4 or more
Verse– Usually 16 bars, sometimes less or more
Bridge – Maybe 4, Maybe 8 bars
Outro – Maybe 4 bars, maybe 8 or more
How To Determine The Bit Rate Of a Song
Song quality is determined by many factors (including the bit rate). If you want to mix music like a professional, you need to have professional quality music files.
For instance, when a producer is constructing their masterpiece, they focus on high & low frequencies, the pitch of instruments and vocals, the key of the melodies, EQ, and many other important factors. When a producer bounces their finished mastered audio into an audio file, there are many different formats they can choose from.
THE FORMAT DETERMINES HOW COMPRESSED THE FILE WILL BECOME AS WELL AS THE BIT RATE!
Usually, The more a song is compressed, the less kilobytes are processed per second. It’s just like video. The more compressed a video, the less frames per second (less quality).
WHAT IS A BIT RATE?
A bit rate represents the total amount of bits that process in a certain rate of time.
What is a bad bit rate?
Usually, the bit rate of a downloaded MP3 audio file pirated off the internet is around a 128 kbps (Not Good). Basically, any illegally downloaded music is horrible quality so it’s not even worth the risk people!
What is a good bit rate?
Compare that to a song you would purchase from Itunes or download from a record pool that gives you a 320 kbps bit rate (Very Good).
You can hear in older music the quality wasn’t very good. On top of many other factors, songs had low bit rates back then which made them sound muffled and less dynamic. It’s the future! We can process more data in a shorter amount of time now so that means more instruments and better quality!
In the image below, this beat I made has a bit rate of 160kbps. I created it with Logic Pro X. When I exported it, I wanted to quickly send it to my phone so I could hear it. It has a low bit rate.
In Itunes, right click any song and click on get info.
Click on the file tab at the top right:
Compare that track to the Kendrick Lamar track below. It has a bit rate of 320 kbps. The size of the audio file is 7MB and the sample rate is 44.100kHz. All of these factors determine the quality of your song. Do your own experiment at home! Compare 2 of the same songs with different bit rates. Let me know if you notice a difference!
Bit Rate Example
I have put this to the test. I compared the bit rate of the same tracks downloaded from two different sources and the track with a 320 kbps bit rate sounded much better than the same exact song (downloaded from the internet) that had a 128 kbps bit rate.
5 Tips On How To Mix Better
The following tips are specially for you! In fact, these tips will help you to mix music on the fly like the professionals!
#1 Ask For Song Lists / Create Playlists
You really should mix up your mixing strategies when it comes to a diverse audience. A Dj should always plan ahead of time before every gig to make sure they know what kind of music their client + audience wants to hear.
Requesting as much information from your client about their taste in music as possible is essential to your end goal.
End Goal = Blow Their Minds!
Mobile disc jockeys that are passionate about djing, and want to leave a good impression on people, will take the time to prepare themselves properly so they are fully prepared.
Whether it’s a wedding, birthday party, sweet sixteen, or whatever. Always ask your clients for a song list. In fact, have a song list prepared with popular songs, check boxes next to the popular songs, and an additional text box to write in songs not listed.
Let your client conveniently check off the songs they like and send it back.
Also, a great tactic is letting them check off the songs they like on a form on your website.
Most of the time, creating a playlist for each one of your clients will make them feel appreciated. If you refer to this playlist throughout their event, there will be no reason for failure.
Your client will hear you playing their favorite music, or at least the music they requested, and your job will be much easier.
A passionate DJ cares about what music their client wants to hear. They passionately want to put together a performance their client will never forget. Who can’t appreciate that?
#2 Set Cue Points At Beginning Points
At the beginning of every Intro Beat, Outro Beat, Chorus, Verse, & Scratch Point you see in all of your songs should be Cue Points. Most Dj Controllers allow you to push colored pads that bring you to specific colored cue points of a song. This is very helpful when your in the moment showing off a live set and you want to mix out of one song and start at a specific point of another song.
On Serato DJ, and most of the Serato software I’ve ever used, you can set the color of your cue points so that you can distinguish them easily when you look at the visual wave form of the song. I like to put a little meaning behind the colors of my cue points on my Serato DJ Program. Example:
- Red – Intro Beats
- Yellow – 1st Verse
- Blue – Chorus
- Green – Scratch Point
- Purple – Outro Beat
- Orange- 2nd Verse
EVERY SONG that you load into your DJ program should have a similar structure so that you may navigate through each song seamlessly. If you load a random song, and you don’t see a red cue point, then you know that song has no intro beat.
If you see a purple cue point, you will know that you can jump to the Outro Beat of the song. If you see a green cue point, you know you can jump to it quickly to scratch! Once you learn how mixing basically works, and you develop a strategy on navigating quickly through your songs with cue points, than there’s no limit to the things you could come up with on the fly! You can come up with your own color-code and use it to suit you!
#3 Create & Save Loops Of Beats/Phrases
Creating and saving loops in Serato is easy, and if you do your research, you will find that most DJ controllers and Software Mixing Programs allow you to easily access your saved loops on the fly! Go through each popular song you know and save loops at the beginning of the song (Intro Beat) & the end (Outro Beat). Note: Some songs do not have intro beats/outro beats. If you followed mixing tip #2 above, you may already have cue points at the beginning of your intro beats. Loop those beats and save them!
You can access your saved loops for all of your songs on the fly.
In Serato DJ, your stored loops will look like this:
In my Serato program, there is only 1 stored loop for this particular song in the bottom left box. Make sure you click the little blue lock to save your loops, once you finish looping something you like. At anytime you want, you can jump to this stored loop (intro beat), and mix another song to it! You do have to make sure the loop is turned on and ready to loop every time your about to use this feature.
Also, make sure you stay on beat when your performing. Perhaps your client asks you to make an announcement as a song is playing. You can quickly jump to the beat of that currently playing track, because you saved it ahead of time, and make your announcement.
Setting up each song so that you can find that tracks beat quickly, with no vocals, is easy… Just save a loop! Of course, not all songs have a beat you can loop, but most of them do! Find that 8 bar beat to each song and save the loop to whatever program your using. You can also find phrases and loop them as well so you may access them on the fly. Looping a phrase, and mixing into a beat is awesome. Every DJ should know how to do it!
Creating cue points at the beginning of your saved loops is also helpful. The image below is a good example:
There is a cue point at the beginning of this stored loop!
Here is a quick example of a stored loop trick:
So lets say you have a Snoop Dogg song with a stored loop that loops a cool phrase:
- On the left deck:Let the song play until it reaches a looped phrase with a green cue point at the beginning of it. Looped Phrase: Drop it like its hot. Drop it like its hot. drop it like its hot. Before it gets to the looped phrase, lets prep for it…
- On the right deck:Find a 8 bar intro or outro beat of another song. Make sure this song has similar harmonic keys and its BPM is close enough to match tempos. Match their tempos together, adjust your low frequency knob to 0, and have it ready to start at the beginning kick of the beat.
- Back to the left deck:
Once you see the song on the left deck is starting to loop, do not let the phrase “Drop it like it’s hot” repeat for too long. Let it repeat 4 times max
- Back to the right deck:
Carefully count your bars so that you play the beat to match the beat of the left decks song. The left deck repeats the phrase 4 times and on the 5th time is when you need to drop the right decks beat. Practice this!
- Back to the left deck:
Once the beat + “Drop it like its hot” repeats 4 bars, slowly turn the low frequency knob up to it’s regular position while simultaneously;
- Back to the right deck
turning the low frequency knob from it’s normal position to 0.
- Back to the left deck:
Now you can start hitting that green cue point, which is set at the beginning of the loop, and keep hitting it the the beat of the song. You can start scratching as well! drop it like its hot. drop it like its hot. drop it. drop it. drop drop it like its hot!
- Back to the right deck
Take the loop off of the right deck and let it start the song.
Make sure you practice this enough so that you can time it out just right!
#4 Analyze Your Music Files
Organize your playlists by BPM or Beats Per Minute as your performing. It’s very simple to do. This is what all DJ’s must know. Matching the Beats Per Minute or BPM on the left decks song to the right deck song is one of the first steps of mixing.
As long as the BPM of one song is close enough to another songs BPM, then the two songs can be mixed under certain circumstances. All of your new music will need to be analyzed first with Serato before it will display the BPM. You physically have to drag the song into your left or right deck, or into the Analyze files tab, just so it will load details of the song such as the Key and the BPM.
I suggest you start analyzing your files. Next time your dilly dallying around and you want something to do. Analyze away! When your in the groove and your mixing like a witch mixing a potion, your going to come across that song you forgot to analyze. You don’t know the BPM so you can’t mix with it yet. You need to drag it to the left or right deck to let it load up first before you can tell what the BPM is. It’s a waste of time during a live performance.
Analyze your files at home! You can always tell if a songs BPM is not right because no matter what you do, it’s nearly impossible to mix it into another song. This rarely happens to me now-a-days. The newer software programs are starting to get better at finding the BPM of a song. Make sure they are all correct!
#5 Make Sure The Key Is Set Right On Each Song
First of all, Finding the key of a song is a lot more easier than it used to be. It requires a software program, such as Serato DJ, that automatically finds the right key of each song based on the Camelot Scale. I found this Camelot Scale to be very helpful from Digital DJs Tips.
Basically, every song you’ve ever heard or will hear is measured by its harmonic sound based on the Camelot Scale and when you mix 2 songs that are in the same key… It sounds way better!
There are many mixing softwares that do find the key for you such as Serato Dj, Virtual Dj, & Traktor Pro 2. You can learn more about these programs on my post “3 Popular Mixing Programs You Should Know About“. These mixing softwares will input harmonic key values of your songs either once you play them, or when you analyze them.
It’s important to analyze this information before each gig so you can organize your songs by key as you mix.
Organizing your songs by BPM, and focusing on songs with similar harmonic key values, will improve your overall mix master skills. I can show you what it looks like in Serato Dj!
In the image above, under the harmonic key category section, it shows a lot of songs that are missing keys. Only the first 5 songs have been analyzed and they display the correct key of each song. Now
How do you analyze your songs with Serato DJ?
You can highlight as many songs as you can and drag them into the “Analyze Files” tab located at the top. If you look right above the bpm tab, you can see “Analyze Files” tab, in the picture above. Your Serato may not be set up the way mine is with the bpm first, but It should…
Once you drag the highlighted files into the analyze file tab then Serato Dj will begin to ANALYZE! This way, you can stay harmonically balanced on the Camelot Scale and not bouncing all around it.
Beatmatching Made Simple
Hopefully this article has helped you get a better understanding of beat matching and mixing music. Now, the next song your listening to, you can count the intro to see how many bars it takes before the verse/chorus starts.
Count the bars in the verse and the chorus. Start to look at songs like numbers and you will improve your skills! I am excited to hear your feedback so if you have any questions than please feel free to ask in the comment section below. Furthermore, now that you’ve read about mixing, check out a post I wrote on The Ultimate Guide to be a DJ.