Ever been in a social setting with a number of DJs who all want to hang out, but everyone brought their USB drives / laptops / vinyl wanting to play a few tracks? A group back to back session is in order! Instead of simply handing over the headphones between every track, here are a few great ways to make tag team mixing in a social setting fun and fair. Have your own B2B games? Share in the comments!
When To B2B?
A group of DJs hanging out together near a set of open DJ decks can feel a bit competitive. Everyone wants a few minutes behind the decks to show off their new tracks and have a friendly bit of one-upmanship. But beyond just two or three DJs, I’ve found it’s fun and helpful to have a few “house rules” and games to play together – giving everyone a chance behind the decks.
Basic B2B House Rules: Twos
It’s important to have some very basic rules set up before you start any B2B set. For many of the groups I’ve DJed with socially, the goals are simple:
- allow every DJ time behind the decks
- each DJ should get a chance to have a planned mix (between two songs of their choosing)
- no DJ should spend too long behind the decks at one time
In groups of 3+ DJs, I recommend mixing “in Twos” – meaning that each DJ mixes two tracks before they hand off the headphones to the next DJ. This gives them a chance to mix into an unfamiliar track, as well as mixing in a second song of their choosing. Don’t expect to tell a story with your song choices here, it’s more of a conversation with the other DJs and a chance to show off some gems from your collection.
Avoid setting a strict time limit on time for each mix – but it’s generally considered a faux pas in this style of group DJ session to mix in a ten minute track and let it run all the way out before playing your second track. Take your time, but remember that your friends want to play too.
Occasionally in a group DJ setting, someone might play a track that you have the perfect “reply” for. I like to encourage any DJ in the situation to very sparingly call for a “response”, allowing them to cut in and immediately mix in a track that responds to the one playing. Examples might include:
- alternate remixes of the same track
- songs that have good word play together or that reference each other
- origin tracks from samples – e.g. if a DJ plays Next Episode, you could cleverly respond with the original David McCallum:
For more critical or competitive DJs, it’s nice to challenge one another to take risks and push the envelope. A few years ago at DJTT, we invented a happy hour-friendly DJ game that did exactly this.
- Each DJ has their own setup and are plugged into a master mixer (we would often have multiple laptops, controllers, vinyl, and other decks)
- DJs would play in Twos (as discussed above)
- Any time someone got caught failing to beat match, mismatching their phrasing, or generally flubbing a mix, the others in the group call it out with a friendly shout of “Drink!” – encouraging the perpetrator to self acknowledge their mistake and (if they want) have a sip of beer as punishment.
You don’t actually have to drink if you’re not into booze – but it makes for a fun way to have a few drinks with your DJ friends, and keep it light-hearted. identifying screw ups in a fun matter is way better than being smug about it.
Update: after posting this article on Reddit’s /r/DJs, a commenter suggested a good variation of this game:
To really keep mixing a unique challenge, Track Roulette is a great game to play. The rules are simple: instead of choosing your own next track, someone else does, randomly!
- Filter your track collection/library so that you’ll have a long list of compatible songs – I recommend filtering by compatible key or tempo
- Slowly scroll through the filtered collection
- Have a fellow DJ call out “stop!” – and immediately stop scrolling and load the track that you landed on
- Have fun mixing in a track that’s compatible but perhaps vastly different from what you would have chosen to mix in
- Repeat in a round robin fashion for every DJ in the group
Around The World in 80 BPM
Back in 2013, Ean did a great tutorial on various ways to change tempo in a DJ set. One of the techniques actually works really well as a B2B DJ game: going around the BPM circle. Here’s how it works:
- start out at a certain tempo
- then each time a DJ mixes in, have them increase the BPM
- I’ve found a 3-5 BPM increase per track works well
- When you start getting higher in BPM (140+), start looking for songs that are half the tempo (140 > 70, 150 > 85) and mix them in to go “around the world”. Keep going until you reach the BPM you started on.
- Once you’re finished, consider going backwards! Continually slowing down the overall tempo is more of a challenge, but it’s rewarding and good to practice.