Home Forums The DJ Booth Using CDJs – stuck (I think!)

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    I’ve went from owning a Numark Mixtrack Pro II to buying CDJ 850s and a Pioneer DJM 350. Anyway I’ve been getting used to not using the wave display to judge when to start mixing in/out. I mainly listen to trance and majority of tracks seem to have a 8 phrase intro/outro.

    I’ve got a couple of questions though and they might be really obvious answers:

    1. Some tracks don’t fit the above ‘template’ and will either have quite a long intro or a random outro – how are you supposed to know when to mix in this scenario?

    2. I’ve found that when I start mixing I have both BPM’s matched and I can beatmatch using my headphones…I struggle using the technique of having the headphones on one ear and having that set as the cue and using my other ear to listen to the monitors – any advice on this?

    3. I always hear people saying you need to know your music etc, however if you have a large collection and you’ve only recently started DJing then it can be hard to know hundreds/thousands of songs inside out. What I’ve been doing (do any other DJs do this?) Is writing the time of when I should start mixing out in the Comment section of Rekordbox then exporting it so I can view it in the CDJs…is this classed as ‘cheating’ amongst ‘proper’ DJs?


    Marco Solo

    1. Actually knowing the track. Or at least checking the intro and outro length before playing it. You can put this info in the comment section of the track’s ID3 tag.

    2. Well, practise basically. It takes getting used to, but it can be done. You can also mix master and cue on the headphones. That way you hear the same thing on both ears. The more ways you can do it, the less it matters what venue you’re playing at. At that point you don’t care what they have or don’t have, because you can adapt.

    3. That’s the thing, don’t try to know thousands of songs by heart. That takes a while. Moreover, in the vinyl days dj’s used to be able to take up to 80 or so 12 inches with them and they managed to play entire evenings with that. Plan your set in advance and you’ll have a lot less to worry about. Even when you own thousands of tracks. And by the way, nothing is cheating if you are the one creating it. Use whatever tool you need to make things easier. Just don’t go the way of recording the set in advance and then pretending you’re actually mixing.


    It is not unusual if you take a deep downgrade from the Mixtrack to those CDJs that you are not comfortable.

    Preparation is the key here if you work with sub standard gear. Preparing in rekordbox is in no way cheating. Being prepared makes you more professional.
    I would however look into upgrading again to ease your way.
    Also Beatmatching by ear is training and training, thats it. Back in the days where I started out using vinyl it was hit or miss before using Technics, as the pitch controls were pretty much horrible and you had to nudge your way through every transition, risking a needle jump with the bad turntables you had…
    If you ever did that like me, you are ultimately grateful for the freedom a good controller gives you.


    Thanks for the response guys, appreciate it.

    I wouldn’t say the CDJ 850s are a downgrade from a Mixtrack Pro though, I feel much better using them as I felt that using a controller was almost too easy? Plus in my area everywhere expects you to use their equipment which is always CDJs so I’m trying to get used to it.

    In a couple of months time I’ll hopefully be able to upgrade the mixer to a DJM 900, I went for the 350 as it has USB recording which was ideal for me.

    Another thing I’d like to ask…

    I understand the fact that planning your set in advance is obviously good practice so you at least have a rough idea of the type of tracks you’ll play, but how do you prepare for a back to back set with someone? They could play a track you’ve never heard before so how would you know where you should begin mixing out etc?

    DJ Vintage

    a) There is no hard rule that says you have to beatmatch everything! Actually beatmatching every transition makes DJ a dull boy. There are a zillion ways to go from track a to track b. Many of which don’t really care at what point you do it (as long as you have been counting and do stuff on the correct downbeat). Every DJ comes to a point where he decides to play a request that he doesn’t know intimately and needs to fit it into his set. You can either pre-listen (through headphones) to the end of the track and note when the outro starts and/or other peculiarities of that track or just listen and count. Worst case the track runs out (snap ending) in which case just keep counting in your head and when the next downbeat would have been, start your track like a drop. Finished.

    b) CDJs (especially the pre-Nexus models) ARE a downgrade from a controller. Yes, better and bigger jogs is nice, but a matter of getting used to them. Other than that, it’s giving up feature after feature.

    c) You are your own boss and you shouldn’t care what others “expect”. You are not on this planet to live up to anybody else’s expectations after all. Just to your own. If high-end venues like Ministry of Sound welcome controller DJs, any other venue should stop “forcing” you to use their gear (just my opinion obviously). Many pro’s play on controllers these days.

    d) As for controllers being easier, my question is why? Is it because of the sync-button? Nobody says you need to use it. Some software actually allows you to switch of the sync feature. I can beatmatch manually on any controller just as easily as on any CDJ (and good TT’s LOL). The idea that because it’s more difficult (to you) it’s more professional or something is a notion I don’t support. Obviously if you like your gear and your workflow, by all means stick with it, but do it for those reasons, not the wrong notions.


    What are some of the other methods you could suggest to mix tracks? I find that a lot of tutorials/help I’ve read online is focused on other genres such as hip-hop or drum & bass etc where using scratching etc is a common technique used. With trance music, any live set I’ve ever seen/heard – majority of guys stick to simple beatmatching & mixing (as far as I’m aware).

    Fair enough the likes of MoS allow DJs to use their own equipment but guys like me are bottom of the food chain essentially and have to do as we’re told pretty much…sad truth.

    Also, when using my controller I never once used the sync button, didn’t appeal to me. But I find it much easier to use in terms of having the tracks wave forms displayed etc (I know I could switch the screens off) but for me right now, practising on CDJs makes sense whereas a controller doesn’t.

    Marco Solo

    With trance a technique I’ve seen quite often is slam in one bar (could be a vocal or a small melody) then return to the original track and then fool around between the two tracks as you start to use more and more of the new one. Kind of like the breakbeat technique when it’s too crowded to play multiple tracks at the same time. I’ve seen it with hardstyle as well. I tried to find a video, but failed.

    DJ Vintage

    Take a (well-known track) with a vocal intro for example (no beat), start in on a 1-beat, then slowly mix out the running track and make sure you are at 0 volume when the incoming track drops the first beat.

    Count down in the outro. On the 1st downbeat, hit play on the new track and totally cut (fast) the old tune. There will be a new downbeat on 1, but it will be a different track. You can use that one to change bpm and genre as well.

    Now if you had a controller and a laptop, you could just set up a drum loop the same speed as the outgoing track, do a kill eq transition to the loop (so the beat is gone from the outgoing track. Now start mixing in the new track (also kill eq-ed), fade out the the old track and fade-in the new track. Then reverse the EQ so the beat goes from the loop to the new track. This will give you all the time you need to make a transition on top of the beat loop.

    Depending on your scene, name drops or shout outs are or aren’t allowed/wanted. If they are, you could have one of the leaving DJs or your own, or the club shout out or whatever to use in the transition.

    Really, the possibilities are endless. As I said I have let tracks run out in full (while continuing counting in my head) and just dropping the beat on the new track on the 1st or 5th downbeat (depending on where in the 8-bar count the outro of the old one faded out).

    Let’s say it looks like this (and you have the first downbeat of the new track cueued up nice and tight (and the fader open if you want):

    assuming the outro has a 3-bar fade-out starting on the 2nd 1… (you don’t have to KNOW this, as you can hear it happening)
    1… 2… 3… 4… 5… 6… 7…8…1…2…3… end of fade
    You have been counting and you have noticed the fade out starting at the second 1…
    So after the end of the fade you count in your head 4… and hit play on the new track 1… 2… 3… 4…

    Let’s say the fade out starts on the first 3… in the previous sample and lasts 3 bars:
    1… 2… 3… (fade starts) 4… 5… 6… (end of fade – silence) 7… 8… hit play on the new track 1… 2… 3…

    People expect something to happen on the next downbeat (even if there was two bars of silence) and it does, namely the first downbeat of the new track.

    Hope that helps and makes sense.


    Even if you are the bottom of the food chain, no need to sell your soul.
    If you want to use a controller and can supply reasons why, I never had trouble doing so. Only thing may be I am lazy (myself) and the club has a full Nexus setup, then I may just appear with some USB sticks (prepared in rekordbox). But I seldom do this anymore, as even a Nexus setup hinders my creative workflow compared to my controllers.

    Well I love trance so some transitions I use on a regular basis:
    – Standard Beatmatching Mix (rarely)
    – In Breakdown Mix (non beatmatched, most of the time key matched)
    – vocal crossover mix (50% of the time beatmatched and key matched)
    – beat slam on breakdown (non beatmatched)
    – echo F/X mix (non beatmatched, key matched)
    – Loop shortening mix (to 1/4th or 1/8th loop)
    – HP Filter mix with beatslam (key matched)
    – break down, drop the bass mix (key matched sometimes, non-beatmatched)
    – Delay F/X Ping Pong mix (have to be within 3 to 4 BPM to pull it off)

    Those are just a few of my favourite mixing trance, there are loads more. Be creative.

    DJ Vintage

    Wow, I am very tempted to start playing trance now … if only to try all these transitions!


    Cheers for the feedback guys!

    Not really sure how I’d go about doing some of those transitions you mentioned Terry, any chance you could talk me through a few of them?



    All the transition basics and advanced styles to pull those off are covered in our DJ Masterclass.

    DJ Vintage

    Don’t use the link button, just copy/paste the link from your browser address bar.

    Marco Solo

    I did and it got deleted. And my question about it as well…
    Anyway here it is again, five basic transitions: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rIsPx-8-_Is

    DJ Vintage

    Odd, we don’t delete anything unless it’s spam, commercial or inappropriate, which – knowing you – probably wasn’t the case.

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