Best Effects and EQ techniques for Smooth Transitions

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Traktor Tip’s reader Audrey Aiken asks:

 

I love traktor and still learning all about it. Can you recommend what video I should watch, I want to learn what effects are best for a smooth transition between tracks. Thanks.

Traktor tips’ Answer:

Thanks for the question Audrey. Whilst I do love using effects in certain situations, I feel that the focus of good transitions should be set to the quality of your mixing skills ahead of using any effects.

The best tools a DJ has at his / her disposal are the EQ’s. The bass, mid and treble knobs are the most important knobs when it comes to mixing.

Getting the right blend of frequencies is paramount in making your mix sound good. Beginner DJ’s often overlook the importance of this and either crank all EQ’s too much, or don’t use them at all.

A few tips in regards to EQ’ing before I touch on the effects to use in transitions:

  • When playing two tracks together, drop the bass on both tracks so that they are both below the centre line. Maybe even drop the faders on both tracks a little bit too. This reduces the overall volume of your mix, because playing two tracks at the same time will increase the overall volume of the music. Limiting the tracks in this way will give you a softer sounding mix. Sometimes too much bass will muddy the mix and you will lose some clarity.
  • Leave the bass out of the track you are mixing in and then swap it out as the main bass line hits, removing the bass from the track you are fading out. This can be difficult on some mixers because when the bass is out in the mix, it is also out in the headphones too, removing the main kick that we often use to get our timing (unless you’re using sync of course). Some mixers, such as Allen & Heath, have an option to leave the bass in the headphones, even though it is out of the main mix. The skill here is to listen to the other elements of the track to get your timing.
  • Quick Cut – this is a sudden swap of tracks. For this to work properly, you really need to have your timing down and know your tracks. You need to know where the next track drops (or use a marker), so that you can get it perfectly timed with the space, or end, of the previous track. Levels are also important here so that the volume stays consistent as the next track hits.
  • Ride all the EQ’s – a really good DJ will be constantly monitoring ALL EQ’s during a mix. Keeping your ear on the mix, checking for the quality of sound and making sure nothing is muddying out or clashing.

Once you have these four kinds of mixes down, you can start introducing effects over the top of your transitions.

Good Transitioning Effects

Filter

screen-shot-2014-09-17-at-9-10-03-amThe first and most obvious choice of transitioning effect, would be the filter. This has been the most common effect since effects were introduced to DJ mixers. The familiar sound was harnessed really well by the Allen & Heath mixers with their High and Low pass filters. The filters built into Traktor don’t have quite the same quality as the Allen & Heath filters, but they still offer a great sound in the transition.

Using the filters is similar to cutting either the bass or the treble. As the filter softens the sound, it works really well in ‘camouflaging’ the track’s frequencies allowing you to blend two tracks more easily.

  • You could turn the filter in opposite directions for each track, so that one deck is only allowing through the bass and the other track letting through the highs.
  • You could tun both filters the same way, so both tracks are letting through the same frequencies, this will mask the tracks together as it cuts out the clarity of the sounds in the music and allows you to fade out one of the tracks whilst the frequencies are cut, so that you can bring the new track back into the mix with clarity. It can also be helpful to use this in conjunction with the EQ’s so that the track has more punch when you decide to bring it back in.
  • You could also experiment with the Filter:92 which is based on the Allen & Heath Xone 92. This gives you a little more control over the filter sound.

Delay

screen-shot-2014-09-17-at-8-57-01-amAnother favourite of mine to use during transitions is the delay.

I like to use the delay on tracks that I am fading out. This adds a tail, so that a track doesn’t fade out so quickly.  You have to be careful with the delay parameters so that the delay tail stays in time with the beat.

I often set the delay timing to 1/4 bar, so the echo is short. I also add the freeze into it as i get close to the point where I want to fade the track out. When I am ready to fade the track out, I use the filter parameter of the delay effect to fade it, rather than the channel fader. I find this offers a smoother transition.

Flanger

screen-shot-2014-09-17-at-9-08-46-amThe flanger sounds a lot like a filter, but can be set to a specific time signature. This allows the DJ to set the flanger to dip in and out a set number of times, starting from 1/16th of a bar, to 16 bars. If you set the flanger to 16 bars, it will take 16 bars to dip out at which point you can simply remove it from the mix.

It can be nice to combine the flanger with a delay, to add a tail whilst the flanger is in full operation.

Final Thoughts

There are so many more combinations and possibilities with effects, but these are just a selection that I like to use. The best thing you can do is experiment with the effects and figure out what they do. Take it step by step and don’t expect that you will learn how to use all the effects right away. There’s no rush to learn, practice takes time, but it’s always worth the wait.

Now Watch:

Delay Effect
Gater Effect
Turntable Effect
How to use the Delay Effect to Mask a speed change

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