Your Questions: How Do Superstar DJs Make Fast Mixes Sound Great?

Last updated 5 April, 2018

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calvin-harris
How do big names like Calvin Harris and Tiesto apparently ‘slam’ their tunes in with no real beatmixing and still manage to make the transitions sound smooth and professional? We answer that question today.

Digital DJ Tip Forum member Jim Slaton writes: “In my DJing, I’m doing your traditional beatmatching between two songs, usually across two or three musical phrases. However, when I listen to recent sets from some of the top DJs like Calvin Harris and Tiesto I notice the song transitions are different. Most of the time you don’t even hear the incoming track until the last minute. It’s almost like they are beatmatching the two songs but not bringing in the incoming song until the ending/start of the phrase they want and then they are slamming it in there. It’s like they are slamming the two songs together but they are still beatmatched so it works out. How exactly are they doing this? What is the best way to transition from one song to another in the shortest amount of time but still blend well?”

Digital DJ Tips says:

It’s a real myth you need to beatmatch every tune. In fact, it’s often pretty boring if you do! Cuts, drops, tempo changes, genre changes, even silence: All have their place when you look beyond each individual mix and start to think of the set as a whole.

But the exact technique you ask about above relies on a few things. Basically, if the tracks are at a similar tempo, are set so the volume and EQs are the same (very important, and often overlooked), are in the same musical key (Mixed In Key or your software’s built-in key detection will help you with determining this), and – the most important till last – you stop one track and start the other so the outgoing track is at the end of a musical phrase and the incoming track is at the start of one, you can mix all night using this type of “stop one, start another ” technique.

It doesn’t always have to be in key, it doesn’t always have to be at the same tempo, and you can even introduce a volume drop or boost (for instance, starting a track on the break at the end of a loud section of the previous track), but the phrasing and the timing of when you hit “play” on the incoming track is paramount for this technique to work.

Finally, knowing your tunes – understanding the “right” place to do this – takes years of listening and practise, but the good news is you can short cut this massively by simply recording your sets so you can listen back and objectively judge what worked and what didn’t.

Basics are often best!

In fact, what you outline about is the very first formal “mix” I teach in all of my DJ courses. (In How To Digital DJ Fast there are five further mixes; in Digital DJ Masterclass there are many, many more!) Why? Because it is a building block for all of the others – and it can sound great on its own anyway, hence why all good DJs aren’t scared to “slam a track in” when the moment requires it, just as you correctly identify.

• You can see the original of this post and join in over on the Digital DJ Tips forum, with other community answers too.

Have you found yourself “slamming” tunes in as an alternative to beatmatching at times in your DJing? What are the things that make this technique work or that trip DJs up that try it, in your view? Let us know your thoughts below…

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