9 Tips on How to Edit a DJ Mix (Post Recording Edits)


9 Tips on How to Edit a DJ Mix (Post Recording Edits)

You might be in the process of promoting yourself as a DJ. Getting a high quality mix shared with world online and physically is gold which can lead to many a gig in the future.

  1. Trim Dead Sound
  2. Normalise to Boost Sound Level
  3. Edit Sections of The Mix to Be Longer or Shorter
  4. Cut and Edit Specific Mixes that might not be Tight
  5. Envelope Tool to Smooth Peaks
  6. Fade Out The Ending Track
  7. Apply Light Compression
  8. Enhance the Mix with EQ
  9. Export Smaller File Size to Share

Experience that I’ve gained from music production and post editing my mixes has certainly led to greater sounding mixes. Here are some great tips to consider when editing a final version of your DJ mix to be shared with the world.

Before you hit that record button, make sure you have set a couple of key settings for both audio quality and post editing processing. In the settings of the software that you are using try to keep the resolution 24 bit and 44.1 kHz (sometimes seen as 44100 Hz on Ableton for example).

I personally use Ableton to record a DJ mix or Rekordbox to record a mix. Ableton you have more control over the recorded file type but Rekordbox does kick out a quality sounding audio file. Audacity or Ableton are both great tools to post edit DJ mixes.

Trim Dead Sound

Trim dead sound in a DJ mix using audacity
See light blue area selected at the end of a mix, delete the dead sound.

At the beginning and end of each DJ mix there might be dead sound or also known as no signal.

This is a great opportunity to simply tighten up your DJ mix to be better for listeners to start your DJ mix, whether it be online using Mixcloud for example.

I’d say this is more specific to the beginning of a DJ mix to make sure when a listener clicks play on your mix that the beginning of the mix, the first track, plays instantly without delay.

Note: you might not need to do this trick if the recording device or settings trigger the recording when there’s audio playing.

Action

  1. Use the cursor to select dead sound where there’s not any audio at the beginning of the track.
  2. Zoom in to get the selection as close to the the live audio as possible.
  3. Hit delete on the keyboard and the audio should disappear.
  4. Finally, double check and play the sound from the beginning to see if there’s any clipping. If there is clipping, use the ‘fade in’ tool to reduce the clipping sound. This will sound smoother allowing for a better quality sound.

Normalise to Boost Sound Level

Normalize using Audacity to get a higher volume of sound within the DJ mix
In Audacity click on ‘effects’ then ‘Normalize’ to achieve a higher level of sound.

Your DJ mix have sections of audio tracks that are slightly lower in audio volume compared to other tracks. This is usually caused by two things really

(1) the trim/gain has not been used to control the signal on a particular track, either too low or too high in signal, or…

(2) the audio of a particular might be naturally processed lower than most. (the opposite is sometimes applicable).

The mistake I’ve made in the past is normalising the whole DJ mix first. This doesn’t really work because the peaks and differences between the tracks are still similar.

Action

  1. Either highlight the whole mix or sections of the DJ mix.
  2. Click on ‘Effect’, ‘Normalize’ and then ‘Ok’ (the normalize maximum audio sound can be set to your liking but usually around -6dB does the trick).

The outcome will be that the levels throughout the whole mix will be much more even and easier on the ear. All in all the DJ mix will sound smoother and more levelled out.

Edit Sections of The Mix to Be Longer or Shorter

Edit of DJ mix to make it longer in size for the introduction
Above highlighted is an extension of an introduction track of my DJ mix to make it longer

A clever trick to make certain sections or beats of your songs is to cut or select a certain section of a song or beat and edit it to be longer or shorter. You can do this after you’ve recorded a DJ mix or even make edits to a track before mixing it live within your recorded DJ mix.

In the scenario of having a beat to be longer, you might want to have a longer intro during the mix. When I say during the mix I mean edit the DJ mix audio but not when you are mixing the tracks together, this could get messy. Only edit the your DJ mix when a specific track is playing on its own.

Editing to be shorter might be beneficial when a breakdown of a track is too long. A shorter breakdown, which might be more than 128 beats, could benefit the overall DJ mix by keeping the energy pumping and flowing.

Action for longer tracks

  1. Select a 8 beat bar
  2. Copy the selection
  3. Duplicate it by pasting it four times (for example)
  4. Then you’ve gained another 32 beats
  5. Finally, check that the audio is not making a clipping sound when the loop is repeated.

Action for shorter tracks

  1. Select a section of you DJ mix, in this scenario half of the breakdown
  2. Delete the section
  3. Now you have two audio segments
  4. Move the second segment onto a new track
  5. Line up the audio files together
  6. Extend the audio slightly on both
  7. Fade in and fade out the extended parts of the tracks to gain a smooth transition

Note: in some cases this might not work, so it’s worth trying cutting another section out or cutting a short section out.

Cut and Edit Specific Mixes that might not be Tight

section of audio selected where a DJ could cut out a slice of audio to sound better in the overall DJ mix
Above highlighted is a mix between two tracks that could be cut out to create a clean mix (resulting in just a drop into the next track).

I’m a bit of a perfectionist when it comes to life in general. Not all of the time this is a great thing in life.

However when it comes to recording a DJ mix and one mix is clashing then something needs to be done. Especially if you’re going to be promoting your mix online.

This technique might not work, and the amount of time it takes you to edit it might even benefit you from re-recording your whole DJ set. Practice makes perfect. 👌

Action

  1. Select a section in the clashing mix
  2. Line up the selection so that the phrase matches somewhat
  3. Aim to find a nice bassline section of the track
  4. Cut the sound
  5. Play back the mix, and in theory the mix should sound like you’ve simply dropped in a new track instead of mixing the beats together

Envelope Tool to Smooth Peaks

Example of using the Envelope tool to smooth out peaks of audio
Example of using the Envelope tool to smooth out peaks of audio. Sometimes appears in DJ mixes when DJ effects have been applied.

Sometimes I’ve found that compression or limiting does not always smooth out the audio peaks of certain tracks as much as I would like.

To really take control of specific audio peaks it’s possible to use the volume envelope tool. It’s a really easy way to smooth out peaks.

Click on the icon that you can see in the above image. This will activate the blue lines in which you can taper down specific parts of the audio, as seen in the initial image.

Action

  1. Open the volume controls for the track, using the envelope tool above
  2. You’ll see a straight line blue lines
  3. On the volume line click and a dot will appear creating a point before the audio peak, do this twice
  4. Click the other side of the audio peak to create another point, do this twice
  5. Now move the volume line in the middle of the four points down, this will bring the volume down for the peak.

Fade Out The Ending Track

Fade out of DJ mix in Audacity

You might want to tighten up the end of your mix. Sometimes I’ve done this because the track simply runs out to the end of the track too long. Adding a nice fade to the track can add a nice touch to the DJ mix.

A simple but effective technique to polish off the ending of your DJ mix.

Action

  1. select the very end of your DJ mix up until say 16 beats or more
  2. click on the ‘Effect’ selection at the top of the bar
  3. Click on ‘Fade Out’
  4. This will automatically fade out the audio in your DJ mix to sound like a smooth ending
  5. it’s possible to use the envelope tool if you wish also.

Apply Light Compression

audio track showing the effects of compression
Blue is the after result of compression, grey is before compression. The blue audio shows some boost in overall sound levels without killing the sound off.

The trick with applying compression is to apply it lightly and sparingly. The reason for this is because all of the music that you’re DJing with in your DJ set have already been processed to a point. So adding more processing can impact that overall sound quality.

Gain reduction of maybe -1 to -2 decibels might be the right amount for you depending on how much you’ve manually adjusted the peaks throughout the mix already.

What you will find if the DJ mix before was great quality, but with compression it can sometimes give it some extra boost in levels without it sounding really low quality.

Action

  1. Click on ‘Effects’
  2. Click on ‘Compressor’
  3. Use the settings to achieve the intensity of compression
  4. Click OK

Enhance the Mix with EQ

EQ spectrum analyser

During your mixing there might be some tracks that you’ve applied too much or too little EQ on the mid or the high end of each channel.

To enhance the overall quality of the mix you can tweak the mix slightly. Using a channel EQ spectrum analyser can help you adjust mid or high end frequencies accordingly.

Remember this is only to slightly enhance the EQ, not to blow the ears off the listener by changing the EQ too much. The music tracks that you are DJing with are already mixed and mastered with EQ in mind.

Action

  1. Analyse the spectrum of EQ to see where there may be any peaks in frequencies that you might want to adjust negatively or positively
  2. Click on ‘Analyze’
  3. The ‘Plot Spectrum’
  4. Then click on ‘Effect’ then ‘Graphic EQ’.
  5. Adjust the specific frequencies you’ve identified by moving the EQ levels, then you’re done.

Export Smaller File Size to Share

MP3 320 kbps is usually the best to share with club promoters, record labels social media and Mixcloud etc. The file size is usually lower than a WAV file and holds a decent level of audio quality.

In order to achieve this, when you’re exporting the project, you can select a different file type and kbps rate too, make sure it’s MP3 320. Any lower than this then your DJ mix might not sound as great on a bigger speaker system. Maintain some quality at least because you’re looking to impress, not look like an amateur.

Action

  1. Click on export or save as
  2. in the file format options, select MP3 320
  3. create a catchy name that’s in a similar format to all your other DJ mixes e.g. <DJ Name><Genre Style><Date>
  4. save to a folder where you save all of your DJ mixes
  5. upload to social media, Mixcloud, email list, usb memory sticks ready for promotion.

Related Questions

How do I edit a mix in audacity?

Upload a DJ mix audio file to Audacity. Use the area select tool and ‘cut’ tool to get rid of areas of the audio that you don’t require, this can be done at the beginning or ending of the DJ mix. During the mix the envelope tool can be used to smooth out certain peaks in the audio waves. Finally, a compressor can be used subtly to smooth out the overall audio.

Should you compress a DJ mix?

It’s not always necessary to use a compressor on a DJ mix audio file. If there are some sections of the DJ mix that peak then a compressor can help by adding a low or medium ratio. Another technique can be to adjust the envelope volume tool to smooth out the peaks of certain audio within the DJ mix.

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