decided to write this page after finding a real dearth of
information on beatmixing on the web. It is the distillation of all
of the knowledge that I have gleaned over the years. If you have any
comments or suggestions then please e-mail me.
This is intended
just to cover beatmixing, not scratching or any other styles. If you
want to seamlessly mix a couple of hours of house, garage, techno,
gabber, or whatever, then read on.
you will need
All you need is a
pair of headphones; 2 decks with pitch controls; and a mixer with 2
inputs, a cross fader, and a headphone output. I will be talking
about decks here but CDs with pitch control can be used as well.
The only essential
thing on the decks is that they must have pitch controls - little
slider that let you adjust the pitch (i.e. speed of the records) by
(usually) +/-8%. The other thing to make sure of is that they are
"direct drive" rather than belt driven - this is because
these keep their time more exactly. Technics SL1200s/SL1210s are the
usual choice of the professional, and while these are expensive they
do retain their value well because of their sturdy construction.
The mixer only
really needs the basics listed above. Other things that are "nice
to have" include punch in/punch out, which let you quickly drop
in/out one side of the mix without using the cross fader;
"kills" which let you selectively remove one part of the
sound signal from one side or the other (so if the bass beats on one
side don't match with the other side you can remove them from one
side or the other). A good and relatively cheap mixer which does
everything that you could ever want is the Intimidation Apex, though
there are countless other good mixers on the market.
beatmixing is all about having one record playing on one of the decks
"out in the room". You are listening to the output from the
other deck "on the phones", adjusting its speed (with the
pitch control on the deck) until it is going at the same BPM as the
one out in the room. Then you wait until the record playing in the
room gets to a suitable point and start the record on the phones so
that the beats coincide. You then mix the sounds of the two records
using the cross fader, eventually moving it all the way across so
that the new record is playing in the room. If you do this well then
nobody can hear the join - they just hear a steady beat all of the
way through and then suddenly think "Hey - that wasn't playing a
to the bar; 8 bars to the section
consists of 4 beats to the bar, with a bass drum beat on each of
these : boom, boom, boom, boom. There is usually a hi-hat on the off
beat too: boom-tsch, boom-tsch, boom-tsch, boom-tsch. And there is
also usually a snare drum on the second and fourth beats of the bar:
boom-tsch, whack-tsch, boom-tsch, whack-tsch.
These are arranged
into groups of 8 bars each. So generally you have one thing going on
for 8 bars, then another thing going on for eight bars, etc, until
the end of the track. Listen to some music now and count it (1-2-3-4,
2-2-3-4, 3-2-3-4, 4-2-3-4, 5-2-3-4, 6-2-3-4, 7-2-3-4, 8-2-3-4).
One of the major
tricks in beatmixing is not just to mix the beats, but to mix the
8-bar sections. So generally what you do is get the two records going
at the same BPM, then take the record on the phones back to the start
of an 8-bar section. You then wait for the record in the room to hit
the start of an 8-bar section, start the record on the phones at the
same time, and move the cross fader across to mix them. Doing this
ensures that both records change at the same time, and can produce
some very good results on its own. If you don't already do this then
this the easiest way to improve the sound of your mixing a hundredfold.
do I get them going at the same BPM?
This is the
hardest thing in the world to learn. It takes three things -
practice, practice and more practice. At the end I have got some tips
to make this easier, but here I will describe what you have to do.
Unfortunately there are no short-cuts here (unless you get a
"Beatkeeper" which does all of this work for you), but if
you do as I say then you are on the right track and it will come with
time - trust me!
Okay, you have got
one record playing in the room. Put your next record on the other
deck, adjust the headphone output of the mixer so that you are
listening to that record on the phones, and put the headphones on one
ear so that you have got one ear on the room and the other ear on the
phones. That is the tricky thing that is learnt and comes with
practice - listening to one thing with one ear and something else
with the other ear, without getting "caught up" in one of
them and ignoring the other.
Next, cue up the
record on the phones until you get to the first point where there is
a solid bass beat. Run the record back and forth over this beat, then
when when the music in the room gets to the start of a bar or the
start of an 8-bar phrase, "throw" the record on the deck.
This just means that you give it a slight push to get it quickly up
to speed. Now comes the tricky part - listen, and listen hard!
Concentrate on the beat in the room, and try to keep the record in
the phones going on the same beat. If it "drags" (i.e. is
too slow), push it forward until it is on the beat and increase the
pitch control. If it "pushes" (i.e. is too fast), slow it
down until it is back on the beat and decrease the pitch control.
Keep doing this until you hardly have to interfere with it.
To speed it up you
can either give the label a quick push or twist the centre spindle.
To slow it down either squeeze the centre spindle, or gently rub a
finger on the label, on the side of the record, or on the side of the
deck itself. Some lighter records can stop altogether if you touch
them, so it is usually best to get used to using the centre spindle
or the platter.
Now the two
records are going at pretty much the same BPM. To get them more
exactly together, get them going on the same beat then leave the
record alone. Don't touch it for 8 or 16 bars (unless it gets really
out before that), and then see whether it is ahead or behind the
beat. Get it back on the beat then make a really minute adjustment to
the pitch control - and I mean minute.
Now comes the time
to do the mix. Take the record on the phones back to the start where
the beat came in, or somewhere before that if you are pretty sure
that it is in good time and the record has got some clues for you
(like an off-beat hi-hat, for example). Wait for the record in the
room to get to the start of an 8-bar section then throw the other
record. Now take
off the headphones and
listen to the sound in the room as you push the cross fader across.
The new record might not be exactly on the beat, so adjust it as
quickly as possible until it is. Now you can move the cross fader
across slowly, or move it a little every 4 or 8 bars, until it has
moved all of the way across.
While you are
playing both records at once, listen hard. If you can hear the new
record "dragging" or "pushing" the beat, adjust
it. Don't wait for the beats to start arguing with each other. A
common mistake is to assume that as soon as you start the new record
playing, all of the work is done. Remember that it isn't done until
the cross fader has got all of the way across. Until it has, keep
listening to what is playing in the room and correct it as soon as
you hear a problem. What you want is for both bass beats to be exactly
together. If you can hear a slight "boom-boom" or even just
a "phwump" then they are out. Again this comes with
practice, but listen out for a bass beat arriving either slightly
before or slightly after the "real" beat and adjust it.
All of this is
based on listening, and that comes with practice.
Why is it that
some record mix well into each other with hardly any problem, whereas
with others you hear as soon as the second comes in? What is it that
makes the second record sometimes blend perfectly into the first? The
answer is all to do with music, and keys.
This is another
thing that can vastly improve your mixing. As soon as you can do
basic beatmixing perfectly, it is time to think about tailoring a set
and keys are one thing that can help you do this.
This is a very
technical subject, and if you have no knowledge of music then I
suggest that you get hold of an instrument and find out. It is an
enormous help to good mixing.
Music is made up
of 12 notes, which are A, Bb, B, C, C#, D, Eb, E, F, F#, G and Ab
('b' is the flat symbol, # is the sharp symbol). Then it starts again
from A. Each of these is a semi-tone higher than the previous one in
the list. Now, some keys go together well and others do not at all.
If you are playing something in D then if you try to mix something in
Eb in with it (which is a semi-tone higher) it will not sound good.
If you mix something that is also in D in with it then it will sound
good (well, better anyway!).
For example, if
you are playing something in C then really good key to mix in is C (0
semitones). F (5 semitones up) and G (5 semitones down) will also be
okay. Don't even think about anything in B (1 semitone down), C# (one
semitone up) or F# (6 semitones up). Other keys which may work are D
and Bb. The remainder - Eb, E, Ab, A - may or may not work depending
upon the music (this is all to do with things like major and minor).
Now, what is
important is not the key that a piece of music is in at 33 or 45 rpm,
because you are going to be adjusting the pitch. So you need to know
the key that a piece of music will be in at some reference BPM (I use
136 BPM). If two records are in the same key at 136 BPM then they
will be in the same key at any BPM.
So how do you find
the key at 136 BPM? Well, you can either slow it down or speed it up
to exactly 136 BPM, then find the key, or you can use a conversion
program. I have written a little program where you enter the BPM and
the key (at that BPM) and it tells you the key at 136 BPM. As soon as
I have updated it to give it a nice windows front end, a facility for
capturing the BPM, and a tone generator to tell you the key I will
place it on this page.
mixing and listen to it straight away. Find out whether you are
getting them right on the beat, and if not do you generally mix in
too slow or too fast? Once you know how it sounds in the room it can
- A useful way
to practise is with two copies of the same record. This will allow
you to get the feel for hearing the beat in both ears, and when it is
spot on you will notice that you hear the beat in the middle or the
- If you are
right handed, get into the habit of adjusting the records with your
left hand. This leaves your right hand free to adjust the pitch
control at the same time. If you try to do everything with your right
hand it will take you twice as long. Try to get into this habit from
- Have the
headphones quieter than the music in the room. You want to
concentrate on the music in the room, that is the important beat.
- But don't have
the music too loud. While you are practicing try to have the music as
quiet as possible. This prevents you from damamging your hearing.
- I put little
sticky labels on the labels which indicate the BPM and key of the
tracks, along with what tracks are worth playing and any other notes
(for example if the speed is 45). This makes it easier to make a
first guess at the pitch to use and also gives you an idea about the
key and whether the mix will sound okay.
- If you get
into trouble and can't get the beats matched remember that a lot of
tracks give you a "get out of jail" in the form of a
beatless section at the start. Just put the pitch control on 0 and
cross fade across, making sure that you get all of the way across
well before any beats start on the new record.
- When you are
playing both records at once, if
you can't hear any problems, don't touch the records!
It is all too easy to get the idea that one of them is slower and to
keep pushing it on, only to discover that you have pushed it
completely out of time.
with different ways to do the mix. All of these work:
- Throwing the
cross fader all of the way across at the start of an 8 bar phrase
- Moving it
¼ of the way across for 8 bars, then ½ way across for 8,
then ¾ of the way for 8, then all the way across
- Stopping one
deck on the last beat of an 8 bar phrase then throwing the cross
fader all of the way across on the first beat of the next 8 bear
phrase (sort of 7-2-3-4 8-2-3-Stop-Crossfade!)
- As above, but
instead of stopping the deck, spin the record backwards for a beat
before throwing the cross fader across
- You can also
do a spin back while both are playing - spin back the "old"
record to leave the "new" one playing
- Use the output
level faders well. For example, one way to do it is to put the level
fader for the new record on 0, then move the cross fader ¾ of
the way across, and at the same time boost the level fader for the
old record so that it is as loud as it was before (this is best done
in a breakdown when it is fairly quiet anyway, so any change in
levels won't be noticed so much). Then when you want to play the new
track, get it going and push up its level fader until it can be heard
behind the old track. To complete the mix just push the cross fader
the rest of the way over.
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