Digital DJ Tips Forum member Sam asks: “When I DJ in a ‘live’ setting to an audience, I take pride in being able to beatmatch manually. However, when listening to professional, pre-recorded mixes online (from music labels such as Eton Messy, Selected, Spinnin’ and so on) they always sound absolutely spot on with no off-beats at all.
“I feel that during a ‘live’ performance, mistakes add to the live feel, but when doing an online recording it should sound absolutely perfect. Many times I’ve got 45 mins into an hour-long mix, and then hit the reset button because I made a small beatmatching error. I’m a firm believer in manually beatmatching being one of the basic essentials of DJing, but I also see the many benefits of using the sync function too.
“Basically, my question is: Do DJs use sync when pre-recording mixes that go online? And should I feel like I’m cheating if I do so?”
Digital DJ Tips says…
There are two simple answers here: yes some DJs use sync, and no, you shouldn’t feel like you’re cheating if you do. Personally, I don’t use sync – I love that “live feel” whether I am out dancing or at home making and listening to mixes. There is nothing wrong with using it though. As you rightly pointed out, it is a tool with many benefits.
If you are getting three-quarters of the way through your mix and then stopping it, why not just loosen up and let it slide? You don’t have to upload it, but keep that mix and listen back to it intently. Work out exactly why you made the mistake and what you could have done differently. The benefit of this is that you will end up with a stack of mixes that you can use to help you improve, and also track your progress over time.
If you do decide to whack sync on, I don’t think you should feel like you are cheating. The main difference between the professional mixes you are talking about and yours is that theirs are being recorded on a multi-channel mixer in a studio, or into a digital audio workstation. This allows for easy editing so they can get it ready for commercial release. Those have a brand to promote and place the focus on perfect mixes as a product, rather than the DJ.
If you decide to use sync to record your “perfect” mix, with your ability and mentality, how would you feel about that? Would you feel like you’re cheating? From what you have said above, I think that you might. Therefore, I would recommend practising more and more to get that mix recorded “live”. In the end, it matters not a jot what other people think, it matters more how you feel about yourself and your work.
I used to feel exactly the same, listening to others’ mixes and questioning my own ability after messing up in the last 10 minutes of an otherwise perfect mix time and time again. “How do they do it?” I asked myself. I resolved and kept going. It took a long time, but I eventually found peace within myself and understood what I needed to do. I then undertook the challenge of challenging no-one but myself.
• One of the big secrets of professional mixes is that the DJs don’t stop when they make a mistake – they keep trying till they get the mix right, then edit the “good” mixes together later. This technique is one of the things explained in our Pro Mixtape Formula course.
Do you use sync when recording mixes to post online? Do you mind hearing the small mistakes live DJs make in their sets? Let us know in the comments below…