J-h:n wrote:This is all excellent advise. It's also perhaps a little too general to be much help when you're right there in the middle of it, frantically flipping through your collection for that perfect next song. So here's a small, practical trick:
I've found this approach really useful. I have a few lists ('lindy hop by artist', 'lindy hop by bpm', etc) which are really the same list of songs, ordered according to different criteria. But I tend to use consistent describing words in my comments fields to make searches easier, rather than a whole series of set lists. I tend to use the terms 'upenergy', 'mediumenergy' and 'lowenergy' a lot, so when I search for 'upenergy' I can pretty much guarantee I'll get all the songs I think of as 'upenergy'. This means that I don't have to create a whole new separate folder or smartlist (I use itunes), but can create lists on the fly. I also go through my music regularly, relistening and updating these terms as my DJing experience increases and my understanding of my music changes.
Ideally, I'd know my music well enough to be able to do away with this stuff, but I'm too busy to devote that much time to my music.
I do think, though, that as my knowledge of music and musical history increases, my DJing improves.
I mean, I start to know what to expect if, for example, the artist is Alberta Hunter. And then, as my collection expands, I start to know what to expect if the artist is, for example, Duke Ellington, 1940; Duke Ellington, 1929; Cootie Williams and his Rug Cutters 1937; or Johnny Hodges and his Orchestra 1938. Knowing this stuff helps me know what to expect when I play a song with these details, even if I can't exactly remember the melody of the song itself...
...and of course, previewing with headphones helps me figure out exactly
how the song goes and how it might work with the song that's playing already.
And there's really no substitute for dancing to a song to see if it works...though I find as I dance less and less generally I'm increasingly dependent on the reaction of the dancers...
Something I've wondered, though:
I find that when I'm DJing my regular venues (a fortnightly dance and a weekly dance) or an exchange, I aim for really high energy, crazy arse dancing all night.
I also tend to open the night rather than close (I prefer dancing after I've DJed), so I'm lucky to have what I think of as a relatively 'cool' room (which seems ridiculous to type now, in 37 degree summer heat, preparing for a set tonight), which I then aim, ideally, to build up to fever pitch, setting up a pumping party crowd for the next DJ. If I do the second set, I try to keep the energy up, but also build in some mellower stuff to give dancers an emotional 'break' before building it back up.
Even when I'm DJing blues, I prefer a higher energy room. The tempos might be really low, but I like an energetic room.
But when I do mellower gigs (I've done some afternoon sets for families at Spiegeltent
), I'm not sure how to work the energy in the room. Crazy arse, manic energy lindy doesn't really work when you're playing for a mixed afternoon tea crowd of lindy hoppers, kids, grandparents, parents and teenagers (even if they're all up and dancing). Nor if you're playing for a calmer, Monday evening post-class group who're really interested in drinking and chatting and catching up as well as dancing.
Here's my question:
If you're DJing a mellower gig like that, what do you aim for, in terms of 'vibe'? What sort of songs would you play? How do you choose songs to develop a particular vibe, and what sort of vibe do you aim for? How does it change your approach to 'the wave', in Russell's sense especially?