How to beat mix part 1

Here is my guide on how to mix two (or more) records together, so easy my kids can do it ;)

How to mix - Lesson One

This is a technique that I used to learn how to mix way back in 1987! Since then I’ve taught other people using the same method, It does work honest.  Before we start, if you have put the rubber platter mats on your turntables remove them now and replace them with slipmats. Mixing with the rubber mats will not only wear the under side of your records but may also damage your turntable motor. Obviously technology has progressed since I wrote this article so you can substitute cdj players or mp3 dj players for the vinyl turntables the methods aren't any different.

Getting to know your turntables

Turntables (decks) come in two varieties, Belt-Drive and Direct-Drive. It is universally acknowledged that Direct-Drive decks are by far the best type to use for djing as the motor directly drives the spindle and platter where as a belt drive deck is works on the same principle as a fan belt in a car engine, the motor drive an elastic band which in turn drives the platter. Now take a look at one of your decks you should see (if you don’t, panic!!)
1. The platter – this is the large circular plate where you place the records.
2. The spindle – this is the small spike in the centre of the platter.
3. The tonearm – this is the pivoted arm and will be either straight or ‘S’ shaped.
4. The headshell – this plugs into the end of the tonearm and houses the cartridge & stylus
5. The pitch fader – this is the slider usually found at the bottom right hand side of the deck. This alters the speed at with the platter spins. 33 & 45 buttons – changes the platter speed to 33 1/3 rpm or 45 rpm (revolutions per minute)
Other more expensive decks will include a (6) quartz lock or pitch reset button, this will reset the pitch (speed at which the platter is spinning) to 0% so the platter is spinning at exactly 33 1/3 or 45 rpm.

Another feature also found is the reverse button, this will reverse the direction that the platter spins so that the record plays backwards.

Getting to know your mixer

Like turntables, all mixers perform the same basic task and are built roughly to the same design. Depending on the model of your mixer you will see rotary knobs, sliders (faders), switches & flashing lights! Each piece of equipment that you have (decks, cd players, headphones, amps etc..) plugs directly into your mixer this in turn splits the inputs of your decks into separate channels. These channels can be monitored individually, and in most cases both at the same time, through you headphones. The output from your mixer to the amplifier is determined not only by the volume controls for each channel but mainly by the cross fader this is usually centrally located towards the bottom of the mixers front panel. If the fader is centrally positioned (as above) then both channels will be played through the amplifer, individual channels can be played by sliding the fader to the left or right.

Getting to know dance music

Before you can learn to mix, you need to understand how dance records are put together, understanding this is a major factor in developing your dj skills. Most dance music produced today uses loops of four bass beats grouped together into what is known a a bar, these bars build up into sections of 4, 8, 16 and 32 bars before being repeated from the beginning. To demonstrate this put a record on one of your decks and start it playing. Now count along with the beats, you will notice that every 16, 32, 64 and 128 beats the track builds or subtly changes, it is these markers that you will need to recognise in order to be able to mix well. This may sound a bit complicated at first but it is easily picked up in no time, just sit down and listen to your records try and remember where the breakdowns are etc. Like I said most tracks are made using this technique so once you've got the gist of one track play another you will notice the similarities in the way that both are structured.
Lets Get Started
Right then i'm going to assume that you have set up your equipment correctly. Ok first things first, unplug your headphones and put them somewhere safe because you won't be using them yet. For this exercise you are going to need two copies of the same record, choose a track that immediately begins with a bass drum this will make things alot easier to start with. Switch on your decks and activate the quartz lock, if your decks don't have this feature set both pitch faders to 0%. Now set the cross fader on your mixer to the central position as shown above and place both records on the decks and set the volume controls for both channels so that they are equal.
Cueing
The idea of cueing is to set up incoming track at the point at which you want to start mixing it, anyone wanting to mix records MUST know how to cue up a record otherwise it is virtually impossible to become any good at djing. Ok first of all place the stylus on record A and let this play until you hear the first beat, now stop the record with your hand and spin it backwards until you hear the first beat played backwards. You are now cued at the beginning of the record, now push the record forward (don't let go of it) until you hear the first beat again, then pull the record back until you hear the first beat played backwards. Keep repeating this for a while just to get used to it. Once you've got the feel of this stop and start again from the beginning do this a couple of times. Now to the exciting bit! Place the stylus on record A (play this on the deck connected to channel 1 of your mixer). You will hear the track begin to play, let the record play for a while then cue up, you will hear record A playing and also the first beat of record B coming out of your speakers it may not sound pretty but you are learning :) Now try to match the rhythm that you are producing with record B with the bass drum beat of record A so that when you push B forward the beat is played at the same time as the beat of record A. Once you have matched the beats together let go of record B (you may need to give it a little push if your decks have a low tourque rating) if you have done this correctly you will hear record B and record A playing in sync with each other, if you haven't you will notice that the beats are making a flapping sound this means that you either let go of the record too soon or too late. Don't worry if this happens because you're not going to get it right straight away, just listen to the two records playing together and try and determine which record is hitting the beat first. Once you know which one it is, gently touch the record, or the side of the platter, with your finger, you will begin to notice that the gap between the beats gradually gets smaller until the beats become matched. If you have correctly set the pitch to 0% on both decks the beats will stay matched, now after a certain amount of time has elapsed, slowly move the cross fader to the right so that channel 1 fades and all that is left is channel 2 playing (record B). Ta da!! You've just mixed your first records. Now before you go out bragging to your mates that you're a top DJ, repeat everything above then when you've done that do it again and again and again. Practice is the best teacher in Djing as it is in everything else in life. In the next part you will need some new records and your headphones!! And don't forget. Keep practicing!

Sean.


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