Weddings, school dances, house parties, proms are just a few occasions that might require a skill of freely moving through and mixing together all kinds popular tracks, sometimes without intros and outros, sometimes without a consistent song structure or even without an obvious place to cue the track in. That’s why you should be able to mix those kind of tracks freely and without worries. Even if a track does not have an extended version or its intro is almost non-existent leaving you with no space to mix in there are multiple ways you can work around those problems, lets look at some of them.
- Just cue it in!
- How to get out of a track with no breakdown before it ends?
- Consider analyzing your tracks in advance
- “Party starters” technique
- Explore different techniques
1. Just cue it in!
Believe it or not, you don’t have to beat mix all of the songs on your tracklist. Moreover it’s often impossible to do so, especially when presented with a large number of radio edits or short track versions. There will be some gigs where from tens of the songs are going to play you’ll actually beat mix only two or three of them. What should you do if you have no way of blending two tracks together?
It may seem surprising but most of the times just putting one track on after the other is a sufficient way of “mixing” pop songs together. Think of a radio dj: his job is to keep a certain flow of uninterrupted playback and he succeeds in doing that with no beat mixing whatsoever. It most cases if you choose two consecutive tracks based on the basic rules of tempo/key matching and play them on after the other with right timing, people won’t even notice the change. You can also choose any other part of the song to start it: it doesn’t necessarily have to be the beginning.
Breakdowns, endings of the verses and beginnings of buildups are often good places to cue the track in. Remember that people are generally used to these kinds of “transitions” either from the radio or simply music streaming services. I know that it might be tempting to beat mix every song in order to prove that you are a really capable dj but remember that in certain cases it’s by no means necessary!
2. How to get out of a track with no breakdown before it ends?
Sometimes you find yourself in need of abandoning the track you’re playing early to switch it to something more appropriate. What should you do when you are in the middle of a track that does not seem to have any “air” to help you mix out of it? The most common way would be to exit the track at the end of one of its main sections with simple use of the reverb or echo fx (keeping in mind the song structure).
Most often the best places to do so would be the ending of the chorus or a verse but you can do that in any place that feels natural. Remember, a general rule would be not to cut any vocal parts short and not to end the song right before its climax. Proceed to cue the next track in from a point that corresponds structurally with the exit point on the previous one or from the beginning. Keep in mind two things.
Do not forget that the basic rules of tempo/key matching still apply to this technique even though you are not beatmatching and blending the two tracks together. Second thing: do not overuse this simple trick; consistently repeating the “reverb/echo out” is easily noticeable and generally considered unprofessional.
3. Consider analyzing your tracks in advance
And what kind of analysis would that be? Well, let’s say you are going to mix at a high school prom. You know your general audience, and you are able to put together a playlist featuring some classics, some tracks that are popular at the moment and some club hits. Consider going through your set of tracks and do a very specific thing on some of those (preferably the ones you are almost guaranteed to play during the evening).
Set hot cues in places that allow you to exit current song easily or that may assist you with cueing the track in in advance – this will let you skip some of the hassle during the gig and save you some time. Best places for such hot cues would be again endings of the verses and choruses or the beginnings of buildups or breakdowns where no drums are present.
The second way to prepare would be to try and mix some of the “unmixable” songs together using more sophisticated techniques such as looping the short intros of the radio mixes, using the fx section or roughly beatmatching just the few last beats of the previous song with the next providing they are in the same key. The more you will experiment using random non obvious track combinations the more confident you will become when you’ll have to deal with them live.
4. “Party starters” technique
This one despite being a really simple trick has worked for me for a very long time. It’s a foolproof way not only to get out of difficult situations but also to bring people back to the dancefloor. From your collection of tracks choose a few of the most popular tracks known to your audience that begin without any intro and go straight to a fast, dancey beat. If you find at least a few of these you may tag them or add them to a special playlist or container in your dj software.
Having these kind of tracks at the ready is extremely valuable. In most of the cases when a previous song ends you can with no worries put your “party starter” in and you are almost guaranteed to get a great reaction even if the key and tempo of the tracks do not match. In fact it works especially well when there is a huge change in tempo and energy between the previous track and your “party starter”.
It’s a great idea to put one of these on when you feel that the dancefloor is suspiciously empty. It also works amazingly well after a lower energy slow dance songs – many people leave the dance floor when a slower track comes in and you can provide them with a clear signal that it is over and it’s time to come back. Remember here it’s all about the song selection, know your audience and prepare accordingly.
5. Explore different techniques
Lastly remember that during your preparation you can always come up with many creative ways to mix pop tracks together using all the features your equipment can offer, here are some examples of things you might want to try:
- Looping parts of the songs featuring mostly the drum section and using them as a makeshift intro/outro, then hot cueing into the beginning of the track.
- Using a house track with similar tempo and in the same key as a transitional track between two songs.
- Exploring the fx section – especially freeze echo/long reverb sections for getting out of the tracks early.
- Using transitional sfx samples between two consecutive tracks.