Like it is said by
many, it is something that cannot be taught.
Here is how I got
started. My advice worked for me, your mileage may vary.
First off, don't
run out and buy expensive gear if you can at all avoid it. Find a
friend with tables you can start practicing on. I drive 45
minutes two or three times a week to go to my friend's house to
practice, but it's saved me from having to spend $475 each on 1200's,
and $1300 on a mixer (my friend has a really nice one), and more
money on amps and big speakers. Many larger DJ equipment
manufacturerers have inexpensive starter kits that include two
turntables and a mixer which is perfect for getting started.
The thing to focus on at first is buying records and getting
comfortable with handling them and the gear. Then, when you are sure
you really want to go through with it, you can buy tables and mixers
and DJ samplers to your heart's content. Think of DJing as a VERY
expensive hobby at first . . . it takes a *lot* of work to make it a career.
If you have
multiple choices on where to buy records, investigate them all and
find the place with the best service and selection. I know this
sounds like stupid advice, but being able to go into a store and hear
this weeks wax hot off the presses *before* you commit money to it is
a million times more fun than watching play lists and reviews and
then trying to find things. Techno vinyl has such a short shelf life
that if you snooze, you lose. My absolute favorite track is only
three months old, and is now nearly impossible to get, for example.
Many times by the time something ends up on a play list or reviewed
in a magazine, it's gone forever and you'll have to do some real
scrounging to find a copy.
If you are
someplace where there are no decent record shops within driving
distance, the next best bet is to try mail order. Some places are
VERY helpful and pleasant, and will talk to you for a while and even
ask you to send in a (non-mixed) tape with snippets of what you like
so they can get an idea of what to ship you.
Okay, now that you
have some records, you have to play them. The first few times I put
down tracks I was afraid to touch the vinyl. All those years of my
dad telling me to handle the records carefully by the edges had sunk
in. Well, your precious vinyl is going to get finger prints all over
it, not to mention dust, fog juice, tree sap, and god knows what
else, so buy a discwasher and hope for the best. Go ahead, touch the
record. Get used to it, they will survive, and if the weighting and
anti-skate on the tables is set right, they won't skip (ask the
friend who's gear you are using for advice on this . . . extra weight
wears out the grooves faster but will plow over dust particles, cat
hair, and bubbles in a bad pressing . . . anti-skate keeps the needle
from slipping sideways when you spin the record backward by hand, or scratch).
Don't worry about
beat matching at first. Instead get a feel for what happens when you
move the cross fader, adjust the line levels on the mixer, and adjust
the pitch control on the tables. Learn the gear first is what I'm
saying. When you feel comfortable handling everything (which could
take five minutes or five days), then the fun begins.
Beat matching is a
simple concept, but hard to do. Especially when the sound system is
pumped up excruciatingly loud and you can't tell where the echoes are
coming from AND there are six guys hanging around the tables watching
your every move AND there are 100 people dancing and you don't want
to wreck their vibe AND AND AND. But I digress. It's easier in the
privacy of your own basement, and the friend who got me started said
that he felt that about twenty hours of private practice was a good
guideline before you'd be ready to go out and not embarass yourself.
But how do you do
it? Ask anyone and they will tell you something different. Here is my system:
Make sure the
table you will be cueing off of (i.e. the one with the record you are
mixing into, not out of) is zeroed. What I mean by zeroed is that the
pitch control is set at zero, and that little green light is on. This
keeps you out of the situation where your pitch keeps creeping up and
up and you go through your records and finally there is no room to
adjust up or down. I'm sure some of you experienced DJs are laughing
at me for this, but I'm writing this for absolute beginners, so . . . :-)
DO NOT believe the
rpm (or upm if it's a German import, ha ha ha) speed printed on the
label. I have SO MANY records where it's just plain WRONG. Put the
needle in the middle of the track where the beat will be plain, and
listen through your headphones and make sure you have the right speed.
Back up to the
part of the record where the beat comes in clearly for the first
time. Listen to it, and to the record that is currently running.
You'll get an idea whether to speed up or slow down the record you
want to queue. Make a rough guestimate and adjust the pitch control
Back up again to
the part where the beat comes in, and with your hand on the record,
scratch over the down beat a few times, in such a way that you push
over the down beat on the record you are queueing at the same time
the down beat on the running record hits. When you've found the down
beat and feel comfortable, rather than backing up again and
scratching, just release the record with a very slight push so that
they will both be playing at the same time. You'll get a better idea
from what you hear next whether you need to pitch the record you are
queueing up or down some more. Make any adjustments, and repeat this
step until you are happy with the way things sound after they've run
for a few measures.
hopefully ready to go. Once again, line up the beats, and release
them when you are comfortable. In a beat or two you'll know if you
are fine, and so can start moving the crossfader over toward the
center. Draw out the mix as long as you can (I'll talk about
real-time corrections in a second). Eventually you will have faded
into the other track and you can start all over again with a new record.
corrections are tricky to learn, and everyone has their own methods.
Some people "push" a record that's lagged a bit with their
fingers, and "drag" a slightly too fast record by holding a
finger over the label and creating drag as the record spins under it.
Other people mess with the pitch control on the fly. Still others
grab the spindle and twist it forward or "brake" it to
correct. Experiment to find out what works for you. One thing to get
a feel for is to learn "when to hold them and when to fold
them." Basically, the faster you can correct the better, and the
sooner you cut out of a bad mix that you can't correct the better.
I've seen Jimmy Crash correct with both hands, braking one record
while simultaneously pushing the other. He's been DJing for 12 years,
so don't expect to be able to do this at home right away, kidz. :-)
Buy records for
their musicality, not for their mixabilty. That said, a lot of times
there are some good sounding but easy mixes you can make. TAKE
ADVANTAGE OF THIS. It will sound good, and build your
self-confidence, and give you a breather if you've just blown a mix
and need to calm your nerves a bit. The easiest mix at all to make is
to have one record that has no-beat breaks in it, and mix a record
with a beat-only intro over it. Just get the speed right on the
beat-only record, wait for a break, count 8 or 16, which ever sounds
appropriate, and then have the beat-only part come and act as the
beat under the running no-beat section, and ease the cross fader over
as slowly as possible so that you take full advantage of the no-beat
section but don't get in the situation where the beat on the first
record comes back and crashes with what you are mixing into.
Other cool tricks
will become apparant in time. The best way to learn is to watch other
DJs and then try it at home until you figure it out and like how it
feels and sounds. The next easiest thing to learn after you've got
the beat-matched segue down is to drop in snippets of one record
while the other is playing, and from there there's scratching,
backspinning, and god knows what else.
Some DJs do things
like clock the bpms of each of their tracks and write it down on the
labels, along with the key of the track and other information. If
this works for you, then go for it. It doesn't work for me . . . all
I do is when I buy a record, I listen to every track and then paint
mark with a little pink dot on the label the tracks I like the best
so I can find them quickly when I'm cueing; for me it's easier than
memorizing the name of every track I own.
HAVE FUN. If you
are doing this for ego, stop. Do it because you love the music and
want to relate to it in a deeper way than just listening, and because
you want to share the music you love with people. There's some hip
hop or techno or house track that goes "everybody wants to be a
DJ." Well, I think that's just FINE!