Besides being a pioneer in Slovenian dance music for the last 10 years, UMEK has created a strong international presence on some of EDM’s largest stages. More recently, UMEK’s Ultra Music Festival performance was a spectacular display of his mastery behind the decks and his technical skills when it comes to live performances. Beatport recently did an interview with the EDM superstar where he went in depth about his top 5 tips for creating the perfect mix. Make sure to check out what he had to say below!
1. Select the Right Tracks
I always start working on a new mix by selecting music I want to use. Next step is to arrange the playlist in a way that tracks are compatible by tonality and sound. That’s the point when I throw out many tracks if one, for example, doesn’t fit because it’s built on the highs and middles without distinguished bassline, when all other are built primarily on the bassline. It’s not unusual that I throw away a track that I really like if it doesn’t fit in the mix perfectly. If I really want to use it, I try to find a proper place for it, but that takes a lot of work to prepare a proper introduction for it.
2. Perfect the Mix
That’s something we all try to develop. I usually mix in the next track at the beginning of a break from the previous one. In this part, which lasts a minute or even two, people on the dancefloor tend to forget a bit how the track sounds until the break, so the transition to the next one is softer if you mix in new sounds during the break. You can also mix tracks on the rhythm, but this way I create a feeling of continuous flow, where tracks softly blend together. I’ve been working on this for years. You can do this if you know the structure of a track but as Traktor also includes graphical representations of tracks, I can do it even when I’m mixing music that I’ve just bought on Beatport couple of hours before.
3. Examine the Tracks’ Structure
Most of the music nowadays, especially the stuff produced for DJs, follows a standard form, especially regarding duration and structure. The track usually starts with an introduction, then it builds up, and after two or three minutes it breaks down and it starts building up again. This part usually coincides with the introduction, so if I mix in a new track at the start of the break of previous one, the bass in the new one hits just at the end of the build up. Our tracks are at least six minutes long, and that’s the reason why techno and tech-house DJs mix music a bit differently than more commercial-sounding artists that work with tracks, which are [generally about three minutes] long.
4. Record It Like a Live DJ Set
When I do a CD mix, I’m trying not to veer too much from what I do live or for my podcast. The main difference is that I know all tracks that I’m using for a compilation very well, but I try to record it in one cut if possible, and I don’t edit it in the studio afterwards, as I want to show what people get if they come to a gig. I am capable of doing 99% of what you hear in this mix live—not as a perfect copy, though, as I’m combining the DJ set with live editing and that’s always a bit different.
5. Add Your Own Spice
The base of my mix is made by blending one track into another. On top of that, I add beats and loops. For this mix, I produced 30 special beats, which I created from 150 loops, and they are made in a way most people won’t even hear as I’ve used them to make the transition between tracks in the mix as soft as possible. This is my own spice that helps me create good drive.
Although easier said than done, UMEK does provide crucial details when trying to master the art of mixing. As you can see, there is a lot more that goes into mixing than simple beat matching. Rhythms, bass lines, and timing, all play a vial role in delivering a unique live performance. Instead of just using the sync button, heed UMEK’s advice in order to truly make your mix perfect. If you missed UMEK’s Ultra Live set, make sure to listen below!
-Nick Ward @NickWard20