Mixing – General
Songs are made up of beats, bars and phrases (and then verses)
For dance music its generally all in 4's:
A bar is usually 4 beats for dance music.
A phrase is 4 bars, but also often created around a pair of 4 bars, so 8 bars (32 beats) in total. Every 4 bars (16 beats) something small happens, every 8 bars (32 beats) something big happens. At the start of a new phrase something changes.
Phrases can also be 16 bars (64 beats). (Theres also typically 4 phrases to a verse).
To mix in perfectly, get the new track held just before the first beat of a new phrase (the first beat of the track or find the start of a phrase if starting within the track). Then count the beats on the playing track until you spot the start of a new phrase. Count 8 bars worth of beats and you should then hear the start of a new phrase. Release the new track on the start of a phrase of the playing track, tweak the pitch control or bump it as necessary and hey presto you are "in the mix"!
Spotting beats slipping out of mix
A good technique is to set your headphones so the live track is quieter than the track mixing in. So your new track beat is playing with a loud 'Boom' 'Boom' and your live track is playing with a softer 'loom' 'loom' sound. So if you hear B'loom your new track is fast and needs moving backwards. If you hear l'Boom the new track is slow and needs moving forwards. Practice this and you can nail solving the beats moving out of sync.
When slowly mixing move crossfader on the high hat tchsss sound in between the bass drums. This hides the volume increase from the new track and makes taking out the old tune less noticeable.
Altering pitch by +-5% isn't noticeable by the brain. Outside of this use master tempo and you can do what you want, but taking it more than 10% is unusual. Its usually OK to adjust pitch while a song is playing if you keep it real slow (slight adjustment every couple of bars).
Not using the master tempo function allows you to change the key of the song which can be useful.
You can jump the pitch by around 0.5% during breakdowns or other changes in a track without it being noticed – do it on the first beat of the new bar after breakdown or on last beat of bar before it.
House typically 110-130BPM
Trance typically 130-145BPM
Hard House well in excess of 145BPM!
Playing The Evening
Some tips on how to play an evening – your mileage may vary…!
Start slow, don't play dance numbers in the cocktail hour. Avoid using your high tempo stuff before that stage in the evening – you may fill the dance floor now but once it disperses it may never get back there. A classic example is playing a "can we have some dance music" request from a guest too early.
Always end the evening up tempo
For dance music evening consider house or trance music BPM as a guide to a long set, increasing BPM throughout the set until you reach the 'sweet spot' where BPM matches the heartbeat of the dancers – 130-145BPM (or more for some genres). Aiming for 135 is good for general parties. When the speed of the bass beats and thumping heartbeats get closer and closer the combination of pulsating rhythms begins to do strange things to the body and emotions of people on the dance floor. This euphoric moment is commonly signified by a hands in the air moment on the dance floor. Even if this isn't what your going for, working to increase BPM throughout an evening is a good idea. Don't play at the same BPM for ages though – its fine to stick in a slower track as its more an average BPM thing. If the dance floor looks tired then stick on something slower for a while to give them a break.
Play at a tempo where people are enjoying themselves and comfortably dancing.
The right rock tune at the right speed can blow off the roof, but this is different to a series of great trance tunes which can putting dancers into a euphoric trace-like state.
If the dance floor is quiet avoid slaming in a heavy tune – its a dangerous gamble that can empty it! Build up gently to try and coax more people on.
One great way to plan an evening is to use checkpoint tunes to map out a night. Select key tracks to hit as you work through the night so you pepper in good tunes and to move the set on in energy and tempo.