So you want to be a DJ? The first step of becoming a DJ is having a good understanding how the musical format is structured. Depending on the genre of music, every song is composed of a 4 bar structure. In order to effectively mix music, you have to first learn how to count the bars. In Hip Hop, the technique I used for counting bars is listening to the first drum beat or boom you hear and count from 1 to 4 for each bar. For example, let’s start with a simple song like Travie McCoy’s Billionaire. When the chorus comes in, “I want to be a billionaire”, that is 1 bar “So freaking bad”, is another bar. Let’s take it back to most basic fundamental technique and count 1 2 3 4 when Bruno Mars says those lines. That is the most basic technique of counting bars. So in order to count four bars, you will have to count 1 to 4 four times. Practice doing that for that song and you will find out that chorus is structured in 16 bars. Normally, Hip Hop songs are only composed in 8 bar structures. Practice this technique for different genres of music and you will enjoy the music better. House music is easy to count because a majority of House music adds a different sound every 4 to 8 bars. When it the song starts, it is usually bare bone. As it plays, it progresses and little by little it builds into the full track. Use the 1 to 4 counting technique and you will know exactly what I am talking about.
So now you know how to count bars, let’s learn how to mix. Mixing means putting two songs with different tempo or speeds play in sync at the same speed. This part is not for fake laptop DJs who just push the auto sync button on their CD player device. They are not DJs. Mixing is an art form. Let me teach you some terminology before we move on. BPM is known as beats per minute. BPM is term used to display how fast the song speed is. If a song has a BPM of 70, it is a slow song. Most slow love songs are in the 70 BPM range. Hip Hop songs average from 90 – 98 BPM. Dance and Electro music are normally in the 110 BPM to 130 BPM range. Drum and Bass and Rave music are in the high 170 BPM range. As you can see the faster the song is the greater the BPM is. Cue or cueing a song means finding the first beat and holding that sound. If you are using vinyl, you stop the turntable at the point. If you are using a CD mixing device, you will have to pause that spot and hit the cue button on that device. Tempo and Pitch is basically the same. They both measure the speed of the song and their definition is almost identical. In some occasion, different equipment has pitch adjustment and some have it labeled tempo. It just means if you move that lever forward it will make the song faster and backward would make it slower. That’s the simplest way of putting it. My first advice when learning how to mix is to start with two instrumental of the same song and just make sure you cue one to the first beat or boom and put it in sync with the other. Make sure you blend it on the right bar. That is the mistake most DJs make. A lot of DJs know how to blend but they mix the song on the wrong bar so when the beat drops it sounds weird. Do this first and try to make one of the same song a little faster and than match it again. Practice makes perfect so keep on playing around and you will get the hang of it. Always count your bars before trying to cue and blend songs. In no time you will be able to blend any song.
Now you know how to count bars and mix songs, what to do next. You will have to learn how to transition songs so you will be a good and effective DJ and not a DJ that people will hurl tomatoes at or a wickety wack DJ. My philosophy is playing only the hits. There is way too much music out there to hold back in a four hour event. In this next part I will talk about DJing a private party or event only. My tip in playing a good set is to first observe the crowd. Nationality, age, theme, and crowd will determine the type of music you should play. When you are hired as a party DJ you are not playing your hits but whatever moves them. They hired you so you play what they want. If the party crowd is majority over 50 years of age, I will play a lot of Disco and 80s classics. I will selectively pick only hits that the crowd will sing along. Don’t hold back. A lot of DJs hold back in the beginning for what. If you want to be remembered, kill them from the start. Now when you pick songs, make sure you play songs that are close to the same tempo and feeling. When you have to change the whole genre from Disco to Hip Hop, I will try to play a skit or stop the music and say something on the microphone to make the transition smooth. The next song has to be a popular hit that will get the crowd excited. Don’t abruptly throw the mix in. It is a party killer and makes you look like a total amateur. I went to a party and the DJ went from techno to 50 Cent. The crowd looked at him like he has two heads and the mood changed. If he was going to make a big transition like that, he could’ve faded out the techno track and say something so the crowd has an idea that the mood is about to change. It would’ve been a better look. Crowd participation is a big key for a DJ. If there is a song that is very popular, you can mute certain parts of the song so that the crowd can sing along. What I do is do this and have another song of the same level of intensity ready. When I mute out certain parts of the song, they are already hype and enjoying themselves. I strategically throw the other song on after the phrase the crowd is singing and this gets the crowd really open. This works great with Hip Hop. So remember a DJ is hired to do his job. His job is to move the crowd and make them dance. If they don’t dance, them you have to switch it up. Keep switching it up until they dance. Speak out if you have to and tell them to get up. You have a duty to uphold and if you do this right you will have a lot of success.
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