Beatmatching was invented by Francis Grasso in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Initially he was counting the tempo with a metronome and looking for records with the same tempo. Later a mixer was built for him by Alex Rosner which let him listen to any channel in the headphones independently of what was playing on the speakers; this became the defining feature of DJ mixers. That and turntables with pitch control enabled him to mix tracks with different tempo by changing the pitch of the cued (redirected to headphones) track to match its tempo with the track being played by ear. Essentially, the technique he originated hasn't changed since.
These days beatmatching is considered central to DJing, and features making it possible are a requirement for DJ-oriented players. In 1978, the Technics SL-1200MK2 turntable was released, whose comfortable and precise sliding pitch control and high torque direct drive motor made beatmatching easier and it became the standard among DJs. With the advent of the compact disc, DJ-oriented Compact Disc players with pitch control and other features enabling beatmatching (and sometimes scratching), dubbed CDJs, were introduced by various companies. More recently, software with similar capabilities has been developed to allow manipulation of digital audio files stored on computers using turntables with special vinyl records (e.g. Final Scratch, M-Audio Torq, Serato Scratch Live) or computer interface (e.g. Traktor DJ Studio, Mixxx, Virtual DJ). Other software including algorithmic beatmatching is Ableton Live, which allows for realtime music manipulation and deconstruction, or Mixmeister, a DJ Mixset creation tool.
How much time should I spend on beatmatching?
Good DJs practice until they get it right
Incredible DJs practice until they can’t get it wrong.
You need to keep practicing until you know that even under extreme pressure situations you will be able to match the beats of your most difficult tracks. The better and quicker that you can beatmatch your tracks the more time and options you give yourself moving forward in the mix. It allows you the time you need to be creative so that you can take your mixing to another level. You want your beatmatching to become like second nature, something you don’t have to think too much about, you want it to feel like it just happens, opposed to having to grind out a mix to make it happen.
If you hear your mix is slipping one way or another you want to be able to pull it back into line as a reaction without a thought. In a nutshell the better you get at beatmatching and the less time and thought you have to put into it, the more time and thought you can allocate to creating incredible mixes.
Once you have mastered beatmatching, doesn’t stop there, you still have a way to go until you have complete creative control over the music you are mixing. You need to understand the importance of matching not only the beats but the bars, phrases and harmonics. – At which point you will officially have complete creative control over the music you are mixing, one of the best feelings in the world!
So if you want to know how much time you should spend on beatmatching, I’d like to ask you, how incredible do you want to be? Put simply the better you get at beatmatching the more time you have to become incredible, extraordinary even!
One last tip: The harder you practice, the better you will get. The more you practice the faster you will get there.
1. Load the file above into both decks.
Play deck A (you may want to try this at different tempos)
On deck B, rotate the scratch platter with your finger and attempt to have the two songs remain in sync for as long as possible. (Don’t press play on deck B, make the file move forward using the platter only) This is really hard to do, if not impossible. See how you can do... listen carefully.
What this will do is train your brain to recognize when your songs are in sync and when they are not. Can you get them to line up?
Don’t fret if you struggle with this... it is just another exercise to train your ears.