How to DJ Mix – Track mix Transition – Song Structure, Phrases, Bars

The basics of entering into the phrase

You cannot optionally enter on the beat of the second track. You have to point yourself on the first beat of the metrical unit, called a phrase.
A phrase is a conventional term and determines most often 8, 16 or 32 beats.  Here is some music part to listen for you. With the beep we marked exemplary phrase beginnings which are good spots to bring the second track in. In this songs, it’s convenient to define a phrase every 8 beats:

Generally you can say that the smallest, inviolable metrical unit is a bar, but metrical distribution can be different in different songs. However most dance music genres (house, techno, euro dance) are very simple in the metrical aspect. In practice the bar is defined by 4 beats. The inviolable limit is two beat bar. Why absolutely inviolable? 90% of club songs has an accent on every second beat (in the form of clap, mostly). So, entering the second beat, starting from a second beat we would give a quite annoying “clap after clap” on every beat.

Let’s hear an example for this music mix done wrong:

Admittedly the beat enters the beat properly, but it sounds wrong. If we continued to mix like this, things could get really awful.

Here is an example of a proper entering into the smallest metrical unit:

Planning the best place for the cross fade

Of course, the reason why producers, remixers are giving us the extended versions is to make use of it, to allow us to gradually blend two songs track after track. The diagram below shows this in simplification. Let’s assume that black lines are the gradually entering tracks of a song such as beat, base line, treble and finally vocal and melodic line.

Song Mixing scheme

We rarely play a track that we completely don’t know or playing for the first time. Usually we know -for example – that the track entering is long, develops for about 1,5 minutes or that there is quite a big hole in the middle of it, which is the part of a song where we’ve got only the base beat and some treble etc.)  Such information will help us plan (more or less) where to enter. If you have the possibility to prepare to the ideal set, then you can write on the piece of paper for example: “I enter with the track at +/- 1min 40sec. before the end of a main one).

What is the best point for mixing? (Main cross fade point)

The best spots for the cross fade, for a main theme are of course the places in the first track where the main leading theme is going off and in the very moment, the second theme is going in. Knowing this points we can estimate how long before we’ve got to bring the second track in, so that it’s lead theme (i.e.: vocal) goes in right when in the first track, such theme is going off. So much for boring theory – let’s advance to the example of such music mixing.
Having the going off track by Freeform Five – “No More Conversation “, we’ll mix in widely known ATB – “The Summer (radio edit):

The excerpt above illustrates a rule described earlier about themes exchanging in the mix. Of course it’s a much generalized rule, because the tune construction is often more complicated. What it boils down to is this: it’s really nice when in one song the first track is entering, and the second track is going off at the same time. If we consider that tracks of the songs are coming in and out by phrases, then we’ve got the main reason why it’s worth to enter “phrase in phrase” – we have much bigger chance, that entering track and fading out track will nicely exchange each other in one point. And what if they won’t? It will be a little worse. Here’s an example of mixing the same songs. It’s a try to enter before and after the main theme is going off.

Both attempts aren’t too good. They enter into a beat correctly and they even theoretically enter into the phrase right. What’s not working is that in a first attempt both main themes from two songs are overlapping, which is clearly not right and the audience doesn’t know to which it should dance to.  The second attempt is a “fail” 😉 – the DJ has slept a little and was a little late. In practice, the second option is always better than the first, because you should rather serve the people the dry fading out beat, than two main themes fighting with each other.