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The point of DJing

Clearing things up

The bare bones

See chapter 12 in the book for in depth detail

The information covered in this page is in DJing for Dummies - but as this site is, and will always be somewhere for someone who has no idea about DJing can come to - I've left it in, tweaked it, and hopefully cleared up the concept of DJing, so those of you who have no idea what DJs actually do can now be happy.


"Once I've beat matched a tune, and succesfully mixed it in, do I then reset the pitch to 0?"

(Sometimes this is followed by a suggestion that playing at the same BPM all night may get a bit tiresome...)





The underlying point of Dj'ing (well, in the club stuff I play) it not only to keep a constant, pounding bass drum going through a mix, but is actually to match the BPM's of the clubber's heartbeat with the pace of the song. When that happens, the rhythm supposedly starts to do things to the body. Makes mine sweat a bit, but that's just me....

But body mechanics aside, you're trying to get not only to a BPM where people are comfortable dancing and really enjoying themselves, but also there's a real energetic feeling about the night. So, if you were to dip the BPM's up and down as you mixed from tune to tune, people wouldn't be able to find their rhythm - and the night wouldn't flow as well.

Of course, this isn't to say that there aren't BPM changes throughout a night, or that you must keep a bass beat going, not matter what. For a start, the warm up tunes I play float around the 126 bpm area when I first lay vinyl to turntable - for a nice gentle start before people arrive. Pretty soon you're up at 135 - and by the end of the night 140+.

There's also fluctuations in BPM that help keep a night going. Ok, so I said that slowing down a tune can put people off, but that's if it always happens, and if it happens noticeably (which, if you reset the pitch to 0 after completing a mix, it would be). If you're banging away at 145bpm and there's still 2 hours to go - you're going to wear people out, mentally and physically by playing at that kinda pace. So, slow it down a little - this is where I chuck in a genre change, maybe a more break-beaty tune, to bring things down a bit. The varation of BPM should be used as a bridge or transition of the night, not just because the artist wrote the tune at 124bpm!!

As to the constant pounding beats, this brings me on to the next question I inexplicably get asked from time to time:

I just went out and bought some decks, now what's the point of Dj'ing, what am I suposed to do?

Now, apart from worry a bit about why they just spent loads of money on decks, without any idea what to do, I then launch into a kinda half arsed attempt to describe the basics of what the intentions of mixing are. (Please bear in mind that this (and everything else in the site) is really based only on mixing house/trance kinda things, I don't go into the D+B, jungle thing much because it's not really a genre I delve into - and don't want to try to BS my way out of a hole.)

The point of it all is aimed towards playing music live in a club. The big basis behind the house/trance genre is the rhythmic booming bass which drives the people on the dance floor to dance. Part of this bass drum thing goes to back to what I said above about matching heart-rates etc, and is a huge part of the Trance scene, the constant bass beats leading to a kind of trance like state - or something.

Again, like in other pages though, I'm getting way ahead of myself. The real basic point of DJing is to play music. You spend the whole time going from one deck to the next deck, playing a different tune on each deck as the night progresses (although, sometimes, when the big tunes are out, you'll hear them played several times throughout the night).

This, however, isn't the same as "Two decks Dan" who plays the local disco, where one tune will come to an end, and he'll just fade up the next one. The point of Djing in the dance side of life is to mix these tunes together in a way that keeps people dancing, and in a lot of cases, don't even notice that the tune has changed to another one (which is commonly known as seamless mixing). There's many ways to make the transitions from tune to tune seamless - the most simple part of this is to make sure that the bass drum beats occur at the same time:-

So, the important thing is to keep the bass beats flowing through the sets, not that that means there's always bass drums banging away (there's parts of a tune called 'Breakdowns' or 'drops' without beats, which are just as important as the parts WITH beats). It's just important that he beat is constant between tunes, so the people on the floor don't have to do a quick 2 step shuffle to get back in time with the beats. In other words:-

Beat - - beat - - beat - - beat - - beat - - beat - - beat - - beat - - beat :-

is the kinda thing you're aiming for

beat - beat beat - be-beat- beatbe- beat - bebeat - - beat - beat - - beat

isn't really going to flow.

I know, that's a really hard thing to read and understand, thing is, I can't think of anyother way to do it. Ok, I'll try again.

Tune 1 - Beat - - Beat - - Beat - - Beat - - Beat - - Beat - - Beat - - Beat - -

Tune 2 - Beat - - Beat - - Beat - - Beat - - Beat - - Beat - - Beat - - Beat - -

Is the preferred method of mixing, where the beats of tune 1 and tune 2 occur together. What you don't want is:-

Tune 1 - Beat - - Beat - - Beat - - Beat - - Beat - - Beat - - Beat - - Beat - -

Tune 2 - Beat - Beat - Beat - Beat - Beat - - Beat - - Beat - - Beat - -

Where the beats of the two tunes are out of sync, and the people on the floor aren't too sure as to what beat they're supposed to be following when the dance. Get me?

So - that's the basics, when you have two tunes with bass drums, and you want to mix them together, you need to make sure the beats of the tunes are happening at the same time, it sounds a lot better than when they're out of sync. The next page on this site "Basic Mixing" goes through the concepts of how to do this, but, as ever, DJing for Dummies (the Book) has full in depth details on what to do - so if you're a bit lost, please check out Chapter 12.


Starting the beat

The other important thing to explain is where you start the records. In the third page of this section 'Better Mixing', I'll talk about exact places to start a record, and mix it with the other one, and once again, it's just a taster of what's massively expanded on in the book - but for the purposes of this basic guide, all I need to say is that in the most cases, you start the beginning of the next tune you want to play near the end of the tune that is already playing - kinda like this (A is the tune playing, B is the one about to play.)



So there is an overlap at the end of A where the two tunes are playing (which is the part where it is important that you keep the beats matched).

So, through the course of the night, you'll have something like this:-




Where each letter is a differnt tune. How, where and for how long these overlaps go on for is something I go into through the course of the rest of this site.

So that's the bare bones of mixing - playing music people want to hear and dance to - and playing it in a way that keeps them dancing all night - with the beats matched so they don't have to shuffle in order to keep in time.

Choosing Music

You need something to play

See chapter 3 in the book for in depth detail

Now this one is odd. Again, it's a question I get asked from time to time, and one that makes me wonder why the person who got in touch decided to get into DJing in the first place:


"I've just got my first set of DJ equipment, what music should I play?"

Thsi one always knocks me for six. Unless there's something in that question I'm missing, I just wonder why they've got into DJing in the first place.

The answer is simple - whatever music you love. If you want to be a trance DJ - play trance. If you want to be an R+B DJ - get some R+B tunes. It's as simple as that.

Sure, there's some cross-genre dipping which works quite nicely. You might find as a trance DJ that you often want to get hold of Progressive House, Breakbeat or Elektro tunes, or even just plain House music - something to start off the set with. And some Drum and Bass or Jungle DJs have found it useful to get a few house tunes to start off with, just to learn the basic concepts of beatmatching - before launching into mixing Jungle or Drum and bass, which both have extremely complicated drum patterns, and take a bit more concentration (and dare I say it 'more skill') to mix well.

But, what it comes down to is to play the music you love. Don't play something you're not happy with (well, not for your own purposes anyway - there are times (which I mention in the book) where you need to comprimise, and play something you're not 100% in love with) stick to what music makes you smile, gives you chills, and that you know you'll be happy hearing over and over again for the next year, while you perfect your skills.


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