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
- 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).
- 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.
- 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.
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.
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!