Are You Stuck In The Tempo Trap?

How to change tempo in a DJ set

Want to mix from 78 BPM to 137 BPM? Find out how as we discuss ways to move around the tempo ranges when DJing.

Beatmixing has brought with it something that has been quietly boring dancefloors since the first 4/4 beats were electronically created - the tempo trap.

Stuck in a groove at 126 BPM or wherever, many DJs the world over default to hitting "sync" and mixing track into track into track, never altering that tempo, often never altering the genre, and so never adding that extra spark of excitement to their sets that well-timed changes of tempo can bring. If this is you, we forgive you! But it may be time you learned how to escape the tempo trap...

Why play at different tempos?

Tempo changes can be obvious and extreme, or so subtle that nobody on the dancefloor even notices them - but however you do them, there are some solid reasons why you should.

  • A track's energy level is not directly related to its BPM - Just because a track has a lower BPM, doesn't mean it doesn't have energy, or isn't danceable-to. Overlook tracks at different BPMs and you may be overlooking the perfect track to play next
  • Tracks sound better close to the tempo they were recorded at - If you've stuck on say 126 BPM, but you're using tracks from 120 to 135 BPM, those at the extremities of this range won't sound so hot at 126. You'd be better off playing them closer to the BPM they were intended to be played at. (You may think keylocking would save you here, but often it makes tracks sound unacceptably stuttery or dull. Even if you are using keylock, best to play a track as close to its original BPM as possible)
  • Learning to alter BPMs makes you a better DJ - DJing is not just about beatmatching. In fact, it's not really about that at all. Being able to move quickly around the tempo ranges adds a whole different range of mixing and programming skills to your arsenal
  • Crowds like it - A well executed tempo change can give the dancefloor time to breathe and recover its energy, can add excitement, can smoothly introduce a new genre, can indicate a change in the entertainment, and can even just demonstrate that tonight isn't going to be all about X type of music played at Y tempo - great for relieving boredom on a dancefloor that's maybe up until that point been fed a restricted range of tunes for a bit too long

Changing tempo while beatmatching

All of these methods involve altering the tempo before you try and mix into the next tune.

  • Use tunes with tempo changes built in - Some music has big changes in tempo as part of the song. It might have a slow start/end and a fast middle, or it may have a half-speed break, or it may be a salsa track that picks up for the middle instrumental. When you have these kinds of tunes in your box (especially if the crowd knows them and thus is familiar with the tempo change), they can be a great way to get someone else to change the tempo for you
  • Change the tempo gradually throughout a song to match the next - If you are playing a song at 130 BPM and you wish to play the next one at 120 BPM, gradually (like 1 BPM every 30 seconds, in small steps) alter the tempo of the first song from 130 to 125, and match it to the second. This way they've "shared" the difference in tempo - 5 BPM each. This is better than just syncing the second song to 130 BPM, because it is then sped up quote considerably. It's OK to continually alter the tempo of your sets this way to gradually match tunes across a small to medium-sized BPM range
  • Use keylock to alter the tempo fast - Say you want to flip from a 115 BPM nu-disco record into a hip hop tune at 85 BPM. You could, at a big part towards the end of the nu-disco record (say the last chorus), slow the tempo from 115 to 85 BPM noticeably, say over 10 seconds, but keylock it, so the pitch remains the same. Then, as soon as the chorus is over, beatmatch in the hip-hop tune. The keylock will probably make the nu-disco record sound a bit ropey, but you're immediately mixing something else in, and the crowd are listening to the tempo change, not the sound quality, so you'll get away with it
  • Use the double/half speed trick - This is an extreme mix, more suited to lounges, bars and the radio than a dancefloor, because unless done really well it is likely to clear the floor, due to the drastic nature of the technique. Basically, you take a tune at a high BPM (say 156 - drum and bass tune, for instance) and mix it into a tune exactly half the BPM (so 78 BPM - a hip hop, chillout etc. tune). Of course, you can do it the other way - from slow to fast - too. Some DJ software will even spot that you're trying to do this and sync the tunes, although other software will alter the speed of one of the tunes to 100% that of the other, which is obviously no good (this is a good example of why it's good to be able to beatmatch manually)
  • Mix into a percussion loop, speed that loop down/up to the new required tempo, then mix into your next tune - With this technique, and advanced version of using keylock to alter the tempo fast, you have a distinctive keylooked percussion loop (bongos, tom toms for instance), you beatmatch it to the outgoing tune, then when you're only playing the percussion loop at the end of tune one, you noticeably change the percussion loop to the new tempo, then mix the new tune in

Changing tempo without beatmatching

If you're prepared to abandon the beatmatch, and bring in a bit of the kind of DJing habitually done by wedding, radio, rock etc. DJs, you can perform even more confident, crowd-pleasing tempo changes. While you could mix a whole night using the methods above, this method might be suitable for the occasions where you really want to make a point - in an EDM set, one or two times a set would be a good rule of thumb.

What you do is find something else other than the BPM to link the tunes, and just cut from one to the other, in one go: no beatmatching required, safe in the knowledge that your linking element will make the mix sound smooth. For instance, if you have two records with distorted guitar power chords in them, they may be so distinctive and similar sounding, that cutting quickly from one to the next - even though their BPMs might be a long way apart - will sound great.

Alternatively, the linking element could be a very high female vocal, or the tunes could use the same sampled riff or breakbeat, or they could have exactly the same words in them, or they could even be two versions of the same song - the point is, you're looking for a link that isn't simply the tempo.

Drop it at the start of the break
Another easy way to cut from one tempo to the other is to drop a new record at a break. Go from 140 BPM to 115 BPM by cutting the 115 BPM record in at the start of a three-minute break, and by the time the beat comes back in, the crowd will basically have forgotten the speed of the previous rhythm.

This is a good way of going from house to drum and bass, for instance, because when the faster drum and bass rhythm kicks in, it sounds slick and smooth, but still lifts the energy level in an unexpected way for the crowd.

It's about programming, not mixing

The takeaway here is that DJs should always be thinking about the best record to play next, rather than worrying about how to mix it in, rather than falling into the trap of looking for something that's easy to mix and making too many music choices that way.

By trying out all of these techniques and more which I'm sure you'll work out for yourselves, you're broadening your ability to do this as a DJ - and that is a very good thing.

Do you conspicuously change the tempo in your DJ sets? Do you think beatmatching at the same tempo all night is tedious, or fine? What else do you do to add a bit of variety to your DJ mixes? Let us know in the comments!

Comments

  1. If you play one or two genres, why would you need to change tempo? In fact, I’d argue that a set sounds worse with tempos all over the place!

    • Agreed. But when your crowd requests a huge migration (say from Retro or Hip Hop into Trance) that’s a huge mix to work hard with. This purely depends on your tracks.

      • Phil Morse says:

        It doesn’t mean you have to stick rigidly to one BPM though – drifting within the range your genre’s music is made in can make individual records sound better (as they’re being played closer to how they were meant to).

    • I think you need to vary to get better results. You need to change tempo to inject new energy, to give the dancefloor a little breather, to get new people dancing and to paint a picture with your set, rather than a linear train track.

      How are you results from playing the same tempo all night? I’d be interested to hear.

      • I don’t play out. But I don’t think Richie Hawtin, Dubfire, Armin Van Buuren, Hype, Funkagenda, Igor Cold, Ovidiu Adrian, Oxia, Lance Blaise and countless others are struggling to keep the crowds engaged.

        I put this as a “nice to have”…

      • Do you mean those DJs play at the same tempo all night?

      • Yep.

        There are plenty enough other ways to change the energy of your set.

      • Let’s not forget that those examples are all established producers, and throw concerts. People go to hear their stuff. If their stuff is all around the same tempo then that’s what they go to hear.

        Being solely a DJ is a different beast altogether, because you won’t have a specific crowd every time, and different crowds like different genres.

      • Well said Fred. Exactly what I was thinking…

    • It depends what type of venue you are playing.
      I mostly play EDM and i like to start my sets in the low 120’s and work my way up to 135 area and then bring it back down a bit to close out. I feel it gives the crowd a general advance of the night. For me i feel that with any EDM genre if you stick to the same BPM how long can your crowd move to a 4/4 beat at the same tempo for. They’d need to be hard wired on some serious drugs to not want a change all night.

      • I’ve done similar tempo variation to that for more EDM nights too. Never could I play the same BPM all night, people would lose it with boredom. And I admit, I’m not Richie Hawtin either.

    • I think being able to mix moombahton to latin house back to reggaeton and dutch house randomly without medsing it up, is an art itself. An art which allot of dutch dj’s have now a days.

  2. Should say..a perfect article.
    Specially to those into digital DJing..Mastering this art makes you the ultimate player to identify, match, mix and entertain your crowd.

  3. ..and just curious! whats the application on the screenshot here! looks sleek than Traktor Pro! Its definitely not Virtual DJ skinned, or Itch!

  4. This really depends on the genres you play. I would say for Techno and Tech-House changing the tempo will make a really bad mix.

    • Phil Morse says:

      Some of this still applies even if you’re mixing a strict tech-house set, for instance balancing the extremes of tempo by subtle changes.

      • I play mostly Techno and some Tech House but any mixes I do I always make sure I change the tempo through a mix, not drastic drops unles using something for effect and then building back up to your base tempo, But also progression through your mix.

        The last Techno mix I did started at about 135 and went up to 141 but because you’ve got a whole hour/2hrs plus to play with, you can create a good progression with the tracks and tempo that give the whole mix a journey with lots of energy.

  5. I’m surprised that people playing techno, house or just one or two genres all night think you shouldn’t change tempo. Does this mean you stick to 130bpm or another set BPM all night? Seriously?

    I think it’s really important to vary tempo throughout your set.

    If you’re playing house and techno, yes the mixes are more subtle, less brutal and you can’t cut. But you should still vary tempo.

    For example, you can mix in a 126BPM track with your 123BPM track by slowing down the incoming track then speeding it back up to original speed right after the transition. This is a tempo change and you pulled off your mix just fine. That was a very simple example and I’ve mixed in 129BPM tracks with 118BPM tracks this way to inject some juice onto the floor…mix was fine.

    • My MIDI clock is set at 128 bpm.

      • I did this too when I first started playing out, but I still built the tempo up slowly througout the night. However, I got much better results when I started to inject more variety and different BPMs after a year or so of playing gigs.

        I guess you’d only see that if you get gigs though, or maybe sticking to the same tempo all night would work for you, who knows. You’ll have to try to see.

  6. playing the same tempo all night can bore some people especially if you have a mixed crowd. I regularly play for crowds who vary greatly in the music choices and you need to jump to different styles. If done the right way it will work and you will be appreciated by all. Don’t get me wrong you can’t please everyone but if you get 90 percent of the people happy you’ve won.

  7. Sebastian says:

    I am from South America, and in most parties around here, DJs play almost EVERY genre. We have almost 5 that are the most played: 3 latin genres, electronic and some pop/house/comercial. BPM range goes from 85 to 140, so what we use to do is edit some tracks that are “bombs” at the moment and edit them on Ableton, where you can make a really smooth tempo transition, say 130 to 90. If you do it well enough, the crowd will go insane and you will get some props (and profit). Usually, DJs who just cut the song and play another one at a different tempo are always seen as rookies.

    • You’re talking about those edits that just stick a 128BPM beat in the start of a song then let it go down to the original BPM, play the original song untouched, and then use the same beat to bring it back to 128BPM?

      I always thought those were the rookies. Good DJs will be able to mix live tracks at very different BPMs and make it sound good and interesting, without side wheels.

      Being able to play a lot of different genres and BPM ranges in one set and make it sound smooth and cohesive is what separates the men from the boys in DJing imho. DJ AM was a very good example of this.

      • Sebastian says:

        I really dont know what kind of edits are you talking about (maybe “Why Dont You – Gramophonedzie”?, something like that?), but this “bridges” (as we call them) are well made, very creative and they bring excitement to the dancefloor. They are intended to change drastically the tempo, while having a smooth transition, and also a drastic genre change. I said rookies where the ones who just cut the song and play another one while doing it.

      • No, that remix is the same BPM throughout. The ones that I’m talking about have a typical House beat in the beginning and end, and the original song in the middle, so that people with minimum mixing skills can mix them in a typical House set. They’re common around here, maybe not so much where you live.

      • Sebastian says:

        Maybe like “I Love Dirty Bit” Mashup from DJs From Mars? The part from I Love Rock n Roll.

  8. One ‘trick’ I like to use when switching bpms and/or genres sometimes is tease scratches with familiar parts of the incoming song. A good way to do it, with a CDJ for instance, is to set a cue point in the incoming track and tease it with beats of the playing track. Doing it when the playing track nears the last 40-30 seconds is a good bet too.. that way you wont overdo it and annoy the crowd.

    Great article though. Alot of the hints I actually use :) felt like I was being stalked for a moment, lol.

  9. Awesome article Phil. If you play at clubs and you don’t change tempo, I can assure you that you will lose your job(Happened to a friend of mine). You need to change tempo to allow people to take a breather, BUY DRINKS. Just my opinion. :)

    • Phil Morse says:

      I used to Dj in a full-on house/prog/trance club where it was all about underground tunes and tight mixing, but I used to love unexpected tempo drops and changes in my sets. I’ts always been a tool I’ve used for an element of surprise or to draw a line under a musical section and start a new one.

  10. I use Traktor Duo and I like using the loop function for transitions. Starting w Deck A playing a full song. Bring in Deck B intro looping 8 bars and mix in. At some point where it FEELS GOOD loop Deck A 8 bars and turn the dial down to 4 then 2 then 1. Just when it starts to sound like noise hit Deck B unlooped and mixed in and stop Deck A. While this is all going on I adjust the tempo so the new song is playing normal. I like it best going from hip hop 85bpm to house 100bpm. I’m playing a house party tomorrow and plan on doing about 5 genres during the night. There’s no way I’d ever stick to on bpm range. Where’s the fun in that?

  11. Everything in my opinion is a judgement call.

    When I made that recent old school mix “Looking Back”, I had to adjust the tempo at times and play with the keylock, because some old school tracks sound terrible when sped up or slowed down. It’s up to the DJ to simply push for the goal “what sounds good”.

    Now when it comes to a drastic change, like going from house to rap music, the only rule is “make it work”. Period.

    You don’t have to always beatmatch and mix everything. Sometimes slamming in a new track is the way to do it. This goes back to the 10th commandment…where you should simply do what sounds good and not worry if you did a “proper blend”.

    • Great article Phil and have to agree with you 100% D-Jam when everything has been beatmatched and blended all night its great to have a sudden change up to keep it interesting. Plus people have to realise that speeding up (or slowing down) a track by more than 6% will change the key and probably not make it sound as good or blend as well with the outgoing track.

  12. dennis parrott says:

    Sayeth the Phil:

    “If you’re prepared to abandon the beatmatch, and bring in a bit of the kind of DJing habitually done by wedding, radio, rock etc. DJs, you can perform even more confident, crowd-pleasing tempo changes.”

    Yup. Wedding crowds can’t dance at 130BPM all night long. There are older folks who want to cuddle up and remember their wedding night. There are those crazy people who want to do that line dancing thing.

    To me, you get caught in a tempo trap because the songs of the genre are all written at or around the same BPM value. You start playing tech house and then you end up staying in that vein.

    Personally, I don’t like to be that “fenced in”. I like playing weddings and such because I get to play Good Music, songs I’d sit and listen to anyway and they pay me to play them! Tempo changes are required, a variety of musical styles is required, …

    If you are going to arbitrarily say that you will only play X or Y or Z types of (electronic dance) music you leave yourself open to being trapped. The genre traps you. Once you decide to simply play good music you can get out of the trap but it raises the bar on your mixing technique as you won’t simply blend together rock and disco and punk and … You will have to expand your toolbox unless you want to simply let one end and start the next…

    dennis

  13. Until people start making freakin’ requests, I start the night between 80 to 90 BPM. Folks are just talking anyway. When I want to pump things up or lower the energy, I do two things. I either go up or down ten beats. Then, I match the notes. Sometimes, if the beats are more than ten, I go ahead and match the notes anyway. Sometimes that works. Nice article.

  14. Very good one. Since I switched to digital dj-ing (especially with the S4) I’m increasingly using more tempo-changes in dj sets. I’m playing records now I didn’t play before because of the tempo differences and loving it. For what I’ve seen, crowds love it too. For sure when you do it, for example, while mixing two breaks and lowering/speeding the tempo at the same time while building to the drop. Yay autosync ;-)

  15. I can’t imagine playing the same BPM all night, or even sticking to one genre. That would bore me to tears. But I play for diverse crowds and I like to keep surprising them. And often I’ll think, “Man, this song will sound great after the current song” (which is the most important thing) and then I figure out a way to make it work. A crowd will be forgiving if the songs work well but the mix isn’t perfect, I’ve found.

    One option you didn’t mention: using a cappella vocals, spoken dialogue, sampled weirdness, loops, and other stuff as a bridge to a different BPM or genre. Hell, there’s nothing wrong with letting a track simply end if it’s appropriate. Throw in a “dj tool” sample, let it ride a bit, then make the switch. It gives dancers a moment to slow down but also builds expectation—what’s coming next? Then you slam something completely different in to wow them, or build into the next track smoothly.

    Keep them surprised and they’ll thank you for it. And you’ll have more fun. If you blow it, it’s a learning experience—the goal is for you to have some fun and experiment, too. Otherwise you’re just a glorified button pusher.

    • Luke James Taylor says:

      This is great advice.

      It’s all about creativity and taking people on a musical journey. Sticking to one tempo all night is almost totally unheard of even for techno DJs.

      The best most creative DJs will variate the tempo.

      You wont catch Carl Craig sticking to one tempo for too long.

      Also sticking to one genre (whilst okay for a young DJ immersed in a scene or a superstar DJ famous for one specific genre) but it will bore the pants off anyone not totally dedicated to that one genre and (unless you get famous) single genre DJs tend to have shorter careers.

      The best advice I ever had was don’t be afraid to let a tune finish.

      If your track selection is mustard people will love it. Although to be fair, I am talking about older crowds with broad musical horizons.

      Younger crowds tend to think beatmatching is a must, letting a tune finish is a DJ fail and any music under 125 (especially if it has real musicians on it) is chill out and demands a dancefloor exodus.

      I’m exaggerating a bit but it is true that younger crowds are far less forgiving and tend to prefer a mono genre set, mixed perfectly in high BPM than a multi genre set with unmixed sections.

  16. CosmicRift says:

    What an awesome article about tempo changing. I use an S4 and I recently could not get myself off the sync button and after reading the ten commandments I haven’t touched the sync since. Because of it I’ve been able to enjoy playing Nu Disco, House, Breaks, Electro House, Progressive House, and Trance. I’m really hoping with more practice I can switch it up and play more genres like Drum and Bass in future sets. I am very excited to try out dropping tracks on the breaks. Would you say there is a limit to how much you can go up 1-8% for a track and would you recommend starting the new track on its breakdown to? That way it’s a Breakdown to breakdown?

  17. On thing I started doing last year was running an AutoHotkey script in the background and mapping the “U” key that AHK is sending (in Traktor) to gradually increase the BPM of the set I am playing. (Sorry, AHK is PC only but if you get what I am saying your probably smart enough to do this on a Mac.)

    I was pleased that when I upgraded to Traktor2 this still worked with my mapping.

    InputBox, LONG, How long do you plan to mix (in minutes)?,, 900, 480
    if ErrorLevel
    MsgBox, CANCEL was pressed.
    else
    MsgBox, You entered %LONG%

    InputBox, PLUS, How much do you want to increase the tempo(in BPM)?,, 900, 480
    if ErrorLevel
    MsgBox, CANCEL was pressed.
    else
    MsgBox, You entered %PLUS%

    SENDS:=PLUS*16

    PERMIN:=LONG/SENDS

    msgbox, I will send the “u” key to TRAKTOR %SENDS% times in %LONG% minutes. At a rate of %PERMIN% per minute to increase your BPM by a total of %PLUS% in %LONG% minutes..

    msgbox, Ensure the “u” key is mapped to Master Tempo –> Interaction Mede Inc and that your CLOCK MASTER is set to INT. READY TO GO?

    slp:=60000*PERMIN
    msgbox, SLEEP will be %slp%

    loop,
    {
    Sleep, %slp%
    WinWait, Traktor,
    IfWinNotActive, Traktor, , WinActivate, Traktor,
    WinWaitActive, Traktor,
    Send, u
    }

    • Not sure if i understood correctly, but are you letting an algorithm run the tempo for you, based on how long you think you will play?

      Why not change the tempo yourself when you think it’s appropriate?

      • >>Why not change the tempo yourself when you think it’s appropriate?

        Sure that’s what most people do. I do as well sometimes. It was just a fun project to automate the tempo.

        The benefit is that there is never an abrupt change in tempo. The tempo continually ramps up. I think this is like the anecdote describing a frog slowly being boiled.

  18. Nice article. Shifting from vinyl-only to a hybrid vinyl + digital setup (using Traktor and 1200s) has made me think much more about tempo as a creative parameter. (It doesn’t hurt that there’s so much great house music being made in the 110 – 118 range, way slower than the 120 – 128 that was standard during minimal techno’s peak.) Since I have a terrible memory, I sort tracks into playlists by tempo — 90-100, 100-110, 110-120, 120-130, 130+. That makes it much easier for me to craft sets that vary the tempo gradually. For a recent bar gig in Berlin, I started around 90BPM and gradually worked up to 118, perhaps five hours later, completely seamlessly, without ever breaking the beat. And it was a ball.

    • Phil Morse says:

      That’s a Sunday night gig from my past! Used to start at 78-80 BPM, with a half-full dimly lit bar to a crowd with severe hangovers and general lethargy, then build to JUST below what I’d class as “house” tempo (ie 120) – by which point everyone was quietly grooving and happy again. Used to love it.

  19. DJ That Asshole says:

    Excellent article! Figuring out how to play with tempo like that will make anyone a better DJ.

    My first eureka moment with this came when I rode Jay-Z’s “Big Pimpin” on the back of Rick James’s “Superfreak.” Start the former the first beat after TEMPTATIONS SING. Watch floor catch their breath for a second, then find a grind partner.

  20. Great article. Definitively something to learn for everyone. I think I would get bored if I play at the same tempo all the time, but it all comes to the type of crowd you play for. If you play at a club where people expects the same genre or tempo all the time, then that is what it is, but in a regular party everybody thinks the music they like is the only thing that should be played. I play now for weddings, 15s and the like here in Guatemala, but I used to play techno/house/hip-hop parties in Miami and things work very differently. . In Miami I could play all my favorites from the 80s/90s mixed in with the new stuff and just change tempos all the time because people liked the old songs as well as the new ones; I guess as long as it was good music things were ok. However, people here are very picky with music and they don’t like dancing to the same genre for too long, but they don’t want you to mix genres or slow down the tempo either, and you always get someone asking to change the genre of music to something more danceable as if they could dance anything but that you are playing. They are very hard to please. I heard Some DJs starting the night playing reggaetón at 80bpm and finishing the night with merengue at 160bpm and other genres in between.
    One thing that I found works great is saving the most popular songs of the moment to start a new genre so the crowd yells happy to hear the song coming in after having to let the last song end. Another thing I do is use effects to make the last song disappear in a heavy reverb (for example) at the proper time while the new one with a different tempo sneaks in, possibly with an effect or in a scratchy intro. Here pleople is used to having the DJ talking A LOT thru the party so I always have someone who likes to do that and heve him give them a little pep talk while the tempo changes.
    Whatever the case, If the night is going to be at the same tempo, and specially with a techno flavor, might as well let VDJ automix and forget about DJing.

  21. I have 4 different venues that I spin at currently and each one is different. One is very Hip Hop, the other is 70’s-Present open format. Another is a open format that likes a lot of Hip Hop and club…. So for me, I’m bouncing around. Sometimes I find myself trapped at 85-100 or 125-130 bpm for long periods. I’m training myself to recognize these patterns so that I can get in and out of them smoothly.

    I think there should be balance in your set’s… Take them up and down at a steady pace. I’ve heard open format DJ’s go up and down quicker than a bullet, which in my opinion SUCKS!

    There’s a lot of ways to transition up and down now with the tools available. I like transition tracks. I also like Acap Intro’s and using Acap Loops. I used 1200’s with a ttm57. You can use the echo effects, Hi/Low Pass filters, and the motor On/Off switch for neat transitions too.

  22. Andrew R says:

    Signature Intro’s. You want to make a tempo change without beatmatching but make the crowd stoked. Dont hit them with a 4/4 130 drum intro, bring in a well known crowd favorite, think of intro to teach me how to dougie, My Girl, Yeah by Usher Lil Jon… these are the ez ones but there are a lot of songs in that vein that are newer and “cooler”. PS. mixing in Key becomes even more significant when you throw out beatmatching.

  23. First of all sorry for my bad english. Very nice article. At the moment I play at a venue where people are used to ask songs non-stop to the dj. Also I cant play anything too much electro, gotta keep to the top 40 and old school stuff and dance, many times per night I gotta switch from 120to130 bmp songs to a hip hop or reggaeton song at 90 bpm for example, being used to play mostly electro before I started playing here, I was kinda at loss at first, doing bad switches often between styles. Now the best trick for me to make high bpm switches is to use either songs with vocals only intro, or to make vocal loops as intro, for exemple you start looping everyday im shuffling(vocals only) near the end of the song play, keep it going a few seconds over nothing, then start the other song, keep the loop a few seconds still, then let the new song go on alone (did that make sense?). Another example, is last weekend I was kinda out of inspiration to get out my reggaeton set(90-100) bpm and wanted to go back to the 128-130 bpms song I started Waka Waka 3-4 seconds over the last song shakira goes Ahhhhhhhhhhhh very high at the beggining which covers the beat of the last song.

    • Great tips everyone. Sometimes you can also let the current song play out and as it is ending, get on the mic and say a few words like” this next song is by special request” or soething like that and as oyu are talking, bring in the next song. this distracts the audience and you are then able to completely change the genre. Great article Phil! Thumbs up Chummy.

  24. painkiller says:

    i have cdj’s and mixer but i cant even beat match and mix at all ))
    i dont know what to do ))))
    i dont know where to start and how to practise when beats are not matching this situation annoy me i hate it!!!!)))
    what is the secret of learning this ???

  25. Great article, I couldn’t agree more. If you listen to the relatively new “indie dance/nu disco” genre on beatport.com or whatever, you’ll notice that its tempo ranges from roughly 90 to 130 bpms, similar to a broad genre like electronica and dissimilar to house, techno or trance which all stay in the 120-130 range (most indie dance/nu disco is about 110-115 but definitely not all. Dubstep by the way is almost always about 70/140bpms single/double time). This all being said, the stage for more tempo changes in dj sets has been set.

    I live in Los Angeles and here, among especially the hipster crowd, indie dance/nu disco is hot and Dj Harvey is king. Harvey plays 8 hr sets at downtown warehouse parties that encompass house, techno, indie dance/nu disco, classic underground disco, reggae, hip hip, 80’s, funk, rock etc. Its all done with vinyl, cds an analog tape looping apparatus and no laptop. The sets are mind blowing and the giant disco ball glows white hot!

    I recently played in my old Colorado college town and my 45rpm to 33rpm technics 1200 turntable slow down switch trick from 125 house and tech house to 95bpm chillwave/indie dance and 80’s was what packed my dancefloor most, got me the most compliments and set me apart from the other djs. Here’s how I did it-near the end of the record i turned off the turntable playing a house track at 125 bpms-spinning at a rate of 45rpms on the turntable-let the record slowly wind down to near 91bpms then I turned it back on and pressed play-now spinning at 33rpms and 91 bpms-then I mixed out into an already ready 91 bpm track cued up on the pioneer cdj). After my 5 track mini set at 90-95bpms I faded the last slow track with a beatless outro melody into a 125bpm house track with a beatless intro melody to get back into house for my last track so the following house/techno dj could mix 125 house out of me thus keeping the energy going. All in all, the tempo change not only worked in this instance, it brought down the house!!! (GREAT SUCCESS!!). Its definitely ballsy but if pulled off smoothly, a mid or late set tempo change can really up your dj game.

    • Good story, well told – it’s a great trick!

      • I really think that if you’re mixing two genres in your set, for example house and trance, you don’t have to change the bpm drastically.
        Also the programming of the set has to be nice so that not so many bpm chages are there
        I personally think that tracks with differet bpms have different kinds of tempos that don’t quite match sometimes. A mix in my view has to sound smooth and the transitions have to be defined
        As a dj ,i personally have not tried this still but i have experimented a lot in my room.It does not work everytime

        I play house and trance by the way

  26. In the old days (yawn) and I mean ‘old’, before variable pitch turntables even, the best DJs perfected ‘dropping it on the one’ as it was the only way to make a smooth transition and avoid the deadly fade out/in or talk over transition. This is still a killer way to make subtle or even dramatic tempo shifts between genres or even in the same genre, especially if you know how to use your mixer’s FX to create builds and drops.

    It also means that you have to know your music and know the tracks inside out, how they start, how they end, how many chorus repeats, any instrumental or fx breaks, phrasing, key clashes and so on. And you soon find that you are enriching your own knowledge of music as well as your skills, which all goes to better serve the punters.

    Practice and be happy :-)

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