What is Beat Matching?

When shopping around for a wedding DJ, you may hear DJs tout how “experienced” or “skilled” they are. Experience and skills in the DJ world come in a few different forms.

Of course, there are skills developed by being a part of an event such as a wedding. DJs learn the typical chain of events over the course of a ceremony and reception, what role they play, and what is expected of them. With this, DJs also learn how to work with other vendors, clients and guests, developing their overall customer service skills.

The most important skill for an event DJ to have is reading the crowd and selecting the right songs for the right moments. Knowing just what song to play, when to play it, and how long to play it for will keep most any dance floor going. This is honed by the DJ’s knowledge of his or her playlist, attention to the dance floor, and experience performing at events.

This post, however, will explore what it means to be a technically skilled DJ. What does “technically skilled” mean? While anyone can learn how to set up a sound system and plug in a few wires for a party, there is far more to being a technically skilled DJ.

In the world of DJing, technical skills can manifest as scratching or applying effects but this post will focus on one of the first skills a DJ learns - how to beat match and blend songs smoothly. While there is nothing wrong with simply fading songs in and out like you hear on the radio, a skillfully beat matched transition keeps the flow and tempo of the music and brings the dance party to a new level.

Here are some examples of basic mixing techniques:

1) The full fade/AKA iPod mix. This is what you often hear when you play songs from an iPod or stream from a site like Spotify. The next doesn’t start until first song is completely finished. Obviously, this takes no skill to perform.

SpacecraftEnt Full Fade Sample by Spacecraft Entertainment on Mixcloud

2) Simple radio style crossfade. You will hear this style used sometimes on the radio when the playlist is not interrupted by commercials or talking. One song fades out as the other fades in. It takes some attention.

SpacecraftEnt Radio Crossfade Sample by Spacecraft Entertainment on Mixcloud

3) DJ “Slam”. This is a live DJ technique where one song is started immediately after the end of another. This takes some preparation and timing.

SpacecraftEnt DJ Slam Sample by Spacecraft Entertainment on Mixcloud

4) Live beatmatching. The DJ manually adjusts the songs’ tempos to be the same, lines up the beats so they match rhythmically, and then brings in the new song. This is a skill that requires practice and being in touch with the rhythm of two songs to pull off smoothly and successfully.

SpacecraftEnt Beatmatching Sample by Spacecraft Entertainment on Mixcloud

You will find wedding DJs of two varieties: those who beat match and those who do not. Now that you know about beat matching and a little about what it means to be a “technically skilled” DJ, you will be able to decided for yourself what level of skill is important for your party. If it’s important to you, don’t be afraid to ask your potential DJ how they mix and give samples of their work.

*Audio examples created by DJ Jeff, Spacecraft Entertainment.