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.
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.