Skills that Help Mix Any Genre

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Mastering Your Instrument

Getting Better

Like any instrument, mastery will come to those who practice often and effectively.

If you want to entertain and impress others with music, here is the success formula:

  • Time Commitment + Repetition/Iteration + Quality = Opportunity

In short, opportunity comes from focus and hard work.

This resource will go through the Top 3 skills that will help you get good at what matters.

To get the most out of your DJ equipment, take the time to learn your gear's functions and unique features.

These functions, and others, are used creatively to build skills.

If you are familiar with my other work, I like to say "no rules, only tools".

The purpose of practice and mastery is to learn the specific DJ skills and then apply your own style and add your ideas to the art form.

1. Timing Is Everything

Almost every DJ skill relies on timing.

Whether you are playing the next track or engaging effects, smooth mixing requires tight timing.

The foundation of a song's rhythm is its time signature.

Most popular music follows a similar pattern of 4/4 timing (time signature of 4 beats in a bar) with defined phrases that indicate musical parts/changes to the song, e.g. verse, chorus, intro.

No skill is more critical than being able to identify a downbeat and anticipate a phrase change.

  •  Downbeat = First Beat of The Bar. Naturally, we can sense or anticipate the 1, when counting.

Learning how to count music and identify a downbeat is the essential element when starting to DJ.

In the beginning, it is good to learn by counting all your favourite songs. (1,2,3,4,1,2,3,4,etc)

The key is to move your body to the rhythm. Once you are physically moving, you should instinctively feel when to start counting.

2. Cue The Songs

Choosing and preparing the next song is the cornerstone of what a DJ does in their headphones.

Cueing as a DJ is a process of lining up tracks and creating set "Cue Points", and testing them.

Setting your Cue Point at the precise beginning of a sound to align the incoming track is a tool used to drop the music in at the right time.

  • Additional Cue Points can indicate when you may need to perform mixes. e.g. Hot Cues and Memory Cues

Cueing mistakes can be the most noticeable, and maybe you have been out partying and have noticed that your dancing gets interrupted because the music does not blend properly.

Here are three different Cue terms that can confuse new DJs and their meanings:

  • Cue Point - Conceptual beginning of a sound, usually a downbeat
  • Cue Buttons - Located on music sources/decks to set Cue Points
  • Headphone CUE - Buttons to assign music channels to your headphones.

3. Beatmatching (Preferably By Ear)

Beatmatching combines the above skills of timing and Cueing.

The idea is to play/mix two songs and make them sound unified for a while, such as a phrase/a measure.

To understand beatmatching, it is important to define what BPM is.

  • BPM = The Beats Per Minute of a song. A measurement of the speed/tempo of the music.

A song that has 90BPM will be much slower than one that is 120 BPM.

Beatmatching is your ability to listen to two different songs simultaneously and determine if one is faster or slower than the other. Then you make a judgement if you think the two songs can be beat-matched and played together.

Ask yourself, "if I speed up or slow down this song with the tempo slider, will the music be unrecognisable."

The DJ then uses the tempo slider and nudges the platter to beat match the songs together perfectly.

Once a DJ is satisfied with the song in their headphones, they introduce the new music live to the crowd.

Equipment Functions

Practicing the 3 fundamental skills often will be the gateway to your progressions as a pro-DJ.

Depending on your equipment, there are likely some functions that will be useful when developing the three fundamental skills.

  • Here is a list of some of the common functions that Pro-DJs use today:
  • Equalisation & Filters
  • Effects Processing
  • Key Sync
  • Looping
  • Slip Mode
  • Jogwheel control (Vinyl Mode)
  • Beat Grids
  • Beat Jump
  • Quantize

The Top 3 Skills to Master (Besides Music Programming) as a Beginner are Timing, Cueing, and Beatmatching

The Skills Mentioned Above Apply to Any Type of DJ Equipment. Many other skills rely on mastering the basics first.

The Only Way To Get Good is To Practice Regularly. I Suggest a Daily Schedule of 15 Minutes Per Day.

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