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June 21, 2009

thinking about djing tactics and set structures

Posted by dogpossum on June 21, 2009 6:21 PM in the category djing and lindy hop and other dances and music | Comments (1)

Thinking about DJing. Again.

Things I've noticed:

The less I dance, the poorer my DJing. I lose touch with what music 'works' for dancing. You can watch dancers and you can listen to music, but to really, truly know whether a song will work for dancing, you have to dance to it. I am at an obvious disadvantage here.

The less I dance, the more out of touch with tempos I become. This has manifested itself primarily in a) my determination to 'lift' tempos (which is getting a bit evangelical, I must admit), and b) my failure to properly work 'the wave', tempo-wise. I have instead been tending to sit between 150 and 170bpm, with sporadic trips up to 180 and 200 and >200 bpm. I need to remind myself that changing the average tempo a scene dances to cannot be achieved overnight or even over a few months; it can be achieved slowly, over a year and a large number of sets. It often requires parallel increases in tempos by teachers in classes. To assume that you will, single handedly 'change' a scene is also insufferably arrogant. Get over yourself.

Sitting/standing there DJing, watching the crowd, I forget that though they might actually be capable of 160bpm and higher, a room of dancers is a) mixed in experience, fitness, musical and dancing interests and energy, and b) only human. Working the wave - moving up and down tempos - is important for a number of reasons. It allows dancers to dance through or choose from a range of tempos. The fitter, younger types can dance every single song and relish the faster ones. The newer and less fit dancers can pick and choose, dropping in every second song yet still moving up and down the tempos (or even staying on the same tempos). Most importantly, this moving between tempos allows the DJ to really work the energy in the room. Though you can play an entire set on 155bpm, it will eventually feel a bit flat. The dancers mightn't pick the fact that every song's the same tempo (unless they're a DJ!), but their bodies and the general energy in the room will be affected.

The next set I do, then, I resolve to work the wave properly. I will begin at my 'floor' tempo (about 140bpm) and then move up and down - 140, 150, 160, 180, 200, 160, 140 etc. I will make the occasional abrupt change in order to work the energy in the room (eg 140, a high energy 150, 190, 160, 140, etc). I will also trust the dancers to get back up to 160; I won't be afraid to drop the tempos down, to get a low trough and then, more importantly, work our way way back up to higher tempos.

I think I also need to be careful of overplaying my new music. Just because you gots the new stuffs, don't mean you should play it all in one set. Right now I'm working on some stuff for a blooz set tonight. It's a very short set (45 minutes rather than 1.5 hours - reduced), so I have to be tactical. I can't really take a long, slow run up. I'll need to work the crowd properly from the get-go. I'm second DJ, so I do have a degree of leeway there: I'll be starting with a warm crowd. But I will have to work from where the previous DJ ends. Which I don't mind - I like having a starting place. I also like getting from something completely un-me to something typically me.
What I think I'll do (which I used to do), is get a few 'goal' songs - new or particularly interesting, or a specific style - and then put my set together (as I go of course - no pre-planned setlists here!) so as to reach these individual 'goal' songs, with each song moving smoothly between styles (or within a style) and moods. As opposed to trying to pack a set with 100% new and exciting songs. I have a feeling I'm becoming a bit of a stunt DJ, packing a set with 'riskier' songs, and not paying enough attention to my older faves or to crowd faves. This is actually a great departure from my earlier DJing, where I tended to overplay stuff to death. I am still overplaying things, but I tend to mix overplayed with brand-new-stunt songs, and, frankly, that smacks of the amateur.

I'll see how it goes and whether it's worth reporting back about.

Posted by dogpossum on June 21, 2009 6:21 PM in the category djing and lindy hop and other dances and music


Posted by: Sara at June 24, 2009 4:41 PM

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Posted by: Sara at June 24, 2009 4:41 PM

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