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DJ, Turn the Music Up

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I had my foray into the realm of DJ this past weekend at the late night for the Ohio University fall dance; and let me tell you, not once did I ever think it would be so nerve-wracking.  I kid you not, I spent more than two weeks planning what I was going to play, when I was going to play it and worrying about whether or not anyone would dance to the songs I played.    It was a long couple of weeks.

I had never realized just how much thought had to go into the music that we dance to.  To me, it was a bit like picking the perfect dress for meeting the my boyfriend’s parents: I know what I liked, and I know what he liked, but would Mom and Dad like it, too?

I kept taking songs out, thinking they were too fast for the last blues set of the night, or they didn’t have that good “blues” fell to them.  I’m pretty sure at one point I scrapped the whole list and started over with a blank slate.

I also didn’t want to stick with just “the classics, as much as I might like them.  I was playing the last set of the night and, it was almost a sure bet that a lot of those would have already played.  As a result, I ended up with a really modern playlist, with a vast majority of my songs being post-2000.  I included a song from Adele, some Maroon 5 and surprisingly, I even had Enrique Iglasias on my list.  I also had Nora Jones and Florence + The Machine on there as well as my current obsession, Ruthie Foster’s “Death Came A-Knockin'”.

So, now the question I want to ask is: what makes a good DJ set?  What is some advice from you more seasoned DJs out there?  What songs do you like to dance to?

Now that the first big plunge is out of the way, I really enjoyed the DJing experience.  It’s fun to test-dance new music.  I’d like to DJ a Lindy set sometime soon.


Death Came A\’Knockin\’- Ruthie Foster

Idlewild Blues- OutKast


About Olivia

Vintage fanatic. Dancer. Armchair physicist. Polymath. Cat-killing curiosity. Wearer of many hats.

3 responses »

  1. The biggest things I’ve learned since I started DJing are that you need to know who you’re playing for, know your music, and pay attention to the energy of the dancers.

    I DJ differently depending on if I’m playing for Cincy’s weekly venue, a college dance, a dance in another city, or for an exchange. Different scenes vary in styles of music and dancing that they prefer. Not saying we shouldn’t play certain things and expose them to new or different songs/tastes/styles, but to make sure you’re not playing all medium Lindy in a scene that does mostly Balboa, or something like that.

    Also, you need to know your music (which comes the more you listen to & play with your collection), so that you can make changes to your set during your set. Maybe you didn’t know people in the group you are DJing for that night are crazy for Charleston, and you really only had one solid Charleston song in your set. Find another one and throw it in! Or, maybe a song was kind of a flop, and you have a similar one coming up – be ready to swap it with something you think the group will like better.

    Watching the energy of the dancers is a little harder to explain, and is something good DJs learn over time and experience. Sometimes, even if only 2 couples danced to a song, it may not have been a flop. Example: Not very many dancers in Cincy dance Balboa, so a fast Balboa song can “clear the floor”. But, it made those 6 people very happy that they got a chance to do a dance they love, and many other people, although they were not dancing, were happy, smiling, and watching the dancing couples intently. They didn’t dance the song, but they were still having a good time, and maybe they were inspired to learn/work on Balboa.
    On the other hand, there may be a song that only has a few people dancing, and the rest of the room is just off chatting, or looking bored – then you know that song may not be the best choice for that group/event.

    Have fun – it’s a lot of work, but can be a lot of fun and very rewarding.

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