Basic Turntable Skills

An introduction to beat matching

Beatmatching is the foundation of house mixing and required to some degree with the majority of dance music styles. Keeping the beat going at a similar tempo or rate from tune to tune.

Getting Started

This is a skill that anyone can learn; it just needs practice, practice and more practice. This practice reconfigures your brain into a different way of hearing 2 tunes. Youíll listen to DJs in a different way, thinking faster faster or slower slower when mixes are going astray. Itíll make you on edge in the presence of a DJ whose mixing isnít spot on, so donít say you havenít been warned!!

The easiest way to start is by getting hold of two copies of the same record. Different DJs listen to different parts of a track when beatmatching - the kick drum, the hi-hats, the snare. As the kick drum usually sounds on every beat Iíll explain things using this.

Pick a record that is four-to-the-floor with no fancy 2-step rhythms. Try and get one that is DJ friendly - thereís plenty out there - one that has the solid thump of the kick for a while at the beginning. Pick one your gran wouldnít like, really repetitive sample/electronic based, rather than a song based tune featuring live instruments.

Now with your two records on your decks set the pitch controls the same at 0 (center). Start the records on both decks but keep the crossfader to the left so you can only hear the left record.

Bring the crossfader into the middle so you can hear both tunes, if youíre fluky itíll sound alright, for anyone whoís not god like itíll sound a bit dodgy.

Try to picture whatís happening in your head now, either tune 1 is ahead of tune 2 or vice versa, itís not important at this stage.

What youíre trying to do now is get the beats aligned with each other, like this:

As record 1 was the first on, record 2 is adjusted so it matches it. In this case it was slowed down briefly. Do not touch the pitch control! As the pitch of both the records is the same this is not necessary - your hearing will probably fool you into thinking otherwise. Deciding whether to briefly speed up or slow down the record is a skill learnt with practice.

Ok, stop the records and try doing the whole thing again keeping the pitch control of the decks at 0. This time play record 1 out through the main system and listen to record 2 through your headphones at a similar volume. Briefly speed up or slow down (or do nothing if youíre lucky) record 2. When aligned bring the crossfader into the middle and listen to your good work!

Move the crossfader to the right, stop record 1 and restart it. Now do the whole thing again, previewing record 1 in the headphones this time. Any adjustments should be made to record 1 this time. Repeat these steps until you start to get the knack for it.

Better Beatmatching

Musicians will be familiar with the four beats in a bar. In general to first beat of a record is the first beat in a bar. Listen to a record, starting on the Ďstrongestí beat out of every four (every bar) count 1, 2, 3, 4, 1, 2, 3, 4, 1, 2, 3, 4, 1, 2, 3, 4. What you want to do is align the 1s of record 1 with the 1s of record 2, this will sound much better. With two copies of the same record the 1s should be easy to find

The technique is the same as before, but try to align the 1s of the records rather than random beats:


To aid getting this alignment DJs often hold the record on the deck in the headphones with their hand, letting the platter carry on moving underneath. They then Ďrubí the first beat of it back and forth and release it when a 1 occurs, therefore only minimal adjustment may be required:

Even Better Beatmatching

Now you have the basic skills, thereís only one more technique to learn. Beatmatching two records of a different pitch i.e. two records that go at different speeds. Chances are two records you want to mix together go at a different speed. First try record 2 being slower than record 1:

The difficult part is determining that record 2 is slower in the first place.
  1. To determine if a record is faster or slower try using the rub technique then briefly speed up or slow down the record accordingly.
  2. If you find yourself speeding up the record all the time to keep realigning the beats then you may move the pitch control, towards you to speed the whole record up.
  3. If you find yourself slowing down the record all the time to keep realigning the beats then move the pitch control away from you to slow the whole record down.
  4. Repeat from step 1 with the rub technique, as you get closer to both records being the same speed the pitch control will need moving smaller and smaller distances.
There you have it! Once youíve practiced and practiced and practiced these techniques you can concentrate on the art of selecting tunes.
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