So I meet this girl the other day, and the first question she asks is: “Wow, you’re a DJ, is it hard to make those tracks?” I patiently reply that I’m a DJ, not a producer and I “just” play other people’s music. And that’s true. But you know why this question inevitably comes up?
Because most people learn about DJs through the tracks they produce.
(Unconvinced? Just look at the latest DJ Mag’s Top 100 DJs list.)
Think about it. You’ve worked in your DJ residency for years. If you’re good, you developed a loyal following and even play a gig out of town now and then. Now contrast that to a fellow DJ who just got a popular track released. He’s on the radio, in people’s cars; other DJs play his music for their crowds.
He’s a quantum leap ahead of you.
So how do you get to that point, too? Being a good DJ certainly helps. First, you play often and get to see what works and what doesn’t on the dancefloor. Second, you mix well, and so you know your track structure inside and out.
With that as a starting point, here’s what you can do:
Start making re-edits. A re-edit is a rearrangement of a song where you use a sound editor to extend the parts you love, reshuffle others and throw away the bits that don’t work. Making re-edits is a great way to bring exclusivity into your sets and get your feet wet in production.
Record mashups. Blend two or more songs together creatively, and you got yourself a mashup. A common approach is to overlay a vocal of one track over the dub version of another, but that’s just a tip of the iceberg of what you can do. Use mashups in your sets or upload them to SoundCloud for extra publicity.
Make a remix. Unlike a re-edit, where you reshuffle and rearrange parts of an already mixed song, a remix is made from the separate components (vocals, bassline, percussion etc.) of the original multi-track. You will need those components to work from; google “remix packs” for ideas. A remix is made in a sequencer program – think Cubase or FL Studio – and it’s as close as it gets to producing a new song.
Make a track, for god’s sake! The big boys out there hire real studios where most of the dirty work is done for them. You don’t even need to be able to play an instrument, seriously. Alternatively, you can build a studio at home, or even make your beats on a desktop.
Just do it!
Are you making tracks? How did you get started? Leave a comment below and let me know.
JM has played open-air gigs, shared the stage with the likes of ATB and had mix albums released commercially. He has been teaching DJing since 2008.