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Disc Jockeys (DJs)

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Contrary to the literal meaning of the term, Disc Jockeys are not vertically-challenged, under-developed people, who ride thin circular plates at a race course. They are, in fact, music co-ordinators at social gatherings.

The original Disc Jockey uniform, of brightly-coloured satin shirt and contrasting skin-tight flared trousers, has been dropped for a more street-wise look. They are now generally called MCs (Masters of Ceremony) and have escalated to an admired position in the realm of teenage society.

Sadly, despite the clearly-defined guidelines on age limits, there are many who carry on their craft well past their sell-by date. Such individuals cannot be found in the places normally associated with modern MCs, but will often be spotted at children's parties, golden wedding celebrations and ''70s revivals'.

A few of the much-loved elder statesmen of this profession have been treated more compassionately and given jobs doing voice-overs for documentaries and commercials. However, the majority accept their obsolescence and manage (with counselling) to swallow their pride and quietly slip into normal jobs.

MCs should not be confused with Radio DJs, who exist in a taste sphere all of their own. Thank goodness.


The name of the game is to play record A and, at some point before it finishes, start to play record B, thus ensuring a smooth transition of non-stop music for your audience. This requires a double turntable or CD player, and some clever piece of gadgetry to fade the music from one record to another. Your music playing devices of choice are called 'decks', and your clever piece of gadgetry is your mixing desk. Professional DJs, and enthusiastic amateurs who have far too much money, will probably add effects units to this set-up that allow the addition of delays, samples, or echoes to the music.

Now, playing one record after another without gaps is a task that shouldn't tax the mind or body too much; the trick is to ensure that the transition from one record to another is as smooth and seamless as possible. This isn't so easy. You may have to speed a record up, or slow it down, in order that the beats of records A and B are placed neatly on top of each other. This is further complicated by changing the pitch of the records, particularly on tracks with vocals. We don't want our record to sound like it's got chipmunks singing on it now do we? A delicate balance of speed, pitch and key are required to achieve just the right 'mix'. Oh yes, and add a pair of headphones to your kit list.

Creating a Mix

So, you've bought your decks, desk and headphones, and wired them up to suitably loud amplifiers and speakers; next you must choose your records. Try to be sensible and realise that you can't really mix between the Beatles and Meat Beat Manifesto and get away with it.

  1. Play record A through the speakers. Play record B through your headphones.

  2. Adjust the speed and pitch of record B to match that of record A.

  3. Stop, or 'cue', record B roughly where you wish it to start, after a particularly slow intro bit, for example.

  4. At a suitable part1 of record A, start record B... just through the headphones for now.

  5. While the records should now be playing at the same speed, chances are that one of them is running a second or so behind or ahead of the other. With headphones wedged between ear and shoulder2 either speed up or slow down record B manually until the beats match.

  6. Leave both records playing, and use your mixing desk to fade from one record to the next.

  7. Repeat the process for a few hours, without getting it wrong even by a split second, or you'll be at risk of being pelted with empty water bottles, or whatever else your audience has at hand.

Now, if you have done a particularly good set3, you may be tempted to have it recorded and then sell it as a compilation CD. Here, the trick is to try to remember what records you used, in what order, where you made the cuts from one track to another, and then recreate it. Those without the willpower to spend hours getting a mix right in one go can cheat and get the mix engineer at the recording studio to turn their scraps into something listenable, using clever software such as 'Pro Tools'... that no-one admits to using.

1A suitable part would be before the end of a song, while the beat is still going, and preferably not over the top of any vocals.2Use one speaker of your headphones, because you need to listen to both records at the same time.3A set is a large selection of records, all mixed in one go.

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