Archive for July, 2020

My Approach to DJing.

July 21, 2020

Here are some notes/concepts on DJing. I first starting DJing in 2008. I would just use Traktor software to mix tunes. I had a Thursday night slot one summer in NOLA at a bar called Handsome Willy’s. I would play tunes for 8 hours straight. Handsome Willy’s was right by the Superdome. Funk tunes always went down well. You would walk out into blinding sun and cop cars everywhere.

The Ira Glass quote is one of my favorites, because the taste comes first. It’s important to keep in mind when being creative. A song can bang for so many different reasons. You know why you pick a tune. Your taste cannot be faked. I listen to real music and level up to it. It is kind of a backwards process, but I am proud of every tune I play.

Remember when it comes to mixing, there are no right or wrong approaches. If it speaks to you, do it! These are just my approaches. People will say you can’t mix certain genres of music. Wrong!! You can mix anything, just believe in yourself!

Without quality music, my DJing would not exist.

One of my favorite DJs is DJ Shadow, because he creates these shifting sonic trip-hop journeys. Another one of my favorites is English reggae-dancehall DJ David Rodigan. He once said, “If DJs don’t play new music, there is no future.” “If you don’t like the current trends in reggae-dancehall, remember that maybe it wasn’t made for you.” Such good, open-minded outlooks to have.

When I was 17, I interviewed Annie Nightingale. She plays bass heavy dance music at 1 AM on Tuesday nights. She was the first female DJ on the BBC and is 80. I have been reading her memoir. I loved this quote, “If there’s somewhere you want to be, circle your target. Hang in there, do not be deterred. When it’s said that someone achieved their aim by being ‘at the right place at the right time’ , I say this: you may need to hang in there and be in the right place for potentially a very long time before that magic door opens.”

Anyone can play the tunes on the Spotify charts. Bringing your fire is a whole different story. People don’t ever really know what I am going to do when I spin a set, but the energy will be there. You have to outsize yourself sometimes. DJing live is almost like theatre (I was a thespian in high school, because of course I was 😂😂😂). You gotta pull from within yourself and level up to being the BADDEST DJ, the ROUGHEST DJ, the TOUGHEST DJ. Big, real energy. It is a mindset and an extension of yourself.

People often talk about getting a second wind. However, the third, fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh winds also exist and are under appreciated. Serious beasting. It’s something internal, but you’ll know when you hit that seventh wind.

I generally like to mix without cueing, because it makes you know the tunes. Gain is the top knob. It is used for the overall range/volume of the track. The second knob down is the high end knob for the high parts of a tune. The third knob down in this pic is the midrange. It often contains the vocal area of a track and I tend to mix that in first on songs with vocals. I do this to not try and chop off the lyrics of a track. The fourth knob is the low end for the bass part of a track. Slowly, I bring a new tune in a third at a time. Mid, then high and then low.

With dance music/longer tracks, I tend to start mixing a track out with about a minute left. With afrobeats, soca, bounce and reggae-dancehall, I usually start mixing in the next track with about 30 seconds left.

You can mix tunes by key so things flow more smoothly.

A lot of DJs are anti-SYNC button, but I feel like it helps me keep things smooth. SYNC matches up both decks to the tempo you choose as the master.

Sometimes, I like to really plan out my set list. Other times, you just roll a tune and roll another!

As you work with tempos, you will see that certain styles of music usually follow certain tempos.

Here are some general tempo guides:

Hip-hop/R&B: 70-90 BPM

Reggae: 70-90 BPM

Footwork: 80 BPM

Afrobeats: 90-120 BPM

House: 120-130 BPM

Ghetto House: 130-140 BPM

Juke: 160 BPM

Soca 100-160 BPM

Footwork (again): 160 BPM

Dancehall: 90-220 BPM

I hope this is helpful and aligns your chakras. Keep beasting it!!!


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