5 Ways To Salvage A Trainwreck

| Read time: 3 mins
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Last updated 14 September, 2017

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Every DJ has “trainwrecked” a mix (messed it up so the beats clash and it sounds terrible, so named after the sound train wheels make as they clatter along the track). What’s more, no DJ is immune to it happening again at any point! So it pays to have a few tricks up your sleeve to help you deal with them quickly and as painlessly as possible.

The last thing you want to do is start panicking and attempt in vain to pull the beats back together. The truth though is that it’s not the trainwreck itself but how you deal with it that really matters. Here are five tips to help get you out of a sticky situation.

5 Trainwreck Trick Tips

1. Take a deep breath and re-cue the track

If you can act fast and you have time, why not consider re-cueing the track and having a second pop at the mix?

Yes, everyone has noticed your mistake but if you have time left on the other track, there is nothing wrong with taking the incoming track back out and starting over. If you managed to stop the trainwreck in its early stages, you can put it down as a teaser for the crowd. However, if you have been riding a bad mix for a few bars, then you are going to find it difficult to play this card.

2. Get on the mic

It’s not ideal, but using the mic to mask your mistake lets you connect with the crowd at the very least.

You can try to cover up your error by jumping on the mic. Speaking over the PA with the “talk over” function on will bring down the volume of your messy mix and allow your voice to mask it. It might be a good idea to use this opportunity to apologise (briefly) for cocking up. Connecting with the crowd this way can bring you closer to them; people appreciate honesty. Watch out though: if you say “sorry” after each transition, that’s a red flag that you should be practising more.

3. Use effects

If you are going to use effects to bail yourself out, don’t overdo it and make sure you use the right type of effect.

Echo, delay and reverb are your biggest friends here but you have to be clever with your effects usage and not overdo it. Apply your effects and transition as quickly as possible – this is not the time for a four-minute blend. Echo freeze effects are good at making the “old” track fizzle out quickly. The effects will mask the fact that the tracks aren’t matched and if done properly, you can bring the new track in while the old one tapers off into the abyss.

On vinyl, tricks for escaping bad mixes include executing a “spinback” on the outgoing record (grabbing the vinyl and making it go very fast backwards) and turning the power of the outgoing deck off (the vinyl then slowly grinds to a halt). These tricks gets the outgoing track quickly out of the mix and can sound pretty good if used sparingly.

4. Use the filter

Filters can help you quickly take control of a trainwreck. Just remember to reset them before you mix the next track in.

The filter can be used to get you out of a bad spot quickly. It’s a cheap trick, but you can stop bassline clashes (using the high-pass filter) or vocal / percussion clashes (using the low-pass filter) with the turn of a knob. This keeps one of your hands free to make a last-ditch effort at salvaging your transition. Just remember to bring the knob back to 12 o’clock before you bring in the next track on that channel.

5. Slam the next track in with a smile

Sometimes, you just have to hold your hands up and chalk it down to experience…

We find that more often than not, the best option is to just bring the track in and turn the other one off. Unfortunately, some DJs try one or a combination of the above before they finally admit to themselves that the mix needs to be abandoned. Used straight away, slamming the next track in can be a useful “get out of jail free” card. Just keep your head up and smile!

It’s not the end of the world: we are human and prone to mistakes. As long as the next track you are bringing in keeps the energy going, the dancefloor will usually forgive your error within seconds.

Finally…

Remember, people have primarily come to the club to dance, not see a showcase of your mixing abilities. Of course, smooth transitions between tracks are an important part of DJing but they’re not as important as the music itself. A well-programmed set can afford you a few errors and you will be given the benefit of the doubt by the crowd.

If you handle your mistakes well, the crowd may warm to you even more. At the end of the day, we are not robots and people often appreciate the proof that it’s a person, not a machine, doing the mixing.

How do you try to quickly recover from mixes that trainwreck? Is there a “best” way? Do you have any memorable trainwreck saves that you would like to share? Let us know in the comments below…