DJs and the Sync Button - Right or Wrong?

For those of you that don't know, the art of DJing is essentially moving from one song to the other to create a constant flow. It can be as simple or as complicated as that. One of the main tools is called "beatmatching" the songs, this is where you play the two songs at the same speed so the beats don't clash and it sounds like a trainwreck. DJs are able to beatmatch by controlling the speed of both songs so that they match and can then be mixed, traditionally with turntables or CDJs, this had to be done manually with a pitch slider, nowadays however, there is the technology for software to analyse the tracks and at the push of a button (sync), the songs are in time.

This has caused division in the DJ industry as to whether the sync button means people can really call themselves DJs if that is all they use to get the songs in time. It makes sense, people spend years learning a tricky skill and then the newer DJs are able to come and take their gigs while letting the computer do the work. 

It should be said however, the end result to the audience will always be the same. Whether from a well executed manual beatmatch or from a computer process, the music stays in time and everyone keeps dancing.


Just a quick google search has brought me the two images I present you today. Both supporting different sides of the game. The image above sums up the side I frequently sway to, if you can only use sync then you need to know you are pissing a lot of DJs off, it is unwise to rely on a button, especially if you are confronted with turntables or older CDJs at a gig. 

However, especially now with the latest generation of DJ controllers, in particular 2014 onwards, there is a large trend towards DJing merging with production elements. This is where at any one point, there may be several sounds, samples, songs and, loops playing. This is one of the reasons the sync button is so valuable. This is the point of the counter argument in the picture below.




Here is why I don't often use sync

1. Sync is very useless unless the song is quantised. I don't just mix my music, I like to mashup and try and remix songs on the go. One trick I love is using older songs that were not computer produced to blend over a dance track. Drummers are great but they cannot compete with the computer accuracy of a DAW quantisation, or even a drum machine for that matter. There will always be a straying from the true tempo. Sync doesn't deal with these deviations too well and you will end up adjusting the song manually just as much as you would without it.

2. DJing should be busy. If you are performing especially, you should be busy. By beatmatching, you constantly have to feel the two songs and how they are flowing together, it means you get more engaged in the music and will probably not only perform better, but look like you are too.

3. Above all, sync is boring. it reduces a mix to the song choice and level/EQ control. DJing is fun, I love the tightness for time as a song is ending and you need to get the next one in on time and accurately. If I used sync, most of my performing would be standing around waiting for the next button hit.

Here is why sync is awesome

1. Have you ever listened to mixes where the song starts at 70bpm and ends up mixing out into 128bpm? This is where the value of sync is. A good example is I like a 125bpm dance song and there is a brilliant 70bpm trap remix of it. I start the trap remix playing and beatmatch the 125bpm track up to 140bpm (70bpm double time) and hit sync. This means any volume change will alter both, then I bring the tracks down from 140bpm to 125bpm and mix out of the trap song.

2. If you have samples and drum loops, and you want to play them over a track and forget about them then sync is brilliant for this.

3. If you are performing and your music goes way off and you can't correct it, sync will help immediately if you can't do anything else.