DJs are Musicians, Too


Imagine you're at a club, dancing the night away as one song rolls into the next in an endless mix of throbbing beats. There's a guy in the corner controlling exactly what you're hearing and, while he gets a certain amount of respect, it's not close to the respect he deserves.

Well, the talented ones, anyway.

It takes an insane amount of money, time, practice, drive, and sheer passion for a DJ to do his job.

Just starting out, a prospective vinyl spinner has to shell out a wad of cash for a pair of turntables, a mixer, and a quality pair of headphones through which he monitors the mix. He's gotta amass a collection of mixable songs at an alarming $7-15 a pop, finding a logical flow from song to song.

At this point, he practices for months, working out the smoothest possible transition from song to song, taking great care not to jar the listeners' ears. After all this time and effort, in order to let others in on the party atmosphere, he's gotta drop another fat wad of cash on a PA system.

And that's just to become a mediocre DJ for high school proms and private residential parties.

My roommate has recently embarked on this profession after years of listening to raves thrown by Paul van Dyk and his peers. Not partying, mind you, but actually listening to the music he plays. He's been working on mixing for months and finally, this weekend, we hooked the turntables up to my über-l33t circa 1973 hi-fi speakers to experience the goodness of loud pure electronica.

Once the excitement of actual sound went away, he started asking me for feedback on his transitions, one at a time. He'd been doing it his way for quite awhile, and it was time he got feedback from a partially trained musician.

I turned on my critical ears, pinpointing exactly what I wanted to hear and where, made notes of it to him and had him play it back for me. It opened my eyes to what the best DJ's have to listen for and correct when they spin the wax, but more importantly, our collaboration is opening new doors of hitherto untapped realms of sonic sweetness achieved by a pair of direct-drive turntables.

By the time he's ready for a true public performance, his audience will not be ready. They've never heard anything like this in these parts.


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