10 Tips For Perfect Beatgridding

Traktor beatgridding

Beatgridding in Traktor: Like your laundry, you should do it little and often...

No one likes doing homework, but for the digital DJ, putting in some time to beatgrid your tracks properly and ahead of time can give you more room to get creative with your set on the night.

Old school DJs used to spend years learning to beatmatch intuitively; if you're going to be using that "sync" button instead, then the trade-off is diligently preparation. So here are my top ten tips for perfecting beatgridding:

  1. Don't assume your software's auto-gridding function will always work - Four-to-the-floor (ie house, techno... ) generally presents fewer challenges, but more syncopated beat patterns or complex tracks are worth doing manually
  2. Treat beatgridding like laundry - It's unlikely you'll be doing it every day but at the same time, don't let it mount up. Beatgridding can also be a good way to get to know your new tracks, and that's not going to happen if you have 65 to knock out in an evening!
  3. Be confident that you will grid quicker, quickly - Don't walk away because you can't face the prospect of spending the next two years struggling with gridding! Beatgridding your first tracks can be frustrating and time-consuming, but many people end up being able to grid a track in seconds
  4. Check your software's initial take on the BPM - If your software is telling you that the BPM of your latest drum and bass dubplate is 85, you may just need to double the BPM using the X2 button. (If your software were to tell you that the same dubplate is 120BPM – you know it's totally out and you will have to start from scratch)
  5. If in doubt, tap it out - Assuming you weren't born with the music timing of soup, the TAP function in your software will get you surprisingly close to (if not exactly on) the correct BPM. Good for that drum and bass track that your software was telling was 120BPM...
  6. Find your "control" tracks - You already have tracks that you know have spot-on grids. When you think you have got your target track beatgridded (or at least close), mix it with the control track to confirm the grid is set correctly
  7. Use the phase meter or parallel waveforms - You may need to manually tweak the target track to get it to mix with the control track we just talked about. Once the mix is locked-in, check how far the phase meter (Traktor) or lined-up transients in your parallel waveforms (most other software) have moved and use the grid move buttons to set the meter back to the middle. If your BPM is correct, the grid should now be set
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  8. Lock the BPM - Once your grid is set correctly, select the lock icon if your software has it, to ensure the grid information can't be inadvertently overwritten
  9. Know that not everything will grid - Some tracks just won't grid properly in most DJ software. Older tracks, tracks with live drumming and vinyl rips are just some examples of the kinds of tunes that you might not be able to drop a grid on. Platforms like Ableton Live and Serato ITCH have "elastic beatgrids" or "warping" capability that allows the grid to shift in line with the tempo, but other major DJ software like Traktor still doesn't. (There are workarounds for some of these cases but that's a different story for a different day)
  10. Remember – you are not a bad person for using grids or sync - If you can rock your audience, that's all that matters. Don't worry about what other DJs think

It's not always necessary to beatgrid, but...

Beatgridding in Serato ITCH

Beatgridding in Serato ITCH: It's one of the most flexible DJ programs for more complex material.

Of course, some DJs - especially those who've come from vinyl or CDJ backgrounds - are happy to match the BPMs live and then ride the tempo controls and nudge the jogs as they go, just like they are used to with analogue equipment. For those DJs, beatgridding is something they'll probably never choose to do. It's one of the benefits of knowing how to beatmatch manually.

But even then, once you start dropping three or four tunes together and adding effects, samples and so on, tightly beatgridded loops are kind of essential. So whatever combination of digital equipment and software you use, if you beatmix, it's a great idea to know how to beatgrid well.

• SmiTTTen is based in Cleveland, Ohio, USA and is founder of the International Mix Train Collective. Check out IMTC 018 - "The Drop" and follow them on Twitter.

Do you diligently beatgrid your tunes? Do you sometimes do it but other times just hope syncing gets it right on the night? Or do you never bother and just beatmix manually? Let us know your choices and challenges when it comes to beatgridding in the comments below.

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  1. Another tip, auto-gridding doesn't just give you half the BPM, sometimes it will give you other mathematically related BPMs. I've had a few 140 tracks show up as 105 (exactly 3 quarters of the actual BP). SO, if your dubstep is showing up at exactly 105, it's probably exactly 140.

    • Magdi Saad says:

      "I’ve had a few 140 tracks show up as 105"

      I have this issue on several tracks and I could only come to this explanation: when the software analyze the tune (the file) for different frequencies and distinguish what is Beat, Bass, Vocal etc based on its algorithm and export the result visually to a 'waveform' ..so if the tune you're using is badly equalized or badly mastered then the software will "only" read what frequencies in it.
      I usually use point 5 (manual tapping) or point 6 (control track)

  2. I've found beatgridding to be such a pain in the butt that I just rely on my old school vinyl beatmatching skills, so much less work. That being said, I love tips #2 and #3 above. Learning to beatmatch took the exact same mentality. I would come home to my apartment every night after work and trainwreck for hours in a row, and then one night, Eureka! I love the beatgrids for rocking 3-4 decks + efx, but I find that the default grids are good enough most of the time. My guess is it's just as much work to learn to beatmatch as it is to get good at gridding, but one skill is transferrable to any medium while the other is not. A young DJ should invest time in both. Us geezers can probably continue to rely on the old school skills.

  3. Another tip: Grid off of the snares (unless it's some syncopated dutch beat). In the vast majority of drum patterns, snares will usually land on the beat.

    I tightly beatgrid every track I get. Not that i can't beatmatch manually - I just prefer not to. When I'm juggling four decks, FX, samples, the main mixer, and handling other DJs in my crew, I really don't have time for that nonsense. After a while, you learn to read the waveforms - I can beatgrid many tracks without even listening. As the author notes, after a whole, you can grid a track in seconds. Now, I don't even have to cue tracks in my headphones - I can "wave-ride" technically perfect mixes. It saves a LOT of time.

    Another tip: Zoom in all the way. This gives you a ton of precision for super-tight grids.

    • Yes, zooming in is very important which I found out recently. I found that some default grids were part way through the beat instead off right at the beginning, which can give you that clip clop sound when beats are just off. Also if you were stabbing a beat in, you won't get the full fat sound.

  4. As a VDJ user i am not familiar with beatgrids.
    What exactly is it?

    • A Beatgrid is a series of markers that point to the location of beats within the track.

      Beatgrids are used for advanced mixing functions such as track Sync, precise effects synchronization, looping and accurate BPM representation.

      An accurate Beatgrid helps the software lock onto these markers and not have to rely on the averaged BPM value – a value that may not be accurate enough for the software to use effectively 9and usually isnt, dependant on the genre of music).

    • Chris Argueta says:

      LOL, I use VDJ, too.

      I'm thinkin' "what the hell are they talkin' about?".

      I use cue points 1 & 2 (worked out ahead of time) as intro loop-in and loop-out points. And smart loop when exiting a track, if necessary.

    • VDJ actually does have a beatgrid. they are the little rectangles under the waveform. When zoomed in all the way, you will notice that every fourth block/rectangle is a bit longer than the other 3 before or after it. This longer block/rectangle is the start of the 4/4 grid. You can adjust it if you hover over the bpm button and right click. You can adjust it from there. The manual has all specifics...Yes, I read the manual...I wanted to get more familiar with all the features in VDJ. I came off turntables and wanted to better understand the software and all its potential. Lots of potential. Hope this helped?

  5. I've set up a control mapping in Traktor for my keyboard to use while gridding. It makes life so much easier and I don't have touch the mouse or click and drag or anything. I select a track with the arrow keys, load it into a deck, move the grid with the arrow keys, set load and grid markers, lock the track and repeat.

    Saves a lot of time!

    • Yes, avoid using the mouse/trackpad to beatgrid tracks. I've got the following shortcuts set up:

      Add/remove beatgrid
      Shift beatmarker left/right small amount
      Shift beatmarker left/right large amount
      Jump forward/backwards 32 beats
      Jump forward/backwards 4 beats
      Lock/unlock BPM
      Increase/decrease BPM

      Well worth the effort setting these up and learning them.

      When beatgridding I have "snap" turned on as it makes finding the first beat quicker as you can drop a cuepoint and traktor will move it to where it thinks the beat is, you can then jump to the new cuepoint, replace it with a beatgrid and start doing fine adjustments from there.

  6. djbangarang says:

    thanks for the great advice! i was just wondering if you could tell me why in my song list in traktor the bpm doesnt show up in the list. if i load it to a deck it shows up but when im going through the list i have to remember whats up. anyone got any ideas as to whats happening?

    • dennis parrott says:

      position your mouse pointer over a column in the browser. right-click. you should get a pop-up list of fields. scroll to BPM and click it. BPM should be a column in your browser now.

      Q.E.D. as my math prof used to say...


      • dennis parrott says:


        "browser" is that "song list" at the bottom of the Traktor display.

        it dawned on me that I needed to make clear that the two things were the same...

        if you already knew that, sorry...

    • djbangarang says:

      i mean half of my songs in the browser list stay at 0 and the rest state the bpm. once i load it into the deck it will then tell me the correct bpm. why!!! lol

    • SmiTTTen says:

      Tracks need to be analyzed in traktor before the BPM count will show. You can configure this to happen automatically when you add tracks to the traktor collection.

  7. Finlay Stewart says:

    Everytime I play a track for the first time I tweak its grid, if it needs more than one go to get the grid where you want it or if it totally out of whack, I just use my ears. Don't worry if the grids are off, but the tracks are synced, you're the only one who can see it, but everyone can hear what you're playing.

    • Finlay is correct in so much that you can always revert to manually mixing tracks if the beat grids are not set correctly.

      If however, you use SYNC in your mixing and need to be able to rely on tight mixes every time, you need to ensure the grids are spot on. SYNC uses the grid to match the beats so if the beat grids don't line up correctly your mix will quickly become a train wreck. If your grid is out by only a fraction your mix may initially work but the beat matching will move progressively out of phase as the mix plays. This means you will need to manually tweak the mix or use shorter mixing techniques like drops and cuts.

      For many 4/4 genres auto-gridding will do an adequate job. Those mixing drum and bass or other more syncopated styles with complex beat patterns will find they need to put more work in themselves to grid tracks correctly.

      Hope this helps.

  8. Joshua Dysart says:

    So, maybe this is the proper article to discuss this. I'm new to the art and have this obsession with taking the track "I Get Lifted" by George Mccrae and dropping a much heavier bass beat behind it. I found the bass loop that I love under it, but when I play the two I've got to really ride the Mccrae tune, as it gets out of synch at four separate random points throughout the track. You mention "elastic beat gridding" is that something that would help me keep the organic pacing of the Mccrae tune in time with the drum machine loop I've chosen? Or is my quest to mix old funk and soul into heavy bass beats entirely dependent on me riding the decks all the time? Thanks in advance for any help.

    • Beat gridding in Traktor limits you to setting a static grid based on the BPM. Once you set your grid marker to define the first (or most convenient) beat the rest of the grid markers are automatically set by Traktor. The higher the BPM, the closer together the grid markers will be and conversely, the lower the BPM the further apart they will be. You can change the position of the markers and the gaps between them but everything you do will be applied to the entire track.

      Other platforms like Serato and Ableton enable you to define “elastic” beat grids that aren’t necessarily locked in based on a certain BPM. This is extremely handy when trying to grid tracks with live drumming or distinct changes in the BPM.

      There are workarounds for dealing with your kind of situation but that’s probably beyond the scope of this article of comments section. There are articles and videos on this subject so some time spent on Google might throw up some usable advice. Off the top of my head, if the track changes in 4 distinct places you might try changing the grid on the fly (this would still need the beat to be somewhat consistent after that change occurs) or, you might try using multiple versions of the track, each with grid markers defined at the points just after where the track changes. For instance, I have a track where the BPM of the track changes half way through so I set my grid marker for the first beat after the change and mix from that point on. It’s certainly not ideal but it works in that one instance.

    • versionist says:

      Yes, for elastic beat grids, you can move each grid line independently, so when the drummer in your old funk song hits the snare drum ever so slightly late/early, your bass-heavy beat track will also "nudge" to be late/early.

      Note that the elastic beatgrid is a manual process. You may have to move most of the grid lines individually.

      • Joshua Dysart says:

        This sounds like the answer to my prayers. Unfortunately right now the software I'm using doesn't allow me to "elastic" beatgrid. Guess I have to upgrade.

    • Patrick Dunn says:

      Why don't you download the free version of Ableton, set up the elastic beat grids and render out the file with perfect timing (or use the resampling feature and record onto a new track).

  9. Beatgridding in seconds if all is right, but:
    - start adding in the load-in cuepoint,
    - 1-2 predefined loops,
    - warning cuepoints for voice,
    - small description in comment1
    - subgenre in comment2
    - and the gridding problems (which will take away from extra minute to up to 3 minutes)

  10. Finlay Stewart says:

    FWIW Torq has a fairly robust elastic beatgrid system too.

    • So that leaves TraktorPro shallow in the water. Interesting to know.

    • Cardinal Zen says:

      Beatgrid editing in Torq 2.0 is really neat. Too bad Torq 2.0 is not as popular as Traktor or Serato. Also, M-Audio dropped its support for Torq and is now an outdated program. I still use it though, as it is really a good DJ software yet overlooked and underestimated.

  11. Took me a while to learn how to Grid in Traktor Pro but once i understood that a) dont let Traktor automatically set the BPM on analyzing (this is important I think) and then b) use "Set Gridmarker" (instead of load or even Cue marker) on the first beat (i use base beats but some people use the kick, then looped the track on 4 or 8 beats to grid against the tick (metronome) it became a lot easier. Dont forget to go to the end of the track too, make sure the beatgrid is smooth all the way through as it CAN change.

    I have also found that, with some tracks (older ones more often than not) it is important to set the grid near the beginning of the track for mixing into another and then necessary to set another grid marker and beat grid again near the end where you might want to be mixing the track out as the grid can change (as mentioned earlier). This is a hassle but sometimes necessary. In some case more than 2 grid markers may be necessary and these kinds of tracks can take longer to beat grid.

    This is just stuff i found out through trial and error. Hope it helps new users as this stuff isnt always pointed out although there are some good videos on the web for Beat gridding. :-)

    • Thanks for pointing this out Ben.

      "it is important to set the grid near the beginning of the track for mixing into another and then necessary to set another grid marker and beat grid again near the end"

      Question is: how do you set another grid marker and beat grid??

  12. Kevin, MD says:

    Can anyone comment on beat grids in Traktor Pro versus Serato DJ? I played around in Traktor Demo with beat gridding and loved how tight it can make mixing. Can't try out Serato DJ as I have no controller. I'm torn between the two (like most DDJs) and was hoping someone with experience in both could lend a few words. Thx!

  13. Kevin, MD says:

    Thanks Phil. Luv DDJT and your vid series. Learning a lot. Are you saying that when mixing trax with different BPMs, say I'm playing a track at 128, and bringing in another at 127, so I bump up the second track to 128, that the change in tempo of the second track will render its beatgrid useless in Traktor? Or are you saying that songs with change in tempo, say 128/110, then back to 128, can't be handled in Traktor?

  14. Kevin, MD-Jay says:

    Ahhhhh, just read about manual beatwarp markers on serato's website. While I mostly enjoy House (Tech, Electro, Deep) which is consistently in the 120's, I love when DJs are playful and mix in some hip-hop stuff. Its just fun. Sometimes electronic dance music can be a little serious for me. Thank you, sir. I'm leaning back towards Serato now.

  15. DJ Stilts says:

    What about the program Mixed in key? Anyone use this? Is it worth my time if I can beat match pretty well? Or does it make it even easier...I've been reading about it for a while but have yet to pull the trigger seeing as how its like 80$. Thoughts?

  16. hello for me the sync button it's a "dead" button never use .I beatmatch with the BPM the phase meter but in some cases is not enough i use my ears.Before digital i play with vinyl that is why i never use sync. Always taught me to use the ear.

  17. hey i have a question, why is serato so bad at calculating beatgrids and virtual dj so good? virtual dj doesn't even have an option to edit beatgrids yet i have never needed to. I rarely get a track in serato where to bpm is calculated correctly and the beatgrid is decent. This will basically mean that before a gig i will have to manually set the beat grids of every song on my playlist which isn't fun. Its not too cool when you upgrade to a software that is less efficient than your last. Is their any third part software to write beat grids that serato can read!? could serato read beatgrids by a different software like tractor?

  18. I am trying to obtain some assistance with beat gridding within Traktor Scratch. I have been using Traktor Scratch for a few years now and have a pretty good understanding of its functions and how to use them to ehnace my style of Djing. My issue is I mainly play hip hop and reggae and sometimes experience difficulty with beat gridding. I have watched numerous videos on you tube on beat gridding and understand the main concept, but my problem is as follows:
    Sa y for instance I start off to beat grid a track and allow tracktor to analyze the bmp and set beatmarker.
    I then proceed to play the track and browse through the track to ensure the gird lines are set correctly.
    Depending on how it looks I can shift all the beat grids over or use the other function to adjust the bmp.
    Problem I run into is when I use the adjust bmp function it often adjusts the previously set correct beat grids up to this point in the track. So now the grid lines are correct at this point in the track but have moved either left or right where it was previous set at the beginning of the track. Any suggestions on what I am doing wrong.

  19. Dennis Parrott says:

    So I am in the middle of completely re-doing my setup. I am a Traktor user who probably should have went Serato because I DJ almost exclusively old Motown, funk, soul, rock, etc. etc. so that I could use the nice elastic beatgridding feature.

    And I signed up for the Power Mixing Skills course that DDJT offers. (BTW -- I am only part way through and it is really sweet -- I think that the techniques I learn will allow me to "up my game" with all my old tunes...)

    The Power Mixing course goes into the elastic beatgridding technique with Serato, VDJ or Ableton Live (warping tracks) but in the Serato and VDJ cases I would end up having to buy a copy to get where I want to go.

    BUT... (wait there is MORE... he said channeling his inner Billy Mays...)

    One of the things I found was that Ableton now gives away a version of Live called "Live Lite" (see https://www.ableton.com/en/products/live-lite/) and it will allow you to warp tracks...

    That is fine _IF_ you already know how to warp a track. Googling around I found a rather detailed procedure for how to warp a track in Ableton Live 8 complete with some videos... Haven't tried it yet but it looks pretty easy to follow....

    The tutorial is here: http://blog.dubspot.com/video-tutorial-beatgridding-unquantized-music-traktor-ableton/

    I hope this is useful to those who are frantically searching for a way to beatgrid those unbeatgriddable tracks...

    DISCLAIMER: I once paid for a course at Dubspot, so I was their student once upon a time...

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