Your Questions: How Do I Mix Songs With Fluctuating Tempos?

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your questions
Last updated 11 February, 2018

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Digital DJ Tips reader Cary asks: “I am an oldies DJ and play mostly throwbacks. I understand the concepts of beatgridding and syncing quantised tracks, but what do I do about older tunes that were recorded with a human drummer and the tempo and timing fluctuate? I am aware that these types of tracks cannot be accurately beatgridded in Traktor, and I am also aware that this can be done in Ableton Live.

“Is there a way to set up a loop at the beginning (or end) of the track and adjust the BPM so that I can mix the beginning of one track into the end of another? I don’t use effects or loops on these tracks so if the grid is off after the first eight or so beats it’s not a problem.”

Digital DJ Tips Says:

Yes you can. Instead of using a beat-tied loop (ie a loop that Traktor tries to determine the length of in relation to the beatgrid, which as we know, for non-electronic music will often not be right due to Traktor’s beatgridding limitations), you can use Traktor’s manual looping function – just set a Loop In and a Loop Out point at the start and end of the bar, four bars or whatever you would like to loop.

You’ll just have to be accurate when setting these points as if you’re slightly off the loop won’t sound right. You can save such loops the same as you save beat-timed loops for recall later. You can also do the same with a manually set loop at the end of the track.

It’s not ideal because it’d mean you’re always mixing loop over loop, and you’ll still have to match the BPMs of the tracks manually at loop point because sync won’t help you. But it is still a workaround if you’re not confident manually beatmatching such tracks entirely (how we used to have to do it on vinyl…).

Have you considered moving to a DJ platform that lets you beatgrid in the same way Ableton Live does for producers? Most other DJ platforms have what we call “elastic” beatgridding that works well with funk, disco, rock and so on where the tempo varies slightly. If this is your primary type of music, may be worth considering a platform switch in the long term.

How do you deal with playing tunes that don’t have a fixed tempo? Any tips you’d like to share with our reader? Do so below.

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