DJ Survey: Just Press Sync? w/ DJ Craze, Dubfire, Lee Burridge, MSTRKRFT, Josh Wink, DJ Dan, DJ Skribble, Claude Young, Drumcell +

In our ongoing conversation with professional DJs we address important questions of the moment. This week we address the much-debated issue of using sync to match beats during a DJ set. DJs Craze, Shiftee, Dan, Skribble, Endo, Dubfire, Lee Burridge, Claude Young, Josh Wink, Drumcell and MSTRKRFT weigh in with their thoughts on the subject.

As someone who spent many years honing the actual skill of beat matching, I feel it’s cheating. The DJ should take time to learn their craft. It’s actually an amazing feeling to manually mix two records together and create that third track. The looseness sometimes adds a sway or feeling to what’s happening.This doesn’t happen with the sync button.  I feel it’s also one step away from potentially making the DJ being obsolete. Why not just have build a playlist from the Beatport top 100 and leave it to the synced program to neatly join the records together? What difference is there if a person is standing there or not? You could even type in requests or text them to the booth (app idea anybody!!). Perhaps famous DJs could send out one of many different laptops each weekend with a pre-selected list of tunes loaded up. Everyone would go out and see the Swedish House Mafia or Lee Burridge’s laptops play each weekend? Just press the space bar to start the set. What would the difference be? Sure, I’m being extreme but no one a few years ago could have imagined that we would all have a button available to do the work for us. I actually like “the work.” I like really playing. It’s actually fun. It’s actually DJing. You are the DJ, not your laptop. I could go on and on but you get the idea. - Lee Burridge

Sync or swim? I like to swim! I’m an oldschool guy, yet I use a computer as a record case. I use Traktor and CDs as my controller to beat mix. I don’t use the sync function. But, that’s just me. I started to beatgrid tracks when I enter them into Traktor, in case there is a problem and there are no good CD players. But, over the years, I’ve never had to use it. A lot of my sets consists of older music from vinyl that isn’t the easiest to beatgrid or ‘sync’ with. unless I spent a lot of time editing the tracks in Ableton. So, I don’t want to waste my time with that stuff. I like to make music out of music as a DJ beat-mixing naturally sans sync. I’m more concerned on what I do with my art, rather than losing sleep over if DJs are mixing naturally or ‘syncing’. - Josh Wink

For myself, I have tried to use the sync method and it just does not feel right to me. I do not have issue with anyone who uses the sync method as long as their sets are not pre-programmed. DJing is about being a storyteller through music and as long as you rock it and are being creative with your story, I’m okay with the sync method. Personally, it just doesn’t feel organic to me. I still love the psychedelic nature that is created from hearing two tracks mixing together, being slightly off, and then hearing the DJ fix it in the mix. I don’t even mind hearing the occasional trainwreck, it keeps the crowd on their toes and reminds us that in a world of computer-generated music, it’s still human. - DJ Dan

I rarely use the sync function in DJ software during a live performance. Not that I’m against it, it just does not fit my personal style of playing. But as a technology freak I can totally respect how this can free an artist to take their mix to the next level. After having tried many of the leading products I have actually gone back to playing on CDJs and augmenting my setup with Ableton, Traktor or Mixxx as a third deck. - Claude Young

Sync means more time spent working on the aspects of DJing that the crowd in front of you appreciate, rather than the crowd standing behind you.JFK of MSTRKRFT

I’ve been DJing with vinyl for 17 years and matching beats manually. It’s like riding a bike, you never really forget how to do it. Although automatic beat syncing via software while DJing has changed the game dramatically. Sure, there will always be the DJ who hits sync and mixes one track to the next but it takes the creative and forward-thinking performer to utilize the tools around us and take it to the next level, allowing us to mix three or four tracks at a time and manipulating loops with effects while creating patterns on Maschine. I will always have a great respect for the original style of DJing and mixing by ear that brought us to where we are today, but personally I’ve always pushed myself to look forward instead of going back to the past in order to earn “respect.” At the end of the day it’s really not what you are using, it’s how you are using it. - Drumcell

I use beat sync because I have so many decks, loops and drum sequences (via Maschine) running all at once. But I still have to give certain tracks a nudge here and there because no matter how tight your grid marks are, different tracks have their own swing and groove, so adjustments always have to be made, as was always the case with vinyl mixing. And unless you’re a vinyl DJ, I don’t see any point in NOT using beat sync.- Dubfire

Coming from a vinyl background of 8+ years I’ve always loved the feel of beat matching manually. I feel the music more, and I’m more concentrated on everything that’s happening in the music when I’m beatmatching. However for the past 5+ years I’ve been beatgridding every single track that I own. It sounds funny, but I actually enjoy beatgridding, and I know that since everything is beatgridded perfectly in Traktor that all of my mixes are going to be PERFECT and I never have to worry about the beats drifting off. This frees me up to do four decks all mixed harmonically, and focus on doing more with my mixes like looping, beatjumping and effects. Especially now with the new Remix Decks in Traktor, syncing is a must. It also gives me time to think more about programming my set. With all of that said, if I use timecode vinyl or CDs, I like to use whats called “Soft Sync” or “Tempo Sync” which matches the BPM of all of your tracks but doesn’t 100% sync it. You can still push and pull on your turntables or CDJs, except once you get the beats nudged together they stay together without drifting. - DJ Endo


To be honest I have mixed feelings about sync. If we are talking about just straight blending and beat matching from deck A to deck B then this is DJ 101. If you can’t use the pitch on a 1200 or a CDJ to keep a beat on time, then you shouldn’t be doing this . However, sync becomes a very valuable tool when you are adding the sample decks in use with the Traktor F1 or Maschine and other Native Instruments tools as it is essential when doing live remixes in your set. As a DJ I love evolving with technology but always remember this is an art that takes many years to master and I’m still trying to perfect it every day. Don’t just rely on computers and buttons, use them as tools and try to master your skills. - DJ Skribble

To sync or not to sync? Come on, now. It’s 2012. Mixing 2 records does not require some amazing skill. The way you mix 2 tracks is a different story. I prefer using the sync button because I’m gonna mix them anyways, might as well cut the time I take in mixing them in my headphones off and use it on planning the next mix. - DJ Craze

I usually hit sync these days. Not having to worry about manual beat matching allows me to pull off techniques that would otherwise be impossible. In short, I use it to do more. However, I still think it’s important to learn how to beat match by ear.  Beat matching not only teaches you how to line up two songs, but it forces you to develop your ear as a DJ. An essential aspect of DJing is being able to hear multiple sounds/songs simultaneously and make sense of what is coming from where. This ear training can get lost if you jump right into the sync.  - DJ Shiftee

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