The essence of preparing tracks in Rekordbox is to get as much helpful information per song as possible and eliminate everything unnecessary.
Each song in your music collection should have its place in the music library so that you can track it down whenever you need it based on its characteristics.
The steps we’re about to go through are useful for auto-sync users and manually mixing DJs, as they can show you the bigger picture.
Let’s dive right in!
Rekordbox Modes and Importing Songs
Export mode contains all the tools for track preparation:
- Setting or adjusting beatgrids
- Setting cue and loop points
- Testing transitions
- Creating playlists
Performance mode is used to test transitions with FX (effects).
To start using Rekordbox, you must first import your own music. To do this, you can either drag and drop folders from the explorer onto the ‘collection’ or add the chosen songs in the list with a left mouse click.
Suppose you already have existing folders. In that case, you can also drag the freshly collected songs right into the respective target folder so that Rekordbox automatically analyzes the waveform, BPM, and key.
If you’ve already sorted the tracks in iTunes, you can transfer them like that in the Rekordbox browser.
What Are Beatgrids and How to Correct Them
Beatgrids are a reliable method to get the exact BPM value. They are a series of markers that point to the location of beats in the song.
Beatgrids are employed for DJing purposes such as track Sync, accurate FX synchronization, looping, and precise BPM representation.
A correct Beatgrid helps the Rekordbox lock onto these markers without relying on the averaged BPM value, which may not be precise enough for the software to use efficiently.
For straight tracks in 4/4 time, the waveform display and the switchable metronome provide both visual and acoustic assistance. In most cases, the grid marker is at the first bass drum (dark red amplitude).
This can be either at the beginning of the track or at the drop (when the track starts again fully). If this is not the case and the marker is offset, you can correct this by setting a new grid marker with one click.
If possible, the grid marker should always be set at the beginning of the bar and not somewhere in the bar, as this can affect the phase meter on a CDJ or XDJ, for example.
For correcting beatgrids, you want to head over to the Export mode (top left of your screen where you see performance mode) and begin adjusting the BPM and marking the beginning of a four-bar fragment.
Once you have that starting marker secured at the beginning of that beat (zoom in if you need to), you can begin to extend or shorten the beatgrid by modifying your BPM.
Lock it when you have it accurate, so when you load that track again, it won’t adjust your beatgrid (if you have the “analyze” preference turned on for loading in songs).
I find it helpful to Google the tracks’ BPM and alter my starting marker.
Note: You can sometimes hardly visually tell the bassline and bass drum apart with heavily compressed tracks. In this case, you should turn on the BPM and check if the grid is correct (your ear has to be trained a bit for this).
Ensure that the volume of the track and the BPM are in balance to make the whole thing comparable. You can adjust either the BPM or the gain of the track.
Make Sure the BPM is Well-Analyzed
Even software like Rekordbox can make mistakes when analyzing the BPM, for example, if the tracks’ size is reduced (compressed).
Hence, it’s suggested to check each track separately for the correct BPM value.
If the grid marker is set correctly, the grid should also be precisely aligned with the amplitude of the bass drum in the further course of the track (just scroll through the track and see if it also fits further back).
If it doesn’t, then the current BPM is not correct (note: this can also happen if the BPM changes within the track. If this is the case, a beatgrid won’t help much in most cases).
There are a few options for adjusting BPM:
- In the most simplistic case, the grid is accurate, and you just have to double or halve the BPM value (x2 or ½ key).
- If you know the BPM value, you can enter it straight into the BPM window.
- If you want to get closer to the BPM value, you can simply let the track run and click the tap key several times during the beat. With electronic music, you can assume smooth BPM values in most cases, so after “tapping in,” you usually just have to round up or down.
Lastly, you stretch or compress the grid with the corresponding buttons in the grid menu to correspond to each bass drum in the further direction of the song.
To avoid unintentional changes to the grid during Rekordbox preparation, you should always protect the grid with the “lock” button.
Why and What for We Use Cue Points?
You know that feeling when you hear the part of the track for which you know it would mix well with another song? Well, this is it.
For quick orientation in each track, Cue points are an essential tool.
Cue points are used to quickly jump to a location in the song that is important for our mix.
We use cue and loop points to:
- Mark the beginning of the track (e.g., skipping intros).
- Mark the drop (e.g., check melody and energy level for the next mix).
- Extend too short intros or outros by loops.
- Mark inserts for the mix.
Rekordbox allows you to color-code cue and loop points. It means you can create a convenient color scheme for each of the above (e.g., track start = green, loop = yellow, drop = red, mix insert = blue).
Tagging is Essential for Preparing a Set
If your music library is constantly growing and you physically can’t remember all the titles, artists and labels, there must be a way to find specific tracks quickly. You don’t want to search for them manually.
Fortunately, Rekordbox has learned from the mistakes of its competitors and offers extended tagging options.
It means you can store much more information in a title to prepare your tracks better, e.g., a genre, mood, energy level, etc.
The first thing you should do is to look at the texts. Here you should remove redundant information to provide a better overview in the tracklist.
At the same time, you can write a hint in the comment field, which other track could fit well to it. The whole thing can be done directly in Rekordbox via the info menu on the right.
It’s also accessible via the text info menu on the right side of the screen. You can assign a color to each track. This can be used with larger playlists, e.g., to show the reliability of a song (“Must be tested/played more” or “Will surely play” or “Has already proven”).
As a further aid, with the star rating, you can show the energy level of a song within a genre or a playlist, for example. Further, the “tag window” can be utilized to add a secondary genre, a field of use, or a personal tag to better estimate the song in the context of a playlist.
This feature is highly effective when you’re planning a playlist and have no plan of what to play next. But you can likewise use this way to search for alternatives if you chose the wrong song or, for example, you want to lift the mood.
Using Filter Function to Find Tracks
If all songs have been analyzed and tagged in the Rekordbox preparation so far, the next point is how to search for specific criteria (BPM, Cue points, Tags) efficiently.
Rekordbox gives a filter function for this, which opens via a button above the tracklist. The remainder of the procedure is self-explanatory here.
If you’re a beginner and this is too much for you, you can still use simple filtering via the column criteria in the tracklist.
However, you first need to select the primary criteria with a right mouse click and change them in the browser.
Another filter function to find suitable tunes is hidden on the right side of Rekordbox’s user interface. Here you can make filters with a customized list of criteria, which you can apply again and again as a personal reference tool during or before mixing.
Another great solution is to change the window width if the information presented is not clear enough to read. Rekordbox prep made easy.
If you have general difficulty with the readability of the titles, you can also modify the font sizes and line spacing in Rekordbox’s preferences.
Use Keyboard to Improve Efficiency
Many of the above actions during Rekordbox preparation will be replicated every time.
To become more efficient here, it is useful to put functions in Rekordbox on the keyboard to save time with these shortcuts.
In most situations, you click everything with the mouse, but since you normally still have one hand free, you can reduce the mouse clicks significantly with keyboard shortcuts.
Rekordbox allows assigning various functions on the user interface to keys in the settings.
Even though the menu doesn’t seem very appealing, it includes the fundamental functions used when preparing the tracks.
For instance, you can assign the setting of cue and grid markers or even the moving of the grid and the BPM adjustment to specific keys. This function is particularly valuable when dealing with a huge number of songs.
Building playlists, i.e., virtual record boxes, is one of the regular functions of any DJ software. They make it possible to create parallel classes and compilations, which we can utilize in many ways.
For instance, you can create alternative sets if the plan doesn’t work out.
If you don’t use tagging option often, let’s say for genre or mood, you can also simply create playlists for it.
A sub-sorting is also possible if you do not want to change the current folder structure in the music library. As is well known, playlists are the DJ’s paving stones for success.