How To DJ a Wedding – Tips and Tricks

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February 23, 2017

Make Any Special Day a Success Through Music

DJing a wedding can be a lot of fun and also a lot of hard work so it is important that things are done right. Being that weddings are a pivotal part of people’s lives making sure everything runs smoothly is of utmost importance. A good DJ can make or break any wedding, so come prepared with plenty of music. It’s important to treat the client as a customer and to craft your show so it fits with their desired experience. Be sure to find out all the information before hand. What genres to play, how old the guests are, special songs for certain dances, and logistical information such as stage size and set times. You’ll also want a suitably sized library of tracks for any situation. If you’re doing some heavy technical mixing and you’re on for 2 hours you’ll want 6 hours of music available. If you’re just playing track after track with no mixing you can shorten your library length. Here are some additional tricks and tips to make sure your wedding service runs smoothly every time. 



Setting up Equipment For the Function

The setup is the first step in Djing a wedding. Make sure to leave plenty of time before guests arrive to setup the equipment. Often times this will take up to an hour depending on how much equipment is being used. You’ll want to get the acoustics set up while you have access to the room before the guests arrive. Be aware that often times there will be a long period to wait before a DJ’s duties come into play. Try to act professional while you wait as you’re on the job.

It’s extremely important to gauge the acoustics of the room to give a great performance. Make sure to set the speakers up according to the shape of the room to get the best sound. It is very important to do a test run of the sound system before the wedding gets under way. Play a song and walk the room, notice any spots where sound misbehaves and see if adjusting it helps. One of the biggest issues is corners trap bass so heavy base tracks may disrupts tables in these areas. 

When It’s Time For Action

When guests start to arrive it is a common custom to have light music playing, this music will likely continue throughout dinner. After dinner it is time to play the bride and grooms special song, this is the most important part of your night. Some weddings have many special songs which include the first dance, a dance with the parents and a dance with the bridal party. Getting these songs right in these moments is crucial so make sure to be well prepared for these times. A good rule of thumb is to keep the music fast and lively while mixing in a slow song for people to have a rest in between. Most weddings will start with older songs giving the older generation a chance to dance and throughout the night the music can become more modern to please the younger crowd.

How to Dj: Reading the Crowd

Reading a crowd for what songs to play is an art form that can sometimes take many years to grasp. Often times a Dj will receive requests for songs to be played and if appropriate make sure that they get played. Nothing makes people more upset then not playing a certain song that was requested. Be prepared to have a late night of partying, drinking and good times.



Mastering DJ Build Ups

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February 16, 2017

Building Potential Energy

Before the drop comes the build up. If you want to make your drop hit hard you gotta raise the stakes before. It’s just like gravity. This article is all about making compelling build ups that engage and emotionally charge your performance and make it memorable. What goes up must come down, and if you want to do the best build ups you have to learn the balance of tension and release. As a DJ you have a bunch of software and hardware tools and effects available at your disposal.



Beat Rolls

Beat rolls are one of the simplest ways to create an easy tension in a live performance. These effects are called Beat Masher in Traktor and a Loop Rolling in Serato. This is about as easy as it gets but it’s foundational and done right still sounds amazing. You need to practice and build an intuitive feel to properly manage when to build the tension with the beat roll in a song.

Beat roll allows you to create tension immediately with the push of a button just before a major point in a song. Doing so will stop the song from progressing while a beat loops until release. At which point the song will play like nothing happened. Drop, drop, drop, the beat. This tension is created from stopping the track to focus on a specific beat rhythm.

One trick with the beat roll is to transition through the values through larger to incrementally smaller loops. That means start with a big beat value on the down beat, then engage the next smallest value on a down beat in the created loop, then smaller until a hyper fast beat is looped. For example you start beat rolling an 8 count, then on beat you beat roll it to 4 beats, 2, then one. The tension builds as the song hits a fever pitch. The release jumping back to the song will drive your audience crazy with such an amazing build up.

Sweeps and builds

These guys are a little different from beat rolls in they don’t pause the track to focus on a segment. Instead they work to create a new sound by making the existing track fuller and more hectic. Again this adds to the whole charging the audience before the release but it’s done in a different way. Practice will once again rain king as you learn when this works and when it sounds terrible.
So for this one you’re going to need a controller or mixer with a delay function. All you need to do is add in a small delay at around 1 beat, then over the course of a few beats (8 to 16) ramp it up to it’s max value to spike the energy of the song. Then quickly drop the delay and release the tension.

If you really want to get balls to the wall crazy and your gear allows you to set the delay to post fader or master. What you do is set your delay to your channel post fader. Then bounce this channel in and out using your cross fader. Basically you send parts of the song into the delayed channel through the cross fader by flicking it in and out making a ridiculously cool effect that builds some massive tension.

This works really well with the echo effects, but reverb and a few others also work real well. Experiment and definitely try new things to see how you can craft some amazing build ups through manipulating the energy of a song. Don’t just stick to the higher energy side of the spectrum, if you figure out ways to drop the energy you can make even deeper drops after the cliff as well. Also as with anything don’t overdo it. Sometimes subtlety is king. Practice will raise your intuition on what the perfect amount is and smooth out your show.



Why You Should Use In Ear Monitors

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February 16, 2017

Artists often times get disoriented when monitoring their stage performance in live shows through the speaker systems. Even the most seasoned live gig veterans can get confused by a venue with weird stage acoustics. IEMs or In-ear monitors are a great way to cut through this confusion with consistency across the performance area. With the drop in cost and raise in features any serious artist should take a serious look at making the switch.



Crystal Clear

One of the major issues with over ear headphones is that the headphones frequently have to compete with the acoustics of the room. This room noise getting in the way of clearly hearing your sound is something you never have to deal with with in-ear headphones as they naturally noise cancel and do so without needing expensive feedback circuitry.

Intimacy

With in-ears you intimately get a crystal clear rendition of your performance’s complete sound. You don’t get drowned out and lost anymore. You don’t have to worry about how you sound because you’ll know. Taking the weight of uncertainty away is one of the greatest strengths of in-ear monitoring. It’s your music, your fans and you.

Locking Down Your Sound

With IEMs you’ll find that your performance will gain some massive consistency. This is because you hear the same thing regardless of your postion on the stage. Without IEMs if you go left in one show and right in another you’ll micro-adjust and it will be more difficult to gain the experience to lock down a consistent performance. The practice will take longer to lock in your sound. Same thing for different venues and their sound systems, if one venue runs low, and the next venue runs hot that might make for an uncomfortable audience.



Compact

One of the greatest strengths of in-ear monitoring is that it’s really simple and doesn’t take much gear. For a setup you have a monitor mixer, cables, and your in-ear headphones. It’s a quick setup and it’s very liberating compared to more complex alternatives. Simple means a quick setup and tear down, which means more time to tune to the perfect sound.

Price

It all depends on what kind of setup you’re opting for. IEMs don’t have to be expensive. You don’t need to get the wireless battery packs or custom made in-ears to reap all the benefits. Wired universal fit in-ear headphones are great for getting started and gaining all these advantages for your live performance. Remember to stay within your means, there are a lot of really good universals out there. But IEMs are extremely recommended over wedges.

However if you have the means, a more liberating method is to get a wireless two piece system with a sound system linked transmitter and a wireless receiver carried on your person. With this you’ll be completely free to roam the stage, all while keeping track of your sound and being able to give your crowd your best show.

If you want to go all out, you can get custom fitted moulded ear pieces for maximum secure fitting. You won’t have to worry about them falling out and the sound quality will be the best by far as universal IEM headsets will let some ambient noise in where fitted IEMs won’t.

Pioneer DDJSR Review

DJ Equipment Review
February 14, 2017

Intro

Pioneer is pretty much a gold standard for DJ controllers. They carry high quality products for all levels from entry to professional. This DJ controller is geared toward semi-professional controllerist DJs who wants to see the live remixing innovations of state of the art controllers. I would suggest this controller to someone who’s been DJing for a while. Beginners may be a little lost. But it’s absolutely great for learning as well and won’t take too long to pick up.

DDJ-SR-side

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Design

The setup is an asymmetrical two turntable design with one on either side and a two channel mixer in the middle. It comes with it’s own amazing sound card and is USB powered. The DDJSR is smaller and lighter version of the brand’s SX model. It is extremely compact at just over shoulder width allowing for portability and ease of setup for temporary shows. It comes with a rugged steel face plate. On top of that it can probably handle a fall or two without too much issue. Meaning it can handle travel to and from gigs without babying. The sides are a strong and sturdy plastic. It is powered by USB for laptop connectivity with Serato installed. The sound card hosts a monitor headphone output, microphone input, balanced auxiliary inputs, and a balanced output to the PA.
The controls all feel like they’re extremely high quality. The wheels are really responsive, smooth and feel durable. The performance pads are very nice, somewhat rubbery but easy and satisfying to press and time with the beat.

 

The two turntables are asymmetrical where the layout on both the left and the right are the same, which may throw off some DJs used to a mirrored deck setup. Each deck comes with 8 performance effect pads, four effect selection controls, three FX knobs , a jog wheel, tempo control, and time signature selection.

Each deck has a shift key allowing you to moved to a third and fourth deck and control over up to four tracks at once. The DDJSR having 4 decks means this product is an amazing next step when moving up from an entry level controller. Though even as a beginner you’ll be able to efficiently and quickly learn the ropes with the software controlled effects to produce a professional sound and performance.

DDJSRThe deck’s jog wheels are pretty large and take up a big percentage of real estate on the compact controller. They’re not too big that they overtake it, so it’s actually pretty nice to have due to precision. The wheels also have multiple functionality depending on how you spin them. The top of the wheel allows you to scratch, while the side of the wheel allows you to skip and fine-tune where you are in a track in Serato.

Performance Pads

A huge plus is the effects are geared towards a live and impromptu environment, having only a cursory understanding of what the effect does is all you need. No additional preparation other than the knowledge is needed as the beat mapping and computer will take control of all the settings. Basically if you keep the phrasing and downbeats of your track intact you’ll find you can do some ridiculously amazing things with this piece of gear effortlessly. You just have to choose the beat lengths. Just keep an eye on the looping length to keep control of the beat with a cursory glance.

The most important part to realize is that unlike a loop or roll the slicer allows you to work with parts of the music that haven’t happened yet without impacting the rest of what gets played. You can insert future beats over the track in time with the music. Allowing you to bring in effects before they’ve happened and a whole new dimension to your creativity without ruining the flow of the track.

On top of these standard of living improvements for live shows, the DDJSR also comes with Pad Plus. It’s essentially a set of alternative settings to create next level effects. For example the slicer pad plus makes the slicer pads become triggerable effects like reverb fade outs. Once again these effects are all perfectly in sync with the music that can be incorporated at any time.

DDJSRTopController

FX Knobs and Software

In addition the DDJSR comes with 12 FX software packs and has lots of additional ones for purchase through the app package. You can have up to three active at a time and choose between having one effect that you have full control over 3 parameters of that effect and really deep dive into creating something unique. Or you can go with a much broader strokes with 3 effects being controlled at once. This is done through three FX knobs at the top of each deck. Honestly they take some getting used to as each effect is mapped it’s own way. But for the most part they seem to follow intuitive rules for knob assignment.

Slip mode

One of the premium features of this controller is the Slip Mode setting. Essentially what this setting does is allow for the track to continue to progress regardless of what’s done on the controller. So for example if you pause the track in Slip mode, the sound will be paused and won’t play out loud, but the track will keep going quietly on your Serato program. Essentially it mutes the track during loops, scratching, samples, and even “pausing”. So if you put effects on the start and stop of a song you can trigger them without interrupting the song, just by pausing and playing the track.
This brings us to the greatest strength of the DDJSR. You never have to interrupt your song to create effects.This is why I think it’s the best DJ controller for controllerist DJs as they will see the most benefit. But this controller just makes your performance so damn smooth when everything you do works with the flow of the music instead of in place of it. Whether you’re using Pad triggers, slip mode or FX knobs this controller’s got you covered.

Audio Mixer and Serato Sound Card

As a standard controller staple there’s not much to say about the mixer. Your expected features are there and everything is easy to use, well designed and fine. The mixer comes with trim, EQ and a high and low pass filter for controlling base in your performance.

The sound card on this piece of gear is really, really nice and extremely high quality. This is where Pioneer steps up their game. In addition to Serato’s output it comes with inputs for your Mic and Aux in to bring in more sound. The device has a balanced 1/4 jack output to make sure your sound comes out crisp. When I say the sound card is extremely high quality I mean it. It comes with 24 bit sound at a 44.1k sample rate. This means it sounds way better than it’s price point, from deep bass to high high hats. It is greater than Bluray sound quality. For an easy comparison, it’s got 256 times more precision on frequencies than CDs. Take the time to find some lossless tracks and you can blow your audience away with studio quality sound.

DDJSRSoundCard

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USB Powered

The USB power is both good and bad. It cuts down on necessary cables and cleans up your play area for sure. But if you have too many USB devices plugged into your computer you can find yourself with power issues that may mess up your setup. If you’re thinking of hooking up multiple USB powered devices to your laptop look into a powered USB hub.

Serato Software

The DDJSR comes with a full version of Serato DJ (Normally $99). Of course it integrates very effectively with the Serato software that comes with the product. It was made for it after all. The software itself is frequently championed as one of the best. It’s extremely stable and has never crashed on me. Make sure your laptop can handle it though. The software lets you set 8 cue points per track. Which just so happens to be the max of this controller. It has my favorite library organization as well with Key, BPM and custom flagging.

Conclusion

The Pioneer DDJSR is one of my favorite controllers available on the market right now. Everything about it is tailored to creating a one of a kind live show that matches your personality. Whether it’s the rugged construction for carting it off to venues. The portable size without losing usability. The seamless effects integration with playing tracks. Or the unbelievably good sound card that puts out arena sound system quality. You gotta pick it up today.

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How do DJ Controllers Work

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February 12, 2017

Ever wonder how DJ turntables really work? People often see DJ gear and become intimidated by the complexity of the nobs and faders and sheer amount of controls available for manipulating sound. Back in the day record turntables did all of these things themselves. They were analog audio players that were allowed to be adjusted by users to create new and unique sounds with source audio from records or CDs and help from electrical effects.



You could adjust the BPM of the song by adjusting how fast the audio signal played by physically slowing it down. Or you could adjust how loud each record played to make transitions from one source to another. The physical turning of the record set the pace, and the music was turned into electric signals for the speakers. Between the speakers sat electronic filters, much like electric guitar pedals that would create effects and frequency response changes, adjusting the play out of the song. These changes were all analog, adjusting how the signal was interpreted (making it slower, or ignoring bass), but not through active reprocessing. The signal was read differently, not processed.

dj studio speakers

These good old days are truly becoming old school and companies look at gear like this a niche market. The majority of the focus goes into making new electric DJ controllers. It’s picked up as the cost of electric components and circuitry has become more powerful and cheaper for manufacture. These new turntables have gone binary. The manipulation and even the audio sources themselves have gone digital, and are run through CPUs instead of the older method of analog alterations.

Today modern DJ turntables work as peripherals and don’t adjust the signals themselves. Now new DJ setups require a computer with audio editing software dedicated to DJing, a Dj controller, an audio card, and a sound system. Essentially all the work falls into the lap of the laptop. All the audio is stored on it’s hard drive, all the audio adjustments are controlled through it’s software, and all of the alterations and processing is done by it’s CPU. In fact DJ controllers do none of these things. They are glorified specialized keyboards, allowing for an alternate way to converse with the laptop.

A DJ controller works by connecting to a laptop via USB. The DJ then maps the buttons, faders and nobs to menu settings and selections in the software on the computer. So in essence, pushing the auto-sync button on the controller merely hits the auto sync button in the DJ software and the computer does all the work. Larger turntables just give more options and more control over the software and can be mapped in any way you choose.

Some controllers come with an onboard audio card. This premium option allows for the audio output of the DJ software to be sent back to controller digitally over the USB cable and through the audio card. These sound cards allow for the DJ to adjust audio levels to outputs much like an audio mixer, through choosing channels and controlling the sound system. Turning the digital signal to analog sounds. So controllers can do some work in the signal chain. But the vast majority of the show is still done on the laptop. Even if you’re spinning the jog wheels instead of scrolling the mouse.