Although today’s DJing software is capable of automatic beatmatching, Sync is widely referred to as cheating. Learning how to beatmatch without Sync is something every DJ should learn.
Why is it better to beatmatch without sync?
Sync does a simple transient match to the opposite track on the deck using the software’s automatic warping engine. It’s fully based on digital algorithms, so any program could potentially fail at some point. The best way to beatmatch the tracks will always be the human ear.
Although nowadays almost every CDJ or DJ controller has a Sync option, there is always the possibility of performing on vinyl. DJs who don’t know how to beatmatch would be abashed and cancel the performance, getting booed by the crowd.
Let’s say you have to play beat to beat with your favorite DJ. It may be exciting and fun, but after a while your partner would notice all you're doing is pressing the Sync button.
Manual beatmatching techniques
Turn down (or up) the pitch all the way until it is out of sync, and then manually move it up (or down) until it is perfect. This is the easiest way to beatmatch by ear.
If the tempo is not identified, tap along to the track to determine the BPM. Set the exact tempo for the upcoming track and use the jog wheel to move them both into the right position. The beats should be in sync.
If you are using just virtual DJ software, make sure beats are matched in the Phase indicator window. If they are not matched, drag the upcoming track to the left or right on the Waveform display until phases are in sync.
In order to record the mixes in Ableton, make manual time markers to time warp the tracks and then beat match them together in Arrangement view.
When beatmatching by ear, there might be milliseconds of delay. Use the Sync button to add the final touches. This way all the hard work was still done by you.
Sometimes things may go wrong and Sync could be the plan B. There might be technical problems with your headphones, late transitions or a lack of cues. In this case, hitting Sync could save you, by avoiding an awkward off-beat transition in front of a full dance floor.