Beatmatching is a disc jockey technique of pitch shifting or timestretching a track to match its tempo to that of the currently playing track e.g. the kicks and snares in two house records hit at the same time when both records are played simultaneously. Beatmatching is a component of mixing which employs beatmatching combined with equalization, attention to phrasing and track selection in an attempt to make a single mix that flows together and has a good structure.
The technique was developed to keep the people from leaving the dancefloor at the end of the song. These days it is considered basic among DJs in electronic dance music genres, and it is standard practice in clubs to keep the constant beat through the night, even if DJs change in the middle.
Beatmatching is no longer considered a novelty, and new digital mixers have made the technique much easier to master.
The beatmatching technique consists of the following steps:
Pitch and tempo
The pitch and tempo of a track are normally linked together: spin a disc 5% faster and both pitch and tempo will be 5% higher. However, some modern DJ software can change pitch and tempo independently using time-stretching and pitch-shifting, allowing harmonic mixing. This technique is referred to as beatmatching.
Beatmatching was invented by Francis Grasso in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Initially he was counting the tempo with a metronome and looking for records with the same tempo. Later a mixer was built for him by Alex Rosner which let him listen to any channel in the headphones independently of what was playing on the speakers; this became the defining feature of DJ mixers. That and turntables with pitch control enabled him to mix tracks with different tempo by changing the pitch of the cued (redirected to headphones) track to match its tempo with the track being played by ear. Essentially, the technique he originated hasn't changed since.
These days beatmatching is considered central to DJing, and features making it possible are a requirement for DJ-oriented players. In 1978, the Technics SL-1200MK2 turntable was released, whose comfortable and precise sliding pitch control and high torque direct drive motor made beatmatching easier and it became the standard among DJs. With the advent of the compact disc, DJ-oriented Compact Disc players with pitch control and other features enabling beatmatching (and sometimes scratching), dubbed CDJs, were introduced by various companies. More recently, software with similar capabilities has been developed to allow manipulation of digital audio files stored on computers using turntables with special vinyl records (e.g. Final Scratch, M-Audio Torq, Serato Scratch Live) or computer interface (e.g. Traktor DJ Studio, Mixxx, Virtual DJ). Other software including algorithmic beatmatching is Ableton Live, which allows for realtime music manipulation and deconstruction, or Mixmeister, a DJ Mixset creation tool. Freeware software such as Rapid Evolution can detect the beats per minute and determine the percent BPM difference between songs.
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