Guides

Mastering DJ Build Ups

Guides
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

Guides
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.

How do DJ Controllers Work

Guides
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.



Being a DJ’s Girlfriend – Advice on Dating a DJ

Guides
February 9, 2017

Should I Date A DJ?

Satire
Look we all love passionate confident men, but are all passions equal? Dating a DJ comes with benefits and sacrifices. I mean we’ve all thought about it, but how can we manage? It’s a tough balance but if you pull it off your relationship will be rock solid. The biggest issue is finding the perfect resonance between you, his fans and his mixes. If you can handle a DJ you can handle any man’s childish dreams.



Being a DJ’s Girlfriend

He’s deadset on his “craft” and he’s looking to you for support. A DJ’s girlfriend needs to take special care to navigate the relationship on a tight rope. Just like mixing the perfect beat you have to find the right balance. On one hand you can’t enable him but on the other you can’t destroy his dreams. You’re not that mean right? With this handy guide you can be consenting without approving and we can hope he gets the hint and a real job.

Handy Dating Advice

You have to start the relationship off right. When you meet a DJ, the first thing they will tell you is probably something along the lines of, “I’m a DJ”. This behaviour is twofold and focuses on your reaction. First it’s a warning, “Hey I’m a DJ, and if you’re not cool with that, run away”. If you continue interacting with him, he’s no longer morally responsible. Second, it’s to check and see if you’re an open and accepting soul that will let him follow his dreams without hurting his core. He needs this subtle approval. He’s already pumping his ego by claiming he’s an artist, that’s enough of that. From this point on the game is afoot. Remember the balance. Consent without approval. Try acknowledging through a slight nod and a vocal “oh”, or maybe even a barely intrigued “hmm”.  Set the rules from the start.

The tests come strong and fast however, the next one will come up when you try to find out his name! DJ’s create stage names to dissociate from their issues and escape the emotional pain. Try to find out his real name and not his stage name as soon as possible. If you’re having real trouble, just say he can’t be whatever age he is and get him to show you his ID to “prove it”. Try to never use his DJ name. Never. Sorry Em-RK, you’re just Mark to me. If he asks you to use it when referring to him; avoid patronizing questions like “Umm why…?” Remember don’t stomp on his dreams, just subtlety let him know you don’t respect his life choices at all.

concert

When you hang out at his place you have to totally ignore his gear. Look it’s obvious he spent way too much on that DJ controller. But it’s his baby. Just pretend it doesn’t exist, don’t touch it and definitely don’t ask questions about it. This is the first step in finding a harmonious relationship. There are certain mental anchors a DJ has and avoiding them is the best form of defense. When he wants you to listen to a mix he made, pat him on the back and say, “It’s fine”. You can’t hit his dreams in the dick with a frozen sledge hammer, that’s cruel. Don’t white lie though, as the ego will snowball if you say something like, “That’s pretty good Em-RK.”

Make up excuses for avoiding shows as much as possible. But if you have to go to you DJ boyfriend’s performance you need a plan. The best way to handle this is to be a wallflower in the corner. Play on your cell, avoid eye contact with horny teens and stay away from the DJ booth.

Dating a DJ is Hard

If you find yourself having difficulties making the relationship work. The nicest and most caring thing you can do for your DJ boyfriend is dump him. He’s busy and going places and you’re definitely holding him back. Let him focus on his dreams. When you break the news remind him “It’s not him, it’s you” or something.



 

What is a Cue Button and What Does It Do

Guides
February 3, 2017
CueButton

There’s a pretty common question I see from lots of new up and coming DJs. They see the cue button in their new DJ software or on their controller and wonder what it does. This great option is universally available, whether it’s in Traktor, Virtual DJ, even on CDJs. Learning how to use it right will improve your performances and recordings. There are actually a few cue buttons to worry about. Each one has a different usage. There’s the monitor cue, hot cue, and track cue location.

What Is A Headphone Cue

The first cue type I want to get into is the mixer, monitor or headphone cue. This cue essentially allows the chosen track to be played in your monitor headphones. If you use the headphone cue anything you play on this channel will be privately played to you and not sent out to the actual mix being played in your performance. This allows you to “cue” up the next song and match beats without worrying interrupting the rhythm of your show. You can easily find starting beats, timing, and key. This cue is usually near your faders, gain, EQ filters, etc. It’s part of the mixer and channel sound controls portion of your deck.

What is a Cue Point?

A cue point is a deck cue that indicates an important point in the song, used to designate when in the track the music will play. It sets the starting point for the track so that you can perfectly beat match the two (or more) tracks together. This button is found on each individual deck. If you push this button while a track is paused it will set the cue point. Pushing the cue track button while the track is playing will cause the track to restart at that cue point. So you set your point on beat and as long as you do it right you’ll always be able to cue up and play on beat music. If you hold this button down after the track goes back to this cue point it will only play as long as you hold the cue button down and will pause/stop when you release it.

CueButton

What’s a Hot Cue?

Hot cues are essentially just setting addition cue points in a song. Want the track to start at a drop, place one there. Want to skip distracting vocals or an uninteresting section in the song? Place a hot cue after the section when the song becomes useful again. You can build up a list of these hot cues for each track. Hitting a hot cue will set the song to that set cue point. Allowing for massive control and on the fly creativity. They allow you to pick and choose aspects of the song you want while skipping the things you don’t.

DJ Cue Tricks

One of my favorite uses for the hot and regular cue buttons is to create a live mashup. For an easy example, lets say you just have song one running. Song two has a vocal you want to inject into the current song. All you have to do is set a hot cue on the second song just before that vocal. While the second track is paused you hit the hot cue to go to that point in the song. Then you hit the cue button and it will set the cue to start the track at this point. Then all you have to do is hold down the cue button and the song will only play as long as you hold it down. The vocal plays over your track one, and you release the cue. Now you have this vocal that you can drop in on your main track at any time, creating a simple vocal mashup live. This is called cue sampling and you can improvise without needing to set up samples beforehand.