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Educate me on DJing

cj iwakuracj iwakura The Rhythm RegentBears The Name FreedomRegistered User regular
edited March 2010 in Help / Advice Forum
I love all kinds of music, and a friend told me they were looking for someone to DJ a party. Basic stuff probably, but it still got me thinking, I'd enjoy doing that kind of thing at some point. Since I listen to almost everything, I figure I could come up with a decent mix of music for any kind of get together.

I'd like to think I have a good sense of rhythmic timing too, if that helps, but anyway: what kind of gear is typically needed for getting into DJing? Price range, recommendations, et cetera.

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Posts

  • cooljammer00cooljammer00 Hey Small Christmas-Man!Registered User regular
    edited March 2010
    These days, and at a social event that isn't really terribly important?

    An IPod and some speakers and some wires.

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  • billwillbillwill Registered User regular
    edited March 2010
    I know next to nothing about DJing, but I know they sell tables at Best Buy. Maybe go there and talk to someone about it?

    EDIT: Completely misread cooljammer's response. Whoops.

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  • ZonugalZonugal (He/Him) The Holiday Armadillo I'm Santa's representative for all the southern states. And Mexico!Registered User regular
    edited March 2010
    Cooljammer00 pretty much has it as for smaller venues such as house parties or just hanging out.

    In regards to practicing DJing you'll want to assemble sample music mixes. Decade parties are a good example to work on as everyone has them and you'll be able to get your foot in the door as the DJ if you present yourself as somebody already ready.

    But for equipment? It's costly, really costly. It depends on how high you want to go but for a casual indulgence two heavy base speakers hooked up to two denons ($1000) should be enough.

    Zonugal on
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  • FantasmaFantasma Registered User regular
    edited March 2010
    A laptop with plenty hard disk space, an stereo amplifier, a couple of 300 watts speakers with twitters and Atomix Virtual DJ is more than enough for a good party.

    If you cannot or just don't want to use a stereo amplifier, you could use a car amplifier, I am using a 100 watts amplifier connected to a computer power supply and two 300 watts car speakers mounted in a wood box and it is working just fine, I don't even worry about overheating.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c3tlFxO1stU

    P.S.

    I made some enhancements to this set tup to avoid cutting cable from the power supply in case I need it in the future.

    Fantasma on
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  • Zul the ConquerorZul the Conqueror Registered User regular
    edited March 2010
    I used to DJ a fair amount in college. I had a couple of turntables, a mixer, an amp, and two PA speakers. More than you really need for a house party; as people have said, an iPod or laptop and any decent speakers will do. A bookshelf stereo is enough for a house party most of the time.

    As far as skills, I'd say reading the crowd is important. If people are chatting, keep the volume and energy of the songs moderate. If people are dancing, bring both up a bit. Take requests, but filter them a bit - if someone requests a song that is going to kill the mood everyone else has going, tell them you'll "see when you can fit it in."

    One thing that really helped me was to have some backup songs to pull out if the party is losing energy. Which one you use depends on what the party's like. Older songs that people have kind of forgotten about, but love, work well here. Here are a few suggestions:

    House of Pain - Jump Around (use sparingly if you play parties with the same people often)
    Ace of Base - The Sign
    Queen - Bohemian Rhapsody
    Fastball - The Way
    DJ Kool - Let Me Clear My Throat
    Bon Jovi - Livin' on a Prayer, Dead or Alive
    Guns 'n' Roses - Sweet Child O' Mine
    etc...

    If you're trying to transition from a more laid-back, background theme to a higher-energy, dance or sing-along theme, do it somewhat gradually. Don't hit the climax songs too soon, use a couple of mediocre, but higher-energy songs first. Once you've gotten people up and moving, keep the energy high, but don't make every song an anthem - give people chances to cool down a little, without losing all of the energy.

    Also, in reading the crowd, sometimes you have to pick your audience. For instance, there would be times where there were three or four people (helps if they're good-looking girls) who were really into the music. If you keep them happy, they'll pull other people in. Don't worry about playing songs for the wallflowers at the expense of the people who will get up and dance.

    Hopefully this helps more than confuses... it's all about reading the crowd, really.

    Zul the Conqueror on
  • DusT_HounDDusT_HounD Registered User regular
    edited March 2010
    Definitely lots of great advice here. Just to put in my 2cents, CJ, if you're into the actual manipulation of the music, currently i'd probably advise getting some decent CD turntables, as many now have spinning platters and memory buffers that you can use to scratch, as one would with a vinyl turntable. Mixer- wise, you don't need anything too fancy, but if you can have kill switches, or even just basic treble/ bass adjusters, you can add in some nice effects.

    Furthermore, practice is obviously also paramount- from the basic level of knowing which track can follow which, through beatmatching and cutting, right up to scratch- you can get cool abilities that go beyond play, stop, play, and if you get into it, it'll go far beyond just this party that you're going to do, and people will probably start to ask you to do their events. Maybe you might even get paid.

    DusT_HounD on
  • CooterTKECooterTKE Registered User regular
    edited March 2010
    Honestly I used to do a lot of DJ in college at house parties and warehouse parties and the house parties are the easiest to do. When they are drunk no one cares as long as the music is good. It does not matter if you beat match or even know what your doing. If you want to get into it as a more long run adventure then it will cost you at least $1000 for a full set up and that is searching craigslist. With Itunes you can create a good play list and let it run itself.

    FYI standing behind turntables and a mixer is a sure fire way to get laid at any party.

    CooterTKE on
  • arsonisfunarsonisfun Registered User regular
    edited March 2010
    Some people think DJing is just managing a playlist.

    I'd contest that an actual professional DJ needs to know how to beatmix, which so many people fail at.

    When you're playing music, you organize the list based on similar BPMs, so that way you can match BPMs of your two songs, get them on the same beat, then fade in the new song

    Meanwhile a bad DJ Just crossfades recklessly and it sounds like shit

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  • ApexMirageApexMirage Registered User regular
    edited March 2010
    Must...resist....urge....to write....half page post....

    Some background:
    I'm the station manager for my college's radio station (read: DJ booth filled with both students and experienced beatsmen)
    This is where I was taught, and went on to teach myself. It's incredibly satisfying to learn the trade, but know this: the learning curve is incredibly unfriendly.
    Ok, trying to keep this short:

    There are two kinds of DJ's:

    The amateur, who plays house parties with absolutely no skill, an Ipod and some speakers. This is obviously self-explanatory and since you made this topic I'll assume it's not what you're looking for.

    The other kind is the one who knows his music inside out, knows how to beatmatch, fade, and otherwise entertain a crowd (and everything that fits into that category).
    Now to do this on a basic level you'll need 3 things that have already been mentioned, and a fourth that has not: Two sources of audio (Turntables, CDJ's, your cat meowing into a microphone, etc), a mixer, and some speakers. The fourth thing you'll need, is a solid pair of headphones.
    I recommend Sennheiser or Pioneer. I'm personally using a pair of Sony headphones, because my friend works at a sony store...heh.
    The Sennheisers linked is one of your cheaper options, while the Pioneers are a solid staple product.
    It is IMPERATIVE that you be able to PROPERLY hear what you're about to play for your audience, so none of this 20$ walmart headphone crap
    I started off with a pair of 20$ headphones and though I was the shit, but then tried a pair of HDJ's and was silly goosedly BLOWN THE silly goose AWAY. Absolutely HUGE difference.
    Zonugal wrote: »
    But for equipment? It's costly, really costly. It depends on how high you want to go but for a casual indulgence two heavy base speakers hooked up to two denons ($1000) should be enough.
    Ok, first off - you can't have two CDJ's and no mixer. If you do, you've got no way to play one song into the next and might as well only have one source of audio. (This is debatable, but would lead back to the first kind of DJ)
    Second, Denons make me want to vomit (So do Stanton's but that's not relevant).

    At school we've gone from Pioneer 200's, to 800's and just this week we upgraded to 900's.
    I've only ever heard good things about Pioneer gear, which can't be said for the other two brands mentionned just above.

    But Zonugal is correct - The price is an enormous silly goose.
    If you're just looking to start and to understand how everything works, I suggest Virtual DJ. It's got most of the workings of real gear with enough functionality to get you started in the right direction (Just don't use any of the automated features, yeah?).

    If you're still interested, there are many cost effective options to get your foot in the door. The linked device allows you to control VDJ physically, effectively removing the biggest obstacle to using it; being restricted to a mouse and keyboard. You'll be mixing the music yourself, which is the first step towards becoming an actual DJ, as opposed to relying on a laptop and technology.

    One resource I recommend to all aspiring DJ's is to watch this guy's videos chronologically. He actually taught me a great deal myself when I was starting out, and to this day I still use some of his 'lessons' to teach others.
    Another great first step is to also have a look at someone else mixing (There's a first-person camera at some point... and notice how all of his gear is Pioneer? heh), and try to figure out what he's doing and how everything works. (This probably isn't your cup of tea musically, but does a great job of showing some of the stuff a DJ actually does. It's the best footage I could find that is of good quality and doesen't have a wobbly camera.)

    I'll end here, as this is already a wall of text... but as you may have guessed, I'm quite passionate about this stuff.
    If you've got more questions, by all means ask here or shoot me a PM.

    ApexMirage on
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  • CooterTKECooterTKE Registered User regular
    edited March 2010
    it took me a good year of playing with my records getting to know each and every groove. I also would record my sets and play them back to listen to where I missed a beat or should have done something differently. I would say I was so nervous for my first warehouse party I got boo'd for the first 10 mins then I finally calmed down and hit the magic.

    CooterTKE on
  • ZonugalZonugal (He/Him) The Holiday Armadillo I'm Santa's representative for all the southern states. And Mexico!Registered User regular
    edited March 2010
    ApexMirage wrote: »
    Second, Denons make me want to vomit (So do Stanton's but that's not relevant).

    I mentioned Denons as that was what my college radio station employed the most. Mind you, I do talk shows so I only briefly know about the other side of college radio...

    Zonugal on
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  • cj iwakuracj iwakura The Rhythm Regent Bears The Name FreedomRegistered User regular
    edited March 2010
    I'm definitely looking into... er,a cheaper startup for now, though I do appreciate the info. I'd probably pick up something on the cheap and experiment, then go from there.


    I know I have a metric ton of good techno and/or trance tracks I could easily throw into a mix of some kind.

    cj iwakura on
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  • PheezerPheezer Registered User, ClubPA regular
    edited March 2010
    Okay what I know from having been paid to DJ for a couple years in a former life:

    1) Don't buy any amps or speakers. Rent this shit. It should never cost you more than $100 per night, shop around, most music/pro audio stores have a rental desk. I can get enough gear to play for 150 people for $40.

    2) Don't buy vinyl decks unless you have a massive collection of vinyl. It's a waste of money at the outset and you'll probably never end up DJing the sort of event where you wouldn't get hired if you weren't spinning imported vinyl if you don't already have that collection based on pure fetishism alone. You're going to be doing mostly mainstream scenes and no one will care what you play half of the time anyhow.

    3) Don't fuck around with original copies of your CDs. Burn compilations at a low burner speed with decent quality blanks, and keep a set of fresh backups lying around (renew every year) just in case you find out during soundcheck that your CDs aren't reading. Why do all of this?
    - You're never going to want to play 3/4s of the songs on any given CD
    - It's impossible to find "that slow song by so and so" in a box full of original CDs.

    Do wide genres: Pop, Rock, Country (if you must), Slow Dance, etc., and label them as soL Pop A-B, Pop, B-C and so forth, with the letters telling you the first letter in the name of the artists on that disc. You will be able to FLY through your collection just by scanning the spines of the CD cases.

    Also, don't use downloaded music. It's tempting but it's one thing to listen to music you haven't paid for. Getting paid to play music that you had nothing to do with the production of, without the original artist having been paid is just over the line. Also you'll find compression artifacts in MP3s that you didn't hear at home and you'll look like a silly, silly goose.

    4) Get licensed if your country dictates it. In the USA this isn't a concern. In Canada and the UK it is (though in Canada if you work for a licensed company you don't need your own, don't know about the UK).

    5) Practice. Start making mix CDs every day. You'll get to listen to different music in the car every day (which will dramatically improve your mood and quality of life), and you'll also get to evaluate how songs transition between each other, and judge what you estimated to be a good pairing of songs. You might realize you're doing the same trick each time, or that you've misjudged things, or that a weird looking combination actually does work and will make other music nerds smile.


    Aside from all of that, the final thing I learned was:
    6) Know your audience. This applies to everything in life, but here you're going to want to realize that if your entire electronic music collection contains a fat boy slim CD, a crystal method CD, and a copy of a paul oakenfold CD your buddy gave you, you probably shouldn't be trying to get gigs playing raves. Same if you have a large collection of really cool, really trendy hip hop and mashups: you don't want to get a gig doing a wedding dinner without any Eagles or CCR in your collection.

    Pheezer on
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    CUZ THERE'S SOMETHING IN THE MIDDLE AND IT'S GIVING ME A RASH
  • PheezerPheezer Registered User, ClubPA regular
    edited March 2010
    Oh and also, negotiate the following in advance if you care about not getting screwed:
    - Start and end time
    - Payment, both amount and timing thereof and format thereof (only accept certified cheques or cash)

    And you want to have a conversation with the person who's paying you about whether there's anything they do or don't want you to play. Some people won't say anything, but then freak the fuck out on you for having played some song they've always hated.

    Pheezer on
    IT'S GOT ME REACHING IN MY POCKET IT'S GOT ME FORKING OVER CASH
    CUZ THERE'S SOMETHING IN THE MIDDLE AND IT'S GIVING ME A RASH
  • cj iwakuracj iwakura The Rhythm Regent Bears The Name FreedomRegistered User regular
    edited March 2010
    I actually don't own any of those CDs. I feel like if I can't use at least one BT track at some point, I'd be a failure as a DJ.


    So using rips from CDs converted to MP3s would still sound good? I don't own any vinyl, and probably never will.

    cj iwakura on
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  • ApexMirageApexMirage Registered User regular
    edited March 2010
    cj iwakura wrote: »
    I actually don't own any of those CDs. I feel like if I can't use at least one BT track at some point, I'd be a failure as a DJ.


    So using rips from CDs converted to MP3s would still sound good? I don't own any vinyl, and probably never will.

    Nothing under 320kbps. A friend of mine had a 192 slip through his cracks and it was honestly one of the most humiliating things I've ever witnessed live.

    And I'd like to re-iterate listening to recordings to yourself: It can (will) be immensely helpful.

    ApexMirage on
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  • PheezerPheezer Registered User, ClubPA regular
    edited March 2010
    Yeah I just wouldn't trust anything that I didn't rip myself to 320 or a lossless format. So it really is a large time investment to re-factor your entire collection into re-organized backups. But very, very worth it, each and every time you lose your train of thought or brain fart on which cd you need to find.

    Pheezer on
    IT'S GOT ME REACHING IN MY POCKET IT'S GOT ME FORKING OVER CASH
    CUZ THERE'S SOMETHING IN THE MIDDLE AND IT'S GIVING ME A RASH
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