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The Mental Steps To Learning To Dj

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#1
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note: this is a thought stream and i basically just started typing and didn't stop, i just kept writing what i was thinking. there was very little editing and it is meant to sound conversational.

learning to dj isn't just something you learn to do one day and then bam, you got it. its not like driving where everyone can meet a pretty acceptable level in a fairly short time. there are a few different levels of DJs in the world and i think they can broken down into a few very clear groups. each level contains all of the skills of the levels below it, constantly adding to the list of a thing a DJ notices. this is something that anyone can hear with just a little training, but actually doing it is way more difficult. doing it live and based on what the crowd is doing is far more difficult. i admit that i can't go say im that good yet. i cant read a crowd. its kind of a skill you learn and do through out this entire process. you are aware of it right up front and you will always be getting better at it. my understanding of a lot of what im going to talk about is in an contained environment, likely just your headphones on your ears & certainly a more personal experience. this is also one good way to "find" a good transition. think of a group of songs and go through this process* icon_smile.gif

*100 songs may only yield 1 ideal transition

the youngest of the DJs have done 1 thing...they have beat matched. this is an important skill, not to be thought of as "lowly." if you can't beat match...you cant DJ. this is the most important element of a good mix. if the beat is off, people will notice, and they wont like it, but dont worry, you can ALWAYS get better at this....unless on some god level you have found a way to let the off beat sound good; in which case: wow.

EQing is the next. i could argue that the next point (timing) is more important considering that...well it is. but EQing is WAY easier. most people focus on it first because you can get to a fairly acceptable level by the time youve learned beat matching. you wont go past "mediocre" at this until 3 steps from now, but youll get bursts of intense amounts of awesome and win that you can't seem to reliably make happen for reasons you just dont get.

once you are starting to get EQing down, youll notice that timing seems to make EQing a whole lot easier. of course! if i dont have the heavy bassline laying on top of some other bass line, they cant clash in the mids as easily icon_biggrin.gif timing is making sure you dont have two lead vocals going at once cause you thought it would "sound cool."

but then you start to find these rare combinations where you can kinda mash up the vocals of one song with the kick ass synth of another. its around this time that youll start to notice that song selection seems to make this whole process run. cause if you pick the right songs, everything will fall in place on the timing and the EQing will be straight forward and manageable and beat matching is a breeze. i believe that song selection has 4 thought processes that are totally unique from each other; for a total of 8 different levels of DJs. this is as many as i know of at least. who knows, maybe there are more. id like that icon_smile.gif

from here on out, i consider non-vocal tracks to be more difficult to work with, but also hold more potential to those open to it. if well used, they will blow you out of the fucking water.

harmonics is up first. this is where this certain group of songs all have a core sound. imagine if you took a picture and averaged all the RGB values for every pixel and displayed that average color as a solid block of color. thats kind of what the key is. not talking about a physical key here. a key is a certain group of notes that sound good together while excluding others because this group of keys sound good to each other for reasons im not going to go into. they are wayyy out of the scope of this article. basically, there are 24 keys, a song has 1, and it is "compatible" with arguably up to 8 other keys if you include FX and pitch bending. around this time you may begin to think of the transitions on a larger scale as well. you may begin to consider what was 2 songs ago, what do i want to do next, but where do i want to go after that?

once you get to breaking songs up into groups of keys, you start to notice that not all sound the same. they have the same tempo and the same key but they have a fundamental different sound. one will be kinda bassy and smooth and another will be bouncey and light. you are thinking about the songs even more narrowly now. you are starting to hear how different instruments can be put in an order that sounds natural and flows. from say, acoustic guitar to electric guitar to a pluck synth to a hard synth to a soft synth to a piano...you may even hate that sequence. it really just depends on the songs.

its worth noting here that i think it is around this time that most people begin to hear the mix as a single song and not as individual pieces of music. i think a listener knows it when they hear it and they love it. i know i do. and i know that some people may not even like it. but this is the point at which you go one way or the other.

once you start to hear a DJs mix more as a continuous mix (which will happen if, imo, they have good sound flow), you can start to hear how one song can carry you to another through what i can only call an energy flow. how to harness its builds and its breaks. you start to hear where to let the melodies change. this maybe something that youve even been considering the whole time, but this is a high level skill. it never stops developing. the way you listen to music changes as you get better at this. this also kind of ties in with timing. and with good harmonics you can get some nice, longgg transitions that really flow and carry the energy in a pleasant way. this often involves anticipation and delivery for maximum awesome. with energy, you do kind of want to be always going up. always building.

unless you can capture emotional flow. this allows you to turn the concert into a roller coaster. i believe that only the best DJs can really have this effect on people. this is a skill for only the upper echelon. and if you aren't careful, you will loose it QUICK. seriously, to those open to it, this will make you feel things that nothing else can. its better than text, its better than movies, its better than vide.....well....idk about that. a good video game will...this is another topic. i dont need to get on this cause im pretty much done with this article and WOW is it a lot longer than i had expected. o well icon_razz.gif thanks for reading!

#2
j type

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A lot of really good, important points in here, making it worth taking the time to read IMO. We talked a bit about this quite recently if I recall correctly, when you were preparing for your live megamix.

We talked about the skills that seem to be just a case of learning and practising, but also have a certain aspect of "you either have it or you don't" to them also.

My first dj'ing experiences, like most people's, involved learning the basics of beatmatching (bpm, time signature, counting bars, etc.). I was always a turntablist first, loving the feel and sound of vinyl itself, as well as the sound of beat-juggling, scratching and Hip Hop. I taught myself, largely through experimentation and studying videos and routines like these (this, this, this & this ) for hours on end. Because of the dexterity, concentration and rhythm involved, you will often hear the odd timing or rhythmic error in those types of performances. Those kind of errors are forgiven because they are usually very quick mixes and extremely difficult to perform perfectly.

I think that was ingrained in me from the beginning, so my beat-matching, although being one of the more basic skills to learn, has never been 100% on longer mixes. I always focused more on the 'performance' aspect of dj'ing, rather than getting the beat-matching perfect. It's a bad habit I'm trying to shake off still.

Then, after a couple of years I began to take an interest in dance music, and became fascinated with these massively long (or so it seemed to me) mixes, that were perfectly eq'd, perfectly beat-matched and harmonically compatible also. The kind you might hear a Trance or Progressive House dj pull off.

That's when I really began to start djing more at parties, for friends, on radio and small clubs, etc. once I'd combined those skills and could put together longer and more flowing sets.

As Rak says in the OP though, there is so much more to it than just beat-matching and making sure the songs sound good together. These are the kinds of things that are probably equivalent to the 'game sense' that you see in high-level sports stars. The things that seem to be a combination of tons of experience, reading the crowd, a very high level of focus, etc.

... Err... wow, I'd actually only meant to tell you I enjoyed it and to reinforce some of the points you made, but I almost got caught up in writing an essay, plus my history of djing also.. There's just so much to say on the subject of djing, despite it seeming like such a simple method of transitioning songs on the surface.

Edited by j type, 25 July 2010 - 03:24 PM.


#3
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QUOTE (j type @ Jul 25 2010, 04:19 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
... Err... wow, I'd actually only meant to tell you I enjoyed it and to reinforce some of the points you made, but I almost got caught up in writing an essay, plus my history of djing also.. There's just so much to say on the subject of djing, despite it seeming like such a simple method of transitioning songs on the surface.

lol ya that happened to me too. that actually took a solid hour or more to write (i dont really recall...i just know i went to bed late)

#4
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QUOTE (Rakielis @ Jul 26 2010, 02:09 AM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
lol ya that happened to me too. that actually took a solid hour or more to write (i dont really recall...i just know i went to bed late)


Hehe! Well, it's an interesting subject and a lot can be said about it.

When a dj, whether it's one's self or another dj, just nails a mix, like completely gets everything about it right, it really has quite an amazing effect. And there are so many variables involved in that, it's crazy. Everything from the two tunes used, the points at which they are mixed, the amount of eq, the timing of each eq adjustment and the timing and speed of the fades, to the effects that may be applied to one or more of the tracks, or the tracks that preceded the ones currently playing, etc. but when it happens it's something quite special.

Edited by j type, 25 July 2010 - 08:18 PM.


#5
Jimmy Rabbitte

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I wish I had some coke.. Dont get paid till tuesday though

Edit: to avoid being called a spammer I would like to add something to anyone planning to get into producing hip-hop or electronic music

Don't let any haters talk shit about you because of what you use. Use Reason, Fruity Loops, Acid Pro, Pro Tools, Qbase, whatever the fuck you want and as long as you can make something that sounds good and authentic to you, don't take shit from anyone else. Music is about having fun, not being "legit".

Edited by Jimmy Rabbitte, 25 July 2010 - 10:19 PM.

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#6
om_pulse

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Good thread bros.

Not a Dj but always nice to see some music discussion on the music boards instead of bandwars every thread.
Walls of text is a little much this late at night but will read later.

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#7
Subtracting

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Being a Dj is so simple anyone can do it.Being a producer though takes a lot more talent.
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#8
j type

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QUOTE (Subtracting @ Sep 6 2010, 09:43 AM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
Being a Dj is so simple anyone can do it.Being a producer though takes a lot more talent.


Rofl! Just noticed this comment.

Oh, how wrong you are.... icon_rolleyes.gif

#9
Jimmy Rabbitte

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On the first or second part? Because I'm pretty inclined to agree with the second part.
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#10
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QUOTE (Jimmy Rabbitte @ Sep 24 2010, 03:01 AM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
On the first or second part? Because I'm pretty inclined to agree with the second part.


Well, I'm both a DJ and a producer and I know that, on the surface of it, being a DJ can seem very simple, but actually being a good DJ requires a very good musical 'sense', something that producers also need.

Of course there are many skills that don't overlap, but I don't think you can necessarily compare the two in terms of talent, especially now in an era where technology is allowing for producers to make music with no traditional music skills/training whatsoever.

It's easy to look at a DJ and think of what he's not doing, but when you fully understand what goes into a great mix, it's not simple at all.

Edited by j type, 23 September 2010 - 10:00 PM.


#11
Jimmy Rabbitte

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QUOTE (j type @ Sep 23 2010, 07:57 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
Of course there are many skills that don't overlap, but I don't think you can necessarily compare the two in terms of talent, especially now in an era where technology is allowing for producers to make music with no traditional music skills/training whatsoever.

Yeah the two are different but producing definitely takes a lot more talent. Nevermind that there is sequencing software that makes it easier to record, It takes a lot more creativity to make something that is unique and enjoyable for many people, from scratch.

Edit: btw show us your beats

Edited by Jimmy Rabbitte, 23 September 2010 - 10:17 PM.

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#12
rugmonkey

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QUOTE (Jimmy Rabbitte @ Sep 24 2010, 04:14 AM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
Yeah the two are different but producing definitely takes a lot more talent. Nevermind that there is sequencing software that makes it easier to record, It takes a lot more creativity to make something that is unique and enjoyable for many people, from scratch.

Edit: btw show us your beats


He has a whole thread dedicated to them.

Here.

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#13
Jimmy Rabbitte

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Those are mixes, not beats, dog.
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#14
j type

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QUOTE (Jimmy Rabbitte @ Sep 24 2010, 04:00 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
Those are mixes, not beats, dog.


Check the links in my sig for some of my production work. My newer stuff isn't there, but you'll get an idea.

#15
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ya i had never noticed that comment before either. i think its very difficult to DJ flawlessly. and i agree with jtype about it taking different skills as well. overall, ya..producing is harder. but extremely high level DJing isn't easy by any measure. quite frankly, i would be insulted if someone listened to my megamix and was like "ya, that was easy i bet...no skill at all." especially considering ive only ever heard a few other DJs pull off anything even close to that.

#16
Bl!ndf!re

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thanks for the post man icon_smile.gif

i keep trying to get myself to actually create a complete section of a song or try to get myself to watch tutorial videos on FL or get the motivation to go get Reason 4

but everytime i actually start to get a little done starcraft or school pulls me away icon_sad.gif


speaking of school....

I shall reread (not skim this time) when i finish this project >:(


QUOTE (Husky @ Mar 31 2010, 04:26 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
A couple of Mutas softened up to the red, a couple of other Mutas softened up to the black, cause they're dead.

QUOTE (slartibartfast of earth @ Sep 28 2010, 08:26 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
ps my disablity in my hands makes my typing crap sry

QUOTE (PwnDaddy123 @ Mar 31 2010, 04:26 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
I'd hit it tbh. Especially if it's dead.

#17
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QUOTE (Bl!ndf!re @ Oct 6 2010, 12:49 AM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
thanks for the post man icon_smile.gif

i keep trying to get myself to actually create a complete section of a song or try to get myself to watch tutorial videos on FL or get the motivation to go get Reason 4

but everytime i actually start to get a little done starcraft or school pulls me away icon_sad.gif


speaking of school....

I shall reread (not skim this time) when i finish this project >:(

Reason 4 is hella easy to pirate bro. As soon as I get a MIDI drumpad though its off to 5 where I can use KONG, which is fucking amazing.
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#18
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QUOTE (Jimmy Rabbitte @ Oct 6 2010, 04:20 AM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
Reason 4 is hella easy to pirate bro. As soon as I get a MIDI drumpad though its off to 5 where I can use KONG, which is fucking amazing.

Im not a good pirate tbh :/ just music and mw2 which i never even bothered to actually play

pm me steps? icon_smile.gif <3 <3 <3


QUOTE (Husky @ Mar 31 2010, 04:26 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
A couple of Mutas softened up to the red, a couple of other Mutas softened up to the black, cause they're dead.

QUOTE (slartibartfast of earth @ Sep 28 2010, 08:26 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
ps my disablity in my hands makes my typing crap sry

QUOTE (PwnDaddy123 @ Mar 31 2010, 04:26 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
I'd hit it tbh. Especially if it's dead.

#19
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step 1: buy eye patch....

#20
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step 2: play any game that cutie gamer likes.




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