DJ Beat Matching
What is beat matching?
Just like it says on the tin, the purpose of beat matching is to get your two tracks moving to the same beat - you need to match the beat of the record you're about to cue up with the record that's already playing. Having a decent set of decks is vital to your beatmatching success.
In musical terms, the speed of a track is called the tempo - basically it's a measure of how fast the track is played.
The tempo of any musical composition can be described in beats per minute - that is, the number of primary rhythmic elements that occur within one minute. I will cover more information about musical structure, beats and tempo later on...
How to beat match - the basics
The trick with beat matching is to get your tracks to the same tempo, and then to synchronise them. The most common tempo is 4/4 (common time) 120BPM - four beats per bar, one hundred and twenty beats per minute. The more mathematically inclined amongst you might already have calculated that this results in 30 bars per minute, but such details are usually not necessary for simple beat matching.
It's important to remember that tracks with an almost identical BPM count will sound in sync for a while, but then as time goes on they will stray further and further out of sync. If you are doing a quick crossfade, you might get away with a rough beat match between a 120 and a 125 BPM track, but remember that unless your tracks are matched exactly then they will start to drift. As your beat matching expertise grows, you'll learn to identify when you don't quite have the tempos locked and be able to rectify or compensate for this.
DJ Beat Matching - Feel The Kick
The easiest guide to the tempo of a track is the bass drum. If a track has a clear bass drum thump-thump-thump for you to lock on to, it should be very easy to match that beat to the next track. House music is generally great for this, as the beats are quite easy to get a fix on and they don't tend to change very much, apart from disappearing in the breakdown.
Learning to Beat Match
Bearing this in mind, the best way to lean to beat match is by using two records that have the same tempo. If you're not sure what tempo a particular track is at, the safest way to guarantee an identical tempo for your two records is to buy two copies of the same record. Unless something very strange is going on, this should guarantee that your tracks have the exact same BPM count.
Find the First Beat
Start the first deck up, put your record on and set the needle down in the groove. Let it play for a bit, then put your finger down on the record and stop it moving. If you wind the record backwards, you should be able to bring the needle to the point of the first beat. This will be much easier if you pick a track that starts on a beat!
If you have chosen a track that begins on the beat, then the first beat will be the point at which the song itself starts, and so should be easy to pinpoint - that's the spot at which the first sound appears.
If you rock the vinyl back and forth over this first beat, you'll get a feel for what the bass drum sounds like when played by hand. You need to position the needle right at the beginning of the thump; keep rocking back and forth over the beat until you know where it is. You'll need to find beats in the middle of songs later on, but for now the first beat is the one you're focusing on.
Your First DJ Beat Matching Exercise
Now, if you have the needle positioned just before this kick drum beat, and you release the record at the same time your other deck hits a kick drum beat, then the two records will be beat matched.
If you've done it right, the beats for both records will continue to fall at exactly the same time. If they are hitting at a slightly different time (you will hear a slight delay between the beat on one deck and the beat on the other) then you released your cued record at the wrong time - so just cue it up and try again.
This requires good timing, so keep practising and you'll eventually get the hang of this basic DJ beat matching skill. If you're hungry for more, here's another take on beat matching...
Learn more about how to DJ and beatmatching
If you want to learn more about how to DJ, have a look at my other hub pages - I'll be updating the content on this page and the other hubs over the next while, so be sure to come back and check it out.
If you're really serious about getting expert knowledge on the art of the DJ, why not check out some more advanced dj techniques such as crabbing, click flares, transforming, hydroplanes, combination scratches and more...
There's plenty of useful info on this DJ Tips site that show you some of the basics, and if you follow the site from start to finish you'll have a good knowledge of how to go about becoming a DJ...