Essay, Research Paper: Beat Matching


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Everyone has seen or heard a DJ perform at some point in their life. The type of
disc jockey I am referring to isn’t a radio DJ that just plays songs for
people to listen to. I am referring to what is best know as a “club” DJ; one
that uses two turntables and a mixer. Most people don’t even pay attention to
what exactly the DJ is doing behind the turntables; and to tell the truth most
people don’t care. The final product produced is good music that is blended
together to make a continuous mix of music. It is not a very easy process to
accomplish even though everyone thinks that it is easy and that anyone can do
it. The process that a DJ goes through when they are mixing is a process called
beat matching. Beat matching is a very complex process and takes an extreme
amount of practice. The process includes about sixteen steps, but can be
described in four steps: play one record on the turntable and listen to other
record in the headphones, “grab the beat” of one record and release it on
beat with the other record using the pitch control, analyze then re-analyze the
two records, and finally blend the two records using the cross-fader. If you
don’t know how to match beats it is almost certain you will not succeed as a
DJ. The main equipment used by a professional DJ is two turntables hooked up to
mixer in the middle with a cross-fader for selection. There is other equipment
used such as CD mixers, but the main type is the turntable set-up. The main
purpose of this process is to make one record blend with the other record at the
same speed to create one sound. The first step in the process is to play one
record off of one turntable through the main sound system. The cross-fader on
the mixer should be to the side of the turntable that is playing. At the same
time play the second record through the mixer using the cue switch on the mixer.
That record will not be playing out of the main sound system, but it will be
playing in the headphones that are connected to the mixer. By listening to one
record in the headphones this gives you the opportunity to listen to a record
before you play it. It also allows you to start the main step in the beat
matching process. Once you have selected the record you want to play next you
must match the beat to the record that is playing out of the main sound system.
The way to do is by “grabbing the beat” of the record in the headphones and
releasing it with the record playing. Almost all records are produced with a
four/four beat for easier mixing. “Grabbing the beat,” means to use your
hand on the record and move it back and forth with beat of the record playing.
When the record playing repeats the four/four beat you release the second record
on the first count of the four/four. Once you have accomplished that the next
step is to use the pitch control on the second record to speed up, or slow down
the record to the same speed as the record playing. That is the part of mixing
that takes years and years of practice to perfect. There is a lot more to it,
but that is the main step in the beat matching process. The rest of it is
relatively easy, but can also be very difficult at the same time. The final step
in the whole beat matching process is to mix the two records together. It is
always important to analyze and re-analyze the beats to make sure they are
matched before you bring the record in. To mix the two records you use the
cross-fader on the mixer. The record that is playing in the headphones should
slowly be brought in using the cross-fader. If everything went as planned both
records should be playing at the same time out of the main sound system. It
should not sound like two records; it should sound like one. The only difficult
part of this part is knowing when to mix out of the record and cross to the one
that was playing in the headphones. The only way of perfecting it is to
practice. After you complete the mix you start the whole process again. As you
can see beat matching is a very complex process and can only be mastered by
practice. It may seem simple to someone who is watching a DJ play, but is
actually a very hard process to complete. Once you have learned to match beats
it becomes extremely fun and you won’t want to stop. Even though there are a
countless amount of steps it can all be summed up in four steps: playing the
records, “grabbing the beat”, analyzing the record and mixing them together.
Maybe by reading this you will give a little more credit to the DJ’s that
produce continuous dance mixes for everyone to enjoy.
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