DJs: Why You Should Know How to Beatmatch by Ear

November 4, 2016

The folks over at PassionateDJ are always posting great, helpful stuff. While they’ve listed 10 stellar reasons for any DJ to know how to beatmatch by ear, we’d like to expand a little on the subject.

1. You Can Play On Anything

This is easily the most important reason to know how to beatmatch, especially for DJs that are just starting out. You might be comfortable with your own controller and setup, but realistically there won’t always be a place for you to bring in your favorite controller.

At most clubs and gigs, you’re likely to find a traditional setup with a mixer and two CDJs or turntables. If you aren’t prepared to use the equipment provided, it can turn into a technical nightmare. Figuring out how to squeeze your controller into a crowded DJ booth will probably make the sound guy hate you, and take up valuable time in between sets for other DJs trying to set up.

There’s a reason this is such a common standard, and aside from making everything at the gig run smoother, it will also ensure that you can play your set without any hiccups. Nothing kills a crowd’s vibe faster than silence, and if your setup is on the fritz you’re likely to make everyone hate you (at least for a few moments).

Moreover from getting eye-rolls from sound guys and fellow DJs, it’s WAY easier to carry a few CDs or thumb drives than a whole rig. Save everyone the possible trouble and be prepared!

2. Your Mixes Will Sound Better

If you haven’t taken the time to learn the old fashioned way, you’ll rely too heavily on the Sync button. You should know that it’s not always perfect, but you’re also opening yourself up to missing the proper cues to mix in to. If you’re one beat or measure off, your transitions are going to suffer.

Also, mixing tracks at different tempos is way easier if you know what sounds right instead of relying on technology. Not to mention when tracks aren’t quantized properly – you’re setting yourself up for a trainwreck at least every once in a while.

Having the “human element” of DJing keeps things more interesting for not only the crowd, but for yourself. Sitting safely while all your tracks digitally sync up doesn’t necessarily make things boring, it’s just a lot more engaging.

Tips For Learning

The original post pretty much nailed these points, so take heed no matter what level of DJ you are:

  • Beatmatching is the one “big” DJ technical skill that usually takes the most time for people to learn.  It’s going to be frustrating… it takes perseverance. But it’s worth making the investment. Try it a little each day and you’ll be surprised how quickly you can pick it up.
  • You don’t have to have a pair of turntables to learn how to beatmatch (though, they are the most challenging). You can beatmatch manually using just about modern “deck controller by simply turning off your software’s Sync function and turning your screen away, or on your CDJs by hiding any displays and BPM counters with a piece of tape.
  • When matching two tracks, it helps to push the cued track’s tempo (pitch fader) up significantly faster than the track that’s already playing. That way, there’s no question of which track is playing faster than the other (and which way you need to adjust the tempo)… you can pretty much guarantee that the “incoming” track is faster and you need to start slowing it down to compensate.
  • Practice, practice, practice. The concepts aren’t hard to understand, but the process can take weeks, months, or years to master.

People will argue all day and night about what makes a good DJ, but at the end of the day it’s all about the music. If you can provide a better musical experience for the crowd AND yourself, go the extra mile and master the craft you’re so passionate about!