Our friend @thedjgospel over on Twitter is always good for a rant or two, even if we don’t always agree with what he says – but we think he hit the nail on the head recently in a tweet about some dodgy DJing he heard at a party.
“The filter and effects buttons are not for beatmatching, that would be beatmasking and proof you can’t mix…” he tweeted. I bet that you’re either nodding your head in fervent agreement with him right now, or just maybe you’re shuffling your feet somewhat guiltily (It’s OK, we’re all friends here.. )
But the truth is, I’m sure we’ve can all remember our last complete, terminal, no-hope, trainwreck, abomination of a mix. And while there’s no excuse for using the filter controls or echo effects as your main method of mixing, it still pays to have a few tricks up your sleeve to rescue a bad mix if you end up dealing with one in front of an audience.
After all, we all make mistakes: It’s how you deal with them that counts. So here we go:
Five ways to get out of a terrible mix
- Use the EQ – If your mix is clashing harmonically, beats-wise or anything else, your first port of call is the EQ. It’s always risky mixing two tunes with bass, mid and treble all fully on, anyway – so if things are clashing, try taking elements away from the tune you’re getting rid of, starting with the bass. Indeed, it’s very rarely you want two basslines playing at one. Very rarely
- Use the filter – Using the filter on the channel you’re bringing out can immediately move the audience’s attention to the track you’re bringing in. It’s down and dirty, but it can save you from any manner of bassline clashes (high-pass filter) or vocal/percussion clashes (low-pass filter), because one knob does an awful lot, leaving the other hand free to attempt to do something else to rescue your dodgy DJing (and I don’t mean air punching)
- Using music effects – Especially echo/delay and reverb. These also push the outgoing track “back” in the mix (think about it: If something echoes or sounds reverb-y in real life, it’s normally because it’s not right next to you). Bringing the new song in crisp and clear, while pushing the old one back in the mix, again switches the audience’s attention to the “new” track faster
- Use deck effects – On vinyl, a stock trick for escaping a bad mix is to execute a skilful spinback on the outgoing deck (grabbing the vinyl and making it go very fast backwards). Alternatively, switching the deck off makes the record slow down to stopped, something you can speed up with a finger on the edge of the platter. This gets the outgoing track out of the mix letting you switch quickly 100% to the new tune. While not advisable every mix, this is actually pretty good once in a while. Most DJ software has simulations of both of these “deck effects” – find them, work out how to trigger them quickly, and consider them a pair of “panic buttons” in your bad mix armoury!
- Just switch immediately to the new tune – The trouble with this one (all the way over to the new tune, no bells and whistles) is that typically DJs do it having tried any combination of the rest of the above first. Sometimes if a mix seems bad, it’s best just to bang the new tune in and move on… it won’t sound great, but this is about damage limitation, not covering yourself in glory! And people forget mighty fast…
Remember that people have primarily come to dance, not hear mixing. This ain’t DMC, it’s a dancefloor. Sure good mixing adds an awful lot, but it can’t replace great tunes played in an excellent order. Concentrate on these things and people will forgive the odd dodgy mix. In fact, they may even like it (it proves you’re human, and that you’re actually doing something up there).
So if it’s bad (as in slightly to moderately bad), don’t make a fuss – get your head down, find the next tune, and by the time you look up, hopefully everyone will be grooving away again. But if it was really bad? A big smile, the international “what, me?” gesture with your arms and a bit of a laugh with whoever is around will diffuse the situation, and make you out to be a nice guy at the same time.
Have you ever had to “beatmask”? Can you remember your worst mix, and what you did to get out of it? Was it as bad as you thought at the time, and did it wreck your set, or was it soon forgotten? I’d love you to share your thoughts in the comments.