Whether you are learning to be a DJ or simply an enthusiast who’s curious about just what is it that a DJ keeps doing with those buttons, knobs and levellers, the basic concepts and their explanations that are to follow in this post would help you get a much clearer idea.
What A DJ Does And Does Not Do
A startling misconception about DJs is that they make music on the go. In all fairness, there are a few who do ‘live’ sessions but that requires a totally different setup, which in fact happens inside a studio for hours before a batch of final samples are recorded and chosen.
Instead, when on the job, a DJ cues his/her set of records into sequence, and manipulates and mixes them in and out. That said, this complex mixing of one record with the next in cue may be broken down into smaller yet more understandable processes.
Sounds pretty simple- choose tracks, cue them into a sequence to be played, right? Not exactly, the choice of what track should follow is a lesson in context as the wrong sequence can kill the mood of the audience. Then there’s the science behind mixing a new track that requires understanding of harmonics, complimentary genres and pitch among other things.
The unit, beats per minute (BPM) outlines the speed of the record, which for the most part remains consistent depending on the genre that it belongs. For instance, techno notches about 130bpm whereas ‘drum n bass’ runs away with a 170bpm.
So, using the pitch controls on their deck, DJs control the pace of the records to ensure the speeds of the tracks match each other, which is known as beatmatching. Because if they don’t, then what one gets to hear is a cacophony of awful sounds.
This part requires an understanding of the structure of music. In that respect, a bar, in music terms, is a time-segment that’s characterised by a given number of beats. So, a 4/4 beat would progress through bars of 8, 16, 32 and so on.
So, what a DJ tries to do is introduce new layers of music at the beginning of a new bar so that the whole inclusion builds in terms of its richness and therefore sounds nice to your ears.
This is perhaps a term that most are aware of but really don’t know what to make of it. Without going into much details, lets just say that of the entire frequency range of a record, its important to reproduce all of it for a DJ.
So, when one or more records in the sequence is introduced, a DJ should know how to balance the frequencies between the two so that outcome is undistorted and each aspect of the bassline and kick is discernible.