Club DJ spinning vinyl records

Beatmatching Lesson 5: Your Very First Set

You’ve now been working on your beatmatching to the point where you can hear your practice track in your sleep. On the other hand, you can now confidently match the tempo of a record to its copy and are ready to try doing this with two different tunes. Good! Today, you’ll play your very first DJ set.

Put a fresh record (yay!) on turntable A whose channel has been routed to the dancefloor speakers all this time. You can set the deck's pitch to zero. Deck B to your right still has a worn out copy of your old practice record on it. I know how sick of it you are by this time, but the wait is almost over.

What you need to do now is match B’s tempo to the new track playing on the floor. You already have all the necessary skills. Start track B to the other tune’s beat and begin to adjust its pitch just like you did when practicing with two copies of the same record. At first, it’ll be a bit harder for you to get the pitch right with two different tracks, and here’s why:

  • You don’t know in advance which track is faster and which one is slower. That’s something you’ll have to determine after starting track B in your headphones
  • The new track’s kick drum may not be as clear or may simply sound a little different. There may also be other drums and/or percussion that may confuse you
  • On the other hand, these very differences will allow you to tell the tracks apart better when they’re playing together.

After you’ve found the correct pitch position for B, get ready. As track A gets close to its ending, cue B up once again, start it to A’s beat and correct any errors. Then, using the channel faders on your mixer, fade over from A to B. To do this, gradually bring B up so that both tracks are playing together in the speakers, and then bring A down slowly.

Note: This was your first transition from one track to another. You’ve probably noticed that, despite their beats being aligned, the tracks still didn’t sound quite right together: one track was louder than the other, the records sounded all jumbled up or simply weren’t perfectly in tune. Smooth, unnoticeable blends are something we’ll be working on when learning to mix.

All right, so now it’s track B that’s playing on the dancefloor. Put another record from your record box on deck A and start over. Now you’re matching the tempo of a new record to the old familiar one on the dancefloor. After the transition, you’ll be working with two totally fresh tracks.

Congratulations on your first DJ set! Practice this way until you can comfortably beatmatch any two tracks, and do it well before the record on the dancefloor comes to an end. After you’ve reached that point, you’ll be ready to move on to learning the art of mixing.

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.