Posts Tagged ‘ DJ technique ’

Hi! We need this instead

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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.

DJs – Feeling Stuck? Constrain Yourself. (Wait, what did she say?)

Milon Townsend

DJs are really good at giving themselves a framework from which to work with.  Especially when preparing for a gig. There are a few considerations already built in to help you make musical choices – what gear you have, the venue, the crowd.  But let’s say you want to work on a mix or experiment with production and you’re feeling stuck, what do you do? It’s hard to have any direction when you have an open road in your mind.  Believe it or not if you set up some rules or constraints you can actually be more creative.  It’s a paradox, set up a mental box, so you can think outside of it.  Your mind can only effectively process a certain amount of information.  So, if you have an infinite amount of options to work with in your mind, you can go into a state of paralysis.

Let’s talk about what some of the symptoms of feeling stuck are.

  • Loss of passion – you actively make excuses to NOT practice or touch DJing.  You do not make creative time for yourself.  This could also be viewed as BOREDOM.  Everything just bores you – music, the scene, your process.
  • Frustration – this is obvious but I’m talking about banging your head on a wall anytime you make an attempt at practicing or trying something new.
  • Negative voices – you start getting down on yourself.  Thinking you can’t do it, or that you’re not creative.  You start asking yourself: why am I doing this?
  • Feeling overwhelmed – you’re having trouble starting something, it’s just not coming to you, or your eyes glaze over when you look at your discography.

If you are experiencing feeling stuck you might want to try setting up a tighter framework for yourself. There are a few kinds of constraints that might help.

Goal Constraint: If you don’t have a deadline, then you have all the time in the world to put something together and it be perfect right? Wrong.  The problem with not having a goal puts even more strain on yourself to have a direction, and you can make excuses or allow other distractions to creep in.  Look at a goal as more of this is what I want to do, in this amount of time.  Also ask yourself, what is my priority here – for example, is it exploring different sounds and making them work or is it working on your sound or style ( I have an exercise at the end of Why Do You DJ? that helps in defining your sound )?  It is something that if you were to accomplish it in a certain amount of time, you will feel you have advanced in some way.  I know some DJs who purposely tell people they will produce a track or have a mix for them just to give themselves a deadline, the pressure for them is the greatest motivator.

Subject Constraint: This has to do with the subject matter of your work. This can be genre or mood. It depends on what you want to experiment with.  Currently I’m preparing tracklists that express a certain feeling.  Things like romantic, dark, revenge, brightness, 7am.  Based on certain words that express a feeling or context, I choose tracks that only define that feeling for me.  Some DJs already do this and it’s an easy way to get yourself out of a rut.  Brainstorm some words for yourself and then see what hits you.  Then collect the music ( and dig deep here – from memory and your “crate” ) – stay true to that expressive word, then work it out on the decks and see what happens.

Task Constraint: Another way to set a constraint for yourself has to do with the tools you use.  Your gear and technique are your tools. Let’s say you challenge yourself to beat match by ear, or use effects ( or scale back on effects ), incorporate scratching, or use a feature in your gear or software you’ve never used before.  Whatever it is you are NOT doing, then add it as a constraint and do it.

So if you are feeling stuck you can set up a constraint like this:

A mix, 5 tracks, breaks only ( the kind in a track or the genre ), Blue, holding the mix for 20 seconds each transition, in two weeks.

The more complex you set up your framework the more your mind has to work with and wrap itself around.  Really challenge yourself – you can do it!  At least, if you do not accomplish the goal in the time you set, you will have learned something about yourself and would have ingrained that experimentation in your mind for future use.

Let me know how it goes!

Recap: Your mind cannot create without a framework.  Constraints are a way to give yourself rules to work with.  Goals have to do with what you want to accomplish.  Tasks are the way you get to that goal – whether they are musical themes, technique, or gear constraints.  The more complex your framework the more creative your process and output will be.  Challenge yourself!

Source: “Creativity from Constraints: The Psychology of Breakthrough”, Patricia D. Stokes, Springer Publishing NYC, 2006.

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 ).