DJs/Mixing/Compilation CDs (Not radio DJs)

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The phenonenom of the DJ (Disc Jockey, or "Someone who carrys records around in his pants") is mainly centered around the world of dance music, in all it's variations (dance, trance, garage, drum'n'bass, house etc). The job of a DJ in essence, is to select which records get played in what order at clubs and (If they are particularly unskilled) pubs, school discos or hospital radios.

The name of the game is to play record A, and at somepoint before it finishes, start to play record B, thus ensuring a smooth transition of non-stop music for the masses. The more observant of you will have realised that this usually requires more than turntable (if you still use vinyl) 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 your 'decks', and your clever piece of gadgetry is your mixing desk. DJs who have far too much money, or who ply their trade for a living, will probably add effect units to this setup, that allow the addition of delays, samples, echos or (my favourite) flange to the music. Anyone caught muttering 'wheels of steel' is to be taken outside and beasted by the bouncers.

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 adds further complications of changing the pitch of the records, particularly on tracks with vocals. We don't want our record to sound like it's got the chipmonks singing on it now do we? No. A delicate balace of speed, pitch and key are required to acheive the 'mix'. Oh yes, and a pair of headphones to add to your kit list.

So, you've bought your decks, desk and headphones, and wired them up to suitably loud amplifiers and speakers, next you much choose your records. I can't help you there, but try to be sensible and realise that you can't really mix between the Beatles and Meat Beat Manifesto and get away with it. Follow these instructions.

1) Give yourself a stupid name
2) Sweat a lot, and wear ridiculous sunglasses or hats, even in the smokiest club.
3) Play record A through the speakers
4) Play record B through your headphones
5) Adjust the speed and pitch of record B to match that of record A
6) Stop (or 'cue') record B roughly where you wish it to start (i.e. after any particularly slow intro bits)
7) At a suitable part of record A (i.e. before the end, but while the beat is still going, and preferably not over the top of any vocals) start record B (Again, just through the headphones for now)
8) While the records should now be playing at the same speed, chances are one of them is running a second os so behind or ahead of the other. With headphones wedged between ear and shoulder (One ear only, you need to listen to both records) either speed up or slow down record B maually until the beats match.
9) Leave both records playing, and use your mixing desk to fade from one record to the next.
10) Repeat the process for a few hours, without getting it wrong even by a split second, or risk being pelted with empty water bottles, or (if you live in Sheffield, UK) plastic dummies (pacifiers, if you live in America - don't ask....)

Now, if you have done a particulary good set (large selection of records all mixed in one go), you may be tempted (if you're famous enough) to have it recorded and then sell it as a compilation CD. This is particularly common if you are a DJ at the Ministry of Sound (London, UK), and if this is the case you don't even need the pre-req of a good mix to start with. Here, the trick is to try to remember what records you did in what order, where you made the cuts from one track to another, and recreate it. Those without the willpower to spend hours getting a mix right in one go at the recording studio, where the sounds of 5 thousand drunk and/or high clubbers being generally loud over the top of your mistakes, can cheat, and get all the mixes completely wrong, redo each and every one of them time and time again until you get it right, and get the mix engineer to take your scraps and make something listenable out of it using clever software such as 'Pro Tools' that no-one admits to using. While he's doing this, you could take the opportunity to nip to the toilets to dust your nose with DJ powder.



PS, if anyone has successfully mixed the Beatles into something by Meat Beat Manifesto, I want to hear it....

PPS, go here if you want to know more

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