Archive for the ‘ DJ Creative Process ’ Category

Hi! We need this instead

img-332150-1-18394-zoinks-shaggy-scooby-doo-400x250

There will be a time where you will face the unexpected “Hi! We need this instead”. If you’ve already encountered this, great you muscled through! Or did you? Without knowing how you handled it I can venture a guess of what it caused. But let me back up and define what I mean by HWNTI. It’s the day before or of your gig and a last minute change in the lineup, or the party, has caused a situation where you need to adjust your set to fit said change in situation. Any DJ worth their salt looks at it like a challenge, but deep down inside rest assured there’s a bit of concern <panic>. Never fear, you can handle this. All it takes is a count to 10 and get to work attitude! You don’t have time to resist it or complain about it. If you happen to be a DJ in the position of pushing back then I say do it, but carefully. Most really good DJ’s have already sussed out whether a gig is right for them or have an arsenal that can accommodate but, shit happens (too much in my opinion). If you’re dealing with a major shift in genre, figure out the common thread musically that can transition into what you want and you’ll be fine. Believe it or not, things never play out the way your anxiety thinks it will.  How many times have you dealt with an unknown and it all ended up ok. So keep in mind that it’s a party, you want to make people happy, and they’re usually amenable to deviations in musical expectations. Your job is finding the fine line of connecting between what is expected and what they don’t know they desire. There can be a big enough difference in the two for you to play with. Be comfortable with the unknown and the challenge, that’s usually where the magic lies.

KNOW WHERE TO (JUMP)START

Endless Flight “I’m Starting To Feel Ok”

Again one of those DJ inspirations from the strangest places.  Or more explicitly, traditional artists informing DJs – the creative process is really the same for both.

Sometimes you just need a jolt, shot in the arm, some old timey “get off your arse and get going” kind of advice.

Jack London, author of Call of the Wild (you probably had to read this in grade school) – iconic American author has the following to say (taken from excerpts in his memoir) which I suggest you apply to your DJing.

1. Be decisive, choose something, then attack it.

Writing wasn’t London’s first career choice. When he was forced to leave college early after his finances dried up, he needed to do something:

I decided immediately to embark on my career. I had four preferences: first, music; second, poetry; third, the writing of philosophic, economic and political essays, and, fourth, and last, and least, fiction writing. I resolutely cut out music as impossible, settled down in my bedroom, and tackled my second third and fourth choices simultaneously. Heavens, how I wrote! Never was there a creative fever such as mine from which the patient escaped fatal results. The way I worked was enough to soften my brain and send me to a mad-house.

The early days for London were a period of restless exploration. He tried everything. But most tellingly, he wrote a lot.

2. Be persistent, endure struggle, and hone your craft.

We all have to toil away in our creative pursuits. But harder than the work itself can be the long period of gestation when it feels like nothing is happening.

The trouble with the beginner at the writing game is the long dry spells, when there is never an editor’s check and everything pawnable is pawned.

Success, though, is a stacking of the bricks. Each one leads to the next, and along the way the technique gets more effortless.


3. Develop a routine and be relentless about it.

One key is figuring out what works for you and developing a steady routine. A common denominator of successful creative people is simply pulling the reps.

As I succeeded with my writing, my standard of living rose and my horizon broadened. I confined myself to writing and typing a thousand words a day, including Sundays and holidays; and I still studied hard, but not so hard as formerly… There was so much to learn so much to be done, that I felt wicked when I slept seven hours. And I blessed the man who invented alarm clocks.


4. Settle into a groove and make the act of creating part of your life.

At some point the routine becomes a livelihood. What you do is not separate from who you are. Your day is in service to your craft.

The program of my ranch life was as follows: Each morning, at eight-thirty, having been reading or correcting proofs since four or five, I went to my desk. Odds and ends of correspondence and notes occupied me till nine, and at nine sharp invariably, I began my writing. By eleven, sometimes a few minutes earlier or later, my thousand words were finished. Another half hour cleaning up my desk, and my day’s work was done, so that at eleven-thirty I got into a hammock under the trees with my mail bag and the morning newspaper. At twelve-thirty I ate dinner and in the afternoon I swam and rode.

Source: Call of The Wild’s Jack London On Honing Your Creative Craft

When Life Gets In The Way

Colleen Hover

Colleen Hoover

Every artist, no matter what medium, has a life.  Let’s talk about life events – whether you get blindsided or have something momentous happen, we all experience things that shift our priorities and change our perspectives.  Personally, I had a life experience that not only took me away from DJ’ing, it forever altered how I feel about myself as a DJ and how I manifest as a DJ now.  I’ve talked about taking breaks and stepping away for a while to let your creative process marinate in your brain.  That’s not what I’m addressing here. I think it’s important to talk about lifestyle changes and events that occur that can feel all consuming or just plainly need to be number one on your list.  And sometimes, other things just have to take precedent.  There are artists that completely forgo life events in pursuit of their art.  That’s their choice.  However, I think there is a reality that we all must deal with at some point – whether it’s a life you’ve brought into the world, death, a job, illness, or burn out.

Here’s my advice on the matter. You never have to give up DJ’ing (or producing). Even if you just touch it  – listening to music, going to see a set, checking in on your favorite DJs. That’s enough and in some cases may be your safe space to deal with your reality. The bottom line is you can still be a DJ even if you don’t touch your decks.  You see, the creative process is still happening even if you keep up with it in small ways.  The point is to keep going no matter what.  And when you get to a point where your situation eases you will be in a much better position to reset and carry on.

DJ’ing is a purpose, it’s a way of expression, it is fundamental to your psyche and well being.  There is NO REASON why you can’t have it in your life no matter what is happening.

So allow yourself to still be in it, even if it’s just listening to one song now and then.

Love to all the DJs out there.

A DJ’s Booth Is Their Castle

Music DNA

An artists space is a really personal thing.  It’s a place of comfort, safety, chaos and most importantly creativity!  DJ’s love looking at pictures of DJ booths to see how the gear is set up, not to mention to get a peep of what kind of gear they’re using am-I-right?  One thing I notice sometimes is the lack of visual aesthetic on the walls though.  You know it’s not just about how pretty the gear looks or the table it’s on.  You need more beauty than that if you’re going to tap into the artistic side of your brain.

Why not put art on your walls that actually represent music!

I found this great article on various data visualization projects that turn music into art.

Now get those drab walls singing!

http://www.cassandradaily.com/media/visualizing-music/

Feeling the DJ Ho Hum’s? Blow Up Your Routine

Jason Statham in The Mechanic

Jason Statham in The Mechanic

Tips adapted from Dumb Little Man: Personal Development: 5 Playfully Crazy Tips That Can Unleash Your Creative Potential and Boost Your Creativity – by Dumb Little Man.

Sigh.  You’ve burned out on your favorite playlist.  When you go out, all sets sound the same (much respect to your DJ friends but your ears have flat-lined).  You’ve maxed out on all the functions of your latest gadget.  You’re bored.   I have some tips for you to spark your DJ creativity.  Aside from the DJ exercises I’ve posted previously, try these out.  All you need is a little jolt, a little change in perspective.  That’s what boredom is, your mind is traveling and processing things the same way over and over again.

1) Make Random Connections:

“Start by picking 3 random things and try to connect them by any means possible.”   I wrote a lengthy piece about putting constraints on yourself prior to starting a DJ project to give yourself some structure and parameters.  This is just a quicker way to go about it regardless of whether you are working on a DJ project or just needing to think.  First 3 “things” that pop in your head, think through how to connect them, what are the degrees of separation between these things.  Write it all down if you can.

2) Smell Your Gear (just kidding … sort of):

This is about being one with your music, gear, DJ space.  Inspect everything about your DJing using all senses.  Close your eyes if you have to. “Be at one with every detail: the physical qualities, emotions, feelings, roles, perspective, worldview, limitations, language, history and experiences.” I know this may seem really weird but if you are easily distracted, have a lot of noise in your head, this is an easy way to block it out and immerse.

3) Turn it Upside Down

Turn everything upside down.  Been struggling with a set or not sure of direction, change the order of the tracklist starting with the last track and playing it through to the track at the beginning – work backwards.  Not feeling influenced or inspired by your usual methods and resources, try a new genre or a new place to buy music.   Layer a musical element (vocal, horns, violins, jackhammer) – don’t just let a track do all the work, layer layer layer even if it sounds awful – this is how happy accidents occur.

4) Just Make Noise

Just play.  Be noisy. Put 5 tracks on at the same time and weed out what’s not working.  Be a kid.  Be imperfect.  Bang on drums – if you don’t have anything to bang on or drum synth or drum VST – there’s an idea right there.  Sing out loud.  Dance around.

5) “Draw With Your Other Hand”

This is real DJ zen master stuff.  Try DJing blindfolded.  Use one hand only.  Start in the middle of a track, every time and just work it out.   Spin for your parents if they have never seen you do it.  The point is to create a little discomfort to liven things up.

HOW TO HANDLE PRESSURE

Pressure is not something to be taken lightly.  Well, let me back up.   There’s different kinds of pressure.  Pressure you put on yourself and pressure others put on you.   The pressure I want you to pay attention to first is the pressure you put on yourself.  That you don’t take lightly.  For a second, forget about everyone else, doesn’t matter who they are.  One thing I know about DJs is that you will obsess to no end on the littlest details and efforts, you are perfectionists and your own worst critics.  Sometimes it can be a vortex you get sucked into, a never ending loop of questioning and doubt and that’s just what can happen in your own studio!  Pressure can manifest itself in many ways, from obsessing to full blown anxiety.  Guess what, that’s ok!  It’s ok to have standards and push yourself, it’s ok to get a little nervous before a gig.   The problem is when the pressure is so paralyzing you are not moving forward, getting out of your own head, or being relaxed enough to get into the flow.  You have to maintain perspective in the face of pressure.  Some DJs go into things thinking ok, I know something is going to happen – it always does!  Then somehow they magically chill out.  It’s a quick fix though and doesn’t help with the long term grind of being a DJ.

Handling pressure is one of the biggest tools in your DJ arsenal.  Remember the openness of your mind and your heart directly affects your creativity.  The point is to pre-empt pressure before it becomes so acute you get twisted up and tangled in your own situation.  You need to stay ahead of pressure.  That means not procrastinating, knowing what you’re doing, working out ideas as soon as you have them, being organized, and reducing distractions (do you really need to be the 39th comment on a Facebook post?).  If you have your internal pressure valve on balance you will be able to handle the other kind of pressure, the pressure from others.

Everyone has a stake in your game at some point – regardless of your level.  Venue owners, promoters, agents, producers, labels, other DJs, to name a few.  All of them have expectations and in a lot of cases rightfully so.  How you handle pressure from others is nothing short of knowing what your priorities are at every turn.  You may want to consider the agent a priority because you’re at a certain level and want to be part of an agency, so making sure you’re responsive to them is your priority for the moment.  Venue owners, have to get above that bar guarantee!, may need some extra assurance so promoting may be your priority.  It all depends on your situation and what is most important to you.  I didn’t mention the audience or your music (your music can be an entity in of itself) because those will always be your priority depending on your DJ philosophy.  I’m just talking about the extra chatter and needs of others that you may perceive as contributing to pressure filled situations.

Above anything else you need to get to a state of comfort and confidence.   If you are on top of the noise inside your head first then anything else should be a breeze.  Pressure will always be there whether it’s internal or external, it’s part of the DJ vocation.  The thing to remember is that you can’t be everything to everyone, including yourself.

NO EXCUSES

I don’t have time

I’m not feeling it today

That DJ doesn’t deserve that gig

I can’t play what I want

It’s hard in this city

I’m broke

I have no style

People/The industry sucks

The above statements are just a few of the excuses I hear from DJs from time to time.  If any of the above apply to you, that’s ok! It’s totally normal – BUT I’m not having it and neither should you.  The purpose of this post is to help you reframe the negative thoughts in your head that are keeping you from being creative and getting better as a DJ.  If you are happy pointing the finger at someone or something else stop reading and don’t expect progress any time soon.  But there’s another way – the NO EXCUSES way.  There are so many distractions these days that keep you from establishing or maintaining a consistent DJ creative process.  I’m here to tell you that excuses and blaming get you NOWHERE.

Now let’s revisit these excuses with some more positive statements.

I don’t have time —-> I can dedicate an hour a day to DJing.

I’m not feeling it today —-> I don’t have to be perfect all the time, I just need to touch DJing in some way.

That DJ doesn’t deserve that gig —-> If that person can get a gig, I know I’m going to make it.

I can’t play what I want —-> I can figure out a way to play what I want.

It’s hard in this city —-> I can make my own opportunity, I just need to brainstorm some ideas.

I’m broke —-> I can start small, I can just listen to music – that’s free.

I have no style —-> I haven’t found my style yet that’s all. I just need to keep working at it and listen to myself.

People/The industry sucks —-> I need to find people and do things that are meaningful to me. I do not have to be a slave or compromise.

I will be posting more in depth pieces on how to deal with these gremlins but in the meantime start thinking about what you are saying to yourself that is holding you back!