How To Beatmatch On CDJs
In this article and video, Plastician demonstrates how to beatmatch by ear and how to beatmatch using the automatic sync function on CDJs.
What is Beat matching?
For a DJ, beat matching is the art of getting two songs to play at the same tempo. Tempo is counted in BPM which stands for beats per minute (literally the number of beats that play in a song per minute).
As a DJ, you want the tempo on the two songs you’re mixing to match. To do this, you’ll often need to change the tempo of one or both of your tracks.
To view the BPM of the two tracks you want to mix together, look at the panels on your right and left CDJs. The BPM is displayed on the bottom right corner of the panels, above the label ‘Master’.
How To Beatmatch By Ear
LOAD YOUR MUSIC
Once you insert your music drive (this may be a USB or a laptop with software installed) your track library will appear on one of your CDJ screens.
To control your track library from your other CDJ as well, hit the 'link' button.
Once you have access to your track library on both CDJs, use the scroll button to find the tracks you want to mix together. From here, simply click on the title of the tracks to load them into the player.
CHECK YOUR TRACKS BPM
Your track BPMs need to be within a similar range for them to blend together successfully. Going from 75 BPM to 140 BPM simply won't work. This is true whether you're learning how to beatmatch in Traktor, Serato or on hardware.
MATCH YOUR BPMS USING THE TEMPO SLIDER
Gently sliding the Tempo slider on your CDJ down will increase the BPM of the track loaded into that player. Once you've matched your track BPMs using this slider, you should be able to hear that your tracks are in sync.
Once you've gained some listening experience, try matching the tempo of your two tracks by ear without looking at the CDJ panels. This is easiest with tracks in common time or 4/4. Luckily, if you're learning how to DJ techno, trance, EDM or any other dance music you'll find that 99% of tracks in these genres are in 4/4.
As well as being considered best practice, learning to match track tempos by ear will also give you a huge advantage when you come to learn how to beatmatch vinyl records.
FIND THE CUE POINT
The cue point is the point at which a new track will start when you mix it into your DJ set. The best time to start mixing is at the end of a pattern. If you're learning how to mix trance or other forms of dance music, the most seamless beat is often the first time you hear the bass drum.
To achieve a perfect mix, you should start the track you're mixing into on the very first count of the bass drum of a new pattern.
If you notice your beat mixing sounds slightly off, you'll need to make slight adjustments. There are two key steps which apply when making adjustments whether you're learning how to beatmatch in Ableton, on a controller, CDJs or vinyl.
Firstly, using the jog wheel on your CDJ, give the track you're bringing in a tiny nudge forward or back until the sound is back in line. Secondly, you can alter the pitch to get even closer to the correct setting.
Always remember when making adjustments to follow these two steps in that order.
How To Beatmatch Using Automatic Sync
When learning how to beatmatch, CDJ players have a handy automatic sync function which you have the option of using. This function does a lot of the work for you compared to performing a mix by ear, allowing you to get creative with the mix.
If you're not using CDJs, you can research auto beat matching software online or check out Pirate's DJing on a laptop guide.
LOAD YOUR MUSIC
As above, get started by loading your music and checking your tracks BPMs. From here, you can employ the automatic beat matching function.
FIND YOUR 'MASTER PLAYER'
One of your CDJs will always be the master player, this should be determined automatically when you turn the decks on - it's the one which has the 'Master' button illuminated.
HIT THE SYNC BUTTON
By pressing the sync button, you copy the BPM of the track loaded into the master player, to the other CDJ. The sync button is now telling the other CDJ to match and sync the BPM of the track loaded in it, to the BPM of the track loaded into the master deck.
When you have your two tracks playing together, your beat matching might not sound perfect. In which case, make adjustments by moving the jog wheel on the track which is slightly out of time. Once you're happy with how your tracks are sounding, take out your master deck track.
Practice Makes Perfect
Learning how to DJ drum and bass or how to DJ tech house is admittedly different to mixing a hip hop beat. However, the premise of beat matching is the most essential skill across any genre when it comes to DJing.
The only way to master the art of mixing is to practice until it becomes second-nature. If you don't have a DJ controller or decks at home, or if you want to hone your skills on industry-standard equipment, try booking one of Pirate's DJ studios in the UK, US or Germany.