With the master out you have control over the music volume
for the crowd, monitor out controls what you hear directly
yourself. And next to that there is the headphone out to control
the music volume of your headphone. The first one of these 3 should be
controlled with care: Big changes in music volume for the crowd should
only be a result of the records themselves! During a performance you
can slowly build up the volume towards a climax at the end or you can
use the master out to boost a particular record a little more.
The other outputs can be set according to your own needs.
Like the balance between the volume of the monitor speakers and
the dancefloor speakers, there is also the need to balance the volume of your
headphone and that of the monitor speakers. Set the volume of the headphone in
relation to the volume of the monitors in such a way you can hear both records
equally loud. This will give you the best chance to hear any possible
difference in phase or speed.
In order to explain the use of the mixer to make a proper transition
I'll use what is called reverse engineering: I start with the
desired end-result and reason backwards how you can possibly use the
equipment to achieve this result.
There is beat-matching, bar-matching,
loop-matching and stage-matching. However, there is something
else that is important: matching of music volume. The procedure was
also described in the beginning, Sound checking.
End result: provide the crowd with music. Use the master
out to set the music volume for the dance floor. As it was already
mentioned: Try to avoid any abrupt changes in music volume, unless they are
part of the track that is playing. If you are using a home system you
only have to set the monitor out to your own liking.
Incoming records should have the same music volume as the
currently playing record. There are more ways to achieve this, but the
easiest one is setting the gain for each record before you start
mixing it. Play part of the body and use the gain to adjust
the maximum peak height. The value you use is somewhat arbitrary but
whatever you choose, it is wise to set the limit somewhere between 0 dB
and +3 dB on the VU meter. The mixer I use myself needs special attention.
If one channel (or more) is cued the value of the VU meter is about
3 db lower than normal. So: make sure to test your own mixer.
At any rate, if you have a record playing on a fully opened
channel, no channels cued, then you should have set the gain in such
a way it will show peak values between 0 dB and +3 dB because this is the
signal that will be send to your amplifier(S). An occasional peak to +4 dB
is no problem, but if the output of your mixer continuously peaks to +4 dB
or more you can get a distortion of sound and/or clipping. Gently reduce the
gain of the record or, if this happens during a transition, pull one or both
sliders a little bit back to solve the problem.
Keep the maximum peak value in mind. It is not so much this
value that is important, but you need to match the music volumes. The easiest
way to set it is before you start getting record 2 up to speed and in phase.
Put the needle somewhere in the body of the track (or at least at some
point in the track where music volume is at it's normal level) and adjust the
gain in such a way that you get your desired peak height.
Back to the top.
Get your equipment set up, master- and/or
monitor out set right, headphone on, all channels closed and channel 1
- Start a record, set the gain right and restart it. (Now you have Record 1
- Open channel 1 and throw it onto the speakers and (imaginable) dance floor.
- Pick another record with about the same speed and music style as record 1.
- Uncue channel one and cue channel 2 to set the gain for
- Locate the first beat of record 2.
- If you did not start this way: put your headphone on one ear only.
- Jumpstart record 2 in phase with the beats and the
... And now the REAL fun starts! It is time to adjust the
speed for record 2. Re-read Beat Matching,
Continued for details.
Getting record 2 up to speed will probably involve some
restarting as well. For now, I assume you have, after an unknown number of
re-setting, record 2 at the right speed.
- Pay attention to the phase of record 1. Wait untill after the
- Jumpstart record 2 right at the return of the beat, at the
- Make sure record 2 is not only at the right speed, but also
Now it is time to make the actual transition between the 2 records. There
are numerous ways to make this transition. I will only describe one of them
- Close the low range for record 2.
- Open channel 2 to about 75% and reduce channel 1 to 90%.
- Keep a constant eye on the VU meter, do not let it peak to high!
- If you still have not reached the maximum peak limit, open channel 2 more.
- Slowly open the low range of channel 2 while you partially close
the low range of channel 1.
- Re-check the VU meter and make sure the records are still in phase.
- If they are out of phase: correct the record with the lowest music
- Equalise both channels without exceeding the maximum peak limit too much or
A few occasional peaks above, to +4 or +5 dB, is no problem. At +6 dB you
have to worry about mixers compressing the audio signal and amplifiers
clipping. It is possible at this point to compensate by adjusting the gain
of record 2. A dance crowd might not really notice a little distortion but
they might not appreciate the too loud music volume.
Now, depending on how accurate you got record 2 at the same speed, you can
pick your point where you want to finish the transition... or wait for the
records to slightly go out of phase. As a beginner this will happen very
quickly. The second part of the transition is a partial reverse of the
- Close channel 1 a bit more, while further opening channel 2.
- Finish the transition by fully fading out channel 1.
- Now channel 2 and record 2 become channel 1 and record 1.
- Incoming record has become current record.
- Time to repeat the process.
If closing channel 1 will drop the peak level more than 2 or 3 dB below
your desired maximum, while channel 2 is already fully open, you can adjust
the gain of channel 2 to compensate.
So, here you have it: just one of many possible ways to make a
transition between 2 records.
Another possible transition, for instance, is to close low,
mid (if your mixer has a midrange control) and high range of
record 2 and, when ready, fully open channel 2. You make the transition by
simultaneously closing the ranges of channel 1 and opening the one of
channel 2. It is up to you to pick the order: high, mid or
low first, whatever will sound best.
There are 2 things important here:
- Check the VU meter, stay within your set maximum peak value.
- Constantly check if the records are still in phase.
If your mixer does not have a VU meter, then you have to listen carefully
to any distortion of sound. Any sign of distortion whatsoever indicates that
your amplifier or speakers are having a hard time. And if that is not the gain
of amplifier itself, then it must be the outgoing signal of the mixer. Reduce
the gain of the proper channel.
IMPORTANT: Just practice, practice and practice and don't
be afraid to experiment: Try different things, figure out new tricks.
Back to the top.
This set of tricks is just the tip of the iceberg. Little
things you can do with your records and equipment to, as it were, customise
your mixing by adding your own effects to the records. The best way to
find out more tricks is to watch other DJs (also called "trainspotting")
and listen to mixed CDs. The same thing that has been said a few lines above
applies here too: Practice and dare to experiment!
Also take a look at the Examples
- During a break and/or build up: Play with the
balance, mid range and/or high range. If this will
create a nice effect or not will highly depend on the specific record you
play. Increasing the mid range is the most commonly used effect.
- In the build up: If you turn off the power of a turntable, it
will slowly rotate to a halt. 1 Bar before the climax you switch
off the turntable and almost immediately switch it on again. The speed will
drop down and when you have counted 4 beats, hit the Start/Stop
button to let it catch speed again right at the climax. NOTE: Most
turntables will power up in 33 RPM mode, so you will have to switch back to
45 RPM before you hit the Start/Stop button if a 45 RPM record is
playing. (This one is quite tricky, use it with records you know very well.)
- At the start of a transition: Instead of slowly and gradually opening
channel 2, you can also briefly swap channels by throwing in 2 beats (3r and
4th beat of a bar). Fully slide open channel 2 and simultaneously reduce
channel 1 to about 80 or 90%. Flick them back after 2 beats. Repeat a few
times if you feel like, before starting the normal transition. As an
alternative you can skip the gradual transition and, after swapping a couple
of times, leave channel 2 and open close channel 1.
- Between 2 transitions: cut out the bass of the 4th, the 3rd and 4th or
all 4 beats of one bar. Either use the kill switches (if your mixer has those)
to surpress the low range or use the regular knob to surpress the
bassline. You can also slowly fade out the bassline over 1 or 2 whole bars and
snap the bass back.
- Between 2 transitions: "Preview" a sample of another record. This can be
from the incoming record, but this can also be from a record you do not intend
to play (yet). Select a characteristic sample or melody and roughly adjust
speed. (You do not need to do this very accurate, the records only need to
run synchronous for a one or two bars.) Get the start of the sample under the
stylus and wait for the first beat of a bar. Then jump start the
sample and open channel 2. Close channel 2 and spin back the record if you
want to repeat it. This trick can be used for crowd teasing: take a sample or
melody of a popular track, give them the impression that that is
going to be the next record, and mix in a different record instead.
- Finishing a transition: Sometimes the most simple solutions are best.
Kill record 1 by hitthing the Start/Stop button. This results in a
very characteristic sound which can, if you time it correctly with a starting
break on record 2, create a very nice effect. Of course you still have
to close channel 1. NOTE: this works fine on high quality turntables, cheaper
turntables might have difficulty stopping the record fast enough.
- Finishing a transition: Backspinning. Similar to the previous trick, it
is important to time this right. Like the name says, you spin back record 1.
Put a finger on record 1 and pull back hard enough to make the record spin
back for a second or so. Make sure you close channel 1 right after that
because, unlike the previous trick, the record will continue to play. NOTE:
you can not use this with a record that is not entirely flat. The needle
- If you have separate balance control for all channels: Try gradually
panning record 1 to one side while you open channel 2 panned to the other side.
This can create a bizarre split stereo effect. Make sure you use records that
sound exceptionally good together, otherwise this might sound awful. During
this trick you have to pay extra attention to the VU meter! Once you start
closing channel 1 you have to pan channel 2 back to the middle.
- Anything you come up with yourself...
Back to the top.
Mixing with CDs
The principle behind mixing with CDs does not differ much from mixing
vinyl. First, you need a starting point (cue point) and then it is a
matter of starting, adjusting pitch, restarting and re-adjusting pitch until
you have the speed right. When you reach the point where you need to
jump start record 2 (CD 2 in this case) you start it, make sure it runs
in phase and start making the transition.
Some years ago the music industry predicted that CDs would completely
dominate the house scene and make turntables obsolete... That was one wrong
prediction. Comparing vinyl records with CDs will be a battle without end
because both systems have advantages over the other. CDs are lighter
to carry around and are less vulnerable to scratching. Vinyl on the other hand
is much better and more accurate to manipulate in a mix and you have a better
idea of track structure because you can see the groove... But this discussion
is outside the scope of this web-page. Decide for yourself.
CD mixers come in 3 different "tastes". Double front-loading
CD players come with a separate front panel which holds the displays and
controls for both the drives. Single front-loaders usually have the
controls on the same front panel. Single top-loading single CD players are
more like the turntables,
drive and controls are incorporated into a single unit. Top loaders usually
have a big flywheel which allows for better control. ( Other combinations
are possible too.)
( Note: My own experience when it comes to mixing with
CDs is limited to the now almost classic Denon dual mixer, the Denon DN-2000.
So, the actual control of other CD mixers may very well differ from what is
written down here. )
Mixing with CDs works as follows:
Any CD mixer will let you set a so-called cue point. You have to
set this on the first beat of a bar of four, preferaby also on the
first bar of the melody/theme. The first beat of the track will even be
better point to start.
Once this cue point is set, you can start again and again from
exactly that beat. Now it's a matter of starting it in synch with record 1,
or CD 1 in this case. Adjust pitch roughly, go back to the cue point
and try again. Re-adjust pitch, wait for CD 2 to go out of phase, and
start using the flywheel/jog-dial or the pitch bend buttons
to correct the problem.
Pitch bending on turntables requires a lot of skill, because it is difficult
to return the slider exactly to its original position, (See the
section) but on a CD player it's a different story: as soon as you release
the flywheel/jog-dial or the pitch bend buttons, the pitch is
again as you set it. If you're still not close, well, go back to the
cue point and try again.
Once you have CD 2 at the right speed, you return once again to the
cue point and start it on the right moment. Use the
flywheel/jog-dial or the pitch bend buttons to correct any
out of sync-ness, and now you're ready to make the transition.
This would translate to the following steps:
- Insert a CD, select the right track and hit play/pause.
- When you hear your desired starting point (the first beat for instance) hit
- With the jog-dial, track-search buttons or the flywheel (depending on the
type of CD player you have) you can search the exact start of the beat. The CD
player will repeat a very small timeframe which allows you to recognise the
specific sounds. This is will become your cue point.
- How you actually Store this cue point into the
memory of the CD mixer depends on the brand.
- Make sure you have activated the pitch control! Most players
have the ability to switch off the pitch control, so make sure
- Hitting play/pause starts the music exactly at the cue point
. Make sure you time this with the beats and bars of CD 1 or record 1.
- This is where you have to get CD 2 at the right speed. If there is a big
difference in pitch, roughly adjust the pitch control and hit
Cue. This will make the CD player jump back to the cue point.
- Hit play/pause again, timed with CD 1, and repeat the process.
- Once you have small difference in pitch you can use the
flywheel/jog-dial or the pitch bend buttons to nudge CD2 forward
or slow it down temporarily. Make sure to adjust the pitch too in
order to eliminate the final difference.
- Once you have pitch sufficiently accurate, return to the cue
point you've set.
- Start CD2 again in sync with record 1 by hitting play/pause at
the point where you would otherwise jumpstart a vinyl record.
- If CD 2 is slightly out of phase after jumpstarting, use the
flywheel/jog-dial or the pitch bend buttons to correct the problem.
- Start making the transition.
Depending on the quality of your CD player, you can also have sample
memory and loop-facilities.
Back to the top.