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Digital DJ ADD: A Major Problem In Modern DJ Booths

This is a public service announcement to the digital DJ community. Many pro DJs are demonstrating signs of a serious condition, DDADD, which is ravaging clubs around the world. Once limited to basements and bedrooms, there has been an increasingly high number of public cases reported over the past 5 years with dancers and club owners growing more concerned every weekend.

What Is Digital DJ ADD?

It’s now so easy to mix two songs together, that a lot of DJs have basically nothing to do on stage. 15 years ago, most of us spent all of our time searching for the next song, getting a mix ready, and hoping everything would line up before the record ended. Now we have the ability to loop, sync, play a track, and order the Uber home – all with a single press.

With so much extra time on our hands, many DJ feel that they have to do something to justify these ridiculous fees, or worse­, get bored and start looking for entertainment.

Here are common signs of DJs who suffer from Digital DJ Attention Deficit Disorder (DDADD):

  • Excessive effects on the main mix
  • Mixing in new tracks every 30 – 60 seconds
  • Loop rolling the crowd
  • Excessive filter sweeps
  • EQ bass drop outs every 32 counts
  • Climbing on top of DJ booths for excessive periods of time

Sometimes things get truly out of hand, and DJs resort to fairly exotic means of personal entertainment, which inevitably backfire.

The Cure For DDADD

So how to stop this pandemic of bad DJ behavior, and more importantly save yourself from getting infected? Get on the dance floor.

Photo credit: Donna Schichler
Photo credit: Donna Schichler

Knowing how your customer feels is the best way to make a good product. So how can a DJ possibly understand what people want if he has never spent any time on the dance floor? Go out into the crowd on a night off night and really experience what it’s like to maintain a groove.

You may find yourself finally getting into a song, gently swaying to the beat when suddenly…

WHACK! New track. BOOM! Beatmasher roll.

You and the other dancers stop, look around at each other, and then to the DJ, who is obliviously staring at his laptop planning the next “perfect mix” in 60 seconds.

Give Yourself Something Meaningful To Do

Most DJs love to mess with music, that’s what we do, it’s probably ingrained in us on a genetic level. Give anyone with that predilection a set of bright buttons that control the music and chances are high they will want to press them.

First of all, let me present to you guilty party #1: Myself: Ean Golden! Early in digital DJ days I was patient zero, applying effects like suntan oil on a Italian beach in summer – liberally! Case in point:

Over time, I have reduced my musical manipulation greatly and found less-jarring ways to inject a personal spirit into the mix. For example layering loops with subtle effects fills in this video:

The question is this, what can you do during a mix that will substantially add to the experience of the dancers without over cluttering the sound stage? Here are a few simple suggestions:

  • Spend more time looking for the perfect next track through real time previewing using a controller
  • In smaller clubs, jump on the lights a bit and tune the ambience
  • Take a break, drink some water, give your ears a rest and actually watch the audience to see how they are moving.
  • Dance to the music and enjoy yourself – perhaps even go onto the dancefloor, but please no stage diving.
  • Add a musical device to your set like an external drum machine or synth

That last point is probably the most interesting for most of you. With today’s technology we have the ability to challenge ourselves musically in ways that make each set original and fun. I personally bring a drum machine and manually sync it up with my DJ mix.

This technique gives me a LOT of things to look after, that often add subtle but very nice original flourishes to my mix. Between syncing up the drum machine manually, and programming new patterns I find myself using Traktor’s effects about 99% less in my sets. And that, is probably a good thing.

Here is our tutorial on syncing up a drum machine with Traktor or any DJ software.

  • XBASS KINGTING

    dings dead ,real djs with real skill like my self who spent years making our self into ninjas ,which was once a art is now a joke thanks cdj and pioneer ,big up the 1210 deck , you may has well just get a playlist and walk away and let computer dj now ,

  • Gareth Michael Jones

    Totally disagree. I think your phemonena routine is amazing and not too busy at all. I wouldnt play every song like that, but that routine is boss. I do try to keep FX to a minimum except for fills though, it ruins good songs.

  • I find that doing my sets on the fly, leaves me with little time to spare.
    It’s only when I’m mixing single genres from a playlist that I have spare time.

  • tr4gik

    Also please Stop shouting on the fckin mic to make some noise or any other crap!! Jeez that’s so fcking annoying, can we just hear a good mix?

  • gigglekey

    Carl Cox is able to mix in new songs every 2 min, but he’s mixing simple 4 bangers into a soundscape, with grooves on top fading in and out smoothly. Your brain expects things to happen after 4 bars, etc., and he’s very good at riding that expectation to make a pleasing mix. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zfYNPnHha9U&noredirect=1

  • Great fun one friends…press play

  • Dominic Vincenzo Bochicchio

    If you’re bored on stage I’d start looking into incorporating more stage production elements!
    Learn DMX programming and run a programmed light show.
    Start mixing videos (People LOVE effects on videos)
    Get into live remixing or beat machines.

    The DJ world is so hyper competitive that you really need to branch out and make your entire show much more attractive to people to get them to even come out.

    DJ X w/music vs. DJ Y w/music & Videos & programmed light show. Which would you go see?

    • XBASS KINGTING

      wtf ,,djs need too be djs again , don’t mean too sound old school but back in the day you use too look forward too how dj was going to perform , mixing and scratching ,, now the dj can’t be taken serious ,i miss dmc technics shows ,and how jungle and drum bass djs performed ,now my 4 year old daughter can dj ,the dj was like drummer , and hes been replaced by sync and the cdj was bad news from the started ,,i had them for 9 years and then i sold them and when i got back my 1210s i started enjoying my self again even with timecoded ,yea its all about moving the crowd but the respect has gone ,picture you favorite band turning up one day with a ipod and just standing there with out there instruments , the respect would go out the window

  • James Burkill

    a simple cure to this is freestyle DJing always!!! never analysed a song until i play, never use the sync unless really needed, always thinking about the next song to keep my floor busy, never have excessive use of effects, loops, and finger drumming, and never have I prep a playlists to say i only play this. if your really at that stage it could be time to hang up the headphones.

  • Product tester

    Convenience kills any art.

    Satisfactory-action will follow if people go back to the fundamentals of the art.

    One fundamental for example is: Pitch on your own.

    I get locked into the music right away and it gets me easier in the “zone” when “riding” the pitch-fader.

    That “zone” in Star Wars is called the “Force” 😉

    Maybe Ean will make an article with “10 of the biggest fundamentals explained about the art of DJ-ing”.

    Commenters can always add more later on.

    Good idea? … Bump up the post!

    • Psythik

      But then where do you go when you get bored of pitch riding? Serato DJ’s sync doesn’t compensate for platter wow and flutter, so I’ve gotten so used to manually pitching that it has become second nature. I need a new challenge.

  • Rave47

    As previously stated, the crowd just wants to hear good music played without interruption- especially without misplaced effects and mid song cut or mix to the next one. The best thing is to let the music play and intrude only when required.
    So how do you handle with the ADD?
    1. get on the floor- go dance with your crowd, they’ll love it and you’ll be running across the floor every few minutes to mix the next one in and head straight back.
    2. Network- yes that horrible industry slang rear its ugly face again. But seriously, you have a solid two minutes to talk to patrons, staff, security or management between every mix, with plenty of time to never miss a beat.
    3. DON’T DRINK!! I mean, don’t drink just to keep entertained. It’s not a smart move.

    TLDR: Boredom is a terrible condition, but it’s not an excuse for stupid behavior. Cheers!

  • “or worse­, get bored and start looking for entertainment.”
    I would say that this is probably the best thing that you can do,… because at a certain point you’r gonna have to realize that you are the entertainment of the night , an start behaving like it. I’v never heard: “look at that dj going completly mad in his dj booth, hes probably just playing a cd” even if you are playing a cd, the audience probably liked you more than the guy that just did the most technically difficult mix with a total serato-face. btw if you really are giving it everything , your gonna screw up your mix bigtime at least once. and they will believe that your not “faking it”. I’m starting to hate it but again i’ll have to refer to DJ Bike of

    Noize Suppressor: even when he is standing just “behind is decks” (instead of behind sonar) the guys set is a workout that would sacre most proffessional atletes. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YlvwA3YADdI

  • eugene

    Pointless article. This isn’t 15 years ago. Most djs cannot put together a set that flows and makes sense. However, it is not the dj’s tastes that have been burnt out, but also the people listening. The crowd today is so jaded from what “good” music and dj’s should be able to create. A unique and creative environment that is first controlled by the dj and is fed by the crowd. In today’s times it is expected to fully cater to the crowd without any real grasp of what your objectives as a dj are. Effects, midi controllers, loops etc, should all be tools that a dj should know how and when to use in their set. But it shouldn’t define who they are and how they utilize their time playing. Let’s face it, mixing two songs CAN be boring, but adding more noise doesn’t make it any better. Djs’, as well as the crowd they play to, need to reassess what it is they are aiming to achieve. Is rather hear a solid set flow of songs mixed with soul and joy rather than some tool trying to utilize every piece of equipment trying to modify and manipulate some shitty song only to create an attention disorder not only for himself, but the crowd. This defeats your purpose as a dj.

    • Did we read the same article? Actually you guys are saying the same thing…I.E. Focus on a good flowing set that meets or creates a groove/vibe…so I guess we did;)

  • noxxi

    solution to that. use ableton and do it live using clips. youl suddenly be struggling to get a break

    • qazen

      yes

  • SoulSyde

    Great read Ean! I love this quote, “Most DJs love to mess with music, that’s what we do, it’s
    probably ingrained in us on a genetic level. Give anyone with that
    predilection a set of bright buttons that control the music and chances
    are high they will want to press them.”

  • BIJ

    V I N Y L

    • ThomThom

      Yes.

  • Sensifeelya

    Pretty funny Ean. The reality is that in this Post Beatmatching Era of DJing, as well as the never-ending technology advances, thanks to the highly competitive DJ software and controller market, DJs feel they NEED to use all the bells and whistles offered. Aoki is kinda an anus with the stage diving and caking, but an anus all the way to the bank! I think DJ Shiftee has found a nice balance. And your suggestion of using other instrumental elements in the booth is spot on, but that means a DJ will actually have to learn to play an instrument, probably not going to happen, so back to our regularly scheduled caking…

    • Agree…”DJ will have to learn..” Get on the bus right? Perhaps technology dilution is the driver to bringing live or semi live performance back to the stage…whether classical skills, turntablism, finger drumming, or other new method;)

  • Scott Frost

    I guess the question really is – does the dance floor really notice or even care?

    They want to hear “What Do You Mean” and from my experience, they don’t want you F…ING with it….at least in most clubs…

    Dubstep for example is already effected and messed up to begin with, so I just let it play.

    I might add a reverb and a beat effect as a build up but I learned a long time ago not to mess with things too much.

    I have always liked remixing on the fly so I try to loop in new beats if I can.

  • calgarc

    i use effects to help me transition between tracks when needed. I generally do 2-3minute long take overs and tight mixes. I also come with a very small set list, this way i can spend time crate digging my hard drive 🙂

  • Martin Wilson

    This is why I still try to play with timecode vinyl whenever I can. If I don’t have to spend time monkeying with the pitch and phase, I have idle hands that tend to get tempted by demonic effects banks…

  • deejae snafu

    10/10 please post tutorial for mapping button to call uber.

    • lol yes please

    • I know you guys sorely want this to be a joke, but having a midi signal tie into the Uber or Dominos API is totally within reach

      • deejae snafu

        and THATS what i call instant gratification…

  • Ryan Ruel

    Ha. My setup now has a Rane MP-2015, thank you very much 🙂

    • Scott Frost

      ” My setup now has a Rane MP-2015, thank you very much :)”

      I don’t know you but I hate you …..:)

    • eugene

      It is incredible how famous your setup has become. I pretty much have the exact same setup, and also keep things as basic as possible. If mixing/dj’ing can be compared to cooking/creating a meal, it is always best to use the highest quality ingredients (songs) and add in spices/salt/seasoning (effects/loops/eq) subtly and only when needed. The seasonings should never over power the main dish, and if used correctly will only make your whole experience that much better.

  • orlando78405

    I think that music style has a lot to do with it too. Higher energy tracks tend to get messed around with more.

  • RolfSki

    Guilty party #1 is DJ Techtools, with its out-of-proportion focus on routines, effects and tech toys.

    • deejae snafu
    • David De Garie-Lamanque

      they have created a monster…. they must wrestle it and tame it 😉 i think as soon as you use sync, the effects pile on very fast… i am guilty of this, and i noticed that when i don’t use sync and beatmatch manually, i refrain from using so much effects cause i have to concentrate to get everything not only at the right tempo but in phase. then the effects take the place they should : complement the music on a ponctual basis, so they actually have a dramatic EFFECT on the crowd 😉

    • Dan White

      I disagree – we focus on those things when there’s an associated technical ability or interesting result that could inspire the community to create something interesting on their own. I specifically avoid routines and gear that are superfluous, uninteresting, or are complete overkill when selecting things to highlight on the blog! 🙂

      • RolfSki

        Let’s just say this website has been for a long time mostly about controllerism. Granted, content has been significantly broadened over the years, but the damage has been done and the focus on technique and not so much music is still the DNA of DJTechtools.

        • Christian Gonzalez

          DJTT focuses on technique because its your job as the DJ to focus on the music. DJTT does a fantastic job of explaining new gear offering new ideas or even old ones with their throwback articles, (which I do enjoy, thank you very much) but its all in the aim to inspire their followers to try something new, to experiment and get out of their comfort zone. Yes, this website is very controllerist centric (idk if that’s an expression lol) but that’s because the future is in controllerism. I respect the art of spinning Wax. I really do. its an art-form lost unfortunately, but you can also give a great performance using a controller i.e. Carl Cox this season going from full pioneer to an S8, or Richie Hawtin’s ever evolving modular setup using traktor controllers, ableton’s push etc., or more recently (thanks DJTT for the KiNK interview and his actual playthrough) KiNk using elements from both analog and digital worlds to create a whole new experience.

          • RolfSki

            I never doubted the power new technology can offer to bring down the barriers between producing and DJ-ing, creating very unique performances like Richie Hawtin does. But this article covers the every day reality in a DJ booth and that is simply not on the level of Richie Hawtin.

            It’s the reality of your average post-CD generation DJ, that doesn’t need to bother about beat mixing any more and easily can get inspired by websites like DJTechTools to over-do it in their sets.

  • Victo

    I’m happy to read this !
    Djing is not about the “DJM Filter” and “master effects” on templates’ tracks done by ghost producers…
    DJing is not (always) about playing in front of Drunk/High people in Festivals.
    DJing should be something done with your heart and soul.

    I don’t spent time anymore to sync my tracks, but I love to add an Ableton setup in my DJ Setup, to add synths, basslines and drums. it can be so “easily” played with a Push or a Midi Fighter.

    It’s a choice between being a “Club DJ” that just play tracks, and a DJ/Producer that play music.

    But when you are DJing too much, you can become a “Filter” and “Mix with hands in the Air” guy…
    That’s normal, you get bored of doing every set the sames things…

  • Ywe

    That hair though…. ?

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