Beatmatching Lesson 2: Syncing the Beats

Now that you’ve learned how to cue up and start the record, let’s make some use out of the deck to your left, too. Put your second copy of the record on that turntable and make sure its pitch is set to zero. Open the corresponding channel fader on the mixer so the record is playing through the speakers. As before, the turntable to the right can only be heard in the headphones, via Cue Mix. To keep things simple, let’s call the turntables to the left and to the right A and B respectively.

This lesson's objective is to show you how to start record B so that its beats are lined up perfectly with the A’s in the speakers. Since both turntables have their pitch at zero and we’re playing the same track on them, we don’t need to worry about adjusting B’s tempo for now. At this point, all we need is to start record B in time with the dancefloor’s beat and make sure that the tracks’ beats are aligned.

Put your headphones on one ear with the other one staying exposed to the speakers. I prefer listening to the dancefloor with my left ear, but that’s entirely up to you. First, concentrate on the sound coming from the headphones to find B’s first beat (you've learned that in the first lesson). Now, switch your attention to the dancefloor and start B on the beat with A, to one of its drum kicks. One, two, three, four, go!

Tip: You’ll make things easier for yourself if you get used to starting the track not just on the A’s beat, but to the first beat of a bar, or, better yet, a phrase. That way, major changes in the flow of both tracks will be taking place simultaneously, which will be helpful in synchronizing them. Check out the article on dance track structure for more info on bars and phrases.

After you’ve started record B, one of these three scenarios applies:

Scenario 1: You’ve started the record exactly to the beat and now you can hear “boom, boom, boom” coming from your headphones and speakers in perfect alignment. The beats of the track in the headphones sit on top of the dancefloor’s ones, like here:

Congratulations! Pat yourself on the back and try again.

Scenario 2: You’ve started the record a moment too late, and now the B's beats are lagging behind the A's. Instead of the perfect “boom, boom, boom”, what you hear is “boo-boom, boo-boom, boo-boom”, with “boo“ coming from the speakers, and “boom” from the headphones! You need to speed B up a little bit so that it catches up with A. Here’s how you do it:

  • Give the record a small push near the edge of the center label, OR
  • Twirl the spindle clockwise between your index finger and thumb.

Which of these two methods you use is a matter of personal taste. The point is that you’re speeding up the record just enough for it to catch up with the one on the dancefloor. Listen to how it sounds in real life:

In the beginning, the track in the headphones (i.e. in the right speaker) lags behind the dancefloor. About halfway through the sample, I speed it up a bit so it catches up and begins to sound in sync.

But it’s not always that easy! When correcting the lag, you may accidentally speed up the record so much that its beats will actually get ahead of the other record’s ones. It’s a pain in the butt, I know! Read on about what you can do to fix that:

Slowing down a recordGently brush the platter's edge to slow it down. Scenario 3: You’ve started the track a tad too early, and now its beats come slightly ahead of the dancefloor’s. That’s “boo-boom, boo-boom, boo-boom” all over again, except that “boo” is now in your headphones and “boom” is in the speakers. You need to slow the record down a bit. One way to do it is to gently touch the platter’s outer edge (where the strobe dots are) until B’s beats get in sync with the A’s.

Here’s how I do it:

Watch out so you don’t overcorrect and slow the record down too much. If you do, though, see scenario 2.

Practice until you learn to cope with any of the scenarios above and are able to confidently correct any starting errors and bring the tracks in sync. The most important thing here (they say it’s also the most difficult one in beatmatching) is to be able to tell which record is ahead of the other. Bad news: This skill only comes with practice. Good news: There will come a day when you won’t even have to think about it. Practice, practice, and then practice some more!

Hint: If the records grew further apart after you’ve made a correction, great! Now you know that you were mistaken as to which record was lagging. Not a problem, simply correct in the opposite direction and pretend nothing happened. I do it all the time!

Image credits: 



What is the name of the song played in those little clips. Sounds great.

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