vocal jazz // standards
Posts from 2006
acoustic soul // downtempo blues
french pop // chanson
norwegian eclectic // vocal
jazz // funk // fusion
caribbean soul // folk // reggae
Last Tuesday, I received an email from dj, academician and ethnomusicologist Wayne Marshall. Also known by wayneandwax, he holds down a weekly at River Gods in Cambridge, nearly a mile from me. In the email, Wayne invited me to join him to guest DJ at his last night before he heads off to for post-doctorate studies in Chicago.
I accepted but admitted never DJing publicly before and not knowing much about DJ technique–luckily, Wayne assured me this would be fine. Putting together my first DJ mix was much tougher than throwing together party playlists. But for you, I wrote up my process, in case you’d like to do the same!
I finished putting together my set with just enough time to drive to the bar. Wayne was a cordial host and the audience was receptive. Playing for a crowd and tweaking dials from a balcony perch was quite a thrill. The free beer didn’t hurt either. :) After my set we had some experimental vocal indie and then some hip hop/rock accordion courtesy of Julz A. Great overall vibe in that place. Chi-town residents, seek out wayne’s future music engagements–he crafts a good time.
Aurgasm – Breeze and Sweat (55min, 80MB)
Tracklist (cue file)
1. Nuff Wish – Healing In Vain
2. Kinny & Horne – Why Me
3. Dancing Djedi – Body Surfin’
4. Nomo – Hand & Mouth
5. Balkan Beat Box – Sunday Arak
6. Senor Coconut – Mambo Numerique (Featuring Marina And Towa Tei)
7. Quantic & Nickodemus – Mi Swing Es Tropical
8. Amadou & Mariam – M’ Bifé Balafon
9. Quantic Soul Orchestra – Walking Through Tomorrow (Super 8 Part 3)
10. The Bamboos – Step It Up Featuring Alice Russell
11. Mr Scruff & Quantic – It’s Dancing Time
12. Boozoo Bajou – Killer
13. Zuco 103 – Peregrino
14. Captain Planet – The Don
15. Romanowski – Strudel Strut
16. Quantic – Off The Beaten Track (Carmel Remix)
17. Peter, Bjorn And John – Young Folks (Beyond The Wizard’s Sleeve Remix)
I was asked to DJ a one-hour set, though I had no previous DJ experience. I didn’t know how to beatmatch, transition smoothly, use Ableton or Traktor, and neither do you. You just have to be comfortable with being a laptop DJ.
- Know your audience
- I had never been to the venue and from what the outside looked like, I figured inside was a bunch of dusty overweight 30-year-olds with massive facial hair. I took a weekday evening trip over and had a beer inside, scoping out the clientele. I learned that from the balcony dj booth (!), I’d be playing for an affluent, educated set of 20- and 30-somethings that weren’t necessarily music nerds, but seemed receptive to different sounds.
- Determine the theme
- I thought about what music has moving me lately. While I wanted to do an all out electro-rock-dance-indie set with jams like Wolfmother’s “Woman (MSTRKRFT Remix)” and Madonna’s “Hung Up (Diplo Remix)”, I instead took influence from the very summery flavors of Nickodemus and Captain Planet.
- Select your songs
- I went through my entire music collection picking out the best tunes that fit the afrobeat/tropicalia/soul/funk vibe. If your audience won’t be earnestly dancing, don’t pick vocal-heavy tunes. Keep a mental picture of the venue inside your head as you listen to your potentials.
- Narrow down your picks
- After my first sweep, I ended up with 60 tracks, clocking in at 3.75 hours–far more than the one hour I was given. Toss anything that will garner significantly more or less attention than the rest of your set. I had to let go of some classics like Barrett Strong’s 1962 hit “Money”.
- Cut it down to size
- After tossing half my selections, I still had nearly an extra hour of music. Time for the surgery. I went in using audio editing software (CoolEdit and Audacity work) and cut out extra pieces: extra repetitive choruses, needless verses, instrumental solos. I wanted to keep the song lengths between 2 and 4.5 minutes to keep the energy level moving. [As this takes a bit of know-how and technique, this step is completely optional.]
- Put them in order
- I used Traktor to help identify the BPM of all the tracks. If you don’t have any audio software, just manually gauge the energy level on a scale of 50-150 for an approximation. My set started with my lowest BPM (79) and gradually worked its way up (with a few tweaks) to finish with my quickest song (126bpm).
- Configure your crossfade
- Using winamp? I suggest the SqrSoft crossfade plugin. Using iTunes? Even easier; if you left the default settings, your crossfade is already working, though you may want to tweak it in Preferences.
- Play it!
- Run through it at least once, in its entirety. Watch your levels, some songs are louder than others. iTunes has a fix for this called ‘Sound Check’; try it. Write on a notecard which songs have levels that stick out so you can tweak ’em with your mixer. Otherwise, you’re ready to go!
Well it’s about time for a finished product!
Like my How To? Be a cool kid and Digg This.
bluegrass // folk
dance funk // world breakbeat