If the first thing that comes to mind with the word ‘DJ’ is mixing, the second thing will most likely be a house tune!
Almost all music styles that are typically mixed by DJs take inspiration and cues from the rich and well-established culture of house music.
It is responsible for some of the most iconic mixing techniques in the world, such as mixing phrases rather than beats and bars and the classic long blend.
Modern-day mixing techniques that span the genres have been built from the foundations of the early house DJs. The scene is now also taking back from those genres as techniques such as cutting and scratching from hip hop are fast becoming a staple.
Although this genre benefits from new technology, at its heart are several staple techniques built on a foundational skill-set requiring nothing more than some basic mixer functions such as EQ.
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Here we break down three time-honoured house mixing techniques, fresh out of our house mixing course. These range from creating a rhythm to adding intensity to a set and maintaining high energy with quick-paced mixing!
The same two mixing tracks are used for each technique to demonstrate how effective it is to employ one over the other for different results and impact:
Deck one hosts Sonny Fodera & Biscits – Perfect, a 2022 tech house track with a simple vocal hook and catchy calypso-inspired melody with strong bassline sections throughout.
Deck two hosts Truth X Lies & Cloverdale – Nothing Gonna Stop This. Another 2022 tech house track with prominent vocal sections and a nice emphasis on percussive intervals.
Both tracks are 127 BPM, so will readily beat match and are each in the key of B Major for blending.
The simplicity of these techniques means they can be performed on almost any combination of DJ hardware and software!
The first technique is the seamless blend. Used to sustain a rhythm, the tracks melt into one another as a slow transition from one deck to the other keeps the set at a steady pace.
Perfect is playing on deck one. At about two-thirds into the track, and with only a few phrases to go, the mix into Nothing Gonna Stop This begins. The mix starts at one of the final phrase changes of Perfect with the first downbeat of Nothing Gonna Stop This’s intro.
Before the second track is introduced, its EQ is set in preparation for the blend-in. The bass is killed completely as it has the largest presence and will otherwise clash with the bass of the first track. The mids and treble are ducked slightly to soften its sound and create a subtle presence for the second track upon its introduction.
Nothing Gonna Stop This is initially dropped with its updfader closed. The fader is slowly brought up to an audible level. Then, once all the way up, it’s time to start swapping the EQs so deck one ends up how deck two begins and vice-versa.
This EQ swapping technique works from the top down, so it starts with the treble, then goes on to the mid-range frequencies and finally works its way down to the bass.
As Nothing Gonna Stop This’s treble pot is slowly twisted to its neutral central position, Perfect’s one is slowly dialed to the left. This is done over the course of around four bars until the two have simultaneously reached their new positions and mirror how each looked from the start of the transition.
Next, the same thing happens for the mid frequencies, and again it occurs over the course of around four bars.
When swapping the bass, it takes more than four bars for the transition to complete.
This is for two reasons: Firstly, the pots are coming from, and going to, a position of being totally killed rather than only slightly dipped. Secondly, adjusting the bass has the biggest impact on the mix so it needs more time to occur seamlessly. Therefore, the bass swap happens over 8-16 bars or an entire phrase.
Then, once all of the EQ pots have swapped their positions, Perfect can be blended out by slowly lowering its upfader.
Done correctly, this technique keeps the energy level neutral and is most likely to be performed in the warm-up or wind-down part of a set. An absolute essential used as the base for many other transitions and tricks.
This second technique is used to deliver more impact in the mix.
In essence, we will be doing the same thing as with the seamless blend: mixing in at the same phrase point and putting our EQs to the exact same positions, to be swapped over.
However, instead of slowly switching the tracks’ EQs, they will be swapped instantly, either at the beginning of a four-bar section or of a phrase change. So, once the transition completes, deck one’s EQ setting will mirror deck two’s initial arrangement, and deck two will mirror deck one’s.
Having a dramatic shift in sound like this creates energy and can be used for building a set to its climax.
When Perfect reaches the same mix-out point that it did with the seamless blend, Nothing Gonna Stop This is dropped, also in the same way, with the upfader closed. Its EQ is set to have the bass fully killed, and the mids and treble are set to a slight dip for the same reasons as the seamless blend.
Once the upfader has been fully opened, it’s time to swap the EQs. The highs are instantly swapped at the start of a four-bar section. Then, as the phrase changes, the bassline from Perfect is killed, whilst that of Nothing Gonna Stop This is instantly slammed in.
This technique of swapping the bass is most effective on the tip of a phrase change. Effectiveness is taken up a notch if the bassline coming in is more prominent than the one it is replacing.
After the bass is swapped, the mids are switched at the start of the next four-bar section. Perfect then takes a sharp exit from the mix at the next phrase change, concluding a clean and precise mix.
This technique builds on what was learnt with the seamless blend but tightens up the transition elements of the mix, giving a noticeable impact. It is perfect for building momentum in a set!
With the final technique, we move away from the typical mixing of outro to intro to add more drama to the mix! Here we will use the musical elements of each track to layer the overall sound of the mix in a harmonic way. This means more preparation is needed to perform the task.
Small disclaimer: a Hot Cue is used for this technique. Although they can be considered new technology, it has been well over twenty years since they became mainstream and have cemented as an essential that we take for granted. For the purist, this technique can be performed without the Hot Cue, it just requires more preparation in lining the tracks up to drop at the right time.
First, the Hot Cue is created on Nothing Gonna Stop This at a vocal breakdown which starts at the tip of a phrase change. The idea is to bring this vocal in immediately with no initial soft blend-in as with the previous techniques.
For impact, this will be dropped on a phrase change of Perfect where an instrumental section of the track kicks in. With the right EQ setting, the two will sit together, sounding like a remix instead of just a DJ blend.
Less is more with the EQ setting for this technique: just kill the bass on deck two and leave the rest alone!
The mix-out point of Perfect is sooner within the track than on the previous techniques, about halfway in, which means firing through it much more quickly. As a result, the energy rises.
The upfader for Nothing Gonna Stop This is left fully open so the timing of the mix-in needs to be spot on!
Once the instrumental break starts on deck one, deck two is dropped in. Simultaneously, the mid-frequency EQ for deck one is dipped slightly to make room for deck two’s vocal.
Then, as the phrase changes, the bass EQs are instantly swapped, giving a grand introduction to a new groovy bassline on deck two.
In addition to this, the vocal for Nothing Gonna Stop This has a natural pause when its bassline kicks in, and, coincidently, the vocal hook for Perfect starts at this phrase change. The tracks hand over to each other seamlessly.
The volume for Perfect is taken down about a third, putting it firmly in the background of the mix. It sits for a while, allowing the melody to sound out like a far-off ice-cream van until it is killed at the next phrase change.
This technique is great for maintaining a fast pace or ramping the energy up. No intro or outro is heard so no natural build-up or wind-down occurs. The DJ, therefore, has gained a new level of control over the energy and its direction.
Each of these techniques achieves a different outcome, despite the same tracks being used in the same order. No fancy equipment is required. They can be performed on most modern hardware with any mainstream DJ platform.
Our courses offer an uncomplicated way to learn or hone effective mixing techniques like a pro and our House Mixing Course is no exception.
We explore the fundamental building blocks of mixing house and go right through to advanced, modern-day techniques.
With over 60 tutorials like this one, learning is done at your own pace and is fully comprehensive. Join us for an in-depth look at industry-standard practices and mixing techniques ranging from building a vibe, lifting energy and maintaining the pace, to breaking it down and switching directions.
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