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  Basic Mixing


Basic Mixing - Part 3 - Introducing Your Headphones To The Process
Author: DJ Recess

Part 1 - The Beginning
Part 2 - The Next Bit
Part 3 - Introducing Your Headphones To The Process
Part 4 - Mixing Two Different Tunes Together
Part 5 - Mixing Using CD's

Remember that you've not included your headphones into the scenario yet, well, you can now.
The only things you're changing in your set up from the above pieces is that you now close the cross fader off onto the tune that you'll be playing live through the amp (you move the crossfader to the side that represents the deck you're playing from). The record you're bringing into the mix is the CUED track, and will only be heard through the headphones until you move the cross fader across to that channel.

The one thing I'd say about headphones is that it's a good idea to learn about single ear monitoring. What this is (simply) is that you have one ear with the headphone over it, and the other ear is 'exposed' to the live sound coming from the speakers. In time, you'll understand that this can be very important - hard to explain why, and a bit pointless right now as I'll probably confuse matters, but if you can start to do it this way from the very beginning, then it'll help you in the long run.

This isn't to say that having both ears of your phones on isn't right, there's no right or wrong when it comes to Ding, just the way you do it.

Note: - If you don't have a headphone mix on your mixer, then you'll have a bit of trouble understanding what I'm on about here, the same principle will apply for you, but instead of hearing all this stuff in your headphones, you have to rely on the live sound to check it all - which can be problematic.

Bet all you people with headphone mixes are now happy you got a decent mixer!! In case you're unsure what I'm on about, a headphone mix is a control which allows you to hear the cued track in your headphone, and then being able to vary the amount of the live tune you can also hear. There will be a control, either a little slider like the cross-fader or a rotating knob to control this. When turned to one side, you'll hear nothing but the cued track, on the other, nothing but the live track - in the middle, both at the same volume, and then varying degrees in between.

So, to get you used to using your headphones, and trying to hear two different things at the same time; all you have to do now is go through the first two sections, using your headphones. Aaaarrgghh!! Those two tunes again!! Sorry people...

The principle is really the same. If you have a headphone mix, turn it so you can hear the tune that's playing live very slightly in the headphones, then rock cued record back and forth in time with what you're hearing - let go of the beat, and listen in your headphones and the amp to see if it's in time or not. (SIDEBAR - This is what I mean by listening to two different things at the same time - think of the live sound as the other ear of your headphones - if the bass hits at the same time out of the headphone, and the speaker - you'll know it. If not, you should hear it being "wrong"....) You may want to increase, or decrease the volume of the live track that's playing through your headphones at any point - just to make sure things are going well.

At this point, things will start to move up a gear in the realms of difficulty. Before, you were listening to the live sound, and just guessing whether to speed up or slow down the cued track when you were out of time. Then, once you've become a little better at it, you might be able to tell a bit easier whether the tune needs slowed or speeded up. This is still hard when done only through the speakers, but it's a lot harder to do when you've only got one ear of your headphones on, and the live sound is pumping out. Which brings me nicely onto the next section.

As I said at the beginning of the last section, this part of beat matching is one of THE hardest things you'll go through. Please be vigilant at your practise, concentrate, listen, relax, but most of all PRACTISE!!!
Just to prove it to you, here's a mail I just received: -

Hi I was wondering if you could give me advice on beat matching. I am nearly there but once I get them matched after a while they lose sync and start to gallop. How do I tell if the tune I am cueing up is too fast or too slow. I know it may be dead obvious but my brain is fried. My friend can mix well on my decks so it's not their fault. And they are not belt drives either. Can you help?

So, there's proof that what you're going to encounter is NOT just your problem. This (apart from "What equipment should I buy") is the most common question I'm asked. Again, I can give you pointers, but it's up to YOU to get it to work.

The main thing this all centres round is the fact that when two tunes are slightly out of time they will make a slightly different sound when your cued tune is running too fast, and when it's running too slow. To try to put it in really basic terms and broadly trying to put it in words; when two tunes are in time, you'll hear "BOOM" - when the cued track is running to fast, you'll hear "B-Loom" and when it's running to slow, "L-Boom" Now, that's a pretty confusing thing for anyone to try to understand, everyone I've told it to has said "eh?" (But then, once they realise what I mean, say "ah!") so I'm not really going to hold that up for everyone to believe and understand.

What is important for you to understand though is that there is a definite difference in the sound the two tunes make when the cued tune is running slightly too fast, and when it's running slightly too slow.

One thing that you might want to try is to trial and error your mix until you have everything bang on in time, then slow the cued tune down a little - then too fast a little, and try to hear the differences in sound that this makes in your headphones when you're hearing the cued track and the live one (at a lower volume).

Right about now will be a good time to finally address a phenomenon you should have encountered already - phasing. If you slow down the cued track (or speed it up) very slightly when using the same tune on both decks, what you'll get won't be what you're looking for. What will happen in fact is a pretty useful and funky effect called phasing. It's something that happens when the positive and negative phases of the same sound are reversed, gives it a kind of 'wooshy' sound - and isn't helpful right now to your learning - it's a cool thing to do once you've learnt how to mix, but it's not helpful now. So, we have to move onto the next section before we can get any further.

Author: DJ Recess

Part 1 - The Beginning
Part 2 - The Next Bit
Part 3 - Introducing Your Headphones To The Process
Part 4 - Mixing Two Different Tunes Together
Part 5 - Mixing Using CD's

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