The “DJ vs. musician” question causes as much controversy in some circles as “Les Paul vs. Strat” or “Mac vs. Windows.” But just in case you’re not aware of the profound changes going on in the world of DJing, that question is becoming less and less relevant. DJing isn’t just about sequencing a bunch of songs in a particular order anymore, but blending pieces of music, sampling, looping, re-sampling the output back to the input, integrating effects, and yes, integrating musical instruments. In the current DJ scene, anything goes.
So what does this mean if you play guitar, keyboards, drums, or other “conventional” instruments? Well . . .
Remember when you first got into recording—and the thrill you experienced the first time you did an overdub, or created a great harmony, or for that matter, built up an entire song track-by-track? That’s a completely different way of working with music compared to playing an instrument, but it can still be a huge amount of fun. DJing is kind of like that: It’s a different way of dealing with music, and it too can have an extremely high fun factor.
What’s more, DJ setups are becoming more and more like some crazy-quilt combination of recording studio, synthesizer, and musical instrument. Effects are becoming such an important part of DJing that several companies have introduced controllers designed specifically for real-time performance of effects. DJ decks have grown beyond the standard two-platter design to sophisticated control centers for playing back, recording, and manipulating sound.
As with so many aspects of what we do, the computer has made these changes possible. While vinyl remains viable, more and more DJs are bringing laptops, controllers, and hard drives to the clubs. They may not even use standard DJ software, but work with programs like Ableton Live or hardware devices like Akai’s MPC line. Or MPCs synched to Ableton Live . . . which might even be synched to a second DJ using a more conventional approach.
Traditional musicians can bring a unique perspective to this unique, evolving world—and gain something as well. DJing not only means a new way to perform that can open up additional performance options for you; just as learning a second instrument makes you play your primary instrument better, the process of learning how to DJ can help hone your arranging, mixing, and performance chops. It gives you a different way of looking at music, and how the components of music can be de-constructed and re-constructed to create something entirely different.
One of the reasons musicians look down on DJing is that it’s relatively easy to get into DJing—it takes little skill compared to, say, holding a cello and bowing it correctly. But that’s deceptive, because getting good at DJing is not easy at all. Nor is the unforgiving nature of a DJ’s performance. If you’re playing guitar and miss a note, probably no one will notice. But if you miss a transition and have a train wreck when one song is supposed to segue seamlessly into another, the problem is obvious and, well, painful—to you and the audience.
You needn’t invest much to get into DJing. Several companies make iPad-friendly DJ setups, and established companies like Numark, Native Instruments, Hercules, Berhinger, etc. make pro-level DJ setups with excellent software/hardware combinations that can cost as little as a few hundred dollars. (And do note that DJing without a controller makes no sense—so much of what makes DJing fun is the element of physical control.)
When I’ve mentioned this topic to other musicians, I often get a look that says in no uncertain terms, “you’re insane.” That look lasts about as long as it takes for them to see a really good DJ in action (unfortunately, though, great DJs are as rare as a “great” anything else, so you may have to look for a while)—then the light goes on.
About 14 years ago I saw the first DJs that totally blew my mind. I tried my hand at it, and learned very quickly it’s not something you figure out overnight. But I’ve kept at it, and now I think I’ve actually become pretty decent. But whether I am or not isn’t the point; I’ve at least gotten good enough to where I’m having a blast with it. And isn’t what matters?
Granted, DJing may not be for everyone. But if you’re looking for a new musical experience in a genre that’s wide open to experimentation and growing at an exponential rate, this is a fine place to look.
|This Week on HC|
Granted, Pro Reviews get a lot of traffic—but the newest ones for the Casio XW-P1 synthesizer and Line 6 Dream Rig (James tyler Variax, POD HC500, and DT25 amp) are taking off at a record pace. They're loaded with audio examples and a bunch of photos, but also, the degree of participation is exceptional; these are hot products, and people are curious about what they're all about.
If you want to see these products go under the Pro Review microscope, check 'em out - you won't be disappointed. And of course, several of the more recent one continue to rack up more page views and participation as people look into the DigiTech iBP-10, Roland Octa-Capture, UAD plug-in effects, Zoom R8, and a whole lot more.
By Craig Anderton
By Phil O'Keefe
Troubleshooting, pan replacement, and fine-tuning your amp's spring reverb for peak performance
At the highlight of your Big Solo, you reach for your guitar's vibrato arm to give the sustaining high note a little shimmer and then a dramatic swoop down to bring it back into the chorus and—nothing's there, and you grab empty air. Yes, the bar’s come loose again and is just dangling free, swinging in the wind. Play a guitar with a threaded vibrato bar for long enough, and this will happen to you sooner or later.
So how do you maintain the bar so it's loose enough that you can easily adjust it to get it into position or out of your way as requied, yet still be snug enough to stay where you put it?
What works for me is Teflon tape. Other common names are plumber's tape, thread seal tape, and PTFE tape—you can find it at any hardware store for a dollar or two per roll. Teflon tape isn’t “sticky” like Scotch brand tape; as the name suggests, it's made from Teflon. By wrapping a layer or three around the threaded end of your vibrato bar, you slightly increase the diameter of the bar itself, which makes it tighter and helps hold it in position. However, because the film the tape is made from is Teflon, it retains enough slipperiness that you can move the bar as desired.
Start by wrapping one or two layers around the threads; it will cling to the threads when pressed down. Insert the bar and check the snugness. If it’s still loose, remove it and add another layer or two of tape until you get just the right "feel." If you apply too much, it can be peeled off fairly easily, or cut off with a utility knife. A roll of PTFE tape will last you for years.
|Featured Industry News|
This week's pick hits from our News section
A few of this week's top discussions from our Forums
After Squier's hugely successful introduction of their first affordable, yet traditionally-featured Jazzmaster (the J Mascis signature model), people began to wonder if Squier would eventually release more traditional versions of some of Fender's other offsets. Will they? The rumors are flying—and we have pictures!
Should you mess with the trimpots inside pedals? Sometimes it’s a great idea—but sometimes you can really mess up a pedal. Here’s the thread for some advice on the subject.
Are the Stones really a country band in rock clothing, because their music works equally well in either style? Judging by the subsequent posts, this thesis has some traction: Keith Richards cites Gram Parsons as an influence. “Faraway Eyes” is really a country waltz. Townes Van Zandt covers “Dead Flowers” like he wrote it. And so on.
This thread has questions about, and suggestions for, how to record a live-in-the-studio performance to both video and audio simultaneously for promotional purposes, in a style similar to Radiohead’s “From the Basement” performances.
The Music Biz forum wants to know . . . and it seems you can do music full time, but you have to have super-realistic expectations at a time when revenue streams are drying up, yet more and more people want to be heard.
Has solar power reached the point where we can power our studios without paying a utility bill every month? One enterprising forumite did it, and reports back on the results.
The OP is looking for a 5-string bass, but there’s more to the question that what’s a good bass—namely, whether active or passive pickups are the way to go. The Bass forum weighs the pros and cons.
Parlor guitars are small instruments that were popular in the early part of the 20th century. They got their name because their diminutive size and less than thunderous response was more suitable for the “parlor” (a small room in households of yore used for entertaining company) than the stage. But parlors have been making a comeback, and their beautiful, jewel-like tone makes them excellent recording instruments, where projection isn’t an issue. This thread has what you need to know.
Seems the Keys, Synths & Samplers has quite a few people who’ve found Venoms at good prices, and been very happy with the results. But with its aggressive sound and programming-intensive vibe, it’s not for everyone. Is it for you? Find out here.
Just before the wedding gig, you get a list of 30 songs they’d like you to play. Do you learn them? Flip them off? Do the best you can? The Solo and Duo Acts community has quite a few thoughts on the subject.
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Editorial Craig Anderton, Editor in Chief • Jon Chappell, Senior Editor • Phil O’Keefe, Associate Editor • Chris Loeffler, Reviews Editor