There are 3 ways to sync up a drum machine to your DJ set. The first way is to treat the drum machine like a turntable and sync it up manually by increasing/decreasing the tempo until the drum machine is in sync. The second way is using a mixer that has beat detection and midi output (such as the Pioneer DJM 800 and DJM 900). The beat detection can detect the tempo from any channel on the mixer and than send the tempo through the midi output to sync the drum machine.

The last way to sync a drum machine is to have a midi signal sent from DJ software on the computer straight into the midi input of the drum machine. This will make the drum machine a midi slave to the DJ software and it will follow DJ software tempo. Both Traktor and Ableton can send the master clock via midi output.

For DJs that are using Traktor or Ableton they can send the midi clock to the the drum machine. With a controller like the Kontrol S4, DJs can run a midi cable from the midi out on the Kontrol S4/Traktor to the midi input of the drum machine. There are a couple things to setup to send the midi clock from Traktor.

  • Open Traktor’s Preferences —> Controller Manager
  • A generic midi mapping in the controller manager (Under Device –> Add –> Generic Midi)
  • Set “Out Port” to Kontrol S4
  • Turn on Traktor’s midi clock, if it’s connected properly the drum machine will start playing
  • If the play/pause button is disabled go to Preferences –> “Midi Clock” and click “Send Midi Clock”
  • If the two aren’t tightly in sync you may need to adjust the “Sending Offset”
  • If the sync falls out of time, DJs can always restart the midi clock to get them back in sync

That’s it! Adding a drum machine is a super fun way to incorporate dynamic loops and sequences into a DJ set. They can be used to add a heavier kick to a track that’s lacking in the low end, add percussion elements to tracks, or to create hi hat patterns to help bridge tracks together.