How to mix Songs - DJ mixing theory with examples

In this chapter we will try to give you some theory tips on how to mix music or rather how to mix songs because dj mixing is rather about mixing songs than producing music.

1. Choosing the right songs - style, version and tempo.

Song Style

You cannot mix trance with house or electro etc. Of course it can be done, but you're not here to read about what's possible or not. You want to learn how to do it the right way!  Similarly, mixing a sweet and lovely track with a heavy one is not a good idea neither. In fact, starting a mix (or a set, when live) with a hard techno or house, and then going into some melodious vocal is simply pathetic.

Song Version

For the mix we choose only extended versions, available in most cases only on the singles. Such versions are often described as "club version", "Long mix" or simply "extended version". Stay away from all of the "Radio edit", "Short version" ones. Of course, it's best to check if a track has an introduction and/or ending, which is not beginning (or ending) suddenly, but rather develops  gradually and softly, cause this makes the track easy to mix smoothly with the other.

Song Tempo

Regardless of the fact, that DJ's equipment and computer DJ players both have the ability to control the tempo, you must not underestimate the importance of making the right choice of tracks in terms of the tempo they're made in. Sure, DJ players often have the "master tempo" function, which means you can adjust the tempo without altering the tone, but there are some limits.

It's best to hold on to the rule that says "mix only the tracks that differ by not more than 3 beats per minute (BPM) " For example: if I play something that's in 130BPM, then I don't speed it up to 136BPM. We'll explain how to make such mixes a little later, if someone needs to mix such tracks anyway.
If you have some time and possibility to prepare the set in advance - It's good to start from the slower songs and then build up the atmosphere not only by using better tracks but also by the right use of the tempo.

Here's a simple example that shows that if music genre is similar, plus bass and treble "fits", then it's possible to make a good music mixing without much of a technical struggle. It's a mix of Kristine’s W - "The Wonder of It All" with a Stellar Project's - "Get Up Stand Up". The entering of the second track is marked with a "beep" sound.

2. Setting the start point (Cue point)

We've got to make a start point in a track, which we'll be entering the mix with. When DJ mixing is live, then we have to accurately aim with the first track's beat into the second's one -in an appropriate phrase or bar. To gain the control (and the comfort when trying) we have to find the first beat of a chosen phrase, which we think is right to start the mix with, and position ourselves right before the beat. Depending on the player, we save this as our Cue. From this time we can start the song exactly from the beat we want and exactly in time of pressing PLAY. "You've got to have the beat under your finger to feel it."

Sometimes we can use some help from a function called "auto-cue" found in today’s players, which will find the first beat for us by positioning just before the first bass kick (ignoring the silence and/or vocal). Depending on function similarly we can also find further phrases, not just the very first beat, but it's better to keep everything under control and trust ourselves, rather than machines ;-).

CLICK NEXT STEP: Finding and adjusting the tempo

Questions? ask Now!

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