Mixing techno songs (tracks) as a DJ can be hard, especially with beat synchronizing off. With practicing, we can become better at mixing techno songs. Moreover, we can become better techno DJs faster by practicing the mixing with the right songs.
What are good techno songs (tracks) for practicing mixing as a DJ? Good techno songs for practicing mixing as a DJ are songs with one or more characteristics that differ enough between the current song and the next song. These differences make the mixing harder, and therefore, good for practicing mixing. These characteristics can be tempo, non-percussion elements, key, and crowdedness (busyness).
After this introduction, this post goes in-depth about the characteristics of techno songs that can make the mixing harder. Also, this post shows some techno song examples that can be good for practicing mixing.
Characteristics of Techno Songs That Can Make Mixing Harder
Every techno song has characteristics, and some of these characteristics can determine how difficult it is to mix from the current song to the next song. Generally, the more of such a song characteristic differs between the current and the next song, the harder the mixing is, and the better it is for practicing mixing. These characteristics are tempo, non-percussion elements, key, and crowdedness.
This section explains some song techno song characteristics, which we can use as guidelines. So, these explanations are not rules, facts, or something like that.
The tempo of songs is almost always mentioned in BPM (beats per minute) and determines how fast the song plays at default speed. However, we can play a song on a different tempo. For example, most DJ controllers can adjust the tempo of a song.
When we look at the techno Wikipedia page, we can see that the tempo of techno songs typically varies between 120 and 150 BPM.
The Tempo of Songs Can Make Mixing Harder
It can be strange for the DJ’s audience that the current song that the DJ plays gets an obvious tempo increase with the purpose of mixing it with a faster song. Also, the other way around can be strange for the audience that the current song gets an obvious tempo decrease with the purpose of mixing it with a faster song.
Most of the time, when the DJ changes the tempo of the current song subtly, it sounds better to the audience than an obvious tempo change.
A tempo decrease in the current song can result in the lowering of the audience’s energy level, which does not have to be bad. However, the mentioned obvious tempo decrease in the current song can have a huge bad impact on the audience since the audience can lose too much energy. Further, an obvious tempo increase can sound/feel strange.
We can make the mixing to a faster or slower song easier by playing the song to which we want to mix to a BPM that is closer to the current song. Also, we can set the tempo of the song to we want to mix on the same BPM as the current song.
We can also make the mixing easier the other way around. We can change the tempo of the current song to a tempo that is closer to the tempo of the next song or that it matches the tempo of the song.
Changing the tempo of a song can decrease its sound quality. Therefore, many people choose not to deviate more than 5% of the song’s native BPM, and some people not even more than 2% or 3%.
A good guideline (not a rule) is probably to deviate a maximum of 5% from the song’s native BPM. For example, we can deviate a 138 BPM song to 145 BPM (105 x 138 / 100) or to 131 BPM (95 x 138 / 100). Alternatively, we can deviate a 126 BPM song to 132 BPM (105 x 126 / 100) or to 120 BPM (95 x 126 / 100).
Non-percussion Elements, Such as Vocals and Synthesizers
Percussions (such as drums) are probably the most important elements in techno songs. There are techno songs with vocals, by which at least one vocal is well hearable and an important part of the song. The following explanation is about these vocal songs.
When we play a song without a vocal, then it can be harder to mix to a song with a vocal, than to another song without a vocal. Also, the other way around can hard, mixing from a song with a vocal to one without a vocal. The reason that such mixing with a vocal song can be hard is that mixing can interrupt/break a hearable vocal, which sometimes can sound bad.
Mixing from a song with a vocal to another song with a vocal can also be hard. At least harder than mixing between a vocal song and a song without a vocal. This mixing can be hard since, at the moment of mixing, the audience can hear stacked vocals on top of each other.
Stacked vocals on top of each other can sound bad, and the individual vocals can become unhearable.
The mentioned reasons why mixing techno vocal songs can be hard are similar to the reasons why mixing techno songs with synthesizer elements can be hard. Further, in some of the techno songs, at least one synthesizer element is well hearable and an important part of the song.
Interrupting/breaking a hearable synthesizer element can sound bad, and stacking synthesizer elements on top of each other also can sound bad. Probably all hearable non-percussion elements that we interrupt/break or stack on top of each other can sound bad.
Key (Harmonic Mixing)
Many think that we should only harmonically mix techno songs. However, there are situations when we should probably not harmonically mix songs.
As far as I know, every song is in a certain key. A key determines for a song which notes instruments can play, influences which pitched percussions it can play, and similar things, such as the pitches of a vocal. However, there are exceptions possible, and we can break these “rules.”
Harmonic mixing is the mixing from a song in a certain key to another song in a certain key that is pleasant/interesting to hear. One method we can use to choose a harmonically mixable song is by using the Camelot Wheel.
A Camelot Wheel is visible in the image here below. In this image, we see keys, such as Cm and F♯M. When a key has a lowercase m, it is a minor key, and when it has an uppercase M, it is a major key.
A Method to find the key of a song is by using DJ software such as rekordbox, which shows the keys by songs.
We can use the Camelot Wheel in a basic way (there also more advanced ways) by first finding in the image the key of the song that we want to play or are currently playing. After that, left and right, and above or below from the found key, are the harmonically mixable keys. For example, when our current song key is in A minor (Am), then we can harmonically mix to the keys E minor (Em), D minor (Dm), and C major (CM).
The Energy Level of Songs
Every song has a certain energy level. Such an energy level can be opinion-based, and software such as Mixed In Key can provide the song’s energy level according to its rules.
We can base our energy level opinion of a song on the made choices in the composition of this song. This post will explain two of these choices: the BPM and the crowdedness of a song.
Generally, the faster the BPM of a song, the higher its energy level, but not always. Also, the more crowded a song is, the higher its energy level, at least most of the time. The crowdedness of a song gets explained below as another characteristic that can determine how difficult it is to mix from the current song to the next song.
We Should Not Always Harmonically Mix Songs
One of the most important tasks of a DJ is reading the energy level of the audience. It is a good idea to match the energy level of a song with the energy level of the audience, at least most of the time.
For example, the audience might have a chilled energy level or a high energetic energy level. When we play a song with a chilled energy level to an audience with a high active energy level, the audience probably doesn’t like that. Therefore, choosing a song with a high energy level for a high energy level audience can be a good choice.
It might be possible that a DJ has songs to play in a chosen energy level, but that these songs are not harmonically mixable with the current song. In this case, the DJ should still play a song with the right energy level, without minding that it is not harmonically mixable.
There is a reason to prefer energy level over harmonically mixable. This reason is that there are mixing techniques to mask that the track was not harmonically mixable. However, there are not mixing techniques to mask the energy level since the song keeps playing after it is mixed.
The mixing techniques to mask not harmonically mixing (these techniques are out of the scope of this post) can be hard. Therefore, harmonically mixing is generally easier than not harmonically mixing.
Many techno songs have sections in the song with only percussions (such as drums), such as the intro and outro. It can be easy to not harmonically mix in these sections, since the pitches of many percussions are too hard not hear, such as the pitches of hi-hats. At least easier than in the sections with non-percussion.
Most of the time, when techno songs feel crowded, they also feel very busy. A song can get crowded when it plays many elements together, or that one or more elements follow a busy pattern. However, if a song is crowded or not is opinion-based.
There are also techno songs that feel minimalistic, and in this case, it is the opposite of crowded. A song can get minimalistic when it plays a minimal number of elements together, or that elements follow a minimal pattern. If a song is minimalistic or not is also opinion-based.
As already mentioned above in the ‘Key (Harmonic Mixing)’ section, the crowdedness of a song is a composition choice that influences the energy level of a song. Most of the time, the more crowded a song is, the higher the energy level.
When we play a minimalistic song, it can be harder to mix to a crowded song, than to a minimalistic song. Also, the other way around, so mixing from a crowded song to a minimalistic one.
The difference between a crowded song and a minimalistic song can be too much, which can sound bad while and after mixing. Therefore, it can become harder to make the mixing sound nice.
We can make the difference between a crowded song and a minimalistic song less, which can make the mixing easier, by mixing to a song that is between minimal and crowded.
Mixing from a crowded song to another crowded song can also be harder than mixing between a crowded and a minimal song. This mixing can be hard, at the moment of mixing, two crowded songs on top of each other can sound like chaos, in a bad way.
Techno Song Examples That Are Good for Practicing Mixing
Here follow some techno songs that can be good for practicing mixing as a DJ. I sorted these songs by characteristics that can make the mixing harder. However, I sorted these songs by only one characteristic, but they can still have multiple of these characteristics.
The BPM and key information of all the songs in this section come from Beatport. Also, this section has linked every song here to the same song on Beatport.
Vocal Techno Songs
Here follow some techno songs with vocals, by which at least one vocal is well hearable and an important part of the song. Mixmag considers the first two songs as part of the top 20 techno songs between 2011 and 2019. Further, some people consider songs 3, 4, and 5 as techno songs with catchy vocals.
A 126 BPM song in the key B minor: Adam Beyer & Bart Skils – Your Mind
A 130 BPM song in the key D minor: Bjarki – I Wanna Go Bang
A 123 BPM song in the key F major: Jimmy Van M & AFFKT ft. Luxor T – Dreams
A 132 BPM song in the key G♭ minor: Floorplan a.k.a. Robert Hood – Never Grow Old
A 128 BPM song in the key B♭ minor: stranger – Picklehead
Melodic Techno Songs (with Synthesizers)
Here follow some techno songs with synthesizer elements, by which at least one synthesizer element is well hearable and an important part of the song. Not every techno song with such synthesizer elements is melodic techno. However, some people see these songs here as melodic techno.
A 125 BPM song in the key E♭ major: Avalon Emerson – The Frontier
A 128 BPM song in the key B minor: Inigo Kennedy – Plaintive
A 120 BPM song in the key D major: Petar Dundov – Distant Shores
A 126 BPM song in the A♭ major: Ø [Phase] – Perplexed (Rødhåd’s Extended Mix)
A 120 BPM song in the key A♭ major: Subjected – Symbiose
Techno Songs of at Least 140 BPM
Here follow some techno songs of at least 140 BPM chosen by me.
A 144 BPM song in the key G minor: Basic Channel – Phylyps Trak
A 140 BPM song in the key E minor: Farrago – Risin’ (Kobosil Apathy Remix)
A 145 BPM song in the key D minor: Nico Moreno – Purple Widow
A 146 BPM song in the key A minor: AnD – Move Your Body
A 148 BPM song in the key E minor: Drax – Interior
Minimal Techno Songs (Not Crowded)
The Wikipedia minimal techno page mentions that the minimal techno genre is known for its stripped-down aesthetic. The genre exploits repetition with subtle and effective development. Therefore, minimal techno songs are minimalistic and not crowded.
This section only shows minimal techno songs. Someone sees these minimal techno songs as the best techno songs ever. However, Beatport does not see all of those songs as minimal techno, which we can see by linking on the links by the songs.
A 130 BPM song in the key G♭ major: Plastikman – Hypokondriak
A 125 BPM song in the key F♯ minor: Dubfire – RibCage
A 125 BPM song in the key B♭ major: Gaiser – Withdrawal
A 139 BPM song in the key G minor: Robert Hood – Minus
A 128 BPM song in the key F minor: Sleeparchive – Meson
Hopefully, you know now more about some characteristics of techno songs that can make the mixing harder as a DJ. Furthermore, maybe you find the techno song examples that are good for practicing mixing useful.
If you like this post, you may want to look at some posts in the Disc Jockey (DJ) part since this post is part of it.
When you know someone who likes to know more about what good techno songs are for practicing mixing as a DJ, then feel free to share this post. Additionally, do you know a not mentioned characteristic of techno songs that can make the mixing harder?