Assuming you already have the essential DJ equipment and software and have a good grasp on what mixing is, it's time to learn mixing and creative ways of transitioning from one track to another.
At this point, you are probably up to speed on beatmatching, phrasing, matching bars, and doing breakdowns.
Now, it’s time to take your beatmatching skills to the next level by learning how to mix and use DJ transitions.
I will show you some of the common DJ techniques, so you can build a foundation and improve your mixing skills.
Before You Start Mixing:
Mind your Sound Levels
Even if your volume faders are at the same level, different songs will sometimes not have the same volume.
You will come across sound files that are louder than the other, so the first step in mixing, before matching tempo, is matching the volume.
It does not have to line up perfectly.
The volume difference just has to be unnoticeable for more coherent listening.
Part of your duties as a DJ is not just to make smooth transitions, but you also have to provide uniform volume levels for all the tracks you are playing.
Without matching the volume, the crowd may notice and lose momentum on the dance floor.
If your software has a sound meter, make sure that the loudest part of each record should hit the red zone, but not too often, to cause clipping and distortion.
That is an excellent way to measure sound and match volume for two individual tracks.
You can always use your headphones to plan ahead.
Matching Volume Levels Based on Soundwaves
Using DJ software can help as it displays how big the sound waves are.
When mixing two songs, make sure that the shapes have similar sizes.
Without the use of headphones, you can already match the levels just by using your eyes and setting a cue point at the loud part of a song to match the other.
If the start of the next song has low volume, you can wait for the outro of the previous song before mixing so the volume will match.
By doing these volume matching techniques often, you can develop techniques of your own down the road.
Once you have learned how to beat match and to adjust sound levels, it is time for the next step, which is creating smooth transitions.
Starting a New Track
As you already know, a DJ should create smooth transitions by starting the next track before the next track ends.
This part is crucial for DJs, as you do not want to have dead air or create odd transitions that can make the crowd lose momentum.
Before starting the next track, you should:
- Match the beat
- Adjust the volume
- Correct any starting errors
- Bring the new tracks to the dancefloor
- Let both tracks play together for some time
- Gradually bring the previous track to fade
Some songs have fading outros, which makes the job easier for us.
You can just use that part of the song and mix it with the intro of the next song if the beat matches perfectly.
The secret for creating smooth transitions is by matching both tracks' bars so that the drum parts align perfectly.
By doing this method, the musical flow will sound more natural.
To match phrases, make sure the start of the new track aligns with the first beat of the previous track's phrase.
The two tracks need to have the same tempo when doing this transition technique.
You wouldn't have to mind the key for now, as you can learn about keys and relative keys later.
Similar Track Transitions
It is much easier to transition tracks with a similar structure.
There are countless ways to mix two similar tracks.
For example—if you are mixing two EDM tracks, you can cue the one track to start right after the other track’s buildup part.
Once the other track is building up for the classic EDM drop, you can go ahead and cue the other track right before the drop to make a cool remix type of transition.
Make sure you stop the first track completely using the pause and play button instead of using the volume faders.
Mixing by Key
Sometimes songs can mix together if they have the same key or relative keys.
Even if the beat or tempo does not match, sometimes songs can mix naturally because they are in the same key or have similar chords.
You can explore this transition technique by learning relative chords in a key.
You don’t have to go deep into music theory, but trust me, knowing relative chords can help you make more creative transitions.
Crossfader or Channel Volume Faders?
What Should I Use?
There are two ways to fade and transition two tracks.
You can use the crossfader to switch tracks, or use channel volume faders to gradually lower track A, and increase the volume of track B.
The crossfader is the best to use if you are a beginner.
It helps make transitions smoother.
However, as you are gaining experience and building up skill, you will learn that using the up faders give you finer control.
For blending music with perfect control, using the two-channel volume faders are much better than using the crossfader.
You can use the crossfader once you learn how to scratch on a DJ controller.
Scratching is also a good way to transition from one track to another, especially if the next track has an acapella part.
Keep the Tracks Synchronized
During the blend, make sure the tracks are in sync before gradually fading the previous track.
Even if you match the beat perfectly at the beginning, the two songs will not stay lined up forever.
Make sure that you are ready to fully transition to the next song before they go out of sync.
Always make use of your headphones to hear if the beat is synced clearly to allow you correct songs that drift apart.
To make your pitch bends unnoticeable, always adjust the song at parts where there are fewer melodies and vocal parts.
When trying to sync tempo during a melody, the key will change, and the crowd will notice.
Try to do pitch bending on drum parts with few instruments with high and mid frequencies.
Incorporating scratches is a more advanced DJ technique, but if you already know basic scratches like baby scratches and forward scratching, you can probably use scratching in your transitions.
Now before you start scratching, you have to configure the crossfader to a sharp curve to completely kill the other channel when you move the crossfader.
This setting makes the crossfader work as a kill switch for doing better scratches.
You can incorporate scratching patterns if the next track has an acapella part.
While the first track is on the outro or any instrumental part, you can start to scratch using the other track, and play the next track as soon as the needle hits the start of the song’s beat.
Make sure that you stop the other track simultaneously for an abrupt song change effect.
DJing and mixing tracks is a craft that you can develop by putting time and effort.
These DJ techniques are just to guide you, but getting good at transitions are based on your dedication to practice.
What I like about DJing is the ability to use songs as your musical instrument.
I hope these DJ transition tips gave you an idea to expand your arsenal and create smoother transitions.
Remember to practice and lock down the basics.
Laying down a strong foundation will help you become a better DJ in the not so distant future!