How much of DJing is preparation and how much of it is improvisation?
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  1. #1

    Default How much of DJing is preparation and how much of it is improvisation?

    I've been trying to teach myself DJing for about 6 months and I think I've gotten confused on something. Do DJs typically come up with ways to mix songs together totally on the spot, with no rehearsal at all? Or is it more of something that you sit with at home, trying out different ways to mix songs until you find one way that works and then doing that live? Basically, is DJing totally improvised or is it just running through mixes you practiced at home?

  2. #2
    Tech Guru JasonBay's Avatar
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    A little of both. You should be at home practicing and learning your tracks, but you shouldn't be going out and redoing the exact same transitions you were doing at home. The more you learn and know your tracks, the more you can improvise and play in the moment.

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    Tech Wizard Sample Seven's Avatar
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    A healthy mix of both. I'd say about I do about 90% improv...but the planning (playing through playlists at home) is what gives me the ability to improvise.

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    All of my "improve" is the net sum of all the practice and previous improve that I have done. Where I am today is a direct reflection of the net sum of my experiences and my reflections upon those experiences.

    For "touring" DJs....their sets tend to be mostly canned. There will be some improv...but it is limited. This is because even in the face of "everything going wrong" these performers still have to deliver a "good for them" set. The pressure to be "good" forces them to be conservative in their approach to their sets....and that means "practice until you can not get it wrong" (as opposed to the beginners mantra of "practice until you can get it right").

    I tend to vary song selection based on a "theme" (I may pick it, the venue or client may pick it). Even is unannounced, I will tend to play using a theme just to help me find the next song. What I do NOT experiment with are the techniques I use while mixing. The technical side of things are ROCK SOLID long before they ever see the light of day. As a result my mixing tends to be "conservative."

    In the end, it comes down to this basic question: how much will one really bad night hurt your reputation? The more you have to lose, the more you should err on the side of "fully rehearsed."
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    The best transitions are the ones that have been rehearsed. Hands down. No one can take a bunch of music, completely unfamiliar with it, and put together a stellar mix. Knowing your music helps a lot, and it's certainly possible to put together a very good mix - but still, don't be afraid to bring your transitions from home to the club.

    But just remember that reading the crowd is as important, if not more important, than the way you mix the music together. So most of the time you have to have a healthy combination of rehearsed material and improvisation.

    What it really comes down to, though, is the type of events you are doing.
    Last edited by sss18734; 05-20-2012 at 04:23 PM.

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    For me its kinda weird

    I tend to practice for scenerios that would catch me off guard when DJing live. For example: when practicing i will throw in 2 songs that usually dont mash and try to either make them match up or work on how to easily transistion out of the disaster...Basically training my self for the unexpected

    But when i DJ live, i tend to improvise more, which makes my mixes more creative

  7. #7
    Tech Mentor rdale's Avatar
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    I practice two ways, free form where I choose songs that I want to hear next, and structured where I'm preparing a mix, programming and deciding the transitions, then practice the set until it is what I want to hear, then usually record it as a mix tape. Both have advantages and I'm not afraid in practice to rewind a mistake and start again, to see if transitioning at another spot or with a different next tune would work better. I've been messing with mixing using the eq and filter more lately, in my free form practice, in a structured mix and infront of an audience I would never mess with that technique as much, for fear of repetition. I no longer play live, but when I did, my set was already preplanned somewhat by the records in the crate, but I would never chose to program the set song by song, the mixing was a product of practice, but I may do something differently, either by a happy mistake or a choice.

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    Tech Guru mostapha's Avatar
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    what do you mean by peparation? If you mean preparing set lists……that sucks and takes away basically all of the magic of what DJs do (responding to the crowd in a way that most bands can't).

    If you mean knowing your setup and your tracks from a lot of critical listening and practice (not rehearsal) then there's a lot of that…less as you get better.



    He was talking about DJing with Live, back when he was one of the first to rely on it that way. He was still pretty far off from just playing a set list, but it seemed like he went too far in that planned direction…and ended up giving it up after a while.

    Finding that balance is one of the things you have to do for yourself. But if you find yourself "performing" and not making real, significant choices during a set and/or not responding to your crowd or your own mood……you're probably doing it wrong. OTOH, if your sets are a disjointed mess and don't seem to go anywhere when you go back and listen to them……you're probably doing it wrong.

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    Tech Guru funke's Avatar
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    It will come natural as you progress. When I get home from work and pull the dust covers off, I almost never intentionaly mix the same songs twice. It's 100% based on the next track I want to hear at the time.(Assuming they are within bpm range) If it sounds out of key, I grab a new song or find a way to transition without too much clashing. I don't practice particular mixes unless there is something about it that I really like, then I'll set cue points and start playing around with cue hopping and write the names of those tracks down to mess with later when I have some fresh ears. This only works when you know your tracks and how to work with different song structures and patterns. Practice, practice, practice.

    I don't waste time making a to b sets anymore because the vibe and atmosphere of the room decides the next track, not your list.
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    Tech Guru PeteWoods's Avatar
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    who said that mostapha, Sasha? looks like a Maven to me!

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