Beatmatching Lesson 1: Cueing Up and Starting the Record - DJing Tips
Rewinding the record to the first beat

Beatmatching Lesson 1: Cueing Up and Starting the Record

So, you’re not afraid to devote a few weeks of your life to learning beatmatching. Great! The most important thing is to not give up. If you persevere and practice, practice, practice, the progress will be very quick. I promise!

A couple of things to point out from the outset. First, this beatmatching tutorial assumes that you’re using vinyl turntables. If CDs are your thing, not to worry, just keep the article on CD beatmatching handy as you’re going through the lessons. It will tell you how things are done on a CD deck.

Second, in order to learn to beatmatch, you’ll need two copies of the same record, so take care of that in advance. We’ll be working with the same track on each of them. It’s important to choose a tune with a clear and simple drum pattern: boom, boom, boom, boom.

The first thing we’re going to learn is cueing up a record and then starting it. (“Cueing up” means placing the needle at the first beat of the track.) For this, you’ll only need one turntable, so let it be the one to the right. We’ll be practicing in headphones so as to not drive your family crazy… not yet, that is. To that end, close all channel faders on your mixer by moving them all the way down, and press the Cue Mix button for the deck’s channel to send it to your headphones.

Put the record on the platter and start the turntable with the Start/Stop button. The pitch should be at zero. Now let’s make sure that the correct speed of platter’s rotation (33 or 45 RPM) is chosen. Put the needle anywhere on the record and listen for a couple of seconds. If the tune sounds chipmunked, or if a female singer sounds like Barry White, then the speed needs to be switched. Use the turntable’s 33/45 RPM buttons for that.

Note: The two sides of a record may be recorded at different RPMs. The side’s RPM is sometimes printed on the central label, but the party will be over and the dancers will be gone by the time you’ll find it. The trial way is the fastest.


How to rewind the record to the first beat

What we need to do now is find the very first beat of the track.

Put the needle to just before the beginning of the track. (By the way, DJs don’t use the cueing lever, so make sure it’s lowered and learn to place the needle gently by hand.) The turntable is on and the platter is rotating. Of course, you can simply wait for the track to begin, but there’s no time to waste, right? So let’s “fast forward” to the beginning of the tune.

To do this, stop the record by touching the label or the dark ring around it with your middle finger. The platter will continue to rotate underneath but the record will come to a standstill (you’re using slipmats, right?)

"Groping" the record cue point

Fine-tuning the cue point

Now “fast forward” the record by rotating it with your finger until you hear the beginning of the track. If you spin the record too fast, you may end up going past the first beat and will have to “rewind” a little bit. That’s OK. By the way, some DJs put the needle on the record after the beginning of the track and go back to find the first beat. It’s up to you.

After you’ve found the first beat (it’s hard to miss it), get your finger off the record and quickly catch the record by touching and holding it at the outer edge. Holding the record this way allows you to “grope” the first beat and let go of the record more precisely. Get familiar with the position of the beat by moving the record back and forth over it. Hey, you’re already scratching!

Starting a record

Start the record by giving it a tiny push forward.

Tip: You won’t always need to start the record immediately after you’ve cued it up. If that’s the case, you can “save” the cue point and get back to it later. While holding the record, press the deck’s Start/Stop button with your other hand. The platter will stop and you’ll be able to let go of the record with the needle staying right before the first beat. Now go get some coffee and sign a couple of autographs. After you’re back, pick up where you left off by simply starting the turntable while holding the record the same way as before.

And now the fun part! As you’re moving the record back and forth over the first beat, almost feeling it with your fingers, try letting it go after you pass the beat. Don’t just take away your hand, but actually give the record a tiny push so it starts rotating with the platter right away. All right! You’ve just started the track right at the first beat!

Here’s how I do it:

Practice a few times to get familiar with how the record feels under your hand. Play around with “saving” the beat’s position and getting back to it later. Try to handle the record gently so the needle doesn’t jump. Pay attention to starting the record at the right speed so there are no noticeable speed-ups or slowdowns after the start.

Next up: Beatmatching Lesson 2: Syncing the Beats

About the Author JM

JM has played open-air gigs, shared the stage with the likes of ATB and had mix albums released commercially. He has been teaching DJing since 2008.

  • Jon N. says:

    Can this beat matching tutorial be applied to DJ Controllers as well?… Is the concepts still the same, when manually matching the bpm by moving the turntable on the controller?

    • JM says:

      Yes, the concepts are always the same. A controller will also have a pitch control and a way to pitch bend, normally by nudging the jog wheel as you mentioned.

  • Shuriken says:

    I’ve been producing for a while now, and rapping – and recently bought a digital set of mixing decks – I’m seeing from the first comment and the reply that this will translate for it, my only worry is being labelled a plastic DJ, like most of the new wave producers. Is there a way to use digital without seeming like you’re playing a pre-loaded set?


    • JM says:

      Hey Shuriken, I’m guessing that by “a digital set of mixing decks” you mean a DJ controller that you hook up to your laptop. Well, if you are really concerned about the impression you’re making and you have the money, you can go for a DVS (digital vinyl system) solution.

      In a DVS, you spin vinyl (or CDs) on “real” decks that are hooked up to your laptop via a special interface. The trick is that in the end, the decks are only used for controlling a program on your laptop that plays MP3 files. That way, you play MP3s off of your laptop but control the playback via “real” decks. Hope that helps!

  • Viet Hoa says:

    I hope I can play DJ like you someday. Could you please share me some lessons (video) for the beginners?

  • shadow says:

    hey i am new and try to learn beatmatching for a while now… the thing is i dont understand how to choose two songs to play together…
    can you help me?? give me some tips on song selection

  • Dj Pank says:

    i want to learn this all but at cds deck which are in players like cdj pioneer 1000 , cdj pioneer 200 and so on.

  • Dj K-oZ says:

    Not sure how old this post is. I’ve been mixing for years I can beatmatch by ear no problem, but always looking for help and tips. I don’t need to know how to cue up or the beginner’s guide to mixing. Yet I can’t seem to find any info on this question I have. I own the Numark TTX’s for my decks and absolutely love them. They are loaded with features, but one of the features is the option to switch between speed value on the pitch fader of -/+8,% -/+10%, -/+20%, & all the way to -/+50%. Now of my memory serves the original tables I owned didn’t give me those options. They only allowed 33/45/78RPM but the pitch fader never really gave me a choice. I can’t remember what my first tables were set at but on my TTX’s I find that I keep it on -/+10%. It allows me to have a wider range of BPM tracks, but I notice I’m having to adjust the pitch more often to keep them from off setting or I guess the technical term is I’m noticing more WOW & FLUTTER. Yet I’m curious do most deejay’s keep it on -/+8% to fine tune beatmatching and keep the off synching (WOW & FLUTTER) to as little as possible? Especially when mixing different genres or mixing tracks with a BPM say like 89BPM & another track with say 130BPM . Of course I know that it’s impossible to beatmatch those 2 types of songs and you need to use scratching, backspins, effects, slam mixing, echo effects, etc… to put those 2 types of tracks together to make it seem like it goes well. Anyways I’m just trying to get a feel to what most deejay’s use? I’ve read somewhere that you never wanna try and mix songs with more than a 5-6bpm difference.

    • JM says:

      I think it’s simply a matter trading precision for a wider pitch range. When you have it on +/-20%, 1 mm of pitch fader movement changes the tempo of the track TWICE as much as when you have it on +/-10%. So with a wider range, it’s just harder to pinpoint the exact pitch position where the tracks go in sync for a long time.

      As for +/-8%, that’s the standard range of the Technics SL-1200s.

      P.S. I tend to go with +/-10% for myself as well.

  • DJ o.I.p says:

    Hi love ur tutorial. Pls can dis beat matching thing be done on a virtual DJ without any hardware?

  • Michael says:

    Hey, nice tutorials.
    I tried to DJ with Vinyl years ago but switched to digital solutions (only bedroom dj 🙂 ).
    No I want come back to classic turntable mode and what to start with your tutorials.

    My question is, do you can give me an example of a really good tune to start (with 2 copies) with?


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