Category Archives: Mixing Methods

How To: Prep For A B2B Gig In Front Of Thousands

Your first gig in front of thousands is going to be nerve wracking enough. Now crank up the heat with going b2b for the first time. For all you Synch babies out there that means manually beat matching.

‘Oh why not just use Ableton Link?’

Ableton Link was only added as a Traktor feature in the Fall of 2016 for their 2.11 update. Both DJs need at least this version. Lo and behold my compatriot uses a controller that is not compatible with the most recent version of Mac OS. As a result he is stuck using a version of Traktor released well before 2016.

Sad panda.

Luckily I had weeks to prepare for the gig. Ok cool, just practice, right? For some reason I have a hard time practicing for practicing’s sake. Even with the pressure of spinning in front of thousands. I crawl into a ball and find something else to do. Procrastinator 101. The next best thing that works for me is opening up a live stream online. Unless I’m sipping on a Bulleit & Coke and jamming out, DJing without eyeballs is something I struggle with.

But indeed, within my problem lied my solution. I had been so busy with gigs over that span of time that I was able to get in a couple hours of practice a week. I’d fit micro sessions in the few minutes between songs during low periods of activity.

Now, since you’ll be able to LAN hack and cheat off your friend’s screen, you’ll already know the exact tempo you need to mix in. All you need to do is work on your ‘beat-drop’ timing and adjust with your ear. Luckily you can practice this half a dozen times over a minute or two. That’s exactly what I did during gig downtime.

My issue was that I kept cheating. The phase meter is right there in Traktor. Every single time I would glance up and see how far off I was. Practice attempt ruined. The good news is that we can turn that off. For ease of practice I set up two identical layouts to cut between and left the phase meter off one of them. Here is how I set it up within Traktor:

B2B Manual Beatmatching Setup

  • Layout Manager -> Add
  • Select favorite mixing layout, rename to ‘Beatmatch Practice’
  • Move Up/Down so it is right before/after your favorite layout
  • With your new layout selected, go to ‘Deck Layout’ and uncheck ‘Phase Meter’
  • Go to Controller Manager, add a new keyboard mapping to scroll up/down your layout list
  • For Serato users: Try mixing in Library Mode

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Practice Routine

  • Turn off your sync button
  • Cue up a track of similar tempo
  • Match your BPM (manually, this is important)
  • Start dropping on the one in your headphones
  • Adjust with your platter if it sounds off

You’ll suck at first but you’ll get better with time. Try not to overthink it, you’ll eventually develop an intuitive sense of being ahead or behind.

Think you’ve got it on target? Switch into your Phase Mater layout and see how far off you are. Immediate feedback! Once you’ve nailed mixing within headphones it’s time to up the ante. Listen to the live track only from your speakers with your cued track only in headphones. It’s a little harder but this is what you’re going to have to do in a live situation.

Live Tips

Agree that each of you will stick to round BPM numbers. 120, 110, 128, etc. It will be easier to set your tempo.

When mixing in pick a part of the song that is easy to identify, yet very basic like Hi-hats. Loop it. Once you think you’re matched in your headphones, creep the looped track into the master output in a little at a time. Drop 2-4 beat samples to see how close you are. Almost no one will notice if you’re off by a bit. Adjust your platters, bring in some more volume and check again. You can match up tracks as early as you want and leave it looping. As long as their tempo doesn’t change and their platters aren’t touched you’re golden. With ‘Snap’ & ‘Quantize’ activated you can jump around all you want and remain ‘in time’.

Furthermore you can side-step beat matching by using what I call drop-in tracks. Simulate a turntable stop with the outgoing track and drop into your next one if it’s conducive. A great example is at the beginning of ‘It Takes Two’ when he says ‘Hit it’.

How exactly did I get that festival gig?

It’s a long story, though my approach was very simple.  It’s certainly possible to go from bedroom to festivals in just a year and a half. Subsequent posts are going to focus precisely on how I went from hardly any DJs in my network to getting leads left and right, including this gig, all in just 18 months time. Sign up for my newsletter and my guide will be sent straight to your inbox once released.

3 Creative Ways To Transition Genres, By Laidback Luke

It’s not all that often I come across new ways to transition between tracks.

I came across Laidback Luke’s latest vlog today as part of my daily routine to pick up new tricks from other DJs.

He talks about three ways to transition between genres at different tempos (though it’s really just two, plus a twist).

Let’s jump right to it.

1) BPM Ride – Increase/decrease the tempo during the buildup, straight cut over to your next track at/around the drop (no blending)

2) Sync Ride – Increase/decrease the tempo during the buildup while blending to your next track, cut over by the drop (blending w/ sync)

3) FX Cut – Sharp sweep with FX on the ‘4’ beat, drop into new track on the ‘1′

Now I’ll admit some of his demonstrations weren’t the cleanest but the concept has piqued my interest. The BPM & Synch Ride are more or less the same, save for use of the synch button, but I like where he’s going here.

You could prolong your use of the FX sweep by starting a few beats earlier on the 1 instead of the 4, prolonging your sweep to make the transition that much more prominent. You may have been doing this already, I’ve certainly done it a number of times.

The golden nugget for me here is making large tempo changes during the buildup, it’s just brilliant. Everyone’s expecting a big change anyway, why not hijack the energy change with a tempo change?

Next-level sets with edits, redrums & other DJ tools

A while back I used to think everything I heard from a DJ was a result of their mad mixing skills… WRONG. Often enough folks are using mashups, edits, redrums, pre-recorded tools to supplement their sets. Why not use a transition track to help take you from a 100 beat per minute hiphop set to a 128 beat per minute dance music set? Relying on such tracks would be a disservice to your craft and skillset, but throwing one or two in per night certainly helps the tempo of things, and there’s only so many times you can echo out a track or simulate a turntable stop.

A few years ago a friend told me about a few sites that sold these type of DJ tools. I only recently began using them, but man are open format gigs a whole lot easier! DJ Remix/Edit sites sell modified tracks to varying degrees and DJ ‘tools’. These are the type of custom songs you’d find on Soundcloud, buried under a litany of versions done by everyone under the sun. Part of the value in these Remix sites is that you can sort by popularity within sub-genres to do some digging for you.

Usually they require you own the original versions for legal purposes. And many of these tracks aren’t cheap, averaging $2-2.50 a pop. Despite all that, I’ve gotten great use out of the handful of my select purchases these past few months that have really helped me to stand out from the crowd. You’re not going to be able to blindly download their Top 10 each month as they peddle their own bundles of crap just like everybody else, but you are going to find some really nice tracks that you’ll use from weeks to months at a time.

Now among these edits are re-drums. Re-drums are exactly what they sound like, original tracks that have been ‘re-drummed’. Usually this means added intro/outro’s, a refreshed beat with hi-hats throughout the song in addition to tightening up the drummer’s tempo. You’d have experienced an inconsistent tempo if you’ve ever played a Rock n Roll track from the 70’s where the beat grids fall out of line towards the end of the track, despite being aligned a minute or two from the beginning. Drummers weren’t perfect back then like drum machines & DAW’s are nowadays! With two small changes like adding intro/outro phrases and tightening up your tempo, your old school rock track now becomes easily mixable and a mildly refreshed.

For the longest time I disliked many open format Pop gigs as that meant being stuck with music the same old worn out tracks that didn’t lend themselves to mixing easily or beat matching, if at all. By incorporating a few redrums and edits found on these websites I can throw in a few more blends to help with my gig’s flow keep things a bit more fresh.

For reference here are a few sites I’ve used in the past; I am in no way affiliated or receiving compensation, just passing along another source for music!