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Should you analyze your tracks with dynamic BPM in Rekordbox?

9/1/2019

So this question gets asked a lot. There is no clear yes or no answer here, it's mostly subjective and heavily depends on the type of music you play. The only thing I can do is explain how it works and help you figure out if you should be using dynamic analysis in Rekordbox.

Let's go through everything.

What is dynamic BPM?

Every track has a BPM (Beats Per Minute) value. This is the average amount of beats per minute over the whole track. This is one single value without dynamic BPM.

With dynamic BPM, this value can change at any point in the track. So instead of a singular BPM value, you now have any number of values. In Rekordbox this translates to beat markers. Dynamic BPM has multiple beat markers instead of just one.

How does Rekordbox handle dynamic BPM?

Rekordbox has an option to analyze tracks with dynamic BPM, but it's hidden in the Preferences menu. By default, Rekordbox analyzes with a static BPM, so it will create only one beat marker.

With dynamic BPM analysis enabled, Rekordbox will create a new beat marker every time it detects a tempo change. In theory this sounds great, but in practice it means Rekordbox adds tons of beat markers.

You can manually add beat markers too. This should be your preferred method with electronic tracks that change tempo mid-way. More on this below.

Rekordbox dynamic BPM analysis quality

The quality of dynamic BPM analysis seems to vary. You should be aware about this.

It might seem like a good idea to analyze tracks with dynamic BPM, because why not. Rekordbox can tell that this track is electronic and the BPM is 128 the entire track, so of course Rekordbox will end up with one beat marker. Sadly this is far from the truth.

For an electronic/EDM track that has one big tempo change (e.g. going from house to trap) it sounds really useful for Rekordbox to detect this automatically. But even with music created by a computer, Rekordbox can't seem to decide on a BPM.

For example, when analyzing techno tracks with the most steady BPM there is, Rekordbox still adds way too many beat markers. I've seen tracks with 180 beat markers. That's a tempo change every few seconds.

All the beat markers Rekordbox adds differ by about 0.01 BPM and gets corrected a few beat markers later. This doesn't contribute anything to your preparation because knowing the BPM with a single beat marker would be superior.

When is dynamic BPM useful?

If you have an electronic track such as techno, the BPM is almost always going to be the same during the whole track. Since electronic/EDM tracks are made with software and not live instruments, the BPM is steady at exact intervals.

Now if you are mixing tracks that aren't made with software but recorded in a studio or live performance then the human element is introduced. Even professional musicians can't be as accurate as a computer. The BPM will vary slightly during the track and cause your beatgrid to be out of sync with the music. This is hardly noticeable at the start but near the end of the track it can be very noticeable.

Music that might benefit from dynamic BPM are genres like rock, jazz, funk, soul and more.

Electronic/EDM music almost never needs dynamic BPM. Only when a track has a tempo change mid-way can dynamic BPM be useful, but it's better to set a beat marker manually. Read more about that below.

How do I enable dynamic BPM analysis?

The option enable dynamic BPM is in the Rekordbox preferences menu under the Analysis tab.

Dynamic analysis option in the Preferences menu

How do I manually add a BPM marker?

Sometimes you find a track that has a tempo change mid-way in the track. Maybe this is a House track that starts at 128 BPM but switches to Trap at 100 BPM after the first breakdown. Obviously mixing after it changes to 100 BPM is very hard since Rekordbox thinks it still runs at 128 BPM. Your choice is to turn off quantize and mix by hearing (an important skill to have by the way!) or prepare your track with a second beat marker.

Adding a second beat marker would be your best option here. The track has two distinct BPM's so two beat markers would be good here.

Adding a beat marker is pretty simple. First go to the grid menu under your track:

Track grid menu

Now click the BPM adjustment button to add a beat marker where your marker is now.

Add BPM adjustment button

You've just split the BPM of the track into two. But both are still set to the same. You can change them by setting your desired BPM in the BPM field:

BPM field

As you move through the track, you'll notice the BPM changing when you cross this point. That's it.

When to use dynamic BPM?

Now back to the question at hand. Should you be analyzing your tracks with dynamic BPM?

This mostly depends on the type of music you play.

If you only play electronic music (techno, house, drum & bass, etc) then I'd absolutely advise you to turn dynamic BPM off. The occasional track with a tempo change should be done manually.

If you mix instrumental music like rock, jazz, soul or funk then you can consider turning it on. I'd advise you to analyze a few tracks with dynamic BPM and try it out. If you don't notice a difference, just leave it off.

So on or off?

In my experience (as EDM DJ) it's best to turn dynamic BPM off. In the few tracks you come across that have a tempo change mid-way, you should add a second beat marker. You can let Rekordbox analyze these dynamically and hope for the best but so few tracks have a tempo change it's not really worth it.

A DJ must know their tracks so if you have tracks with tempo changes, it's good to set beat markers manually just to be familiar with the tracks. Imagine not realizing your track suddenly drops to 100 BPM as you're about to mix your next house track at 128 BPM, that's catastrophic.

If you have any questions or comments, let me know!

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