Posts Tagged ‘ DJ exercise ’

DJ Meditation Technique – Visualizing The Perfect Gig

'Headpone Meditation by Illusive Mind'

One of the things creative experts talk about is meditation and how it can bolster your connection to your creative self.  We all fantasize about the perfect gig ( and if you’ve already had one – well done! I still encourage you to do this exercise regardless – I’m such a task master! ).  What I’m going to walk you through is a visualization/meditation exercise that will allow you to play out in your mind a gig gone well.  I will throw some curve balls in this so as to mentally prepare you for things that can go wrong – but in this exercise you defeat all obstacles!  The point is to already work out in your mind triumphs and tribulations you will experience playing out.   What this does is allow yourself to experience your feelings in advance so that when the time comes to actually perform these reactions have already been incubated in your mind and you can recall very easily solutions and reactions on the spot.

The best time to do this meditation is a couple of days before a gig and a short session prior to a gig if you have time.  I also suggest that you do this meditation on a regular basis – it is your time, your safe space to reinforce in your mind what is important to you as a measure of success as a DJ.  In the beginning, if you have a partner, friend, or fellow DJ that can read these prompts to you so you don’t have to open your eyes to read them, that is ideal.  At some point you will no longer need the prompts below and you can do this on your own so that you can easily move through the exercise.

IMPORTANT: In order for this to be a productive exercise you need to try and be as specific as possible in the details of the experiences in this meditation.  Note sights, sounds, smells, and feelings very clearly in your mind.  Let your mind stop when it needs to if you want to focus on a moment, but don’t skim through anything.   This is a basic framework to get you started, hopefully after some time you can advance on your own and meditate through situations as you see fit.

Here we go!

First, you must find uninterrupted time to do this.  Shut off the phone, turn off the computer, put the mental Do Not Disturb sign on.  Sit comfortably, close your eyes, and take five deep breaths.  Take your time.  When you are ready visualize and feel the following:

1. You are preparing for your gig.  You are diligently putting your playlist together.  What music are you selecting?  Listen to that music in your mind.

2. You are packing up your bag.  Visualize all the things you bring with you to the gig.  See yourself crossing everything off your DJ checklist.

3. You get a phonecall, your DJ partner or headliner is bailing or the venue owner has double booked the night.  Breathe through this moment.  What are you feeling? Visualize your adjustment to the situation.  Keep breathing, visualize getting back on track and being ok.

4. You are going to the gig.  See yourself getting there.  Take your time with this visualization – how do you get there? See yourself being early and ready.

5. You are setting up or just arriving to the party.  This is for you to choose how you enter into your gig.  What is your ideal situation?  What does the venue look like?  What’s going on in the dancefloor?  What do the people look like, what does their energy feel like?

6. The gear doesn’t work.  Breathe through this moment.  What doesn’t work?  What are you doing to fix it or adjust to the situation? See yourself getting through this and making things work.

7. You’re on.  See yourself playing your first track.  What is it? Listen to it in your mind. What is going on around you when you play this first track?  Stretch your mind and your desire on this one – let it be the moment you want it to be.

8. You are in the middle of your set.  How are you feeling?  What is happening on the dancefloor?  Challenge your mind when you feel more advanced with this exercise ( don’t always go for the easy fantasy of a raging dancefloor that worships you ).  See yourself building the dancefloor.  See yourself connecting with people.  Reach out to them with your emotion and energy.  Try to mix a few tracks in your mind – see them working seamlessly, what does that sound like?

9. You are winding down, the next DJ is up or it’s the end of the night.  See yourself making a final impact.  What tracks are you playing? Listen to them in your mind.  See yourself packing up your bag.  What do you do next? What are your feelings at the moment that it’s over.

10. Visualize the afterwards.  How are you feeling?  See yourself reflecting on what you did.  Did you learn anything? What are you walking away with that will make you a better DJ?

11. Exit out of the meditation, five more deep breaths.  Sit and reflect on what just happened, write a few thoughts down about the experience (you may have come up with some new musical connections in this exercise, don’t let them slip away from you!)

Now that you have experienced a gig in your mind, it’s time for you to see it come to fruition.  You are a wonderful creative being – now go show the world!

Recap: Visualization is an exercise that has been touted by many experts as a way of drawing out higher creative functions.  This DJ meditation exercise will also help you ascertain your feelings about gigs and any challenges you may face.  Do this exercise a couple of days before a gig or as part of your preparation right before a gig ( ideally do this exercise as part of your inner creative practice ).

Getting To Know Your Tracks

A reader wrote to me about a topic that he has been experiencing and seeing coming up in a lot of conversations with DJs.  I will quote him and then expand on the issues he raises.

“FINALLY finished your thesis.  Loved it. It really got me thinking about some of the problems of having an analog (DJ) mind in a digital (DJ) world.  For example, the idea of spontaneity and creativity I love.  And I never plan my sets more than narrowing down a list of songs from 500 to 50 for example.  The problem I encounter is one that comes up a lot from my conversations with DJ’s – not enough time to really learn your new music.  A recurring theme that seems to be out there is that so many DJ’s want the newest tracks all of the time.  But if you’re always looking for new stuff, you’re never really learning the “old” stuff (and by “old” I mean the tracks from last week that you already played at a gig.) I feel like things are happening so quickly from song concept to production to release to the DJ to the next gig that one of the important arts of being a DJ gets shafted – know your tracks!!  When you buy records you read grooves, listen to the track and really get to know it intimately.  But because of the turnover in music in the digital realm people get just aquainted enough with a track so they can play it once and toss it.  Does that make sense?”

Yes, that absolutely makes sense.  Let’s break down some of the issues raised by this reader.

1) The acceleration of the music production process and distribution

2) The mental model of digital vs. tangible

3) Having time to learn tracks

The acceleration of the music production process and distribution

With the proliferation of production tools, production becoming more ingrained in the DJ career trajectory, and the boon of digital music as a business model for music vendors, there is a vast set of resources and channels for digital music.  The acceleration of the music production queue in the past few years has posed some challenges and new reactions for DJs.   What this uptick in the production/distribution cycle has done has forced DJs to feel more burden on their track selection and preparation process.   Instead of listening to a hundred or so tracks a week, DJs listen to a few hundred tracks a week during their selection process.  Bear in mind that it’s the production process that is in high gear, YOU don’t have to be in high gear with it.  Stay centered and focused on who you are as an artist and filter your track buying process through that lens. You see it’s the music vendor’s business to sell you the latest tracks and have an accessible inventory or back catalogue.   DJ charts, the Top 10, exclusive productions for the site, fire sales – there are a myriad ways to entice you into spending money with them.   What’s happening in your mind is that you convince yourself that you must have the latest tracks in order to be or stay relevant or to emulate a superstar DJ.  I encourage you to rethink that.  Where is that pressure coming from exactly?  Is it really from your audience?  Do you really need to have the Top 10 downloaded every week? What does it really mean to have the latest tracks in relation to what you already have in your discography?

The mental model of digital vs. tangible

There is an interesting way people view the digital world vs. the tangible world.  People perceive ( and this happens with anything that is a tangible product that is also available in the digital realm, like newspapers or magazines for example ) digital products as much cheaper to produce and buy than a tangible product.  The expectation is that it must be less expensive for digital.  It is a well known fact that records are more expensive than digital music simply because digital music is cheaper to produce – there is no vinyl to press or ship and house at a warehouse.  What happens with the mental model of digital music is that because it is less expensive to buy, it is also disposable.  As in, it only costs a buck so I can take it or leave it.  I insist that this mental model is clogging up your creative process. You become accustomed to filtering your track selection process based on a disposable construct instead of a creative construct and you are left with a bloated discography that isn’t much use other than giving yourself the false sense that you have a lot of tracks to draw from.  Quality over quantity people!  Whether you shop for vinyl or digital music is irrelevant – the way your decision making process is executed is relevant.  Pretend the digital track you purchase cost 5 bucks instead of a dollar and see what happens then.  Is it a track that fits who you are?  Is it a track you genuinely love? Don’t buy it right away because of a bassline and it’s price – really think about it and take the extra time to listen repeatedly or revisit the sample in a couple of days.  If you still feel excited about it, then buy it.  A DJ said to me, looking at his flash drive: “You know, this flash drive is worth $2000, I have 2000 tracks on it.” So if you think a dollar here and a dollar there doesn’t add up – it does – and maybe you’re not even utilizing half of that.

Having time to learn tracks

One of the larger concepts I want DJs to understand with the Behind The Decks project is that creativity must be a habit.  You must touch it every day.  If you are truly committed to growing as a DJ you must do something every day to keep progressing as an artist.  One of the easiest ways to do that is to listen to music.  If you feel you have fallen out of touch with your discography or need to learn your new tracks, build time every day to listen to them, take them with you on your commute, or play a few records every day.  Don’t be lazy!  Don’t think because you know the track or you’ve listened to it once, you REALLY know it.  You need to constantly be refreshing your mind with input in order to make the proper connections musically.   It’s just that simple, make the time.  Listen to a track a few times before you move on to something else.  The point is that you MUST make time to do this exercise, and do it every day in order to really know your tracks.  “You’ll never crush your own mediocrity working only a few hours a week.” – Robert Bruce, poet.

Recap:  The industry is accelerated, don’t buy into it.  Do not treat your decisions as disposable.  Learning your tracks must be a habit.

TRAINWRECK: DJ Jealousy as a Creative Killer

I want to share some thoughts about a bad habit you may have that can be a trainwreck to your creative process.  It’s jealousy. When you are on the path of creativity it’s difficult not to look and compare yourself to other DJs.   Stop doing that!   Other DJs are on their own path, their own journey, and have their own creative issues that you are probably not aware of.   When you look in the next urinal  ( for the men ) or compare bra sizes ( for the women ) you are doing damage to your process.

Here’s what happens when you compare:

1) You start to adopt a style and process that is not your own

2) You allow anxiety to creep into what you are doing

3) You focus on feelings and emotions that are not relevant to your creative process

4) You justify every action against what another DJ is doing

Here are the consequences:

1) You kill what is essentially YOU

2) You put out divisive energy into the culture

3) You don’t think about what you can do to become a better DJ, you just get more bitter about the fact that you’re “not there yet”

4) You are not advancing musical innovation – you are regurgitating what has already been done

Jealousy is different than modeling.  Modeling is essentially having aspirations and DJ guides that allow you to filter certain choices in your process.  All DJs have other DJs as inspiration but you need to be careful – you do not want to model so closely that you become that other DJ.  When you do that – you are not injecting your voice and point of view into your work and trust me people can tell when you are not being authentic.  If you spend a lot of time studying mixes to try and figure out how a DJ did this or how they did that and copy completely – you are modeling too closely.  However, if a DJ does something eye opening, fitting two disparate genres together in a way that makes sense and you want to try that out – you’re experimenting and learning.

The point is you can’t let jealousy get in the way of what you need to do – and you can’t let it rule your creative process.   If your motivation is that you went and you heard a DJ that inspired you and that made you want to get right to the decks, play music and work on you, that’s one thing.  If you are motivated because you want to become better than that DJ and knock them out – that’s dangerous, because the focus is not on you, the focus is on that DJ.

There’s also the perception of haves and have nots.  But let’s look more closely at that.  What would you consider those DJs that “have”? Do they have more gigs?  Do they have more mixes?  Do they have a bigger fan base? Do they have better gear or access to a studio?  They also have bigger headaches, more pressure, more emails to send out and people to cater to.  The only thing they have more of is options – but that doesn’t mean they are more creative than you.  DJs are not good because of what they have, DJs are good because of who they are as artists.  If you break it down like that you can look at yourself more reasonably and compassionately.  You must be compassionate and patient with yourself in your artistry.  You must also figure out what your values are as a DJ in order to combat the feelings of jealousy.   Your DJ values are what make you unique – they are what frame your process and what you project as an artist.

Here’s a values exercise:  List your top 5 or 10 values as a DJ (they should closely mirror your values as a person – if they are different than start with your values as a person and see how you can incorporate those values into your DJing).  Put them on a post-it note next to your gear set up so that you are reminded of who you are as a DJ and what you value most.

I have included a link to a page that lists all kinds of values.

http://www.stevepavlina.com/articles/list-of-values.htm

If you want to know my values here they are in no particular order:

1) Empathy

2) Engagement

3) Openness

4) Musicality

5) Growth

What the values exercise does is anchor you closely to why you, and only you, are a DJ.  This anchoring will help you deal with those moments where you are comparing yourself to another DJ, for you and you alone hold those values, and they are your own beat.

Recap:  Jealousy keeps the focus off of you.   Modeling is good for learning and experimenting.  Your DJ values anchor you in times when you begin to have feelings of jealousy.  Be yourself!

If you found this interesting and have thoughts to share – drop me a line!

Why Do You DJ?

I first read “How To DJ Properly” about 10 years ago and was inspired by what Bill Brewster and Frank Broughton said in the introduction.  “You need to know that DJing isn’t really about celebrity, or money, or pulling power, it’s about music.” (Brewster, Broughton, 2002, 16)

First of all, I love this book, it has been my go to book over the years when I get stuck or just when I need to remind myself why I do this.  I have told many DJs they should have it in their library – it’s mandatory in my opinion for any DJ, experienced or not.

The essential thread in the book is that loving music is the foundation for any great DJ.   I would like to add to that.  It’s about passion.   Nearly every creative process book I’ve read so far talks about having passion for what you do.  Frank and Bill nail it down to passion about music.

You see passion is what gets you through the TRAINWRECKS of the creative process, and trainwrecks in general.   Passion is what lifts you when you face rejection after rejection, or empty and non-responsive dancefloors, or just feeling stuck.  Passion is what directs you to listen to yourself when you need to try something new or keep going when you’ve discovered something is working.   Passion is what gets you up in the morning to practice. I’ve had DJs tell me they get up an hour early before work just to practice some mixes or listen to tracks – they must touch Dj’ing in some way to get them through the day when they are not DJ’ing – that’s passion!  Every human being experiences passion at some point in their lives – it’s one of those universal human emotions.  If you connect to it, you will help others connect to it.  That’s what your audience wants from you.

Also, if you are passionate, others will see that in you – it’s something that spreads like wildfire.  I have seen the difference in energy on dancefloors when you can feel a DJ is passionate about what they’re doing and when a DJ is unsure, or tired, or unresolved, or genuinely unhappy about the situation.   Now DJs share their passion in different ways.   Some are laser focused, lovingly directing their passion in what they are doing – you can still tell the difference between a DJ that’s focused and loving, and one that is apathetic.  Some DJs want to connect to the crowd more directly – dancing, eye contact, smiling, throwing hands up in the air – when they genuinely are having a great time. You can tell the difference between a DJ that is really loving the music and what they’re doing and a DJ that is just throwing their hands up in the air.   The bottom line is people always can tell so you need to be sure, deep down inside about your passion point.

Passion also forces you to stand behind your music.  Bruce Tantum said to me, “I never played a record I didn’t like”.  That’s powerful.  Think about it, look at your discography – how big is your secret stash in comparison to the rest of your collection.  In Bruce’s case his entire discography – all 3000 records – IS his secret stash.   If the percentage of your discography is not close to at least well, all of your secret stash – you may have trouble getting to that passionate place in yourself.  What I mean is if your discography, your go to box of music, is filled with tracks you are not passionate about, how can you drum up the passion to practice and to share your creativity.  Now some of you need or want, “just in case” tracks.  I understand that, every DJ understands that.   Some tracks are “bridge” tracks that you know you can drop to help you transition between genres or dimensions.   But if a significant portion of your discography contains “just in case tracks” you will be a “just in case” DJ – that limits your passion and the passion you express to others.

Here’s an exercise for you:  look at your track collection and pick 10 songs that you cannot live without.  Don’t just pick songs you got recently, really dig into your “crate” and pick ten songs.  Songs that if you were stranded on a desert island you could listen to for the rest of your life.   Don’t evaluate them yet, just pick them out.   Now, pretend those are the only tracks you have – forget about your collection.   Now, listen to every track once.  Don’t think you just know them because they’re your favorites.  Listen to them, really listen.   Now you can evaluate them – but evaluate them in terms of what they signify about you.   What are the elements of these tracks that are similar?  What sounds are you hearing that may be consistent through all of them?  Is there one theme or word that describes all ten?  These are your passion tracks.   If you have identified what makes these songs resonate with you – and this exercise may take some time and  you may need to revisit it – then you have identified your passion sound.  Now, when you listen to new tracks you will evaluate new tracks in relation to what your passion sounds are and this will help you build a discography that you are passionate about practicing and playing out with.   You may have noticed that I did not say genre in this exercise.  I want you to be genre agnostic – I want you to go deeper than genre, I want you to be passionate about sound.

Recap:  It’s about the music.  It’s about passion.  Passion is what gets you through the TRAINWRECKS.  Passion is expressive.  Passion is your filter for sounds.

Did you find this interesting and want to share your thoughts – drop me a line!