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PostPosted: Mon Jan 16, 2012 6:03 pm 
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Location: Minneapolis, MN
I have a gig coming up next week, and I decided to make a playlist in advance this time. I kept thinking if I was some sort of "respond to the floor" purist, I wouldn't do this.

But now I think plenty of DJs I love dancing to have playlists and just tweak them in response to the floor.

But I have to say...I'm sitting at my laptop...and I'm totally stumped & intimidated. I'm like...where do I start? There're no dancers in the room...how am I supposed to do this?

For those of you who make playlists (or short-lists) in advance that aren't just auto-playlists (like "all 5-star songs")...how do you get started?


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PostPosted: Mon Jan 16, 2012 6:30 pm 
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I had exactly the same problem doing that yehoodi set! I think making a proper playlist like that requires a particular set of skills.

But I've also done something similar when I've 'practiced' DJing. Even if I don't actually play the set start to finish for dancers, I often refer back to it when I've done some interesting transitions or a little clump of songs I especially liked. It's useful to have these on hand if I have a moment of panic while DJing 'live'.

This is what I do:
I imagine a particular scenario (eg I'm the first DJ of the night at an after class gig, and the teachers have been teaching a Frankie Manning Favourites type class) and I start from there. Then I work an imaginary wave, moving up and down tempos according to my imaginary crowd's fitness/energy/interest. My imaginary crowd is usually based on my experience with crowds at the particular event, or perhaps my 'ideal' crowd. I usually have a short list of songs I'd especially like to play - new things I love, or old things I've neglected - and I think about them as places I'd like to go in the set.

Basically, I DJ for an imaginary crowd in my brainz when I'm making a practice set list. When I was doing this regularly my DJing really benefitted. Note to self: practice more!

Good luck!


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PostPosted: Mon Jan 16, 2012 6:53 pm 
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That is how I do it with the events here . Its best to try and be the imaginary dancer and how he feels. The prepared list can be effected by the general ambiance , weather , time of the year ( people chat more when they are back from holidays ,etc ) . regular practice is a must.


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PostPosted: Mon Jan 16, 2012 7:03 pm 
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Location: Perth, Australia
I usually make a shortlist ahead of time of songs I think might be suitable for the gig (style, tempo etc) and songs (either new or old) that I want to remind myself to consider. Often it's simply tracks I've been listening to recently that have made my foot start tapping. The shortlist can sometimes be only a few songs, or if it's a special event with a particular feel (support for a big band/first night of an exchange weekend/swing n soul theme...), it might be 3 times as long as the duration of the actual set.

So if I'm playing support for a big band, I might decide to listen to some small group swing ahead of time. I say small group in this example as to compliment but not compete with the big band (IMHO it's kinda an ass thing to do to play Basie & Ellington on full volume in the middle of your local big band's set, but I digress). From that I might shortlist a few tracks I like that I think would work nicely.

I make all the decisions about what order to play them at the gig*, and supplement the set with other stuff I know or think of as the night unfolds.

Often it's a case of joining the dots. If I want to get from a beginner-friendly rhythm n blues track to something more New Orleansy, what would be a nice way of getting there that provides the dancers with good dancing opportunities? I take into account tempo, era, style, feel, vocals (inc. gender of), evident skill levels, familiarity, recording quality...

*although sometimes I'll decide ahead of time that a particular track would make a good opener, or be good for later in the night.

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PostPosted: Tue Jan 17, 2012 2:03 pm 
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Ahhh....the tyranny of the blank page.

I find that some constraints are very liberating, and if no one else will provide them, I will provide them myself.

I DJ for WCS dances (in theory...I haven't in a while). There is a wiiiiiiiiiiiiide range of tempo and genre of that is suitable for the dance. So, I might start by making a few playlists like "Slow Blues", "Fast Blues", "Late Night", "After Class", etc, etc.

That at least gives me some constraint for building a playlist. It doesn't really matter what constraints you pick....as long as they are at least in the ballpark of what you might face at a gig.

Whenever I am prepping for a new dance, I use the basic information I have at hand to pick the first 5 to 10 songs - the opening 15 to 30 minutes of the set. I consider the venue, the likely crowd, the context of what happened in the time slot before my set, and so on. I rarely play even the first 5 songs in that order...but at least I have a plan for the start.

The playlists give me a "themed" set of songs that I can pick from if I think it will be appropriate for the people in the room at the time. I may play 1 or 10 songs from a given playlist before moving on.


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PostPosted: Tue Jan 17, 2012 10:53 pm 
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What do you know about your gig and the target audience?

Are you going to play during band breaks, or for an entire DJ-ed night? On average, how proficient are the dancers there? Which kind of stuff do they mostly like to hear? Classic Swing? Post-war Jazz? Etc.

If you can answer these questions, or you can get the answers from whomever hired you, you should get some guidelines to build your playlist.

Cheers,
Lorenzo






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PostPosted: Thu Jan 19, 2012 7:46 pm 
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It isn't about picking the absolute best song at first, but at picking the first few and see where they lead you.

Chose a song about something in your life right now: valentine's day or bad weather or songs about New Orleans when they went to the Super Bowl or a friend having triplets.

Ask someone for one song to inspire you

Look at Swing DJs and choose songs recommended from it.

Do a random search on your music program.

I once DJed a set with artists whose names ran from M to R. Ah, the joys of grabbing the wrong CD case back in the day.

I hope you enjoy your challenge!


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PostPosted: Fri Jan 20, 2012 6:31 am 
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Location: London
kitkat wrote:
I have a gig coming up next week, and I decided to make a playlist in advance this time. I kept thinking if I was some sort of "respond to the floor" purist, I wouldn't do this.

But now I think plenty of DJs I love dancing to have playlists and just tweak them in response to the floor.

But I have to say...I'm sitting at my laptop...and I'm totally stumped & intimidated. I'm like...where do I start? There're no dancers in the room...how am I supposed to do this?

For those of you who make playlists (or short-lists) in advance that aren't just auto-playlists (like "all 5-star songs")...how do you get started?

Kitkat,

Are you thinking of just playing your prepared playlist, or using it as the basis of a DJ set? If it's the former - and you are thinking of hitting play and letting it run, the advantage is that you can put a lot of preparation into making it a great list. Some of the key things I think are:

- Songs that excite you now
- Songs that you think will excite the dancers on the night
- Plenty of 'light and shade' *

* I love following a slow relaxed number with an uptempo one with a killer intro. If you prepare in advance, you can find combinations of songs that work well together.

I find playing songs at random on my iPod is a great way to find songs that excite me and I think might work at certain events.

Let us know how it goes ... :)


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PostPosted: Sun Jan 22, 2012 8:09 am 
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Location: Minneapolis, MN
Thanks everyone!

Haydn, I'm not preparing to walk away from the computer & let the playlist run.

Looking to learn the secrets of competent, danceable DJ's who spend ample time at their computers, but also relax & dance to at least 50% of their songs. Suspected it had something to do w/ playlists.


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