mixing for struggling newb
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  1. #1
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    Default mixing for struggling newb

    Hey guys.

    I guess this is a familiar tale, if you wanna direct me to some previous threads or give your input I am much obliged.

    I like a lot of music and spend a lot of my time in maschine making tracks, chopping samples. I got traktor and an s4 earlier this year based on my interest in mix tapes that some of my fave djs do. I mainly get into the hip hop/wonky beats/bedroom producer type sound. Anyway, i've got plenty of itunes playlist ideas that i've listened to over and over. I know they work well in terms of theme and mood. i've jumped onto the tech/prepatation side of djing with ferocity. all my tunes have been scanned with bpm, camelot codes, and a lot i've put useful cue points in.

    but, then when i've got a track in deck a and a track in deck b, i either feel overwhelmed about how to creatively mix from one to the next - and i start wishing i had more hands, or i feel deflated and out of options, like they just don't mix.

    i can't see how nonharmonic mixing can work, because that automatically sounds crap... and i really struggle with diff tempos, each track in my playlist may range in bpms from 70 - 150. Most are either around 140 or 90.

    very very rarely, i'll try 2 tracks together and they work, and it sounds magical. if i'm really lucky, they will be close enough in bpm that i can sync/beatmatch them and it doesn't sound far from the original track.

    it usually means i finish my practice session early, out of frustration and confusion. in other words, djing is a lot harder than i was expecting.

    did I jump in the deep end trying to mix all these varied tracks together? did you have to spend some time mixing only the same key, only the same bpm before you got control over tracks that aren't same bpm/key?

    any advice you'd give me to help me understand mixing and flow? i don't expect to get it overnight, and i'm not looking for a 'make music' button, but i feel like something is wrong when i stop having fun on the decks.


    thanks dewds

  2. #2
    Tech Guru Patch's Avatar
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    djing is a lot harder than i was expecting.
    This is basically it, mate. Don't worry about only mixing songs that you think will sound good together, just throw on some tunes and mix for a couple of hours.

    No one ever got good that wasn't absolutely rubbish on day one. The frustration is just something you'l lhave to get used to, until you've got a couple thousand hours experience on your side.

    Non-harmonic mixing does work. Don't be put off. Don't over think it. Just play some records. A lot.
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  3. #3
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    Well first you have to ask yourself what is it that you are trying to do in your mix? IMO mixing harmonically is the biggest waste of time and is limiting yourself to what key will go with what key and I think you are paying way too much attention to that because 2 things in the same key can sound like shit in the same way 2 things in different keys will sound like shit. I have never mixed in key and never will. It sounds to me from what you describe your dilemma as being that you are trying to do like live production, like live mash ups. Mixing isn't doing mashups, there are elements that are the same like dropping the low end, letting the vocal play out over the incoming track and echo out as a transition and that has mashup qualities but its all on the fly. Any 2 songs with the same BPM in the same genre can be mixed together, its that simple. Knowing what part of the song to mix will come with practice and experience. The beauty of keylock is now you can take tracks that are + or - 10BPM and sync them to match giving you even more creativity then you had say 20 years ago when you really couldn't go more than + or - 3 bpm without the chipmunk effect. I think you are thinking toooo hard. What I would do is just start playing around with no track list in sight, start a track on deck A and then go into your music and find the next track and mix it in. Don't worry about the harmonics, just mix it in. Use loops, use some effects play around, have fun and I garuntee you will find 2 things that you never thought would mix together that sound great. Don't over think, just have fun. I have some mixes on my soundcloud you can listen to, not 1 was planned out.

  4. #4

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    A simple thing to do is to look for the less busy waveforms, when track A enters that one, start a four or eight or 16 bar loop. Then mix the other track in. Use eq and/or filter on either one or both for more taste.

    When you learn how the song works, where the drum only sections are, or breakdowns, things get easier as you could have a breakdown, get the drums-only part from the second tracks in and so forth. It's much harder to mix two busy tracks together at the same time, it's doable but that's where you need to spend tens of hours figuring out how that works with various tracks combined.

    PS: I agree that harmonic mixing is over-hyped. Any musician could figure out what works with what harmonically without the need of memorizing a table. A lot of contemporary dance music, let's say techno, is very low on melodic content (close to atonal) so anything could be mixed with anything.

  5. #5
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    thanks for the inspiration guys, i'm definitely thinking about it in my left brain too much. i still have lots of questions/confusion about harmonic vs dissonant mixing but i think for now i'll spend some time havin fun, getting used to losing myself to the beat.

    cheers guys, some really good advice you have shared!


    must. leave. work. soon.

  6. #6
    Tech Guru squidot's Avatar
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    hip hop is one of the harder genres for most people to mix together. it's a lot easier to get the hang of djing with 4/4 house or techno stuff in my opinion.

    as others said, just practice a lot experimenting with different mixing points and loops. also, cutting and boosting eqs to level the songs out until you feel a bit more comfortable, then start incorporating effects and such. i wouldn't be too worried about harmonic mixing (via mik) at this point as it's probably better to focus more on close bpm proximity when you are learning. i also found with hip hop beats, sometimes you may want to go with a quick mix approach where there really isn't any overlap in the songs, but it takes the right 2 songs to pull this off properly without it sounding jarring.

    with harmonic mixing, i only use mik as a way to narrow down selections as i have a lot of music, but i don't hold the results to be perfect. sometimes they are wrong, or may not work anyhow so you have to rely on your judgement and ears to be the final judge. it sounds like you are doing this already so kudos.

    i completely understand what you mean when you get discouraged after a few "off" transitions and just want to quit for the night. i've been there more times than i can remember, but just try and stick through it. hit record every time you dj and push through the bad selections. try to mix for at least an hour even if things aren't going well. listen back and you may be surprised how good some of the transitions sound when you aren't completely focused on the act of djing. i tend to hear amplified mistakes i make when i am in the act, but when i listen back later they don't even sound like mistakes anymore.

    speaking of mistakes. don't be scared to make them. i've had some surprisingly awesome transitions occur because i hit the wrong cue point or hit an effect on the wrong deck by accident. embrace the mistakes, they are how you grow as a dj.
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  7. #7
    Tech Guru Bassline Brine's Avatar
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    I personally find that sticking with tracks that are closer together in BPM is my ticket. I'm moving away from that more and more, as I get more comfortable beatmatching tracks faster with varying tempos.

    But one song at 125 and one song at 140, it's going to be hard to match correctly. I realize that you have Traktor and all that the world of digital has to offer with sync and whatnot, but sometimes it's nice to take a step back and think, "if I was using vinyl, how would I do this"?

    Once you have a solid bunch of tracks together, lump em up by BPM and then move up and down like that. Personally, I don't do the harmonic mixing thing (at least consciously). I know what tracks sound good, have a good selection, and I don't jump around all that much in tempo.

    As I mainly spin breaks, I have tracks basically from 127-140 or so that I want to play in a given set. Sometimes I use a track in the middle to help me bridge getting into a fast speed more smoothly, other times there are other tricks I'll use to get me there faster (hard cuts and whatnot).

    I am still learning myself, and I'm pretty sure I will always be, but that's the method I use. Jumping around in tempo is one of the biggest things that smooth mixing you can't do with just two decks. And I find that things really do sound off if you jump around with the tempo too much.

    Just something to think on, and hope it helps. Hip-Hop is tough.
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  8. #8
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    Practice Practice Practice and record yourself. Then actively listen to you mixes after a few hours. Figure out what could I have done here, do these songs sound good together, etc etc. If you're ever in a bind you'll be able to think back and go OH! this song would be great with this one. This also allows you to learn you music, which I believe is very important as a DJ.

  9. #9
    Tech Mentor rdale's Avatar
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    The first two records I got to mix were house tunes, this is in the way way back, I drooled, one was a King Britt choon the other a Josh Wink remix of "Are You There". I suggest getting a few house tunes, figure out where the "1" is, so that your phrases line up. When you are listening to other peoples mixes, notice the mix, why they started a track where they did, where the transition is going, how they closed it. Count out the music, stay on time, practice practice practice. Learn how to adjust to gridding or manipulating if sync is failing. Pick a genre with a pretty consistent format and work with that for a bit if house isn't your idea of good listening. Play with chopping phrases, play with long transitions, if someone mixes two tracks you have, give it a go and imitate, then improvise. Never mind effects, just work on levels and the crossfader, I mainly mix with the levels, but the crossfader has a place, next step up to understanding the eq, then worry about all that with filters if you want. It is a journey.

  10. #10
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    thank you thank you guys. i am reading and rereading all your comments and feeling a lot better about jumping in there and practicing!! this weekend i'll chain myself to the s4 and see what happens :P

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