In our last post on playing pop style music we talked about how to decide which songs to use for your set. This week I want to delve deeper into some of the methods of how to DJ pop music sets and talk about how you can use transitions to give your sets more flow and keep the crowd interested.
Give the People What They Want
Modern pop music typically follows a standard flow of intro-verse-chorus-verse-chorus-outro. If you read the first post in this series, you should be up to speed on which parts of a pop song are the most important for DJs. Now we can apply that same strategy to your transitions. Simply put, this strategy is to give people more of what they want and less of what they don’t want.
So what is it that people want from pop music? Choruses, choruses, and more choruses. The key to creating a hit pop song by today’s radio standards always depends on a great chorus; while other elements like verses and intros can help draw listeners into a song, you can generally get away with a less-than-stellar verse in a pop song as long as you have a really banging chorus.
Mixing with the Chorus in Mind
What does this mean for you as a DJ? Since the success of a pop song depends on its chorus, you should always pay more attention to the chorus of a song than any other element. So when it comes to how to DJ pop music sets, this means always mixing out of a chorus, and never mixing out of a verse or bridge.
Imagine you’re on the dance floor and you hear a verse you recognize. You’re anticipating the awesome chorus that’s about to follow, but then suddenly the DJ flips to the intro of another song. That’s not the way to keep people happy!
Instant vs. Delayed Gratification
When thinking about how to DJ pop music sets, there are two basic philosophies for transitions: the instant gratification method and the delayed gratification method. Since the chorus is the most important part of any pop song, instant gratification would be an instant cut from the chorus of one song to the hook or chorus of another song. Mashup DJs do a great job of this, sometimes even combining the choruses of two or more different songs at once. This strategy can be great for a high-energy set, but after a while this approach could get draining for an audience as they’re being pelted with chorus after chorus with no real breaks in between.
The other approach is the delayed gratification method. You know that feeling when you know a great chorus is coming up: As you’re waiting for it to drop, your energy level keeps going up and up and up until finally – bam! – there it is. Talk about a satisfying feeling.
You can achieve this type of effect by using slower transitions between songs. Say you’ve got two pop songs on deck – Song A and Song B. By giving a hint of Song B during the first verse of Song A, but waiting until the end of the second chorus of Song A to bring in Song B, you give a feeling of delayed gratification. Then when you move into Song B, don’t go straight into the chorus. Instead, start with the intro, or loop the intro a few times to create an extended play version of the song to enhance the delayed gratification effect.
Which Approach Is Best?
If used well, both approaches can have positive effects. Usually the best thing to do will be to use a mix of both methods to keep your audience interested without overwhelming them.
That should give you some ideas to play with next time you’re DJing a pop set. Keep an eye out for our next feature on how to DJ pop music where we’ll offer some advice on how to step up your creativity and take your pop sets to a whole new level.