How to Mix for DJs (A Step By Step Guide)
As a beginner, it can be very hard to start with mixing. Something really important to understand is that the beginner is asking for beat-mixing and not mixing.
The most fundamental structure of djing is beat-mixing. So, what is beat-mixing? Beat-mixing is having 2 songs playing at the same speed so when you line the drum kick up you can smoothly transition between them. It's a skill used by DJs in every DJ set.
In this article, I will explain all the steps needed to start beat-mixing. If you rather want to watch a video that explains the steps of beatmatching I have provided that as well below. Near the end of the article, I have some more important fundamentals of djing that will help you become a better DJ.
How to Beatmix in 7 Steps
Step 1: Pick the correct songs for beat-mixing and load them into your deck
Picking the right songs for mixing is especially important in the beginning because a basic transition requires the songs to be able to be played at the same speed. I would like to stick to 1 genre first.
Another thing that is important to look for is the BPM (beats per minute) within that genre. Most genres have songs with almost the same BPM but there are genres where the BPM fluctuates. Pick 2 songs where the BPM is the same or nearly the same for both.
Whenever you have picked those songs it's time to load them into your deck. You can do this by dragging the song into your deck with your mouse.
Step 2: Correct the songs to be playing at the same speed (BPM)
You might choose to use the sync button to fix step 2 (and 3) for you but that's not what we're going to do today because I want you to learn all the aspects that include djing.
There's a tempo fader on your DJ controller which you can slide upwards or downwards. This will make the song that is associated with that deck run at a lower or faster BPM. You can check the current BPM of the song in your DJ software located near your virtual deck.
Try to aim for the exact same bpm (for example if 1 song is 128bpm and the other one 127,9 try to adjust it to 128). This is because if you take too long with mixing in the next song the songs will be misaligned. If you get better and can mix a little faster down the road it matters less if one song is a little bit slower or faster than the other song.
Step 3: Correct the timing of the song so that the kick drums line up
In most electronic dance songs there is a loud kick (drum) that you can listen for. it's a low-sounding quick sound often at the beginning of a bar (4 beats is 1 bar).
Let your first song play (make sure to turn on the line fader and have your crossfader in the middle) and look for the beginning of the bar in your DJ software. This is often visualized with a dot or a line. You will often see 3 small dots or lines (these are the beats) and 1 thicker dot or line (this is the beginning of a bar).
Whenever you play your first song try to start your second song when the beginning of a new bar starts of the first song that is already playing (make sure to have the line fader for this song all the way down and the crossfader still in the middle).
This will make sure that the beats are lined up okayish. The next thing to do is to use the edge of the jog wheel (don't use the top) and rotate clockwise or counterclockwise to speed up or speed down the song until they line up.
Step 4: Adjust the gain so the songs are at the same volume level
One of the lesser things that could happen is that you have put all this effort in beat matching your songs and then when you mix in you notice that the second song is way too loud or way too quiet. This is something that beginner DJs tend to forget when mixing and that's okay. But not you.
Whenever you play both songs you will see your volume levels indicated on your DJ deck with a couple of lights. Make sure that not all the lights are on because that means that your song is too loud and will sound distorted. Find your gain knob on your DJ deck and turn it counterclockwise to lower the volume until every light lights up (not always but during parts of the song) except the most upper light. Do this for your first song.
Whenever you have done do this for the second song as well so the volumes of both songs match each other.
Step 5: Prelisten to the next song using your headphones.
A big advantage that DJs have over their public is that they can prelisten songs through their headphones before the public can hear the music. This is a very important step so you know how the song will sound together. There is a little headphone cue button on your DJ controller that you can enable or disable and that will let you hear the song of 1 of the decks.
You can also find a headphone volume knob on your controller so it matches the sound output of your speakers when you put it on your ear.
Listening to your songs is a valuable thing because it
Step 6: Use the equalizer to prepare for the transition
The equalizer is something that will filter out the highs mids or lows. It can also be used to boost those frequency parts but I rarely use that.
Step 7: Switch songs with the line- or crossfader
You can use the crossfader to switch songs but the line faders are easier and more precise to use so that's what we're going to do. If you have followed the earlier steps correctly you'll see that the line fader that correlates to your first song is up and you hear that song playing on your speakers.
The line fader of the second song is down and you can't hear that song playing through your speakers. If not, adjust both.
The next step to do is to switch songs. Try to move the line fader of the second song up a bit before you move the line fader of the first song down. Now you have to continue with both motions until the line fader of the first song is down and the line fader of the second song is up.
Congratulations, you have made your first transition.
Step 8: Time your next song by counting bars (1-2-3-4, 5-6-7-8)
Dance music is made up of beats and bars as stated earlier. You need to line up the music correctly. This is done by lining up the beginning of a bar. Something that beginner DJs tend to do is just look at their DJ software for the beginning of a bar. Something that is a great skill to have as well is doing this by ear.
Try to listen for the beginning of the bar in a song and count accordingly. First to 4 with every beat, then to 8 (1-2-3-4, 5-6-7-8). By doing so in your head while listening you will make djing easier and give you the ability to start other songs at the correct time just by listening.
Step 9: make sure to set hot cue points to make mixing songs easier
Cue points are points that you can set in a song so you can jump to those parts later. They get saved on the song so whenever you close your DJ software and come back later or migrate it to another computer is it still there. This makes it to be something extremely nice to have when mixing.
You can watch this video below to know where you can best set your hot cues.
General Information That Will Make Mixing Easier
Make sure to have fun
The most important thing is having fun while djing because it's the number 1 factor that increases your growth as a DJ. Your love for songs should translate into your djing. By having fun while djing you ensure that you will be able to keep djing consistently.
Having fun also helps you to focus for longer periods of time because you will not get frustrated and see the bigger picture that matters more than that one transition that didn't sound right the first time.
Master the basics
There are a lot of advanced tricks you can do further down the line when djing. But the fundamentals are key to make every DJ set sound solid as a whole. The basics should be your first priority to master. You can always try out new things but the point is that you shouldn't forget to train the basics.
Learn how to set loops
One of those basics or setting loops. Loops are especially valuable in the beginning because loops will let you line up your second song and give you all the time in the world to forget about that song and focus on another thing because the song will still be lined up.
Loops can also be used for the more interesting things which you will see in the video below.
Know your songs
Knowing and picking the right songs for mixing is one of the biggest factors that make up a good mix. There's no great mix that has awesome mixing and awful songs.
A big part of becoming a DJ is actually listening to songs when you're not djing. This will let you source great songs to mix with and lets you understand all the fundamental parts that a song is made up of.
You also have to listen for loud or overwhelming elements in your songs so you can use that to your advantage so you know what to filter out the song with the EQs
Record yourself mixing
A great way to give yourself objective feedback whenever you can mix a few songs is by recording yourself mixing. Almost every DJ software has an option to record your mix. If not, there are always 3rd party programs that will do the job for you as well.
Recording your own sets lets you listen way more carefully to your performances than when you're trying to give yourself feedback live. It also lets you listen back multiple times and lets you share it with the world or with friends for feedback.
In my opinion, it is one of the most valuable things when learning to DJ from your own bedroom.
Judge by ear, not by principles
The thing that matters in the first place is how your set sounds and not how it is mixed. Of course, we are not talking about an auto mixer here but about your skills as a DJ. The point is that you shouldn't let yourself get judged by how you do things.
Djing is something that is different for everyone and most people will develop their own style of mixing which everyone is free to do so. There shouldn't be people that tell you that you should do things in certain ways or another. You're free in the first place to mix the way you want to.
What headphones do I need for mixing? Mixing with decent headphones is important because it lets you hear all the parts of the song that you might have to adjust before mixing in. I have made an article about the best recent headphones for you to check out.
What is the best DJ controller to mix with? Mixing all starts with your DJ controller. There's a lot of options out there to choose from which can get pricey quickly. That's why I have an article with the best recent DJ controllers ranging from very cheap options to more premium ones for you to read.
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I love researching and writing about new and exciting things in the world of mixing, including tutorials, reviews on hardware and software, as well as finding the latest and greatest. My goal is to help people become better DJs by providing them with all the knowledge they need to do just that!