Finding your voice as a DJ

Tips and techniques of the trade

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JesseMiner
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Finding your voice as a DJ

#1 Post by JesseMiner » Tue Dec 09, 2003 7:27 pm

DJing is very much like dancing. You start out struggling, at first only being comfortable with a short set, slowly working your way up to longer sets and eventually a full evening. Gradually building up your collection of music, learning, researching, digging, discovering. Throughout this process, you most certainly have roll models, and you are deeply affected by their styles of DJing, whether you are conscious of it or not. It takes a while for your own voice to come through, and when it does, it's going to be unique, whether you choose to play everything under the sun or only stick to a specific genre or mix in a bit of this and that.

Jesse

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Jake
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#2 Post by Jake » Tue Dec 09, 2003 8:51 pm

The more I learn about DJing, the more I realize that being unique is really easy. On the other hand, being unique and good is really hard. So for now, I'm working on good and not worrying so much about being unique.

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Matthew
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#3 Post by Matthew » Tue Dec 09, 2003 9:08 pm

That's a very cool idea. I've been focusing a lot on the basics, and I haven't given much thought beyond that. I'm beginning to be able to hear which songs sound as though they'll make up part of my unique style. There are so many, though, that I haven't heard/played/danced with. It's nice to know that there are fun things to look forward to.

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Yakov
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#4 Post by Yakov » Wed Dec 10, 2003 7:23 am

good ways to have awesome danceable music that's not played too often:

- go vinyl

- don't buy "Joe Williams Sings, Count Basie Sings"

- learn about jazz music from places besides this board and people besides dancers

but when you experiment, make sure the stuff you find is just as good for dancing as the popular stuff, otherwise you will suck.

Roy
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#5 Post by Roy » Wed Dec 10, 2003 4:35 pm

I agree with Jessie's staement through personal experience. First I started buying stuff other people had and copied styles. Later I developed my own DJ personaltiy. Then I did not like that personalitly and wanted to change. I tried out a few new style things, (like mixing in more blues, the degree to which to contrast or blend, the amount of familiar to unfamilar tunes, etc.) Then one night I got a whole bunch of compliments and I knew that I had found my 2nd DJ personaltiy.

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Lawrence
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#6 Post by Lawrence » Thu Dec 11, 2003 5:56 pm

Roy wrote: First I started buying stuff other people had and copied styles. Later I developed my own DJ personaltiy. Then I did not like that personalitly and wanted to change. I tried out a few new style things,
"We're having porks chopssssh and apple saucccccssshe... for dinner."
Then one night I got a whole bunch of compliments and I knew that I had found my 2nd DJ personaltiy.
"Hey, Peter, you're really funny! Tell us another joke!"

:P
Lawrence Page
Austin Lindy Hop
http://www.AustinLindy.com

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Lawrence
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#7 Post by Lawrence » Thu Dec 11, 2003 6:01 pm

BTW, I do agree with the "copy what you like until you develop your own style" analysis; it's just that the wording Roy used sounded so... "familiar."
Lawrence Page
Austin Lindy Hop
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morte100
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#8 Post by morte100 » Fri Dec 12, 2003 3:20 am

Yakov wrote:- go vinyl

- don't buy "Joe Williams Sings, Count Basie Sings"
ahhhh... but what if you buy "Count Basie Swings and Joe Williams Sings" on vinyl? a real paradox.

i just opened a sealed copy i got off of ebay. i'll let you know if it's awesome or not. _d

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gatorgal
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#9 Post by gatorgal » Fri Dec 12, 2003 10:15 am

I find that I'm still struggling with finding my own voice as a DJ. If I have a style or something that distinguishes me from our two other local DJs, I'm not aware of it yet.

I don't get a lot of feedback back home, so I never really know if I'm hitting the mark or not. I'm constantly trying new things, but I'm really working in a vacuum since when I do play, it's at the beginning of a night when most people aren't there yet anyway.

But I have to say that the process has been very fulfilling.

Tina 8)

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#10 Post by mousethief » Fri Dec 12, 2003 1:13 pm

My voice is equal parts Satch and Fats, laced with bourbon and poured over cracked ice.

My favorite vocalists have always been blues shouters, so I try to emulate all or some of the nuances of shout into my sets. I try to pick mid- to up-tempo arrangements with some fire in them. I often start out or reenergize a set with a powerful male vocal and have no problem making abrupt changes in feeling during a set. At the same time, I like playful songs, so I try to introduce humor as well.

But different audiences demand different approaches; I would not play 1/3 of my exchange set(s) to a local audience.

Kalman

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kitkat
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#11 Post by kitkat » Fri Dec 12, 2003 1:29 pm

Actually, I feel like I'm pretty picky already about what I want to play...I just haven't had the time or money to build my collection. But I remember telling myself what kind of stuff I'd play if I ever got in charge of the stereo, and that's what I've done.

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Greg Avakian
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#12 Post by Greg Avakian » Tue Jan 27, 2004 9:08 am

I think I agree with everyone so far, so here's a slightly different perspective just to keep things healthy...

I think spending a lot of time at used CD stores where you can listen and read liner notes is vital. In the beginning I really tried to avoid other people's lists and that helped me to have a fairly unique sound.

The problem with lists and especially with DJs who just download tons of music is that without discovering stuff for themselves, they start to sound like everyone else. They can get stuck in being overwhelmed with too much new music which they can't possibly get to know very well -so they play what is "safe" because they know people like that.

One really good thing about DJing a lot -or at least hanging out with DJs at events- is that you get to know what works for other DJs. you can then decide whether to steal it or look for something else that's similar.

Having said that, I am certainly guilty of picking Rayned's brain. Jesse, Paul Overton and Shorty Dave too. Their numbers are all in my cell phone andI have often called any one of them to see what they thought of a CD I was looking at in a store :)

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Dj G
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on the money greg!

#13 Post by Dj G » Wed Jan 28, 2004 9:26 am

Greg Avakian wrote: I think spending a lot of time at used CD stores where you can listen and read liner notes is vital.

The problem with lists and especially with DJs who just download tons of music is that without discovering stuff for themselves, they start to sound like everyone else.
liner notes can cue you in on some hot players who are obscure too.
OR<<<<<<<<
If your in a store without preview, you can get snookered by a great "looking" line up on the notes :?
Yeah, that's Dj G over there; under the CD Bins, digging contently in the 45 rpm box :)

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kitkat
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#14 Post by kitkat » Wed Mar 31, 2004 5:34 pm

So I'm finally starting to feel comfortable that I can keep a certain type of floor entertained. In other words, playing perfectly decent music within a certain genre.

This summer, when I'm not writing all the time, my goal is to listen to my collection really well and try to develop a skill for getting people who were ambivalent about the kind of music I like to love it. Not make converts out of people who hate it--that's pretty much impossible. But I do believe that you can have a certain knack for making things seem appealing. My hometown has one of the best 50's & 60's oldies stations in the country, and it shows in the fact that I always listen to oldies when I'm there, and never when I'm here at school.

My goal for a DJ voice when I get the time is not just, "Oh, KitKat plays X music," but being a positive influence for X music.

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sonofvu
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#15 Post by sonofvu » Thu Apr 01, 2004 10:29 am

Basso Profundo, I think.

Can a dj have a voice for a scene/city and a totally different voice for another scene/city ? If yes, does that dj not have a soul and is driven by dancer opinion polls or is it in keeping with the dj code to please the dancers?

I got my voice from doing about a years worth of research which involved liner notes, books and listening to copious amounts of jazz. Nathan Malone, Matt Jones, and Lawrence were instrumental in helping me find my voice. But I still had to go out and do the heavy lifting, so to speak, of research to find what I like and somehow have that intersect with the scene that I'm in. Not an easy prospect. Like I said, it took me about a year before I was even ready to ask Nathan for a slot in the dj rotation.
Yard work sucks. I would much rather dj.

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