Hip hop DJing has a distinct sound when compared to other styles like house or techno. Besides the obvious scratching and turntablism techniques commonly associated with hip hop DJs, the dropmix is a signature technique that DJs should be familiar with.
Even if you are not a hip hop DJ, the dropmix technique can be useful with many different styles of DJing. So let’s go over two different ways to execute the dropmix to try for yourself, regardless of what genre you play.
What is the dropmix?
The dropmix is a transition technique that abruptly, while remaining on time, goes from one song into another. It’s a tool hip hop DJs have used for decades to quickly transition between different genres and tempos or to create an attention-grabbing moment by rapidly transitioning to another song. While in many ways it is not as technical as a long beatmix, the dropmix is a very effective transition technique.
Dropping on the one
Dropping on the one may be the most common dropmixing technique. It involves transitioning from one song into another at the beginning of the bar, meaning the “one” of a “one, two, three, four” count.
This type of dropmix is suitable for a wide variety of tracks. It works especially well if the point you are dropping the song in from has no vocals, or the vocals start after the “one”.
To perform this technique you will want to set a cue point to the beginning of a phrase, like the beginning of intro of the song, the beginning of a verse, or the beginning of a chorus. Prepare to play the song by having both channel faders up, the crossfader to the side opposite of the deck you are about to transition to, and the deck ready to play from the cue point at the beginning of the phrase.
When the deck you are transitioning out of gets to the end of the phrase, like the end of a chorus, at the beginning of the next bar you will hit play on the deck you are transitioning to and quickly move the crossfader to that side. If timed correctly the transition, while being very fast, should sound pretty seamless.
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While dropping on the one works for many songs, it does not work for all songs. Especially if the vocals start before the beginning of the bar (which is more common than you may initially think), dropping on the one will sound awkward as you are cutting off part of the lyrics to the song.
Dropping on the four
For songs where the vocals may begin right before the beginning of the bar like I just described, you may want to try the dropping on the four technique. This involves dropping in the songs one beat before the beginning of the bar, the “four” of the previous “one, two, three, four” count.
Like dropping on the one, you will want to set a cue point at the point you are dropping the song from, in this case, it would be the previous “four”. With most hip hop and r&b songs, the “two” and “four” are usually distinct sounding snares which makes them easier find and mix in from.
Much like dropping on the one, you will want to hit play from the cue point that was set and quickly move the crossfader from the playing deck to the deck you are transitioning into. The big difference here is hitting play one beat early, instead of right on the “one”.
I prefer dropmixing from the four as I use the one beat space between the “four” and the “one” to create a smoother transition. When compared to the speed required to slam the crossfader to the opposite side when dropping from the one, you can slow down the crossfader movement so both songs can be heard together when dropping on the four. This makes the transition a bit less start/stop feeling and also gives you a bit of time to correct any timing issues if you happen to be off by a little.
Dropping on the four will feel awkward to many beginners as it feels unnatural to begin transitioning between songs from the end of a bar instead of the beginning of the bar. It definitely takes some practice to build the coordination and timing to get this technique down if you are used to beginning all of your transitions from the one.
Dropmixing is a technique that I learned later on in my DJ career after I saw how effective it can be with a crowd. While smooth, long beatmixes are appreciated in dance music, many hip hop and open format crowds enjoy being surprised by sudden changes in tempo or energy.
Adding the ability to dropmix to your skillset can open up possibilities by making things like extended intro edits or BPM transition edits no longer necessary as a good dropmix can sound good without a smooth eight-bar beatmix and can shift tempos drastically just as easy.
So if you haven’t gotten this technique down already, this is definitely one you will want to try!