Downbeats that change in the track

Hi all,

Couple of queries about Engine Prime.

Firstly, in the Grid Edit Controls, the Downbeat Left and Downbeat Right buttons don’t appear to do anything? Am I missing something? Shift Left & Right work fine.

Secondly, and this is probably more of an open question rather than Engine specifically, what do you guys do with a track where the downbeat changes at some point midway through a track? As in beat 1 is now at beat 3 position, so I either have a correct 4x4 grid for the first half, or the second half, but not both. Just deal with it? I’ve tried playing with the anchors but that doesn’t allow me to skip beats on the grid (ie, like one instance of a 6-beat bar to realign the grid at the right point. I had the same issue with Rekordbox.

There isnt much one can do if the original track drops a beat

Sometimes you may be in luck and there is another drop beat further on which results in the beat 1 returning to the marker position.

Other wise - its just a track that is not meant to be gridded.

The other thing i have done is to ignore the natural beat 1 (after the dropped beat) and just line up the rest of the the transients to the closest beat markers

  • 1 - 2 - 3 - 1 - 2 - 3- 4

the second 2 will now be on the 1 beat-marker and i continue like that.

Something like that

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This is where we go with the groove rather than the locked in beat. It may come back but it may not. Just have fun :slight_smile:

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[music-nerd] Downbeats don’t change, time signature change. If this happens, there will probably a measure of 2/4 in between. However, most DJ software only knows 4/4 time signatures. Most contemporary producers do too, so it’s not that big of a problem. But when you have music with 2/4 measures slipped in between (You Give Love A Bad Name by Bon Jovi for example), music written in 3/4 (any waltz), 7/4 (some classical piano piece by Kygo), or even music that changes time signature constantly (any Tool record), your DJ software won’t handle it. Period.

Variable beatgrids are a totally different thing, where tempo gradually changes, deliberately, or because of the human drummer this song had. But even if tempo changes, time-signature doesn’t have to… [/music-nerd]

That’s one of the reasons I don’t use bar-sync, I use beat-sync. I press play myself on the right downbeat. And avoid the parts with the sneaky 2/4 measure, because this will mess things up, no matter what you’ll do (except both records have the same sneaky measure at the same time, good luck :p). Also you can’t mix 3/4 with 4/4. But you can mix 3/4 and 3/4! of 7/4 and 7/4! DJ software is oblivious about this…

(PS: I even encountered a dance cover of a really old skool funk record, where the original sample had all sorts of funky measures in it’s main theme, but over 3 or 4 repetitions the downbeat was in the same place where it would have been when it was 4/4. Can’t remember the one, but it was niftly done!)

And, not to start a flamewar, but these are all reasons why experienced old-skool DJs will tell you to learn how to beatmatch. Not becauseusing sync isn’t real DJ-ing (we are past that), but it is an autopilot like any. (Trained) humans fly/sail/DJ better than autopilots in some conditions…


I feel this one should go with the know your music mantra.

Despacito has a time signature switch like that and one is in for a treat if trying to mix in (manually or sync) during the time signature switch.

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Johan nailed it very precisely. Sync is great, but like on autopilot - it will fly perfect in certain conditions, experienced human pilot will have to take over if the conditions change, making autopilot too dangerous to use - know your gear and your music - that makes a successful and skilful dj.


Where it causes problems for me is when something is synced to it externally. When I use Serato DJ and Ableton Link, there is no way to reset the “1” once it’s off.

Sync isn’t always for the 1>2 decks.

Hi Johan, thanks for your response. I produce and I have a good understanding of music theory, the basics anyway. This is no change in time signature on this occasion, it is literally a shift in the downbeat by one or two places as a creative design choice. I play a lot of loopy, trippy techno and find that little oddities are frequently thrown in by producers, especially in and around breakdowns, probably to mess with the listener’s perception and expectation of a drop of some kind. We’ve all seen those moments where the crowd expects the beat to kick back in but it has been paused for a fraction longer just to tease people!

But yes it was more of an idle request really, it’s not a deal breaker by any means. DJing with screens has spoiled us and it would be easy to get caught off guard by something like this if you’re being lazy with a mix (or what I find far more common, being hassled/talked to mid-mix!)

I am 37 and have been DJing (on and off) since I was 14, starting with belt-drive Stantons with a crappy rack mount Numark mixer in a dashing bronze colour, various iterations of the CDJs, Serato, Trakor including X1, F1, etc, rotary mixers, standalone controllers, direct drive OEMs and currently a Denon Prime 2, so I can pretty much beatmatch to 1 decimal place by ear within a bar or 2 with my eyes closed, sniffing ket, while asking a mate to get me a beer from the bar! :grinning_face_with_smiling_eyes:

I never sync, I don’t know anyone who does tbh, it is seen as a massive faux pas and I’ve even seen DJs gently fudge a mix to “remind” people they are “doing it properly”. Saying that, it is largely moot because you can match the BPM by looking at the screen and press play to the beat anyway, so I don’t care if people sync or not really because the art of beat matching is kinda redundant nowadays; the real skill lies in collecting music, defining your style and reading the room, the latter being the the bit people struggle with the most.

I understand what you mean, but this is a change in time signature if you notate it. twice actualy: after 1 measure 5/4, 3/4 or 2/4 you’ll have to change back to 4/4. There is no other way to write that trick on paper. Many have done it before you for the very same reasons, even classical composers…