Events

Do You Need To Hire A Professional Wedding Photographer To Help In Your Wedding

Things Wedding Photographers Secretly Wish You’d Tell Them

the relevant discipline today being weddings. While I’m waiting for your call, I thought I’d take the opportunity to share with you some of the less obvious information that I (and other wedding photographers) are going to want to know before your big day…

The names and phone numbers of our wedding day co-workers.

We’re going to be working closely with your other wedding vendors, especially your DJ and your wedding planner or day-of coordinator. In some cases, it can be immensely helpful to know this information. That way, we can interface with them directly and remove you as a middle-man. (Or woman.) We can begin collaborating before your wedding day, and we can start to create a teamwork mentality. A lot of photographers don’t ask for this information and most will do just fine without it. But when we do have it, we’ll usually take advantage of it. If you volunteer this information to us, we’ll appreciate it and be impressed with your organization.

The names of your whole entire family and every single person in your wedding party.

Photographers with experience know how much better it is to practice learning people’s names before they show up. Photography specifically requests all these names from our wedding clients. But many years ago, we’d try and wing it. Do you know how awkward it can feel to be standing in front of 30 or 40 people who all know your name, but for whom “hey you” is the best you can muster? Hint: very awkward. And it’s exceptionally difficult to be a bold, creative artist when you feel super duper awkward. If you’ve hired a newer photographer, this probably isn’t even on their radar, so just send them the names.

If there is anyone who needs special considerations.

This includes things like hearing, vision, and mobility impairments or less obvious things, like strong aversions to flash lighting, a tendency to overheat or if someone sweats a lot more than average. Having this kind of information in advance lets your photographer make more calculated decisions at more convenient times. Photography we build in some time to scope out a location either in advance or on the day of the wedding. We can make a more considered effort with this time if we know that someone in the family or wedding party needs a wheelchair. If it’s going to be a hot day, we can avoid the open field, so the best man isn’t soaked in sweat at the reception. If one of the bridesmaids has severe allergies, we could skip the garden. Of course, without any of this info, a good photographer should still be able to wing it. But you’ve paid for their time and creativity, why not help them be as efficient as possible?

If there is ANY family drama.

If your mother-in-law really didn’t think you should get a photo booth with lots of silly props, it would probably be best that we don’t hand her one of those props on the dance floor. Or if say your parents are separated and having trouble getting along, knowing this can help us avoid exacerbating the problem on your wedding day. (This is especially important information during the family formals, where family conflicts have a way of showing up.) It could feel a little awkward discussing personal issues with your photographer, but it can make things way less unpleasant later. When there is family drama, big or small, we want to know. A great wedding photographer is out to capture the best of your relationships during your wedding. Even if there is drama of some sort, there will still be smiling faces, and honest, heartfelt exchanges. We’d like to keep it that way.

 

Wedding Tips From a Photographer Turned Bride

I was chatting with one of my brides recently and she asked me, “What are the keys to having a successful wedding day?”. To which I replied, “Listen up my young Padawan, I have much to teach you…”  After an outpouring of a lifetime of solid-gold wedding advice from a matrimonial guru, she, with jaw on the floor, replied that it was only fair that this veritable treasure trove of ceremonial knowledge be bestowed upon the rest of the wedding world. (I’m joking, of course..but I like to pretend it was this dramatic 😉 )

At the same time that I was coming up with this list, ‘I Do Venues‘ asked asked me to write up some tips from my industry experience, paired with what I’m learning, now in my own wedding-planning-process.. so here is what I came up with–hope it’s helpful 😉

Determine What’s Important: There are so many traditions and timelines and faux pas that at some point, the wedding industry decided we all have to accommodate and include when planning our nuptial celebration..From cake cutting to first dances to garters and bouquets to party favors.. lets be real– none of these things are really detrimental to the real purpose of the day (for you and your babe to get married!) but they can certainly add an element of fun, but only if they mean something to you. To make this process more focused and meaningful, I tell my friends and clients to list the three things that are important to them on their wedding day. Dancing? Photography? The perfect venue? The amount of guests attending? The dress? Whatever it may be, don’t feel bad about it! It’s your day and you and your fiancé get to choose what is a priority 🙂 Let those things get the majority of the wedding budget, time and effort, and if there’s room for the other stuff, great! But focus on the stuff you’re excited about first, and then see what else you feel like fitting in 🙂

First Look: If I were to give one piece of advice to a couple it would be to STRONGLY consider doing a First Look.

What’s a First Look? It’s when the bride and groom see each other before the ceremony, have a few moments alone, and get portraits done before-hand. There are several ways to do this, but a lot of the time, the groom will go away from the craziness and get set up in a certain location and the bride will then come to him and either tap on his shoulder or say his name for him to turn around, or they’ll close their eyes and face each other and do the big reveal together..you get the idea..Why do I recommend this? Because weddings go by SO fast, I feel like it’s the one time the couple can slow down and be alone together (photographers should be very photojournalistic during this time, and let the couple have their moment before insisting on any poses or anything like that). It’s such a special moment—I’ve seen couples pray together, say their vows or affirm each other, exchange gifts.. It’s awesome! Doing a First Look really frees you up and allows you to relax during cocktail hour or mingle with your guests. If you’re having a lot of friends and family coming in from out of state, this is definitely something you’ll want to consider. Most importantly, you want to feel like your married. You don’t want a photographer or a coordinator rushing you along in order to keep you on time. You want your day to be enjoyable and smooth and for that, getting as much done before hand is ALWAYS helpful. Most importantly, this private moment alone really sets the tone for the rest of the day, calms nerves, and gives the couple a chance to connect before the moment they are standing at the altar together. I totally get the tradition of waiting until the bride walks down the aisle..but if you’re prone to stress or anxiety especially, the First Look can be a calming and tone-setting alternative..

Hire Vendors That You Like: If you’ve been in a bridal party, you know that a bride and groom spend a majority of their wedding with their vendors. Like choosing the friends you want by your side on your wedding day, you want to choose vendors whose company you enjoy, who you trust, and who will help your day be more fun and less stressful, rather than the other way around.

 

Things Only Wedding Photographers Can Truly Appreciate

Wedding photography can be an incredibly fun job, but it’s not without its stressful moments. When you’re neck deep in a shoot, you have to stop and appreciate the little things that only wedding photographers will truly understand. Here’s a short list of those private joys. Feel free to add your own in the comments and let this bit of fun take you away from the current election cycle.

When you meet with a bride and groom and they have actually looked at your work and know your overall style is to their liking.

You book an engagement shoot and it happens on the scheduled date with no weather issues or last-minute rescheduling.

You miss a shot and your second shooter shows you a perfect frame on the back of their camera.

You’re editing and go through two out-of-focus frames, then the last one is perfectly sharp.

You walk into the reception venue and the walls and ceiling are perfect for bouncing flash.

You get paid on time without having to remind the couple—or even mention it to them.

The couple uses the preview photos you sent them as their Facebook profile pictures and not the smartphone shot from Uncle Bob.

There’s a guest at the wedding with a fancy camera and they say, “Don’t worry, I’ll stay out of your shots,” and they actually do.

The vendor meal is awesome and you get to eat it somewhere that’s not a closet.

You send the couple the link to their online gallery and they respond right away with their reaction so you don’t have to fret about whether they’re happy with your work.

The couple says, “We would rather order prints from you than take them to a drug store or something like that.”

You notice the bride is wearing a hairband around her wrist before you start taking the portraits.

You remember to sync all your camera clocks before you start shooting.

You go to take the big family photo and everyone is present without having to send someone from the bridal party to search for them.

You have so many great photos from a wedding that it’s hard to cut down enough for a blog post.

You share a photo or blog post on Facebook and the almighty algorithm allows it to actually get some decent reach.

It rains all day and then the sun comes out for just long enough to shoot some epic portraits.

Sitting in a quiet car having just finished shooting for the night.

The bride or groom says, “We scheduled the outdoor ceremony in the late afternoon when the sun is going down,” instead of, “The ceremony is at noon.”

You go home with no business cards left because so many people asked you for them.

 

Things Your “Cheap” Wedding Photographer Won’t Tell You

You only need them for a “couple of hours” to give you a “few pictures” to remember your wedding day. So that $150 an hour is a lot of money for those four hours and honestly, you wish you could make that kind of dough. They are only “snapping a few pictures” and you only want a “disc of images”, right?

So you are opting for one of two things for your wedding photographs:

  1. You’re going to get one of your cousins who owns one of those “expensive” cameras that takes wonderful pictures to photograph your wedding or…
  2. Your going to find the cheapest person you can because, well, ANYONE can “snap a few pictures” and if they have a good camera, it should be just fine!

If you really want to risk that you’re going to really HATE your wedding photos later, then by all means, you should “take a chance” and see what happens.

hey’re cheap because they have no experience photographing weddings.

I see this all the time. Brides scouring Craigslist or wedding vendor sites looking for the “cheap” photographer. The cheapest they can find. Most “newbie” photographers will offer to do your wedding at rock bottom prices. “Well, they ARE advertized in “The Knot”, so I bet they have been vetted by them!”.

$600 is making a LOT of money for a couple of hours of work.

The actual “taking of your photos” for $600 would be a lot of money- if that was all there was to it.

Newbie (aka Cheap) Photographers usually aren’t “legal”.

A legal business must be properly licensed, insured, and collect and pay sales taxes to the State they work in. There are WAY too many that call themselves “professional photographers” who aren’t. If something should go badly wrong, then you have little or no recourse for what you just paid them. Hiring one of these means you are taking more than a little chance, but you are taking a very big one. Make sure your photographer is fully legal to do business in the State you live.

 

Things Your Wedding Photographer Wants You To Know

Allow extra time on the day

When making your wedding day itinerary, be sure to plan enough time for your wedding photography. This includes traveling to and from a shoot location – whether it is driving to the beach or walking down rows of vineyards – it all takes time.

Clean up before you get ready

Getting ready photos can look beautiful and are a great way for your photographer to begin documenting the story of your wedding day. However, these photos don’t turn out so well if there is half eaten plates of food, or last night’s laundry in the shots.

Engagement photography is a great idea!

Engagement photography prepares you for your wedding, it’s like a trial run. It makes you comfortable in front of the camera and lets the photographer discover the best way capture you. It is a great opportunity to break the ice with your photographer – you will also end up receiving some great photos of your and your partner.

Uncle Joe and his camera cannot replace a professional photographer

How many times have we heard of a couple not choosing a professional wedding photographer because they know someone with a good camera instead? Too many!

Take time to enjoy the first kiss

Another one of the most important things your wedding photographer want you to know. It may be a small moment but it is so important. It is your first kiss as a marriage couple – it only happens once so enjoy and  don’t rush it – make it last!

Why Use A Wedding Dj

How to choose the perfect DJ for your Wedding as a Newly Engaged couple

I’m engaged! Now what!?

You’re engaged to be married – congratulations! What an exciting, joyous and (slightly) nerve-racking time you’ve got ahead of you. So much stuff to sort out and so many aspects of your wedding to meticulously plan. Where on earth should you start!?

How much does a wedding DJ cost?

Now, one of the first questions happy couples have when they’re planning their wedding is ‘how much does a wedding DJ cost?’ And the answer is ‘it depends’. It depends on whether you simply want someone to show up and play some tunes, or you want a well-rounded, professional partner who’s going to work with you to ensure your big day is absolutely perfect.

Budget DJ:

Experience: Pub & Social Club gigs

Commitment: Part Time DJ and Agency Work

Online Presence: Facebook page

Communication via: Email

Specialist Wedding DJ:

Experience: Multiple Weddings throughout the year

Commitment: Full Time

Online Presence: Professional Website, Facebook, Youtube & Instagram

Communication via: Willing to meetup in person, or via Facetime etc.

Reviews: Multiple website, Facebook and/or Google reviews

Awards: Perhaps 1 or 2 Wedding Industry Awards

At the end of the day, you need to ask yourself how important a role is your wedding entertainment going to play in the overall success of your big day? Then, decide how much value it’s going to add and how much pressure it’s going to relieve if you hire an elite wedding DJ who’s more than willing to help you with numerous aspects of your planning.

Of course, your available budget is going to be a significant factor when choosing a wedding DJ, but please don’t underestimate the extra value a true pro can bring to the party.

 

How to Choose a Wedding DJ

Choosing a wedding DJ is an important decision because music sets the mood for the event. Making sure that he or she is a professional is not enough. If you have different taste in music and just don’t click, you won’t work well together. Here are some tips for choosing a wedding DJ. Use referrals. Googling DJs that work in your area is the easiest approach to the task, but how can you be sure that DJs you’ve found are actually good? We recommend that you ask friends and relatives who have recently had or attended a wedding for recommendations. Of course, you should to ask people whom you really trust.

Consider your budget. As with any other wedding professional, there are expensive DJs and relatively cheap DJs. Think about how much you are ready to pay the DJ and stick to your wedding budget. We are sure you will be able to find good DJ within your preferable price range. However, we will recommend against choosing the cheapest one. If the price is too low, it is suspicious

Do your research. Many DJs have a page on SoundCloud.com and/or upload videos of their gigs on YouTube. You absolutely should check them out. And don’t forget to Google some client reviews and references.

Meet them in person. Once you’ve narrowed down the list of potential candidates, you need to meet and interview each of them before making the final decision. Before making an appointment, make sure the DJ is available on your wedding date. If not, there is no point in meeting them

Trust your instincts. Experience and professionalism are important, but they are not the only thing that matters. Every DJ has their own personal style. You need to make sure that his or her style is compatible with your and your guests’ tastes. If you really like the DJ even though they don’t have much experience or stellar recommendations, go with him or her. Gut feelings rarely lie

 

Tips On How to Choose the Right Wedding Entertainment for Your Big Day

There are so many factors that go into planning your dream wedding. From the venue to your choice of food and decorations, it’s easy to get overwhelmed with the details.But one detail you certainly can’t afford to gloss over is your wedding entertainment. You can’t forget that your wedding is, after all, a party. For many folks – yourself included – this will be their biggest party of the year!

Watch your entertainers perform elsewhere

Modern technology has made it possible for you to watch past performances of wedding DJs and bands from the comfort of your own home, thanks to YouTube.

Don’t flock to the most inexpensive option out there

It doesn’t take long to realize that planning a wedding – no matter how simple or complex – can be costly. It’s only natural to look for ways to trim your budget; but your entertainment should not be one of those elements impacted by cost-cutting.

Don’t take their word for it. Ask around!

Wedding DJs and entertainers are just like any other business out there: they do well to talk themselves up to their customers and clients.

Make sure they’ll take requests

When it comes to hiring a wedding DJ in the DC area, requests shouldn’t be a problem. But they become a bit more complicated if you hire a live band.

 

How to Hire a Disc Jockey for Your Wedding

A DJ is a crucial ingredient to a wedding as they can make your reception enjoyable and memorable through their ability to entertain guests at your reception through skillful playing of different kinds of music. The goal of this article is to guide you through everything that needs to be considered when hiring a DJ for your important day.

Being Prepared

Get all your needs sorted with respect to the wedding. Establish the venue of the wedding, the date on which the wedding will take place and the length of time the disc jockey will be expected to play. This information is crucial to knowing the costs involved. In terms of the venue, it is always preferable to know the estimated size of the venue

Establish the theme of the wedding. If possible, get some input from the wedding couple and planner on the theme, mood or intended feel of the wedding. This will give you an idea of the preferred DJs.

Choosing a DJ

Compile a list of possible DJ choices. Use the internet, yellow pages, bridal shows, or get the names of some DJs who performed at your friends’ or relatives’ weddings who did a good job.

 

How to Choose Between a Wedding DJ or Live Band

So you’re working your way through your wedding checklist, and have reached the point where you have to make the difficult decision between hiring a DJ or live band to get the party started at your wedding reception.

DJ vs. Live Band

There are a few things to consider when making this important decision. We’ll go through the factors we think are most crucial to help you decide, but here’s a quick summary to get you started

Think about your Budget

You always need to keep your budget firmly in mind when planning any event, and especially one that can be as expensive as a wedding. So don’t forget to think about the cost first when deciding if you should hire a live band or DJ for your wedding reception.

Consider the Space

You’ll also need to think about the area you have available for your wedding music entertainment.

Create the Perfect Vibe

If your choice between a DJ or a live band is not limited by your venue size or budget, then have a think about which option will create the perfect vibe.

Tips To Choose Good Djs For Your Party

Tips To Pick Your DJ

Experience/Professionalism

One of the single most determining factors in the decision making process should be experience. You can plan every detail to the exact second, but no wedding occurs exactly as planned. There is a flow to weddings and an experienced DJ will make any change or delay appear like it was planned and rehearsed. In fact, a proactive DJ will anticipate common situations and prepare accordingly. You spent hours upon hours planning, scheduling and stressing about every single detail, the last thing you want is to do is spend your entire wedding worrying that something will be missed. A great DJ can put you at ease because he or she has all the necessary details and the ability to improvise should things change or fall behind.

Price

Deciding a budget for entertainment can be very challenging because prices can range anywhere from $300 to $3,000. Many DJ companies offer various pricing packages along with a la carte options, travel fees, and/or per hour add-ons. Similar to buying a car, you have to be aware of what the overall price will be after all the add-ons, extra time, additional audio system (for the ceremony, cocktail hour etc…), and additional fees

Meet with the DJ and make sure he or she will actually be you DJ

Make sure to meet with your DJ before you book. You want to get a feel for his/her personality and mannerisms. Especially if you want your DJ to also emcee the event, overall appearance and professionalism is key. You should feel comfortable having conversation during the consultation.

Personality/Emcee-ability

You need to make sure that the emcee you hire for your wedding fits the style of wedding your looking for. One of the best clues to discovering the right person is the first impression you get when you meet. Some DJ’s try to be too outgoing, over the top and end up sounding “cheesy”. Other DJ’s are more DJ’s than anything and have a hard time making announcements and speaking in front of large groups. A good DJ/Emcee will find a healthy balance between the two. For most weddings, the Bride and Groom just want their guests to have a great time so the DJ has to know how to use the microphone effectively.

Equipment

You can find a DJ with great personality, experience, talent, affordable prices, but it is imperative he or she uses the proper professional equipment. Beginning with the sound, professional speakers make all the difference in the world. Professional mics are also important. You don’t want microphone to cut in and out of signal because of insufficient range. There are also many different types of microphones for different applications. Make sure your DJ has the right type of mic for your event. A DJ should also have backup equipment in the event of technical difficulties

 

Essential DJ Hire Tips

Use personal experience or seek for good recommendations from trusted sources

Make use of the internet. Look for DJ companies with experience, recommendations and testimonials. Disco companies’ websites often contain videos, so you can see what the Disco will look like

Don’t always go for the cheapest option, you might get let down. When choosing a DJ go for skills, styles, quality, knowledge and experience. You want your Disco to look stunning and your DJ to be skilled. Your event is too important to just select on cheap price.

Look for a DJ Company with a large DJ roster. They will always have the right DJ to suit your party or event.

Make sure the DJ will be using top quality equipment and lighting. Sound and lighting is the most important factor for making your party a success.

 

Expert Tips And Questions To Ask Before Choosing A DJ

Dance the night away with a DJ you love!

DJs are arguably the most important part of a wedding — they connect strangers, they set the mood, and behind every great wedding reception photo is someone dancing to a song they put on.

Finding The Right Wedding DJ

There is a sea of wedding DJs, so where do you even begin to know where to start? The wrong DJ could be a catastrophe to an otherwise perfect day and you don’t want to end the night with an extremely awkward and painful reception that even an open bar couldn’t fix!

Calling Forth The One

Just as you’ll have your partner standing beside you on the big day, you’ll want the DJ on the other one! Finding that one DJ, the DJ that sets your heart on fire with music that pulls your soul straight from your body, that’s the one you want. So, how do you get it? With a little sprinkling of magic and good ol’ fashioned leg work!

Asking The Right Questions

After doing a little wedding DJ recon, make a list of the DJs you’re interested and grill em’! Here are some questions to get the interrogation underway!

Do a quick search – The internet is great for sorting the good from the bad. Not only will you get an idea of who you’d be working with, but you can cull through reviews and read what actual people are saying

 

CHOOSING THE RIGHT DJ

The most important day of your life is rapidly approaching. You have the best hall reserved, the perfect photographer, a wonderful wedding dress and sharp looking tuxedos picked out. What are you forgetting? Oh…that’s right, you need ENTERTAINMENT for the reception! NOT just a DJ.

With all the planning that goes into a wedding, it seems almost certain to overlook certain things, but GREAT entertainment should be one of the first things to secure when planning a reception. But how do you find outstanding entertainment for your special day? What should you ask? How much should you expect to spend? If you ask these questions, and follow these recommendations, you should have no problem finding a great DJ for your event

The best way to have a HORRIBLE reception is to call every DJ/MC  in the phone book, ask just their price, and hire the DJ with the lowest price. This happens more than it should, and a newlywed’s special day is ruined because they spent more on their cake than their entertainment.! It has been said that your entertainment is responsible for over 80% of the success of your entire wedding day.

A bride once stated: The ceremonies themselves are usually uneventful, so they have a tendency to blend together in the memory. What people REALLY remember is the reception, and a good reception guarantees people will look back on the occasion and say “THAT was a great wedding.”

There are a number of ways to find quality entertainment. The first, and probably the best way, is to hire someone you have seen at another reception where you were a guest. If the DJ did a great job, ask for their business card and hire them. The second is to ask friends or family members that have had great entertainment for their event. The third way is to call various Entertainment companies, or DJ companies, and find out which will do the best job for YOU! You want to find the right person, not the right price. Remember, there is a reason why QUALITY DJ’s charge more than AMATEUR DJ’s. Again, with these questions to ask, you should have no problems finding the best DJ for your reception.

 

All the Questions You Need to Ask Your Wedding Band or DJ

Let’s be honest here: The music can make or break a party, which means the band or DJ is one of the most important factors of your reception. And you definitely don’t want to hire someone without thoroughly vetting them first. Ask the below questions when you meet with any potential musicians to find the right fit for you.

how would you describe your style?

You need to figure out if their style will work with the vibe you’re going for. If you want an elegant cocktail party with lots of casual conversation, a band that describes itself as “rock and roll with a whole lotta edge” is a music mismatch. (And if you’re having trouble determining what kind of band or DJ you want, do some research on The Knot Marketplace or GigMasters—both can help you find exactly what you’re looking for.)

Can we come listen to you perform?

Seeing them perform live will give you the best idea about what your wedding entertainment would actually sound and feel like. While most musicians and the couples that hire them mutually agree in advance that the wedding is closed to prospective clients, some will have mini “concerts” for the public to attend and see whether they’re a good fit or not

Do you know our reception space and its acoustic, power and amplification requirements? If not, will you check it out beforehand?

Your musicians may need an extension cord, backup generator or other supplies, and it’s important to know this beforehand. If they don’t want to check out your venue, cross them off your list.

Can you play the songs that are important to us (such as a traditional Jewish hora tune or a favorite pop hit)?

The band or DJ should be able to play, learn or download any tune you’d like. If a band says “yes,” but they’ll need to learn and/or arrange it, ask them if they’ll charge for that.

Choose The Best Djs To Make Your Party More Live

Recent trends for wedding DJs

A big trend for the later part of your reception is dueling DJs. This may not suit your older guests, but later in the evening when they have left it can create a great club atmosphere for the younger members of the party.

Many DJs are being asked for hot jazz as an alternative to classical music during the quieter parts of the reception, and many are finding salsa tunes popular for dancing. Ballroom dancing may be a dying art but a lot of people are willing to have a go at salsa.

There is also a growing trend for a DJ to play throughout the entire reception, rather than just providing the music for dancing after the wedding menu has been served. Here is a possible format for your reception that can be accompanied the whole time by a DJ:

  • DJ to set up an hour before reception starts
  • DJ plays background music, perhaps jazz, while guests arrive and have welcome drinks
  • DJ announces wedding party or bride and groom and plays special song for their entrance
  • DJ plays background music during the meal
  • DJ announces the speeches and possibly plays a short musical clip for each one
  • DJ announces the first dance after the meal and plays chosen song
  • DJ plays great music to get guests up and dancing
  • DJ announces events such as the Bride and Father dance and cake cutting, and plays appropriate songs for these
  • DJ keeps the tempo up for dancing until the end of the reception, or until the bride and groom leave

 

Smart DJs use maths to mix the perfect beat

People are very good at moving in time to a beat. When you listen to your favourite song, you will probably find yourself nodding your head or tapping your foot along almost instinctively.

And when you’re doing it in a club, that piles pressure on your DJ. That DJ has to mix two songs together to maintain a common beat between the tracks if they want to keep the audience dancing. If they do a bad job of the mix, the two beat lines from each song won’t blend into each other. The most likely result of such a faux pas would be an instantly empty dance floor.

We’ve been investigating how closely matched two beat lines need to be for people to start moving in time to them as if they form a common beat. In other words, how accurate does a DJ need to be to make a seamless transition between songs?

We asked people to tap their finger in time to two metronomes played simultaneously. The separation between the two metronomes and the consistency (the predictability of the rhythms) was varied across the experiment.

We found that if the metronomes were very consistent, they had to be closely matched in time for them to be considered a common beat. But if the beats of the individual metronomes were inconsistent and less predictable, the separation between the beats could be larger while still being considered to form a single common beat.

Since a DJ will typically play tunes with a strongly defined beat, our research shows that in fact they have a very small margin of error to make the two beat lines sound as one to the dancing crowd.

The skill of DJing is probably more complex than people realise. Many of them might be high profile and living a super-star lifestyle but the professional DJ is an as-yet largely under-researched species. Along with the University of Leeds, we’re now investigating the timing skills of professional DJs who have only received informal training (as is generally the case) and comparing them to formally trained classical musicians.

 

4 Steps to More Purposeful DJing

  1. Get Analytical

What is your why?

Take some time to think about what you actually want to get out of DJing. Do you love sharing new music with a receptive audience? Do you like rocking a party with everyone’s favorite hits? Is it your job? Do you enjoy putting on a performance?

All of these types of questions have implications in regards to how to pursue DJing. Gaining clarity on this early on will help you to proceed from a more informed perspective.

If you already have a pretty active DJing schedule, take some time to get focused and organized. Many DJs assume that they are only “on duty” when they are behind the decks, but some off-hours preparation and promotion can do wonders in regards to advancing (and building a following).

  1. Set Goals

 Perhaps a bit too obvious for this type of post, but goal-setting is crucial for anyone wanting to further develop a career, interest, or hobby. Unless you’re completely satisfied with where you are, if you’re not setting goals — real, measurable goals, you’re already doing it wrong.

This is important both on a large and a small scale. If you have only large, pie-in-the-sky goals (e.g. “I want to be a famous superstar DJ!)… you’ll never take the time to figure out how to get there.

One more important point on this subject: it’s important to celebrate the completion of goals, big and small. Claim those small victories, and use them as motivation towards your bigger picture.

  1. Do Work

Some people are great at the “setting goals” part, but not so much when it comes to follow-through.

Advancement requires effort. Actual, legitimate effort. Elbow-grease. The grind.

DJs often whine and complain about a lack of gigs, a lack of Facebook followers, or a lack of interest in their latest mix. Yet, if you ask what steps they are taking to fix it, they can’t give you a good answer.

It may be pretty easy to “become” a DJ, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy to succeed as one.

Want to learn how to scratch? Tried it once or twice and found it too difficult? Then you’re right… but the problem isn’t the level of difficulty, it’s you.

There’s no substitute for learning a craft than to dedicate the time it deserves.

  1. Engage

When you’re invested in building up your community, it tends to give you a sense of focus. If you know what “your community” is (for instance, a local hip-hop scene or couples preparing for marriage), do everything you can to be the best at serving them. Make yourself a resource to others who may be having struggles of their own.

The idea here is positive networking. This leads to good working relationships, and some of them will even lead to real friendships. And that sort of camaraderie can do wonders.

I’ve seen small dance-music communities rebuilt from the ground-up based on this sort of like-minded group effort (including those in my home town). And some of that effort has lead to more, better gigs for me. And my skills have come in handy for many local promoters and DJs in my area. I’ve seen first hand that, so long as you get the right heads together, this stuff works.

If you have fans, interact with them. Make them feel special, because they are.

Final Tips

Accept criticism, and move on. Drama is only a distraction. Be professional. Taking charge of your DJ career, and treating it like a business (or, a brand) gives you a huge leg-up.

Instead of emulating your heroes, ask yourself “What problem am I trying to solve?” or, alternatively, “What audience am I trying to serve?” Discover the value you offer as a DJ, and find the audience that needs it.

 

 

DJs of the Future Don’t Spin Records—They Write Code

“Live-coding” parties are the latest phenomenon in underground electronic music culture.

RENICK BELL IS standing in front of his computer at a small table in the middle of the dance floor. The stoic, bespectacled musician types quickly and efficiently, his eyes locked to his computer screen. Around him in a wide circle, the crowd bobs to his music. Sputtering tom rolls, blobby techno synths, and crystalline cymbal taps blossom and spill out of the theater’s massive surround-sound system. All the lights are off, and the only illumination in the big room is the glow of Bell’s monitor, the soft red LED backlight on his mechanical gaming keyboard, and a live view of his PC monitor projected on a wall-sized screen.

Nearly every one of the hundred or so people in the room, myself included, is staring intently at the action playing out on the screen. But what’s being projected is not some psychedelic animation, alien landscape, or whatever other visuals you’d expect to see at an electronic music gig. What we’re watching is code. Lines and lines of it, filling up the black screen in a white monospace font.

We look on as Bell’s keystrokes call up a bank of sounds called atmo stab2, then another called ensOsakaArpAtmo14. Lovely synthesizer arpeggios start percolating in the mix. They’re untethered, a bit off-kilter. The effect is pleasing but edgy, like a warm wind that’s blowing a bit too hard. The snare drum sounds skitter around in the higher registers, but there isn’t much happening in the low end. Bell decides to fill in some of that space. He loads kitBleepFtech and gives it the command highGlobalDensity. A rush of kick drums bombards the speaker stacks, drowning the room in gigantic waves of jaw-rattling bass. The video projector starts vibrating violently from the onslaught, and the code on the screen melts into a smeary pink blur. The crowd whoops. Bell types out a message to the attendees, flooding the screen with one repeated line of text: The old patterns are dead.

“Live-coding” parties such as this—where revelers show up as much for the if-thens and variables as the beer and snacks—are a recent phenomenon in underground electronic music culture. And here in the Bay Area, where the Venn diagram of the Silicon Valley and DJ scenes finds its overlap, shows like Bell’s are right at home. Yet they’re not just more of the tech-meets-techno same. Whereas a traditional EDM show might feature a performer cueing up sounds or samples on a laptop, DJs at live-coding shows use computers to play music in a wholly different way, and to make all new sounds.

The code on display is used to control software algorithms. The musician synthesizes individual noises (snare hits, bass blobs) on their computer, then instructs the software to string those instrumental sounds together based on a set of predefined rules. What comes out bears the fingerprint of the artist but is shaped entirely by the algorithms. Run the same routine a second time and the song will sound familiar and contain all the same elements, but the composition will have a different structure. This is the apotheosis of electronic creation—half human, half machine. The events that have sprung up to celebrate this form of generative composition have already been given a delightful portmanteau: algoraves.

 

Sounding Off: Are DJs Musicians?

Are DJs musicians? They certainly need talent…

Some say that DJs are the superstars of tomorrow — but they said that yesterday… The truth is that DJs have always been superstars — how else is fantastic music played to hordes of partygoers and aficionados alike? Magazines can only go so far in explaining what songs sound like, and everyone perceives music differently, so are they exactly reliable? A good DJ will go that extra distance to bring you the best sounds you’ve never heard.

Some of my favourite DJs were the ones doing the rave circuit in the early ’90s, just because the sounds they were playing felt like another universe crashing into my previous conceptions of music. I remember buying tape packs and absorbing sounds which until that moment I didn’t even know existed!

It is a great shame that the majority of radio stations operate with identical playlists — the radio DJ is in a unique position to expose unheard music to a much wider audience. It’s testament to this that the late John Peel was heralded as one of the most important men in 20th century music. Unaffected by commercialism, his eclectic broadcasts introduced many new acts into the mainstream. This injection of talent kept an increasingly stale industry on its toes, but now a new breed of DJ is emerging.

With more and more music being made but less and less places to play it, the hip-hop mixtape phenomenon has taken hold, with streets and markets being flooded with homemade CDs. This enables new songs to reach an audience literally hours after completion, and the race is on to find the hottest exclusives. In the US some mixtapes even outsell artist albums!

A truly great hip-hop DJ displays musicality, originality, skill and dedication. If you possess these qualities you have the right to call yourself a turntablist; one who uses the turntable as an instrument.

Let me take a minute to break down each aspect of turntablism, beginning with musicality. Many of the greatest musicians have no musical training, they can just feel when something is right, and this is true of most turntablists. From the seamless blending of two songs to the complex arrangement of super-fast scratch patterns, a gift for music theory is essential.

Some turntablists take things further by creating whole compositions using loop pedals and even pressing up their own records! The juxtaposition of pitch and direction of the record with the formation of ‘syllables’ on the crossfader can produce alien language, and has influenced many eccentrics to push the boundaries of scratching in a quest to communicate with one another.

There are some DJs whose styles are so distinct that within minutes, you can tell who it is. How can that be? Well, maybe they’re chopping sounds together in a trademark style, or maybe the scratching displays a distinctive natural finesse. The technique of freestyle scratching is where learnt patterns are strung together in a flow of conscious movement by the hands, so everyone’s style is a little different.

Skill and dedication go hand in hand, and as with any instrument, a serious amount of hours need to be spent honing your talents. Practice, practice, practice really is the key to all the above.

A good DJ will go out of their way to find the killer record you need to hear, but the turntablist can make you listen to familiar records in a new context, for example cutting a kicking Beyoncé vocal over a classic James Brown instrumental — there really is no limit to what you can play. Some turntablists make whole tapes playing ’80s pop songs, but do it in such a way that the whole mix feels like an adventure back in time.

One rather unique skill I must mention is a trademark of the top battle DJs. ‘Juggling’ is the live remixing of tracks using two records. By memorising the position of a groove in relation to the centre label, a turntablist can loop short sections of music, punching-in snares or other sounds, creating new fills and rhythmical patterns. Combine this with the unlimited supply of vinyl records and strange things start to happen. ‘Disses’ can be directed to other DJs by rearranging rap verses, musical phrases can be replayed in different orders and grooves can even be ‘locked’ using stickers.

This relentless quest to try and get the most out of bits of vinyl has revolutionised the way we make and sell music. From using obscure samples and noises, to uncovering rare tracks and inventing new marketing schemes — some even say the DJ is the musician of the future!