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This is the second post on advice and tips for beginner DJs. I want to continue to offer some tips and tricks for DJs trying to get out there and learn the ropes of DJing. I wanted to aim this towards beginner DJs who might have a couple gigs under their belt but need some tips to leep building themselves in the scene.

Maybe you could do it better, but that’s not the point
Now that you are going out on the town and checking out other local DJs or other big name acts, you will probably find yourself walking into the club listening to the DJ and thinking, “I could do a better job than this!”. Maybe this is true and maybe it’s not but that’s not the point. Whether it’s a house party or a big club that DJs there for some reason, try to take something from what they’re doing whether it be their song selection how they act on the mic or maybe some trick they did. Take something from their set and go home and build on it and improve it.

Keep your face out there
Maybe you’ve had a couple gigs opened a show or two. Keep looking for this kind of gig, go out still when you are at the club, talk to promoters, you don’t want to be demanding, just make sure people know who you are and what it is you are looking for.

Another idea is to talk to local pubs who might want to have a DJ night once a week, look for opportunities to build your following and your experience. If you can’t find any make some, some simple ideas are a house party or a small club night if you can get the people together to support it. I’ve seen lots of people start small promotion companies in order to build a following from throwing events.

Even small gigs playing to half empty rooms are fantastic practice, take any gig you can get (assuming you are properly prepared for them) and the more varieties the better.

Most young DJs want to get straight into big rooms, but it’s important to get as many small gigs as you can. DJ your friends party or anything else you can do to get some experience playing for a different group of people and trying different things to get them to dance.

Take what you can from the opportunities you get
When you do get that gig at a club opening the night, the next morning open up your computer and look through your track list. Make note of what tracks worked and what didn’t and note what each track’s effect was. This was you can keep track of the songs that might start a dance floor and those that might set it off when its packed.

Keep mastering the techniques
Keep working to mastering the basics until they are second nature. Don’t stop there either, learn new skills. Just because you play house doesn’t mean it isn’t important to learn how to scratch and hip hop DJs can learn to mix in key. These skills are still important no matter what kind of music you play and it’s important to keep challenging yourself to learning more complicated skills. You don’t want to do anything in the club you haven’t mastered at home so make sure to lock down anything you want to do live.

This week we’re going to be covering how to sync multiple computers running Ableton Live.’ I will be covering all the necessary steps to sync two MacBooks running Live, but the process will be the same for PC users (albeit with the respective PC program equivalents).

Synchronizing the MIDI clocks of two computers running Live is an essential part of collaborating with another Live user.’ While it is possible to play together without connecting the computers, I feel that you put yourself at a disadvantage because you are not fully utilizing all of Live’s crucial ‘warping’ features.’ I have read many different articles on this subject and some have quite in-depth explanations using third party plugins and are, quite frankly, and bit intimidating.’ While I cannot speak to the effectiveness of these techniques on a PC or using other performance software, I use a MacBook Pro and the technique I describe below is what I use on a weekly basis.’ Everything you need is already inside your Mac and can be set up very quickly with a bit of practice.

The first step you will need to connect the computers in some way.’ The two most effective ways are by either connecting them with a single ethernet cable or by creating an ad-hoc wireless network.’ To create an ad-hoc network you simply click on the wifi icon in your top menu bar and select ‘create network’.’ This will prompt you to a window where you can create a name for your network and security.

Once this ad-hoc network is created, the second computer should be able to see it as an available wifi network to join.’ Select it like any other wifi network and enter the unique password (if applicable).’ You will notice that the typical wifi symbol in your top menu bar is slightly different than usual.’ If both computers have this symbol, you know that the network connection worked properly.

Once both computers are connected you need to sync them up via the Audio MIDI Setup application (which can be found in your utilities folder).’ Inside the Audi MIDI Setup app, you will see icons for the various audio drivers and MIDI controllers that you have associated with your computer.’ For our purposes here, you want the icon labelled ‘Network’.’ Double-click on this and you will be prompted to a new window called ‘MIDI Network Setup’, which is where things can get a bit tricky.

Before you adjust any settings in this window you need to determine how the computers will communicate.’ In a two computer setup there will be a ‘master’ and a ‘slave’ computer (i.e. one sending the signals and one receiving the signals).’ In the bottom right hand section labelled ‘Live Routings’ the ‘master computer will select ‘Network Session 1? from the top drop-down menu and the ‘slave’ will select ‘Network Session 1? from the bottom drop-down menu.

In the top left menu ‘My Sessions’ you will want to make sure you have one session enabled.’ By default it will be named ‘Session 1?, but I recommend that you change the name to something unique.’ If you were able to successfully connect the computers via ethernet cable or ad-hoc network you should see each other’s computers under the bottom left window called ‘Directory’.’ Both computers should double click on the name listed in the ‘Directory’ to create a new connection.’ This will prompt the name of the other computer to show up in the window on the right labelled ‘Participants’.’ Once the computers are connected this way I recommend changing the ‘Local Name’ to something unique if it hasn’t already been changed from the default ‘Session 1?.’ If the computers are connected properly you should be able to see the Port number, Latency and IP addresses.

All of the above steps are to get the two computers speaking to one another. Now it is time to sync Live together. In Live, open up the ‘Preferences’ menu (either through the top menu or by pressing command) and go to the ‘MIDI Sync’ tab. Under the ‘MIDI Ports’ section at the bottom you should now see two new items; ‘Input Network (Session 1)’ and ‘Output: Network (Session 1)’.’ Here, the only buttons that should be selected out of these two MIDI Ports are the ‘sync’ button for the output of the ‘master’ computer and the ‘sync’ button for the input of the slave computer.

Once the MIDI Sync for the two computer’s respective input and output have been set, a new button labelled ‘EXT’ will now appear in the ‘slave’ computer’s Live in the upper left corner next to the tempo selector.’ The ‘slave’ computer should click this ‘EXT’ button to enable the external control of the program.’ Once it is enabled you will notice that the transport controls and tempo of the ‘slave’ computers Live become greyed-out and cannot be adjusted.’ This means that the two computers are properly synced and the ‘master’ computer has control over the global tempo and transport controls.

When the ‘master’ computer hits the global play button both computers should now be playing together with both the tempo and arrangement position indicators showing the same values.’ Any clips that are triggered on either computer will now play on the same tempo grid.

Depending on where you are playing, there are a variety of different audio output options to hear both computers playing.’ Ideally, you would want both computers to have their own sound cards and have each output running into a master mixer.’ However, if only one sound card is available you could run an 1/8th inch to RCA cable from one computer into the ‘input’ of the second computer’s sound card.’ Again, depending on the equipment available your audio output may vary.

I hope that the explanation above was clear.’ I use this exact setup to connect with other Live users on a regular basis.’ One thing I have noticed is that these network connections are sometimes quite fickle.’ If you notice that they are not working together correctly, simply repeat the process.’ Sometimes it is as simple as the order in which the programs were opened or the names that you give your network sessions.’ If nothing else works you can also try renewing your DHCP lease on the network you are using through your main System Preferences network menu.

 

If you want to learn more about DJing and gear we highly recommend you check out our online DJ School Spin-Academy.

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This will be the first instalment in a number of articles on choosing music for your DJ sets. Our first article will start discussing what kind of music to look for, for opening DJ sets. Later articles will look at what kind of music you want to find for other times in the evening or events. But we will start out talking about what kind of music you want for your opening sets.

The opening DJ is an often underrated position, not being the headliner sometimes people look at the opening DJ as an inferior position when this couldnt be farther from the truth, many famous house DJs are quoted as saying they often prefer opening a night then closing it. An opening DJ gets to be creative with their music choices. Opening DJs get the chance to raise the energy of the room, and most importantly build the dance floor.

I will talk about two important elements of what kind of music you want for your opening sets, addressing actual sound as well as style of music you want.

What should it sound like?
The best advice I can recommend is strong bass and drums. You will often have to play music in opening sets that is lower energy or less people might know, but with all that aside, people will still groove or better even, dance if the music has a very solid kick to it. This also means not music with a lot of highs. Stuff like really high energy progressive house with lots of high/mid sounding synths is way too hard on the ears early in the night, save that for the headliner.

Even more important is tempo. Tempo is critical as it is your tool to control the energy of the room. You want to start the night with very low tempo (if youre playing house 118 is a good example, really take it down to start). This give you room to ramp the energy of the room as your set goes on. So in this regard you want to look for music that is in the lower tempos of your genre and build up from there.

What style of music do I want?
For the most part you want simple sounding tracks. Like I mentioned above stay away from things with a lot going on with the high end.

Remixes work awesome. When you are searching around for your music and you find those remixes of songs that seem to be lacking energy, they are perfect for opening sets. I used to skip over these kinds of remixes but now they are total gems, for example,

http://youtu.be/c49YpaYxn78

This is a staple when Im opening a top 40 night. It still has the important lyrics, but I can play it slower and it has those really heavy pounding drums.

Another example is this remix of blurred lines,

http://youtu.be/qqFRgOuUdGc

Again we have the very heavy drums, but very little lyrics, I can pitch it down and its fairly simple track but still has that break down with important elements of blurred lines so its still recognizable.

In conclusion keep with music with strong drums, but no long breaks. Make sure its simple but still has some groove to it. Make sure not to burn the headliner whatever you do, and make use of lower tempo tracks to build the energy of the room. Keep an eye out for the next instalments of this article to cover what kind of music to look for later in the night.

If you want to learn more about DJ’ing and gear we highly recommend you check out our online DJ School here at Spin Academy.

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