What is beat matching
Is beatmatching a term you see all over the DJ scene but yet never really understood what it was about? Maybe you’ve heard DJs bragging about beat matching and want to understand why they seem to be so good at it.
Well, beat matching is basically the skill of playing two songs together so that they sound like one single song. When done properly beat matching can be very powerful, especially if performed in front of an audience.
One could argue that beat matching makes your DJ set sound more pro and polished – which is true, otherwise we’d all just load up our music on our iPod and press play!
A beat match isn’t something you just do for fun: it’s essential when mixing records together because having beats banging out at different times will sound completely unprofessional. For example, if beat matching was not done at all in club sets everyone would be able to tell that two songs were playing at the same time and it just wouldn’t sit right with people.
Types of beat matching
There are two main types of beat matching you need to know about, these are :
Manual and Beat grids
Manual beat matching
The first type of beat match is commonly known as ‘a manual beat match’ which is simply where two songs are beat matched manually using ear and feel, rather than by the beat matching aid of beat grids.
I would always recommend starting beat matching manually before moving onto beat grids, because beat grids make beat matching a lot easier and it’s the best way to learn how beat matching works in theory!
In order to beat match songs manually you must have a general understanding of how beats work within music.
For example, most dance genres have beats that mark the downbeats – which are often described as ‘the one’ or ‘one two’. In house this would be where kick drums fall but in techno it could vary from track to track… somewhere between every beat and every 8th beat could be a good place to start for instance. House tracks will usually have beats at every beat whereas techno tracks might only have beats every 8th beat.
However, it’s important to realise that beat matching isn’t just about beat matching two songs that have similar BPMs simply by ear. You must also take into account the musical key of the song you are beat matching with… Beat matching is only accurate if both songs are in key. So remember what I’m sayin’?
If you don’t know how to match beats using your ears – which is commonly known as ‘ beatmatching ‘ – then you’ll likely struggle when beat mixing! Let me explain how beatmatching works…
The first step when learning how to beatmatch manually is finding out what BPM (beats per minute) each track has. The easiest way to do this is to tap the beat out with your finger on the down beat – which is often described as ‘the one’ or ‘one two’ for example.
There are 60 seconds in a minute, so there are 60 beats in every minute if it’s four 4/4 time. If each beat takes four crotchets (quarter notes) to play then you can work out how many quarter notes there are in a beat by counting at the speed of 1 beat per second:
1… 2… 3… 4…
If this beat lasts for four crotchets then you divide 120 by 4 and that gives you 30 beats per minute multiplied by 60 seconds multiplied by 4 gives us 240 quarter notes in one minute.
Now that you know the BPM of these tracks you can beat match manually.
The benefit of learning how to beat match manually
• You can beat match without beat grids
• You can beat match using your ears only using a metronome for assistance
• It teaches you how beats fall on a timeline so when you practice mixing between songs you’ll know what beats fall on what counts – making it much easier when trying to beat mix.
• It trains your beat perception.
Beating match songs with beat grids
Beat matching has become a lot easier over the years thanks to beat grids! A beat grid is basically a visual aid that represents where each beat lies within a song – allowing you to precisely beatmatch songs very easily.
To understand beat grids, let’s use house music as an example again… House music is often in 4/4 time which means there are four beats per bar. If this track is 120BPM then there will be 120 quarter notes in every minute of the track. You can work out how large one beat grid box should be by dividing 120 by 60 (the number of seconds in a minute) and multiplying that by 4 (the number of beats in a bar)…
Now beat grids are common on DJ software like djay and Traktor , however there aren’t any beat grids for amplitube 3. I haven’t actually seen beat grids for AmpliTube 3 but if they were to release them then I’m sure it would work something like this…
It’s worth noting that beat matching using beat grids can be very inaccurate at first, especially if you’re beat matching tracks with vastly different BPMs. So don’t worry too much about beat grids until you’ve mastered beatmatching manually!
Common mistakes and what to avoid
• Mixing between songs is beat matching them by cutting out one channel at a time, then gradually adding it back in – you should be beat matching by fading the next track into the previous track.
• Making sure both tracks are at similar BPMs is very important because if they’re too different there won’t be any beat grids showing where each beat lies within the song.
You can use Traktor’s sync function to force both tracks to have beat grids but this doesn’t always work so beat matching manually is preferred. This same problem occurs with turntables too though, which is why turntablists beat match using beat grids on their equipment.
• Beat matching using beat grids will sound very choppy and not at all like DJing. This can be a bit misleading and make beatmatching seem much more difficult than it really is! Stick with beat matching manually – it sounds much better in the long run and you’ll get used to beat grids once you’ve mastered beat matching through your ears only
Different ways people use beat matching
- Creating mashups by mixing two songs together.
- Mixing songs together when they’re in key with each other so that when played back-to-back the beats fall into place, but this doesn’t necessarily mean they have to be in 4/4 time.
- Creating beat grids for songs that don’t have beat grids to beat mix with ease!
Now that beat matching is much easier thanks to beat grids I think more people are willing to try beat matching because it’s actually much simpler than trying to beat match manually by ear.
Many DJs still prefer to beat mix manually without any tools simply because they think beat grids won’t work on all types of music so this is why some pros will always refuse to use the feature! Some DJs will play dubstep or drum ‘n’ bass using beat grids whereas others would rather learn how to beat mix using their ears only.
The choice is really up to you but remember learning how to do both, as well as choosing which one works