Anyone can be a DJ…….right?

12Dec11

Well yes anyone can be a DJ. In this day and age when “pro audio equipment” is cheaper than ever more and more people are taking it up and thinking “looks dead easy I can do that”. Now I always pride myself on always being positive so rather than address that directly I will instead discuss what I do and more importantly why I do it.

I won’t go into my life story here but I got myself a cheap second hand pair of turntables back in 2002 and grabbed myself a few vinyl records (remember those large cd things that can be found in our parents attic?). This was a time when vinyl was very expensive and the store I used was based in Birmingham so each week I would spend between £10-£40 on some records I just couldn’t live without. Naturally this was a hobby that quickly turned into an obsession with recorded music and before I knew it I had spent thousands before I even earnt a penny! It was only when I did my first mobile event in 2007 that passion was put to use and enabled me to use my music to influence peoples behaviour and seeing people smiling and dancing gave me a buzz that no car, girl, booze or video game could provide.

That is the only thing that has remained the same since that day, in fact a moment that inspired this post happened on Friday night. I was DJing for a private school party and of course they are all about their modern music however it was right at the end when all the parents had arrived to collect their children (aged between 11-14). I had finished on a couple of Christmas songs, thanked them for being fantastic and got a huge applause at the end. This wasn’t a planned moment but I had the sudden urge to play another song so I said because they had been so good heres one last cheeky number and before you knew it Shakin Stevens – Merry Christmas was on. Parents and their children alike just exploded and started dancing with each other, forming a huge circle and two by two random parents, teachers and their children were dancing in the centre. It sent shivers down my spine seeing a group of people dancing and enjoying themselves like that and brought a huge smile to my face.

I can tell you now that moment wouldn’t of happened back in 2007. Reliable equipment plays its part in what I do but its the vast experience of events that has altered everything else that I do. I remember reading a book about DJing years ago that summed it up well “The DJ should have one foot in the booth and one foot on the dancefloor”. I could be looking down at the floor while bringing in a new tune and I would know if its working or not because I’ve developed a keen sense of feeling the energy of the room. I know this sounds somewhat “hippy” but it is true.

During the beginning of an event I might be appearing to play just any old songs without any thought, wrong!

Each song is a question, I’m putting it out there to gauge peoples reactions and body language. If I feel it is positive I’ll remember that for the rest of the night and likewise if it is negative. After a couple of hours I have narrowed down what is working for my crowd and use this information later on to get people dancing. I don’t go to any event with the mindset of “I feel like playing loads of xxx tonight”. In fact the only songs I know I’m going to play are the requests made beforehand and it is also why I suggest that my clients make at most 20 requests.

Having dealt with so many requests over the years two things have become clear. Firstly everyone thinks all their friends like the same music as they do and secondly everyone has vastly different musical tastes. This challenge is of course placed on a Wedding DJ with three or four generations of family members present and so a knowledge of different musical genres are important. I would say at 90% of my Weddings at some point I will play records that fall into any of the following genres

-Motown/Northern Soul

-Disco

-Rock/Indie

-Pop

-Dance

-RnB

-“Cheese”

-Funk/Soul

Of course you have genres that span many decades so not only is it important for say the rock genre to have the recent big hitters such as Kings Of Leon and The Killers but also to have tunes that go back to the 60’s/70’s such as Boston, Rolling Stones and The Kinks.

Thats a fair number of songs right? Having them is one thing but the real art is playing them at the right time and a question that enters my head when a song is “cued up” and ready to play is that the best possible choice for that moment. Even when moving from one genre to another there are musical elements that help “link” the songs together and help maintain a flow. Best example is Eliza Doolittle – Pack Up being a modern “pop” song however it has a heavy motown feel so would mix very nicely with something like the Isley Brothers – This Heart Of Mine.

In summing up as I said anyone can be a DJ but going into a room full of strangers, engaging with them and playing to them is a skill that takes time and experience. It doesn’t just stop at the gig you need to research all the different musical genres and learn what works and doesn’t, finding out what your client wants and of course presenting the service in a professional manner.

I hope that you have found this an interesting read and that you have a better understanding of my way of working.

Neil

http://www.deckstardeluxe.com

http://www.twitter.com/cheltenhamdj



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