Here is my first article in a series I call “DJ Mix Tips.” I wrote it for Mobile Beat‘s website, a worldwide DJ industry magazine. Check it out:

If you’re just starting out as a DJ or want to revisit the basics, then this post will get you on the right track to understanding the music you play.

The first concepts you need to know when learning to understand your music are “Beats,” “Bars” and “Phrases.” I’ll define each of them and explain how they are related to each other.

DJ Mix Tips: Beats, Bars & Phrases


Beats are simply a measurement of time in music. Usually expressed as a drum beat (kick, snare, etc.), the typical beat pattern (or time signature) in EDM, Hip- Hop and other popular music is 4×4. That means the entire song is in a 4 beat pattern. Pick any popular song and hit play. Do it. Right now… Okay, are you ready? The very first drumbeat you hear is going to be the “one” beat, the next is “two” and so on. Now, you’re going to count those beats as “one, two, three, four. One, two, three, four. One, two, three, four…” That is the basic definition of a beat. Now onto bars…


Bars are segments of time in music represented by beats, or simply put, the accumulation of a small set of beats. In the previous 4×4 example, the bar has 4 beats in it. Bar #1 = “One, Two, Three, Four” Bar #2 = “One, Two, Three, Four” … and so on. That means an entire song usually has anywhere between 100-300 bars depending on the length of the song and its beats per minute. These bars are compiled into Phrases…


Phrases are a little more complicated to explain in text. In order to understand phrases, you must think of a song as a story that is comprised of many chapters. Each phrase is its own chapter in the story. It has a beginning and an end. It could be a set of lyrics or a particular set of sounds that compile a phrase. In dance music, they are usually expressed in 16 or 32 beats (4 or 8 bars). The first chapter in the song (1st phrase) might be a simple kick drum, high hat and a clap for 32 beats. The second chapter might be another 32 beat phrase with the same kick drum, high hat and clap, but now we also hear a synthesizer or vocal, and so on.

Knowing when to start your mix depends a lot on how well you know the phrases in the songs that your mixing. In my following “DJ Mix Tips” posts, I’ll show you how to count your beats and the best times to start mixing in a new song.

~ Eric Rhodes

DJ Eric Rhodes with Rhodes Entertainment

Eric Rhodes is the CEO/Owner of Rhodes Entertainment in Boise, ID. He has always had a passion for entertaining people through music. Eric officially started mixing records at the University of Idaho in 1999. After college Eric moved to Boise where he started making a name for himself in the local music/club scene with his unique sets of House, Indie and Hip-Hop tracks. He started his business in 2011 after realizing that his career in TV news just wasn’t for him. Since then, Eric has been following his dream by building his mobile DJ Company.

Aside from music, Eric has a passion for fitness, personal development and, most importantly, raising his young family. He is the current President of his local Toastmasters Club and President of the Idaho Event Professionals group. To check out some of Eric’s mixes go to: