Is The Sync Button Bad?
DJ Friend or Foe?
The Heated Anti-Sync Debate
The Sync button has been controversial ever since its inception.
The argument is "the sync button stops new DJs from learning how to beatmatch by ear" (Which is a great skill to have).
The critics claim that "new DJs are cheating because they can skip hours and even years of practice without putting in the work."
Is all the disapproval warranted? Is it truly an evil button?
Just like any other DJ innovation, the sync button is a tool.
A tool can be used for good or evil.
Someone may use a pencil to write a beautiful ballad, or they might stab someone in the eye.
It's not the pencil that is dangerous. It is the person wielding the tool.
Automatic vs Manual Beatmatching
Beatmatching is a process to match the speed of two songs using the tempo slider and the platter to align BPM/Speed.
An example is when the song playing and the next song are both 120bpm.
The DJ drops the new music on a downbeat, so the two songs are in-time and aligned to mix.
Practicing manual beatmatching will train a pro-DJ’s ear to listen to two songs at once and quickly decide which song is faster or slower.
What Does The Sync Button Do?
The purpose of the Sync Button is to set the BPM of a track automatically.
The Sync button can also theoretically line up the incoming with the track already playing (The Master).
I say theoretically because the sync function does not always work as intended.
Usually, the beginning of the first sound (transient) detected will sync up, which may be an off-beat noise.
Your songs will need to be analysed by BPM and beat grids. You still need the skill to drop the music near the downbeat or the 1st beat in the first bar of a new phrase.
It is not a purely magical button to do everything for you or solve all your problems, but it can be used to your advantage.
The sync button is helpful when mixing more than two tracks, and it can also help you get out of a sticky situation.
For example, if you are running out of time, the sync button can help you quickly match the BPM of your track.
Like any other DJ tool, you can figure out ways to use it creatively to make your set unique.
Is Sync Your Friend
Like any other DJ tool, it does take some skill to use the Sync Button effectively.
Sync can work well to shift your BPM to align your incoming track with the track playing, when set up correctly.
We still need to set up our tracks and program our music properly. Otherwise, it will backfire and not work as intended.
For the Sync button to do its job as intended, we need to make sure the downbeat is set as the initial Cue point and that the music was analysed correctly with a beat grid.
If the tracks are not phrase aligned, the sync button may mistake a downbeat, and you will end up with a messy mix.
When Syncing, similar timing skills apply to beatmatching manually, which is why it is good to learn to beatmatch by ear by covering the BPM visual readings.
Learning how to use your jogwheel/platter and your tempo slider will make you a superior DJ.
It is worth noting that many music sources have a Master and Sync button.
The Master button will determine the source of truth in terms of tempo, while the sync button works as a slave. The slave will have its BPM adjusted to match the Master.
Once your songs are "in sync", the master fader will control the tempo of both tracks.
This can be useful if you want to transition to a radically different BPM or genre.
It is also worth noting that your software will often have different sync preferences, e.g. Serato Sync Preferences.
So What's The Deal? Should we Be Pro-Sync?
In the end, it is worth knowing how to use the sync button, when it is helpful, and where it falls short.
It helps when mixing more than two songs for people who use 4 decks
Good for quick mixing, when you need to change music quickly or run out of time
It can be used creatively to enhance your personal mixing style.
Not a magic bullet and may stunt your growth if overused.
Often will not function as intended and sync to the right place, on the downbeat
May ruin your mix, especially when done suddenly.
The DJ Protege Way
If you are a beginner DJ, it is worth learning how to beatmatch manually by ear.
Therefore, I always teach beatmatching first before I introduce my Proteges to the Sync Button.
If you run into an Anti-Sync person, you can ask them if they ever check the BPM reading of a CDJ to match the BPM of their tracks…
DJing is about having fun and making people dance. Most of the people in the crowd could not care less how you use the tools you have.
Always remember, with DJ mixing, there are only tools, not rules.