Your Questions: How Do I Mix With Tunes Where The Tempo Drifts?

Elastic beatgridding

Beatgrids can help you, as here on the Serato-powered Numark NS6. Unfortunately, that’s not the case with Virtual DJ (or Traktor, come to that…)

Digital DJ Tips reader Richard writes: “I have a live recording where the drum tempo drifts all over the place. I’m trying to mix an acapella into it (which has a consistent tempo) using Virtual DJ, but the tracks drift apart (in both directions) and it’s impossible to keep them in sync. Is there some software which can take my live recording and process it to make the tempo consistent?”

Digital DJ Tips says:

Yes, there is. The most “famous” way to do this is in Ableton Live. You “warp” the track; that means dropping beat markers all the way through it that show where the real beats drop, and then Ableton can make the track tempo uniform by applying complex beat correction algorithms. DJs often do this at the start and end of, say, old disco tunes, which makes it easier for them to mix with them, while still retaining the “groove” that having what is usually a live drummer (hence the irregularities in tempo) lends to the track. In your case, if you want to mix an acapella over it, you’d have to do it all of the way through.

Other DJ software can do this, though, too: Serato has “elastic beatgridding” that achieves much the same thing, and MixVibes also has an excellent take on it too. Virtual DJ (in common with Traktor), unfortunately doesn’t.

The other way to do it is simply to “ride” the tempo using your jogwheels. By slowing down or speeding up the acapella in the “quiet” parts (ie the bits “between the vocals”) you can get it there or thereabouts. It’s how DJs always used to do it before digital… Hope that helps.

How do you get around DJing with tracks that have an uneven tempo? Please share your thoughts in the comments.

Comments

  1. Petermcbride says:

    Or use the tempo slider to ride the change in tempo. Go with your instinct and feel the beat.

  2. Another option is to run the thing through Mixed in key Mashup, but in general… just use the jogwheels and some patience

  3. Rekordbox can do this too, useful for getting an idea of where the track drifts and what bpm it reaches at each drift, so you can easily match the track that you’re mixing into

  4. DJ Ben Blayton says:

    Another way is to not try to use the whole song. Find parts in the song where they both match create a sample loop. Make sure that you turn the sync off cause you will have to use the jog wheel to keep it matched. Also try to use the snare to guide you. Hope that helps

  5. Cliff Whitney says:

    I used to do this to rock songs in ableton all the time…. Almost anytime I wanna remix a song I got afew tricks that are my go to process….
    First… Depending on what you are warping(beats,instruments,vocals,effects)
    There are different modes you can use for warping to get the best possible sound… Experiment using the different modes… You’ll see that sertain modes carry different attributes and will leave those nuances in the audio…. Beat mode warping is of course best for beats… While I find complex pro warping best for full track beat grid repair and repitch or tonal best for vocals/acapella(as long as you keep same general tempo)…. Synths are also a preference thing… I use different modes for different sounding synths….once again experiment and you’ll here why…. Next what I personally do is bring up an instance of drum rack in ableton and isolate with the slice feature different beat hits… Bass,snare,chh,ohh,perc and drag them into drum rack so I can remix the beat using drum sounds from whatever song I am currently working on… This is a nice trick because once you start warping tracks in ableton they start sounding “processed”….. If you’re just planning on playing/dj’n them out in your software at this point I’ll leave out my other steps…. but that’s basically it…. I have heard other people using different daws for the same perpose but I have been a live user since its first release so I stick with them

  6. Another trick is to set-up a loop in the incoming track and mix the loop into the outgoing track. When the loops drift apart, use instant cue-cup to bring them back together.

    • True, that´s a simple technique that just plain works (not for a full-song mashup though…). A short loop gives enough consistence to the intro (or outro) to mix a song in (or out) most of the times. I do that a lot when mixing non-electronic songs and it gets the job done, also considering that these sets are usually more relaxed mix-wise.

  7. Steve (k-rex) says:

    You can also do this in Reaper. an inexpensive and quite good DAW (google “reaper tempo matching”). Not as comprehensive as Ableton, but it will get the job done, and you can download a fully functional 60 day eval. Like any DAW, though, there is a learning curve.

  8. As I stated on Facebook, if you use MixVibes Cross, you can grid the entire track just like Ableton, but you don’t have to stick to a master tempo, or any tempo for that matter.

  9. This is part of thrill of DJing. Don’t make things easier – out in work. Automating everything makes it all sound stale. You can do it dude just practice the beat!!

  10. I use serato to warp beats……here is an example:

    https://soundcloud.com/mr-maniacal/adele-vs-the-meters-cissy

  11. Phil pretty much hit it. Either fix it with anchors or warping…or ride the pitch manually.

  12. DJ SpecializED says:

    This was easier on vinyl. (Back in the day) even so on digital you can pitch bend as needed. Normally w a hard song i just fade out or drop on the 1 or a breakdown. Theres always more than one way to skin a cat.

  13. Chuck "DJ Vintage" van Eekelen says:

    Guys,

    Let’s not pretend “working” your tracks with Ableton is “cheating” or “easy way out”.

    To get it done right takes practice and time. Especially if you want to tighten only the first and last -say- 32 beats. To achieve that in Ableton you have to cut the track in three pieces, do the first bit, leave the middle section alone and then do the last bit again. Then stick everything together again. At least, that is the only way I got it to work (if you don’t cut it up, the middle piece get’s the Ableton treatment too, which is not what you want with all those nice – all over the place – disco hits from the 70s and 80s.

    I am all for being able to do it manually if need be. I have been at it for a good 35+ years. I have done it manually to the point that I actually forgot how to do it properly with vinyl (nothing a 1-hour refresher with the local DJ school couldn’t fix, but still).
    Personally, I don’t feel any pressing need to NOT use stuff that makes my life easier … yes, like Sync buttons and flex gridding.

    I also don’t agree it sounds stale. If that were true, every EDM mix sounds stale (if you get the beats right manually it will sound EXACTLY like a sync-button mix – the beats being computer contant). If you can hear that it is not right on the money, you are clearly not doing a good manual beatmatch.

    By all means practice manual beatmatching so you are not lost if you ever find yourself in a situation without sync opportunities, but don’t feel bad using the tools available.

    It’s a bit like good carpenters, they can get a nail in with a hammer if need be, but if they have to drive nails home 8 hours a day 5 days a week and have been for many years, you better believe they use a nailgun!

    Greetinx,
    C.

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