‘Never trust a DJ who can’t dance’ – A guy called Gerald

I love this quote as it is by nature controversial. I can almost here all the DJs who can’t dance defending themselves with the thought ‘I can’t dance but i know how to rock a party as a DJ’. Maybe so but what I feel the statement is getting at is that it’s important for a DJ to have a sense of rhythm and I’m not talking about the ability to beat match. I refer to a DJ’s ability to feel the groove in the music they are choosing to play.

When I prepare my music for live performance, I am careful to categorise music depending on a number of factors. If I’m doing a tech set, I decide firstly is the track hard of soft, I can then know whether to place it in a warm up folder or in a peak time folder. On the same tune, I will decide if it has a happy or sad feel. This is important and often overlooked. On more than one occasion I have heard DJ switch between these 2 emotions with little regard to the impact this has on the emotional tone of the live DJ journey. I also consider if that same track is dark or light. That is, does it create a darker mood or is it more up lifting. Another consideration and an important one is deciding on the rhythmic intensity of the track. The more rhythmic intensity a track has can determine when it should be played in a set. It’s the consideration of all these factors I feel that lead to better music preparation and a more considered and cohesive live journey experience.

It’s interesting to note that you can have 2 dark tracks but one will have low rhythmic intensity while the other is packed full of percussive elements. In my experience, A track with high rhythmic intensity often has the effect of getting dancers to move more in response to the increased percussive elements. A dark track with less rhythmic intensity generally has the effect of creating a mood but with less demand to physically respond the same as it has less percussive elements. I can’t tell you how many clubs I have gone to where the DJ seems to have no understanding of these above facts in track selection. What you get is a mood that is happy then sad then happy again, it’s enough to cause a nervous breakdown. My other pet hate is when the rhythmic intensity is all over the place. One minute the club is shaking with booty bumping rhythms only to be followed up my a track that is rhythmically as dry as a bone.

When I spin myself the dark and light element is also important to consider when creating a DJ journey. A dark track too early in the set can completely alienate people but I see this fact often overlooked when I’m the dancer. You see, in my view, the difference between a good DJ and a not so good DJ is that the not so good DJ sounds like he is just playing his latest or favourite tracks. A good DJ in contrast, will take you on a journey. As though they are crafting a cohesive music score that is one complete piece. The truth is that it is acceptable to go from one extreme to the other at times. I know myself that after banging some techno for a while, I want to introduce a more melodic tune for the ‘hands in the air’ effect. I also may switch from high rhythmic intensity to low to let the dancers take a breather. The point though, is that I am doing this deliberately, Not as a result of being ignorant of the qualities of the music I am playing.

Contrast is an important aspect of the DJ journey and correctly used can win you many dance disciples. But unless one considers the deep nature of each song one possess, one will have more confusion and music fragmentation than anything else. The truth is that this is my goal and though I don’t always achieve it I always have it as a goal. My tip for upcoming DJs is to try to categorise there music in such ways. Also of value, is to try to hold a specify energy for a certain amount of time and stick to it. Practice at home. When you hold specific music energies at home, then try the same with other energies, you engage in the actual music you are playing more. This training will then help you to more easily and consciously direct your music flow when out at a club. You then become a conductor of the beat rather than being beaten by the music you play.

To end I want to address what I call the ‘Melody Only’ DJ. These DJs are great in selecting melodic music and they buy a lot of it. They often create a very emotive mood at clubs. Their limitation is often in being able to play music with rhythmic intensity. They tend to play the same vibe at midnight that they were playing at 10pm. Can they dance? I don’t know. The truth is they make excellent warm up DJs. My only gripe is that a number of these type of DJs are getting main slots and it can become a real fall asleep affair.

So let’s salute the groove!