Back in the day, if you were serious about DJing, you'd pick up a pair of vinyl decks, a mixer and that was it. Today, the choice is not so obvious. You have vinyl, DJ controllers, DVS, CD/digital decks as well as some more exotic setups. In this two-part post, I will try to navigate you through the sea of the DJ setup options you have these days and explain the pros and cons of each.
I will try to present the different kinds of DJ setups in the order that they came about historically. This should help you better understand the common patterns to all of them. Things become much easier to grasp once you realize that there are always two players and a mixer, no matter what kind of setup you are looking at.
DJing is not rocket science. In the end, all it boils down to is playing one track after another for the dancefloor. And after you get comfortable with the basic techniques, you’ll be surprised at how much extra time you have on your hands during a DJ set. What do you do after you’ve lined up the next tune, and it’s still 4 minutes till the end of the currently playing one?
In this (admittedly toungue-in-cheek) article, I’m listing my favorite ideas for how to occupy yourself when DJing. Here goes:
I fell in love with 1970s disco early in my DJ career, but I started to add disco and funk to my DJ sets only very recently. In this article, I’m going to share how I address some of the unique challenges to mixing these genres, as well as explain how I approach building disco and funk sets in general.
There are three things that make mixing classic disco and funk harder than mixing your typical house or techno tunes. Here they are:
There's a lot of ways that DJs can learn the tricks of the trade these days. You can listen to podcasts, watch YouTube videos, read articles on the Internet. That said, I find that for some aspects of DJing, nothing beats a good book where you can get the information on the various facets of the craft in a complete, structured way.
I've read several DJ books over the years, and below are the four that I've found the most useful in helping me become a better DJ.
DJing is the best job in the world. You get to play music you love for other people, and seeing them dance to it, smile and enjoy themselves is a huge reward in and of itself. Add to it the sheer glamour of being the “Mr./Ms. DJ”, and getting paid for your work becomes an afterthought at best. So much that you might be willing to play for free just to get another fix of being behind the decks. It all helps your exposure, you tell yourself.
Don’t do it.
Don’t get me wrong – I know that most of us are in DJing for the love of music, dancing or both. But DJing is real work, and it deserves to be paid for. Here are 4 reasons why I believe that you should never DJ for free.
I have had a Serato DVS setup for a couple of years but I recently decided to sell my Denon DS-1 DVS box and go for a DJ controller instead. I was initially looking at Pioneer's DDJ-SB/DDJ-RB range of entry-level controllers but I was uneasy about some key limitations of those. I went with Denon MC4000 in the last minute, and I'm really glad I did! Here is my review of the controller after using it for about a month.
A lot of the MC4000 reviews that I read mentioned that it's a truly businesslike, professional controller, and I have to say that it's the first thing that jumps at you once you unpack the unit. The build quality is very good with a dark metal top, and the controller feels heavy and sturdy. It doesn't project quite the same "built like a tank" feeling like, say, the Technics SL-1200 decks, but it's still reassuringly solid.
I’ve been a vinyl DJ for a long time. I got my first decks in 2001, when vinyl DJing was still considered the only “real way” to DJ. (Pioneer had just released the CDJ-1000 with vinyl emulation that year; that was the start of the digital revolution.) I learned to beatmatch, mix and do all kinds of tricks on my turntables, and they have served me well over the years.
These days, my decks mostly gather dust, aside from the times when I need to digitize an old record or two. I spend most of my time DJing with my Serato controller, and I couldn’t be happier. Here are the reasons why I ended up ditching vinyl and went 100% digital.
Before you can get out there and start playing real gigs, you need to decide on your DJ name. Granted, your DJ skills are important, but choosing the name shouldn’t be taken lightly either. It’s part of your branding, and good branding can go a long way in helping you get noticed and differentiating yourself from other DJs.
So here are a few ideas on choosing your DJ name.
Your real name. This one is a no-brainer, and in fact over 40% DJs in a recent DJ Mag Top 100 list perform under their real name. If your name is as cool as Armin van Buuren’s, or at least it’s an OK one, you might as well save yourself some mental anguish and go real.
A variation of your name. If your real name isn’t cool enough, try altering it a bit. Change your first name, or use a different last name. Or try replacing your first name with initials.
Sometimes you may want to mix two tracks whose tempos are quite different, say go from a 140 BPM track to a 128 BPM one. The problem is, pitching a track up or down more than 4% is almost certain to make it sound weird, and in this example, you’d have to pitch track B up a whopping 9%.
Here are a few tricks to help you mix tracks with different tempos.
Cut it in on the break. Cue up track B at the start of its break. Start it on the 1st beat of a phrase in A’s outro and instantly crossfade to it. The tempo change won’t be as apparent after B’s beat kicks in 32 bars later.
Bring it in over the ambient intro. If track B has some kind of ambiance in the beginning with no beat, you can use that part to cut or crossfade from A to B and let B’s beat kick in later. This is a kind of mix that you would often hear a radio or a mobile DJ do.
I’m sure your mom told you that stealing is bad, and downloading music illegally is no exception. Yet although the moral and legal reasons against digital piracy have been beaten to death, there are still quite a few DJs out there who play pirated tracks.
So instead of reminding you why illegal downloading is wrong, I’m going to take a different approach. I’ll explain how paying for music is actually in your best interest.
You become more selective. When you pay for your music, you think twice before hitting that “Buy” button to download a track. Do I really like this tune? Where will it fit in my set? When would it be appropriate to play? Questions like these make you more selective about your music library, which in turn makes you a better DJ.