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Counting Beats & Bars for beginner DJ

Updated: May 14, 2019

All different genre of the Electronic Dance music, including House, EDM, trance, techno, DnB, have a certain structure in their tracks. This structure is universal, any and all tracks adhere to it strictly. All djs must care about this structure during the mix. It's not only theoretical, you can actually hear it while you are mixing, it tells you where a phrase, break, drop and Outro starts and ends.

The point here is, dj wants to align both tracks to the same structure, so both tracks will have the same overall sounds at the same time, making for a nicer mix and blend.

What is a beat?

Load up a track in your favorite player, and start playing it.Listen up to the point where the bass kick (that's the strong "boom") hits for the first time. Usually 90% of Dance music tracks start with drum loop. The first beat starts with the bass kick right at the beginning, others will have an intro part and will hit the bass kick a bit later.

Lets put it this way, the bass kick is one beat. every time you hear the "boom", it's one beat. even if the parts where the bass kick stops, such as in the breakdown, the beat is muted but still goes on in the counting. This is the way producers have to produce the tracks.

How To Count beat?

Start playing your track, and when it comes to the first bass kick, the first boom, the first beat, say out loud "one". it really has to be the very first kick in the track, if you missed it, push the Cue button and come back to the beginning of the track. Once you got the "one", keep going with the next beat, right after, and you say out loud "two" on this beat. Continue this for two more beats, "three" and "four".You can stop counting after this!

What is Bar?

Now you have counted one “bar”. It means 4 beats gives you 1 bar. "one two three four" is one bar, exactly like you are saying "boom boom boom boom" is one bar.

After 4 beats you come back again to 1,2,3,4 for the next bar 1,2,3,4 and you go on over and over again always on the beat…4/4 time signature, meaning there's 4 beats in one bar.

Frasing - Music Structure

Lets move up to the next level of “Music Structure”

We put bars into groups and to be able to know when the group is trading and ending we do the following:

Start play from the beginning of your track and count the beats again.

While going "one two three four one two three four ...", concentrate yourself only on the “One” say it out louder, wait 3 beats until the new bar and say “Two” gain keep going until the next bar and say ”Tree” on the first beat.

You will be saying out loud "one ... ... ... two ... ... ... tree ... ... ... four ... .... ..." now. the other beats will still be there, but only in your mind, you won't be saying them now. try to get to a point where you're actually only paying attention to the "ones", completely ignoring the 2, 3 and 4, not counting them in your mind either. Look at the picture to have an over view of the counting.

Now, try to count the bars (NOT the beats) and count no further than eight. in other words, going by the beats, you should be counting like this: "1 x x x 2 x x x 3 x x x 4 x x x 5 x x x 6 x x x 7 x x x 8 x x x" and then STOP! This is a Frasing spot when the music comes to the next section.

How does this come into play with mixing?

Now let's try to do a mix. After the second breakdown of your track, start to count from the drop “1st beat” "1 x x x 2 x x x 3 x x x 4 x x x 5 x x x 6 x x x 7 x x x 8 x x x" and then START!

When doing a transition, you need to make sure that the "1" bar of the incoming track will sit exactly where the "1" bar of the outgoing track is. In other words, start the first beat of the second track exactly at next “One” after the previous 8 bars. Now the transaction is on the “frasing”. See the picture bellow.

You can also start exactly at the drop “First beat after the breakdown”. You will get the same result. Perfect transaction.

Remember to start mixing at the Outro of the track first track and not a the beginning to make a realistic mix. “Nobody is mixing tracks at their intro during a gig”.

It might you feel confused right now because this is not sounding easy at the beginning, but after some practice and many listening, you will figure it out faster than you think.

See more with video demonstration in our - Online DJ Courses - How to start deejaying from scratch.

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