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I'm beginning to experiment with dance/house music, and from a practical perspective, what's the best way to make it easy for a DJ to include a song in their set?

Is there a standard practice for intros and outros that most DJs find acceptable, that makes it easier for them to work with the song?

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  • It looks like you would do well to learn the basics of being a DJ, since then you can understand from the insider's perspective what they are looking for. One obvious thing would be giving time for beatmatching before getitng to the heart of the song. You might also choose to either have drums only or melody/bass/chords only at the end of a song so that a DJ can either beat match or harmony match for the next song (it's usually hard to impossible to do both). You also probably want to create a variety of options with different songs so your work can be in any part of a set. Dec 28, 2015 at 19:08

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There is no standard practice, but there is a general idea of how to carve intros and outros in order to help the song be easily mixed with others. They tend to be very simple, with little or no harmonic elements present, of at least 4 bars (around 30 secs at around 120 bpm). Tipically elements are added little by little until the whole idea is constructed.

Here's Nathan Fake's Outhouse as example:

First 4 bars (first 30 seconds) of just percussions, and the kick has little low end. Then a very filtered bass is added, which stays in one note, and that idea continues for another 4 bars while the bass gains more and more harmonics. At the one minute mark (after 8 bars) the full kick (with the low end) and a snare is added, then the hats at the 1:15 mark, and finally the whole melodic idea starts at the 1:30 mark after a small breakdown.

In this case we have a very well-defined intro of 12 bars, or around 1:30 minutes.

The outro, that I'm arbitrarily labeling based on when the bass stops having melodic movement, starts at 8:45 and continues for 2 minutes, where elements disappear little by little until only a synth melody remains.

You can see that there is a general idea of starting simple and ending simple through small increments and reductions, but there's nothing written in stone. A key idea of this example is that the song didn't start with harmony, but it did end in nothing but harmony. You can mix the intro with whatever, but you have to be careful with the outro and select a song to mix with it that doesn't clash harmonically.

Contrary to what a comment here suggests, implementing both beat match and harmony match in your mix is not "hard to impossible" to do. DJs from all the skill range (including beginners) use both all the time, so I'm not sure where that perception came from. Harmony mixing is a very simple concept, so don't shy away from it!

In the end, it comes down to preference. Some DJs find large intros and outros useful, others prefer to go direct to the "interesting part". James Holden is from the later taste (can't find the exact quote or link at the moment), and barely makes use of the outro we just heard in his Balance DJ set at the 48m 27s mark:

So, if you want to make everyone happy, include incremental intros and decremental outros, which is all there is for common practices in intros and outros. Some DJs might not make use of them, but the ones that do will appreciate it. There are many great songs out there without defined intros and outros though.

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  • Ah with modern tools harmony and beat matching can probably be done easily at the same time. I was thinking of vinyl on turntables. If you have to change the pitch/speed control too much to match tempos, then you won't be able to match the notes as easily. I should have written "it could be hard to do both". Dec 28, 2015 at 23:25
  • @ToddWilcox I agree, it could be hard to do both. Time stretching tools are rarely used in practice though (sound quality can be degraded too much), so the same principle applies to turntables, cd players, and software. You have to consider both the key and the pitch deviation of the track, but with some practice you can pull off extreme pitch and time deviations and remain harmonically coherent. I recommend James Holden's sets in general for an example of how well this concept can be applied. Dec 28, 2015 at 23:42
  • @ToddWilcox You can change your comment by copy original comment, then delete, then paste into a new comment, then edit as desired. It will show up as the last comment but at least it will be more accurate. You may already know that, but thought I would offer in case never occurred to you before. Dec 29, 2015 at 0:03
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Yes having 4 bars is ideal as is having the drums solo or just the melody or accapella even ?? Those are fun parts of a track that make it easy to work with the song in a Dj setting ... Makes it gr8 when adding in a 3rd track ! I suggest the basics of beat matching and keeping tracks together and sounding nice together for long periods .. Maybe even start to work with tracks in similar key ?? Only because it may help train your ears for track juggling .. But matching the beats or Bpm and getting the basics is a gr8 place to start ... You can go anywhere from that point and best of all you now .. have not only an understanding - but an actual "feel" for what a proper Dj can do !
Your style can dictate how you want the Intro or anything else to flow but being able to match beats WITHOUT beat matching software -- and if you do use software it's ok but plz turn off feature until you can do on your own with ease ! It will make you a much better artist !
No matter what style you are into .. Get to the point where you can juggle 3 tables by ear ! And you have 2 tracks running at the same time about 85% of the time as you mix in the 3rd table as track one or two ends ... Your ears will be juggling and once you have the three tables mastered you will see you have control of the sound -- no matter if it's the intro the middle or the very end .no matter the track or where it is you can make it do exactly what you want.
Peace respect and the very best to you ! InvisibleFriend / Kind Recordings

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