What is Beatmatching?
Beatmatching is the synchronisation of the tempo of two or more tracks so that the beats of each track hit at exactly the same time. This ensures a smooth transition from one track to the next.
How to Beatmatch.
1. Select two different tracks – one to mix into the other.
To make life easier for you, select tracks that you know well, are similar in style and BPM, and start with a strong beat.
2. Chuck your headphones over one ear.
This is so that while Track A is playing through the speakers, you can listen to Track B through one ear. Make sure Track B is set to play only through your headphones. Also, make sure that Track A is set up to play only through your speakers.
3. Press Play on Track A.
Listen to it play through the speakers and count the beats in each bar in your head. (“1, 2, 3, 4, 1, 2, 3, 4….”)
4. Press Play on Track B at the very moment that the first beat of a bar hits in Track A.
This is so that both tracks are playing from the first beat of the bar at the same time.
5. Either speed up or slow down Track B so that it’s playing at the same speed as Track A.
When they’re both at exactly the same speed, the beats of both tracks will play at exactly the same time – to the point it will almost sound like there’s only one track playing. If they’re almost at the same speed but it’s not quite there, you’ll hear an effect kind of similar to a horse galloping. If it’s way out… it’ll sound like a train crash.
If Track B has a faster tempo than Track A, you will need to slow it down. If Track B has a slower tempo than Track A, you will need to speed it up.
You’ll need to use a combination of two actions to achieve this:
Your Touch on the Wheel
To help Track B either catch up or slow down to the same place in the bar that Track A is in, you can tap the wheel of your CDJ or your vinyl forwards or backwards.
Tapping it forward will help the track to catch up, or dragging it backwards will help to push it back. The key to doing this well is being very gentle and keeping your touch light so as to only make small changes at a time. Doing this action, however, won’t speed up or slow down the tempo of the track. It will only change the position of Track B relative to Track A.
Adjusting the Pitch
You’ll need to use the pitch slider to speed up or slow down your track. If you only tap the wheel forward or back without accurately adjusting the pitch, you’ll be forever having to keep tapping and tapping to keep it in sync. Although you’re pushing Track B into place using the above method, the speeds of each track will still be different. The pitch slider will change the tempo and your use of it is essential to beatmatching. Pitch (how high or low the note is) and tempo are mathematically connected in music.
You’ll notice that as you raise the pitch slider it, in fact, will do two things:
- Make the song play faster
- Raise the pitch of the notes
If you were to lower the pitch slider, it will do the opposite.
CDJs come with the technology that allows you to speed up or slow down the tempo of a track using the pitch slider without it affecting the pitch of the notes. This functionality is the “Master Tempo” button. Lots of DJs use this button as it can help you stick to a specific key. You may like it too. I, however, hate this button. I think it makes the music sound like it’s playing through a bucket of bubbles. This is because your CDJ has to distort the sound to get it back to the track’s original key. My preference is to keep the Master Tempo turned off.
Hot Tip 1:
Modern CDJs will tell you the BPM of the tracks you have cued up on the display. Try not to look at this screen. Learn to use your ears for beatmatching instead.
Hot Tip 2:
Don’t give up! Learning to beatmatch by ear is a bit like learning to drive a manual car: you have to concentrate super hard at first and it’s so hard to coordinate it all, but keep practising and with time it will all start to come naturally.