Some of you aspiring DJs out there may be thinking you’ve got to be a super hero to mix music of different BPMs (tempo / speed). Well that’s not always that case, once you know how using certain techniques, things become a lot easier.
- Rewind, speak on microphone
- Look for gaps in sound
- Reverb / Delay, cut the Sound
- 1 Beat loop effect
- Mix into the Break Down, plus Reverb
- Half the BPM x Double the BPM
- Use Master Tempo (MT) to key lock
Practice makes perfect, and here’s a list of all the techniques that I’ve personally used over the years, plus new ideas that I’ve thought of and researched too.
There are a few of situations that I find most apparent with mixing different tempo of music, these include:
- You’re mixing the same genre of music but one track is 120 bpm and another 130 bpm, e.g. House music
- Open format, mixing in tracks of all different genres
- Being creative in your DJ set, e.g. mixing Drum and Bass with Hip Hop.
Let’s explore the solutions to each of these areas and help you practice your mix transition techniques of different BPMs.
Rewind, speak on the microphone
Scenario: track has mixed in faster OR slower than expected. You want to speed up the track without pitch bending and ruining the dance floor.
A simple technique, a classic one at that, is to rewind the track and speak on the microphone.
When doing so you can hype up the crowd while quickly adjusting the tempo of the track.
You can then restart the track from a good point in the track. Possibly from the beginning, in the breakdown/buildup or 8 beats before the drop, the choice is yours.
Look for gaps in sound
Scenario: A track you’re playing, House track for example, is slightly slower than expected, you need to speed it up.
Looking out for gaps in sound within the music track can really help you out. In a gap of silence for example, it gives you the chance to slightly adjust the tempo on the pitch fader on your DJ deck.
The reason why it’s better to do this during silence is because pitch can picked up quite easily and usually sounds horrible / noticeable to people on the dancefloor.
Make sure you subtly adjust the tempo in this technique.
No gaps in the audio track! Why not consider using the channel fader to cut the music volume for one beat and move the tempo up in the silence. This allows you to be in control of the silence and pitch change.
Reverb / Delay, cut the Sound
Scenario: need to either transition from one track to another (completely different BPM). Or want to slightly tweak the tempo up or down.
A great effect technique I use sometimes is on my DJ controller is using the delay and reverb together to then cut the sound with the channel fader.
From here you can keep the channel fader down and hit play on the next new track (at a different BPM), e.g. go from 174 BPM to a Pop song at 100 BPM.
You can use this technique to tweak the tempo slightly of track. 4 beats before the next phrase or end of a section, for example, you can use reverb / delay cut the track volume, quickly adjust the tempo and then whack the volume back up again.
1 Beat loop effect
Scenario: you need to tweak the tempo of a track slightly.
There’s a FX button on my Pioneer DDJ-400 DJ controller that loops the beat only for one beat when it’s held down.
Sometimes if I want to quickly change the tempo up or down, I will hold the beat loop button down for 2 to 4 beats while tweaking the pitch shift.
Not always applicable for all types of music but worth a try to see if works for you.
Note: this technique is very similar to the pitch change with silence, but instead using the beat loop button to distract way from the pitch of the melody changing when you change the pitch shift / tempo.
Mix into the Break Down, plus Reverb
Scenario: you have two tracks that are completely different tempo and genre. You need to blend and mix them together.
You might of already used this technique in your normal DJ mixing.
The use of mixing the breakdown is beneficial as there’s no beat, so you have a bit more flexibility of using Filter switch or EQ switches to blend in new tracks of completely different BPMs.
Half the BPM x Double the BPM
Scenario: You want to show off you DJing skills and creativity. You might be playing music in a specific genre.
This is definitely a technique that I’ve had fun with in the past.
Some DJs like to use this technique too for mixing up the vibe and groove of their DJ sets.
If you’re DJing Drum and Bass, you can easily find a few Hip Hop tracks to mix in together.
The theory is simple.
- Drum and Bass is usually 174 BPM.
- Hip Hip can be around 87 BPM.
As you can see, Hop Hop is half the BPM of Drum and Bass, which makes them compatible to mix into each other.
You can use this technique for other genres too.
Use Master Tempo (MT) to key lock
Scenario: There’s a track you need to beat match and mix, but it’s slightly different in tempo. Both music tracks are in the same genre.
On Rekordbox there’s a button called MT, this stands for Master Tempo.
This is a such as great setting to activate if you’re DJing a type of music that has some track slightly faster or slower.
Say for example you have one track that’s 130 BPM, and you need to mix in a track that’s 120 BPM, moving the pitch shift up will make the vocals or melody sound really high pitch and silly.
Activating MT button keeps the music within a reasonable sounding key and harmony while you increase the tempo.
- Practice makes perfect, learn some techniques and practice for ages.
- Be creative and create some of your own transition techniques. There’s a lot of functionality available on DJ equipment these days so play about with some FX etc and see what you can come up with.
- Some of your mix transitions require hot cues etc, make sure you’ve prepared your music in the DJ software you are using.
- Know your DJ equipment inside out, from the FX and settings etc. This will boost your confidence when DJing.
Can you change BPM mid song?
It’s possible, but requires a DJ to be skilful and sensitive when moving the tempo pitch control. Changing the tempo too quickly can negatively impact the vibe of people dancing on the dance floor. Subtle changes are required for the best effect.
What happens when you change the tempo?
Tempo changes the pitch of audio, slower tempo means the pitch is lower and stretches the audio wave to be wider and longer. Faster tempo means the pitch increases which makes the audio shorter in length. Visually the beats of the audio wave will come closer together or further apart.