Welcome to SKAH DJ Blog! Hope you all had a great weekend! This article is titled; Art of Deejaying, WK4 – Transitions. We will be moving into more technical stuff this week. Our focus is on transitions and we chose transitions because it is one of the most important technical skills of deejaying.
Transition, simply put, is a DJ technique for mixing songs. For me, the 2 most important aspects of a good DJ Set are the playlist (choice of songs, order of the songs etc.) and the transitions (the techniques used by the DJ to bring-in or switch to the incoming song or songs). Furthermore, the real art of deejaying was birthed by continuously mixing pre-recorded songs in such a way that there is a smooth blend of the songs and there are no unnecessary pauses on the dance-floor.
You might have noticed at an event or a party that, immediately after the DJ switched to another song, like a quarter of the guests on the dance-floor went back to their seats, not because the MC interrupted the flow nor because the song was a bad choice but usually because the technique used by the DJ to bring in the next song was inappropriate and it was a turn off for the guests. Hence, as a DJ, you should keep the dance-floor alive by using very good transition techniques to switch or bring-in incoming songs, thus keeping the dance floor ‘HOT’. In this post we shall review only 2 types of transitions; beatmatching and drop mixing.
Beat matching is the most basic form of transition and the foundation upon which almost every other type of transition is built on. Beat matching is a technique for matching ‘kick for kick’ and ‘snare for snare’ on 2 different songs. This is achieved by:
Step 1 – Setting a cue point at the 1st beat of the incoming song to be played (setting cue points is also a basic step of deejaying and preparing for your DJ set irrespective of the type of transition intended).
Step 2 – Adjusting the BPM (speed) of both songs so that their BPM are equal or almost equal by using the pitch slider.
Step 3 – Playing the incoming song on the 1s, i.e. 1st beat (1,2,3,4,1,2,3,4,1…)
Step 4 – Using the faders (volume and cross-faders) with the EQ knobs to bring in the incoming song. Ensure the volume levels of both channels are balanced and the crossfader is open (center position), then, gradually increase the volume fader of the incoming channel while decreasing the volume fader of the outgoing channel.
Step 5 – Use the pitch bend or side of the platter on the deck to keep both songs aligned while still adjusting EQs and faders. Fade out the outgoing channel.
Here is a video tutorial from DJ TechTools using Traktor to show different variations of beatmatching and the drop
The Drop Mixing (aka Hip Hop Slam)
The drop is also a basic form of transition and should be used only after mastering timing and counts generally (1,2,3,4,1,2,3,4,1…) and beatmatching specifically. This is because the timing of the drop is critical and there is zero tolerance for errors. The drop has similar steps as beatmatching except that the transition time for a drop is less than 0.1 second while beatmatching could be as little as 3-5 seconds or to as long as the DJ deems necessary. The drop is particularly useful in changing BPM range i.e. from maybe a BPM of 125 to 105 where beatmatching would have been inappropriate. It can also be used to change genre (i.e. rap to hip hop, hip hop to reggae and so on).
Step 1 – Setting a cue point at the 1st beat of the incoming song to be played or at the beginning of the intro (vocals or beats), or just any other part of the song that will make the crowd go ‘gaga’.
Step 2 – Adjusting the BPM of the incoming song either to an equal BPM to the outgoing deck (of course, this is if both songs are within the same BPM range of +5 or -5 as discussed in the notes below) or to an appropriate BPM as required.
Step 3 – Close the crossfader to the outgoing song. Adjust EQs and faders ensuring the volume of both decks are balanced (use the headphone to achieve this). The volume faders for both channels should be at the maximum.
Step 4 – The transition is the critical period and should be executed in less than 0.1 second by playing the incoming song on the 1s, i.e. 1st beat (1,2,3,4,1,2,3,4,1…) while moving the crossfader simultaneously to the channel of the incoming deck. I will advise you execute the drop immediately after a verse or chorus or intro. The crowd is expecting to hear maybe verse 1 after the intro of 1 song and then you drop the intro of another song.
Learn To DJ Tutorial: Effective Drop Mixing Techniques (DJ Trayze). In this tutorial, DJ Trayze used scratching (which is an advanced deejaying technique) to implement the drop.
- Beatmatching songs that are within a BPM range of +5 or -5 is ideal. For example, a song with a BPM of 120 and an incoming song with a BPM of 118 or a song with a BPM of 90 and an incoming song with a BPM of 93. However, there are exceptions to this rule at advanced levels of deejaying.
- Ideally, you should bring in the incoming song just immediately after a verse or chorus. However, at advanced levels especially in the club or at raves, the deejay can decide to bring in the incoming song in the middle of a verse, a chorus or just after the intro before the first verse but still on the 1s. However, for beat juggling which is an advanced deejaying technique you can drop the same song on both decks and drop the incoming on count 3 or half beat and rapidly move the crossfader across both channels to execute beat juggling.
- It is important to note that there are different variations of beatmatching and drops. I will strongly advise that you practice the basic routine first and tweak it as you improve your skill.
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Cue Point – is a marker used to reference a particular point within a song. It is usually set to a button or control on a deck traditionally, laptop and more recently on mixers and samplers, which when triggered moves the play position of the song from its current location to the position of the marker.
Beats Per Minute (BPM) – is a unit typically used as a measure of tempo in music. The BPM tempo of a piece of music is conventionally shown in its score as a metronome mark, For instance a song with a BPM of 100 indicates that every one minute there should be 100 quarter notes or crotchets (Wikipedia).
First Beat – the very first beat of the song after the vocal intro (if any).
Pitch Bend – is used to temporarily speed up the deck (+ button) or slow down the deck (- button). It is used to catch-up/slowdown or align beats of a deck to another deck. When any of these buttons are pressed it either speeds up or slows down the deck and when released the deck return to its original speed.
Pitch slider – is used to permanently increase the speed of the deck probably in a proportionate level to another deck or even otherwise.