This is the second installment of our series of posts on playing for the crowd. The first installment was how to play for an opening set.
Middle of the night: Although this is probably one of the busier times of the evening nailing the opening is very important, that being said the middle is important because youíre building the mood. The 11:00/12:00 till late spot is when you can really start kicking up.
Packed floor isnít the top of the mountain: There’s many times where I have a busy floor and Iím not comfortable with the reaction. Why? Just because the floor is packed doesnít mean you shouldn’t still be watching your crowd. You can still read the mood and take it to the next level.
What do I look for?
First thing I look for is are people dancing? You can have a busy floor and people still not feeling it, just waiting for the next song. Gauge if the dance floors moving, are people standing there or really feeling the music?
Are people singing along?
I keep my monitors turned up most of the night but when I drop a classic track I think people should know I always turn them down to listen if their singing along, this not only letís you know if they like this kind of music but also give you a feel for the mood of the crowd.
Are people putting their hands up getting down and dirty with some girl and/or jumping with the drop?
Most music whether it be techhouse or top40 has some kind of drop are people reacting accordingly? If you play dirty hip hop are girls dancing to it, is the crowd reacting to what youíre playing?
So what do you do if people aren’t reacting? Worst case scenario people arenít reacting to what youíre playing and leaving the floor. This is when you drop some genre party classic, something everyone should know to really bring it back but their are other things you can do too. If it seems like youíre losing people mix it up. Not everyone wants to listen to jump up and down music all night, donít be afraid to drop the tempo for a bit and change the pace.
Surprising people is always a good way to go whether people aren’t reacting or even if you’re killing it. Mix it up or play something unexpected to change the mood and bring people back.
In my opinion good DJs can play a really good set with good selection, great DJs can do the same thing but surprising the crowd at every turn.
Itís important to keep watching people, remember at the beginning of the night to look out for people who are leading the group. Those people who are the first to the dance floor and drag their friends to the bar. Make sure they are reacting to your tracks, itís a good quick way to judge the mood.
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Part #1 – Two Deck Djing fundamentals
Part #2 – DJ Mixing Techniques
Part #4 – How to organize your tracks in iTunes
Every good DJ has a lot of fresh music and knows it in detail.† It’s this knowledge that allows them to select the right tracks for the right crowd, venue, and time.† A common problem that a lot of DJs face is not the lack of music to play, but having the difficult task of quickly filtering through all of the good music they have to choose the appropriate track.† Spending some time off stage organizing your music can help you tremendously in this area.† We can do this by using “Smart Playlists”.
Smart playlists are dynamic lists that will automatically update themselves when songs are added to iTunes based on the criteria you have established for them.† All of the metadata fields you see in iTunes (artist, album, genre, etc.) can be used to set the criteria for what makes it into a smart playlist.† If you command-click in the metadata bar in iTunes you will see a list of all of the parameters that you can add into the window.† You can add any relevant data that you want to see (i.e. bit rate) and sort your lists with them.† It might take a bit of time to initially set these up, but once they are established you don’t have to worry about them anymore.
There are several different ways that you can go about organizing your music.† The way that you choose will be completely dependent on how you process and organize your music.† I’m going to show two examples of how this can be done.
1. BPM and Key
My personal preference for organizing music in iTunes is through hard data such as the tempo and key signature.† To do this quickly you can use software such as Mixed in Key, which will analyze all of your songs for these fields and can write the data into the metadata fields of the track.† For example, you can choose to have each song’s tempo written in the BPM field and it’s key signature written at the front of the comments field.† I usually bulk analyze all of my songs before adding them into iTunes so that everything is written properly.
2. Genre and Rating
This method involves a bit more time working with your tracks and works more on ‘feel’ than the hard parameters of the individual songs.† Two of iTunes default metadata fields that you always see are ‘genre’ and ‘rating’.† You can manually add your rating to every song as you listen to it and add or modify the genre field to suit your needs.
To create a smart playlist in iTunes you simply go to ‘File’-> ‘New’-> ‘Smart Playlist’.† You will then see a dialogue box appear where you set the parameters of the playlist.† If you have chosen method 1 to organize your music you will need to set up two different parameters.† Set the first field to “BPM” and the sub-field to “is in the range”.† The range of BPM you set is entirely up to you, but as an example, you could set it to 120 to 135.† In the second field you want to set the key signature parameter, so you want use the field where this information has been written in the metadata (i.e. the “comments”).† If the key is written at the beginning of the comments you would set the it to “comments”, then “begins with” and then manually enter the key signature for that playlist.† Note that programs like Mixed in Key use the “Camelot System” so something in “B Major” might be written as “1B”.† You will also want to make sure that at the very top of the playlist dialogue box you have selected “Match ALL of the following rules” and have “Live Updating” checked at the bottom.† Once you click OK the playlist will be created and you should see all songs that meet the criteria automatically appear.† You can then rename this list accordingly, such as “1B – 120-135 BPM”.
Now all you have to do is repeat this process across all key signatures and all tempo ranges.† As I said, this could take a while if you do it this way because there are 24 possible key signature possibilities for each tempo range.† However, it is definitely worth the effort.† Once you are done you will be able to jump into a mix at any tempo and in any key and know that your tracks will fit well.
If you were to organize your music by genre and rating, you will have to set your smart playlist parameters accordingly.† Since there are many sub-genres you might want to set your genre parameter to “contains” so that you can set wide ranges.† This way, your “house” playlist would also include things labelled “progressive house”, “dutch house”, etc.† The rating system you could set to meet exactly (i.e. the “5 star” category) or as a threshold (such as the “over 3 star” category), to best suit your needs.† Of course, you can use a combination of these two systems or use any other system you see fit, just make sure that you can integrate it with your workflow.
Once you have all of your playlists written you can create playlist folders to keep everything neat and tidy.† To do this simply go to ‘File’-> ‘New’-> ‘Playlist Folder’, and then drag and drop all of the relevant playlists into it.† These playlists should now be visible in the browsers of most DJ software.† This means that even when iTunes isn’t open, you can still utilize the power of smart playlists directly from your DJing software.† If you have organized everything in a coherent fashion, you should be quite pleased with the results when you are on stage performing.
Part #1 – Two Deck Djing fundamentals
Part #2 – DJ Mixing Techniques
Sex on Fire – Richard Sharkey Remix
I finally got around to trying this track this week, I heard it way back when in one of DJ AMís festival sets. Itís a terrific track with great energy and everyone knows the words.
Pumped Up Kicks – Skeet Skeet Show Edit
Lotís of remixes of this track out there, I really hate melancholy sounding top 40 remixes, this ones really up-beat and just sounds great.
Flood – DJ Prestige Love Is Gone Bootleg
I really liked Flood, this is a great edit of it with a nice way to play it out to a top 40 crowd.
Sweet Nothing – Calvin Harris
Calvin Harris is finally on top of the American top 40 charts, everyone knows the words to this one and itís an all round good track.
Titanium – Cazzette remix
Like I said I donít like melancholy top 40, but Iíll make an exception for this one, Iíve always loved Cazzette and the dubstep/ electro remixes they do and this is another great example.
Some Nights – Scene Kings Remix
This is such a good sing-a-long song, It just has fantastic energy and the drops pretty good too.
Space Man – Smerk Walking on a Dream Bootleg
Again a track with tons of remixes and edits, this one is by far my favorite, with a very classic vocal on it, and not taking away from the original.
J-Kwon Tipsy – Candyland Remix
Classic club track with a dubstep-ish remix, goes great with moohmbaton remixes
Thrift Shop – Macklemore
This track is nothing short of blowing up, everyone Iíve talked to who’s heard it loves the track and you should at least check it out, whatever genre of music itís a lot of fun
Christina Aguilera – Your Body
This track is a lot of fun but Iím worried it won’t get a lot of plays because itís 100ish bpm, check it out the girls will love it and itís a great way to light up a dance floor.