Beatmatching (also known as beatmixing) is the most fundamental skill of any performance DJ. These days, you can skip manual beatmatching if you are going to work with Traktor or some other digital DJ software, but I don’t recommend it. It can be a little frustrating to learn, but beatmatching teaches your ear to detect when one track isn’t perfectly matched with the other, and more importantly, which one is going faster. Knowing this, you can correct things when they are off and keep your mixes smooth. A DJ’s nightmare is known as a “trainwreck,” which is when two records collide with one another and are not matched. You don’t want to go there, believe me.
You also may be very excited to get to scratching, or to laying all kinds of cool sounds and effects on top of each other, but if you can’t beatmatch, those skills won’t sound good because there will be no foundation of music underneath them.
What is Beatmatching?
Beatmatching is the process by which you manipulate two (or more) vinyl or CD tracks to spin at the same speed (or tempo), and then line up the beats with each other, so that the records can be “layered” or played on top of each other. That way, you can segue from one record to the next, smoothly. Your first goal is create a smooth, creative mix of records, from one to the next, which is pleasing to your audience. Your next goal might be to create a whole new song of your own with your mixes, thus expressing even more of your creativity and more than just the records you choose to play.
In most cases, you start the beginning of the next tune you want to play near the end of the tune that is already playing – kind of like this (A is the tune playing, B is the one next.)
So there is an overlap at the end of A where the two tunes are playing (which is the part where it is critical that you keep the beats matched).
So, through the course of the night, you’ll have something like this:
And to make things interesting later on, you can throw bits of A or C (or whatever) back in later to make things even more interesting.
If you choose not to learn to beatmatch because you are using Traktor, you can simply make sure “sync” is turned on, and your beats will automatically be lined up with each other. However, getting the beats matched is important, but that’s only part of the mixing story. The next critical part of good DJing is being able to line up the flow of one track with the flow of the next, so that when your first track is on the way out, the next track picks up where the first one left off and continues the musical story started by the previous track. Make sense? To do that, you’ll have to learn to find the downbeat in all your music.