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Beatmatching

Music Sound

Beatmatching

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Beatmatching is a technique employed by DJs to transition between two songs while performing either live at a club or event, for radio broadcast or for distribution on prerecorded mix tapes/cds, achieved by changing the tempo of a new track to match that of the currently playing track, then mixing between the two so there is no pause between songs. This is used to keep the flow of the music constant for the pleasure of the listener, both through appreciation of the quality of the mix between records and the lack of time between tracks played back to backs prodiving more melody and rhythm to dance to.

This technique became status quo on the turntable, and many DJs continue to use vinyl records for their analog sound, manipulability, as well as their history and allure. Other DJs have switched to CD mixing technology that allows digital controls to mimic common techniques for physically manipulating records, due to their higher sound quality and the greater ease of finding and transporting a CD collection. More recently, technology has been developed that allows DJs to use actual vinyl records to manipulate mp3s and other digital tracks stored on their computer hard drives to produce the same effects.

Contents

History

Beatmatching was originally employed by DJ Francis Grasso in the late 60's/early 70's. Originally, the technique involved counting the tempo with a metronome and finding a record with the same tempo. Today, it involves changing the speed at which a recording is played back so that its tempo matches that of the song currently playing. In this way, the DJ can either simultaneously play two songs of different original tempos without their beats clashing (or "galloping") or can more smoothly transition between songs. The tempo of the recording can be changed through the use of specialized playback mechanisms. In the case of vinyl records, for example, the turntable would have a separate control for determining the relative speed (typically listed in percent increments) faster or slower the record can be played back. Similar specialized playback devices exist for most recorded media. Changing the speed of the record that is playing is called pitching or pitch shifting.

The following equipment is necessary for beat matching:

  • Two turntables (T1 and T2) with pitch controls and slipmats
  • At least two records (R1 and R2)
  • One mixer or crossfader, capable of:
    • Variably blending the outputs of T1 and T2
    • Cueing the music playing on either turntable without outputting the sound to the audience
  • Headphones
  • A Public Address System (PA) or other form of amplification and speakers

The following skills are necessary for beat matching:

Selecting appropriate songs

Although experienced DJs often show off by beat matching songs that do not follow these rules, while learning it is best to select songs that with similar BPMs. You also generally want to choose a record on T1 with an instrumental outro or a record on T2 with an instrumental intro, to avoid a sound that is too cluttered during the time in which both records are playing. These instrumental parts do not need to be at the beginning or end of the song, and many DJs like to make smooth transitions at unexpected places.

Counting

In order to recognize the tempo of music, you must be able to count beats. Most music designed for dancing has a strong, apparent beat, and is in the 4/4 time signature, which makes beat matching easier. To properly beat match you need to be able to recognize the first beat of the measure or bar, or the 1 in a count of 1 2 3 4 1 2 3 4 . . . If you were to continue this count past 4, one minute later you will have arrived at the BPM. A quicker way to calculate the BPM is to use the same method as counting to one minute, but count to 15 seconds instead then multiply by 4.

When counting, it is also useful to think in broad terms about the sections of the song, which will usually have a length equal to some multiple of 4 bars. Most commonly, if you count the bars in a section of a song, they will be 4, 8, 16, 32, or 64 bars in length. This information helps the DJ decide at which point during T1 he must start T2 in order for the sounds of one track to fade as the other builds, or whatever effect is desired.

Slip-cueing

While one record is played over the main speakers, you must be able to find the appropriate place to come in on the other over your headphones. This is done by physically moving the record back and forth with your hand. The beat that you select should generally be a "hit" on the bass drum near the beginning of the song. This also should be the first beat of the measure. DJs will often use a sticker in center of their record to mark where the first main beat of the record takes place, to make it easier to find. Once found, you need to physically hold the record still and prevent it from spinning, thus pausing the sound. To start it again, simply release the record. You will need to physically rewind the record and start it several times, until you are confident that you have found the first beat and can start it at the exact moment that you desire.

Matching tempos

When two records are playing simulataneously, you listen to both and note which beat is running ahead or lagging behind, and adjust the pitch control accordingly. At least initially, it is best to make all adjustments on T2, so that the tempo of the music playing to the crowd is not erratic. Another technique, if you already know the BPMs for both records (because you have measured them yourself or looked them up in a reference guide or the internet), is to "cheat" and figure out how you need to adjust the pitch control mathematically. Many DJs use a combination of both, using measured BPMs to approximately match tempos and then fine tuning their adjustment by ear.

Step by step process of beatmatching

Assuming that you are already playing a record on T1,

  1. Select desired song to mix in on R2.
  2. Cue R2 on T2 to first main beat and pause it, using the headphones so that this process is not audible to the audience.
  3. Count beats on the R1, and find the first beat of the measure.
  4. Start R2 to correspond with the first beat of R1. At this point you will need to listen to both records, which can be accomplished two ways. Some mixers allow you to fade between both inputs in your headphones, but if you do not have this ability you can simply adjust your headphones to only cover one ear and listen to R1 over the main speakers.
  5. Match tempos using the pitch adjust on T2. You will usually need to repeat Steps 4 and 5 a number of times before the tempos are actually locked together. You will know that you have succeeded when even after listening to R2 for a (relatively) long time, it will stay perfectly synched with R1.
  6. Note the total percentage of the variation in speed needed and divide it by two. If you were to leave T1 at neutral and adjust T2 all the way to +6%, it would make pitch increase drastically on T2, so that your Barry White records would sound more like the Bee Gees). Instead, gradually slow down T1 to -3% (slowly enough that the crowd does not notice) and bring T2 to a more reasonable +3%. Then check you tempos one more time and repeat Steps 4 and 5 if necessary.
  7. Pause R2, as in Step 2.
  8. Set the mixer to play both records over the main speakers (usually done by setting the cross-fader in the middle position). So long as R2 is paused, the crowd will still hear only R1. Any movement on R2, however, will be audible to the crowd. This movement can be done intentionally as scratching.
  9. Count beats on R1 and until you have reached an appropriate place to merge the two records. Often this will be the first beat not only of a measure but of a 4, 8, or 16 beat section.
  10. Allow R2 to start in synch with R1.
  11. Listen closely and make small adjustments to tempo and volume until the desired effect is achieved.
  12. Remember to fade out R1 entirely when ready.

Once mastered, this skill allows you to layer one record over another and create smooth transitions between different songs. After you have matched beats, you can also fade in and out smoothly between songs, and cue back either song to the beginning, thus extending both songs indefinitely. The same technique can also be used to isolate breaks, using two copies of the same record to extend a short "break-down" section as long as is desired.

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Music Sound, v. 2.0, by MultiMedia

This guide is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia.


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