How to DJ Mix Tracks – Live Song Mixing Analysis and Theory

Before we start the mix

  • We’ve got our favourite part of a song spinning in the player.
  • We’ve got the first beat of a phrase in second song under our fingers.
  • We match the tempo of them both.

We should never rely on the information about the tempo given by a CD cover or even a BPM value on the display. It’s just always wise to check if the songs match like they should.  We put on the headphones, and using appropriate mode of our player (audio monitoring) we listen while entering with the beat into another one. We’re trying to hit the spot and if we properly set a cue point then we should succeed in maximum 3 attempts. If the songs are rolling “beat into beat” for about several seconds, it means they have the tempo similar enough to mix them.

Examining the bass & treble levels in both songs.

We have to focus on how the bass and treble behave in both songs. Are the bass parts similar or maybe in one of the songs they are more definite and deep? We listen intently to the treble and ask ourselves: isn’t it going into annoying hiss when treble from both songs are overlapping. If something’s wrong then we consider it and either:

  • Immediately we correct the bass and treble amounts in a song, which will be entering
  • We correct the bass and treble amounts in a song we’re playing now (not recommended, but if we need to do it, then let’s make it slowly, so the listeners won’t spot the difference.
  • OR we bear in mind that during a mix there will be some differences and we’ll have to control it live.

Song mixing

  • We’ve got our favourite part of a song spinning in the player. (song1)
  • In a second player, we’ve got the first beat of any phrase in second song under our fingers. (song2)
  • We checked using the headphones, so both songs match in tempo.

We know that song2, which we will be entering with is developing for about 40 seconds i.e.:  by beat and treble only, until the vocal or main theme is going in.
So we let out this song relatively early. We don’t wait until the ending of the song1 and dry beats, cause in this case we would mix only the beats or treble of song1 with just beats and treble of song2 – and that would give a boring 40-second banging. So we enter with the song2 when in a first we still have a last chorus rolling happily. Just as it was in the first example in this text.

Bringing songs into mix LIVE or safely?

“Live enter” means an attempt to enter “loudly”, or entering into the beat publicly (and not on the headphones), which means in a way mostly heard for the audience on the floor.
We make a “live enter” when we’re very confident in our skills or we’re playing short tunes or cross fades that don’t give us the possibility to make an attempt using the headphones, or when we want to enter with some theme (or a vocal) spectacularly. Headphones are used when we have the time, we’re mixing long songs or we want to make a really smooth, invisible entering or.. we are scared (or the respect for the audience) of something going wrong.

No matter how we entered, we still have millions of ways to lead our cross fade.

In most cases it works like this: the first tune plays, for example, on the left side, and tune2 on the right side is silenced – which means we have a cross fader slider positioned on the left (we hear it only in our headphones).

The example below shows some attempts to enter into a beat:

We’re trying to hit a beat in phrases, every 4 beats. We succeed in 5th attempt. Considering that we still do it on the headphones, so we don’t serve the audience some nasty beat chaos with beats all over the place;) If we don’t want to try and rather want to enter in the exact moment, then if we failed to catch the point, we do a little correction to the appropriate tune.  Depending on your DJ gear, there are different ways to do it. Generally it’s all about a temporal slow down or speed up of the tune, so it moves in time -let say -20 milliseconds.

The example below illustrates an attempt to enter into the beat in one try, in exact moment, with a correction afterwards.  (I’ll try to enter exactly into first phrase after the vocal.)

As you can hear the attempt is quite a mess with beats going all over the place. It’s because the fade out (with a vocal) and two bass hits before a phrase is quite misleading – even if we’re tapping with our foots to sync with the rhythm. Anyway, the goal is achieved: after several seconds we managed to do it and started the mix exactly with the phrase we wanted.

OK, beats are in sync, so we slowly make the actual mix and turning up the volume of the tune which goes in by gently moving the cross fader to the middle. And the final result goes like this:

We will continue to update this page to give you more new and interesting techniques and information.