To be a great DJ you need to know far more than just how to mix.
You need your own style, your own sound, intuition, knowledge of music and you need to know how to read a crowd.
But, mixing properly is still an essential prerequisite and a DJ who knows how to mix well can get a lot of respect.
How did David Mancuso mix?
True enough, David Mancuso, veteran and legendary DJ of the 70s and creator of the famous New York loft parties was known to let each and every record run right until the end before playing a new one.
He didn’t mix, he just lined up records and let them play out. And yet, he’s considered legendary!
But unless you are as well connected as he was and can invite Grace Jones and friends to your parties, you’ll need to know how to mix to give yourself some DJ kudos to start with.
Remember that it’s not just how you blend records, it’s also about which music you choose and in what order.
Mixing with vinyl
For DJs learning to mix with vinyl records, make sure you have the correct equipment at your disposal. You’ll need:
- 2 vinyl turntables
- 1 DJ Mixer
- 1 pair of headphones
- 1 Amp & pair of speakers
- Some vinyl records
For those of you learning how to mix with timecoded digital vinyl this technique is just as relevant.
2 Records the same tempo
Now get two records of very similar tempo with a clear, solid kick drum & constant beat. If you can, get two identical records, this is the best.
The objective here is to get 2 records playing as one, so that they sound the same, at least for a certain time.
You’ll need to be aware that your tracks will most likely have a 4/4 beat. That is to say, 4 beats to every bar.
Most music you’ll be mixing is likely to be structured in this way. Remember, each track should have an intro, a main part and an outro.
This is certainly true for most music categorised as dance music, where tracks are often optimised for DJs who are mixing them. The main part is where you’ll hear more of the vocals, the harmonies, the melodies and the chords.
Keep it simple. Mix outro with intro
To start with, you’ll generally be mixing the outro of one tune with an intro of another tune which is far easier than dropping one tune right into another during a small breakdown, which is what more advanced DJs can do.
Once your decks are on and soundchecked, find a part on both the tracks where just the kick drum and little else is playing.
This is just the beat on its own. Now, set the tempo of both tracks at their native speeds (set the pitch control at zero).
Now simply play one track and listen to the speed of it on your speakers. Stop the record, now play the other track out loud.
This is what you’ll be essentially doing a lot of. Can you hear a difference in the speed of the two tracks?
Set the cue point
Now set both tracks back to the start, and move track #1 gently forward with your hand touching the very edge of the record. When it gets to the first kick drum, you should hear a kind of squelching noise which is fairly loud and kind of like a, kick drum slowed down.
This is what is known as your cue point in the track; aka the starting point.
Of course, you don’t HAVE to start here, on the first beat of every track, forever. You can start where you like, but for learning’s sake, this is the best way. There’s a good chap now.
Now do the same with track #2: set its cue point up at the first beat using your hand to move the wheel. You’re ready to go. Excited? Ok you should be, now read on to wet your pants.
Once you’ve mastered this, see how to mix and master the tempo
A simple beatmatching tutorial: master the pitch control!
Would you prefer to learn to mix with digital DJ gear?
Learn how to DJ with DJ Mixing Software