Digital DJ Tips reader Bruce writes: “I have always thought that there’s one feature that’s missing from software (Virtual DJ and others). Let me sketch the problem: Track 1 is loaded on deck A and playing (out). You are putting Track 2 on deck B and you hit the Sync button. The two BPMs are aligned. All seems well until you spot the alignment drifting out.
“You manually turn the jogwheel of the controller to nudge it back in again. It drifts out again slowly. You use the pitch slider to adjust the BPM a bit and it become better, but still not perfect. Experience will tell you how much to adjust the slider by and most importantly how many times you need to repeat this process until the tracks are perfectly at the same speed and completely in sync. My suggestion is that the controller/software could have adjusted the BPM for you without you having to hit the slider. What I am saying is that the first time when you had to slightly move the jogwheel to get the beats aligned, the software could have automatically changed the BPM value as well.”
“I have the Hercules RMX and because of its centre ‘click’ on the pitch fader, if I have to start from that point doing the adjustment on the pitch fader it is not the easiest thing to do.”
Digital DJ Tips says:
Hi Bruce! One of the reasons that software doesn’t do this is that sometimes you legitimately want to move one track in relation to another, for reasons other than to correct a BPM mismatch. If the software always assumed the reason you were doing it was to correct a BPM mismatch, and thus changed the BPM (and that’s assuming it could work out the BPM you wanted to change to at all), you’d be in all kinds of trouble.
Reasons for nudging a track could include to match non-quantised percussion elements of on track with the beat of another, to add some urgency to your mix by having an acappella coming in a fraction early on every line, or just to correct phase manually so the groove sounds right – all cases where your intention is not to correct a basic BPM mismatch.
The technique you’ve outlined – using the jogwheel to get the tracks back in time, then adjusting the pitch fader ever so slightly to hopefully mean they’ll hold together longer, then repeating several times until all is perfect – is the classic way of beatmatching, and with the sync button turned off or used just for the initial BPM match, today’s software basically duplicates this behaviour.
So if you are manually beatmatching, the “resolution” of your jogwheels and pitch fader are supremely important – coarse centre-clicks are bad, and you’ll hear much talk of “14-bit resolution”, which basically means it’s easier to make very fine adjustments in the way you describe.
(Also, you may be interested to learn that with the classic Technics 1210s, there is a big, fat centre click that can completely throw off a beatmix – most vinyl DJs move both decks a fraction faster or slower if one of them happens to be on the centre click, and then re-match the BPMs on that part of the fader.)
Where software has advanced is with “beatgridding”. This is where it actually “locks” beats together either at its best-guess sync position, or at one you’ve pre-decided by telling the software beforehand where the beats are in the track. With such sync systems, your mixes ought never drift in the first place. Another way, specifically in Virtual DJ, is just to hit the “sync” button again when you hear a drift – the software will then lock the beats back together, correcting your beats. You may have to hit it a few times in a mix, but it’s easier than the manual process you describe above.
Are there improvements you think could be made to DJ software that the companies aren’t adding? Have you struggled with beatmatching on controllers? Please share your thoughts in the comments.