A big mistake that many beginner DJs make is they do not take the time to learn about song structure. Knowing how songs are structured makes it much easier to make smooth transitions at the right time.
The best part is that most songs follow one of two types of structure. So once you understand the two basic types you’ll be able to figure out the structure of most songs in your library, which will help you hugely when it comes to mixing.
The two types of song structure
Genres like rock, pop, and hip-hop follow a standard structure we’ll call “songs” in this lesson – it’s a structure that’s been around since the 1950s. Meanwhile, most modern dance music and dance-pop genres follow a different structure we’ll call “tracks”.
Why it’s important to know
Understanding how the songs in your library are structured will make you a better DJ. Once you understand these two different structures you will soon realise that the majority of the music in your collection follows these structures.
This means that once you understand where to mix songs or tracks for any given genre, you pretty much know how to mix any examples of that same genre.
1. The first structure: “Songs”
Music found in most non-dance music genres follows a pretty simple structure that can be broken down typically like this:
Each of these sections has a standard length. The intro section is usually four or eight bars long, verses are usually 16 bars in length, choruses are usually eight bars long, most bridge sections are eight bars long (hence the term “middle eight”), and the outro is usually four or eight bars long.
2. The second structure: “Tracks”
Most modern dance music’s structure can be broken down typically like this:
Each of these sections is usually 16 to 32 bars long depending on the genre. Since these sections have similar, if not the same, length this makes the tracks structure easier to work out when compared to the songs structure.
However, unlike the songs structure where the sections usually appear in the same order regardless of genre, there is a little more fluidity in the way dance tracks are constructed, and the build-up/break down/drop part often repeats.
As soon as you start looking for these song types and sections, you’ll find it hard to stop. Now you’re thinking like a DJ!
Learning song structure was a huge turning point for me as a DJ. Once I understood that learning how to mix one song of a certain genre correctly meant I could mix the majority of other songs in the same genre, I could focus on learning the structure of whole genres, not individual tracks.
As an open format DJ this helped me learn quickly how to play more genres properly, hugely increasing my versatility as a DJ.
So go and try this with tracks and songs in your own collection – and try guessing where to mix on and out of your tracks based upon what’s worked with different examples in the same genre. You’ll soon see what I mean.
Do you DJ with song structures in mind? Or is this something you already know intuitively, and you just “go with it” when you’re spinning? Let us know in the comments.