By: Tony Fernandez
First, a DJ must have a passion about music. That’s what usually gets us going down the path of becoming a DJ: a love of music. Along the way we learn programming matters. We figure out that if you line up certain songs in a certain way, you have great crowd responses. We learn to read a crowd; another skill that once developed is indispensable in being able to command a floor / room.
Which brings us to an often-overlooked skill set every DJ should have in their arsenal: mixing (and to a little venting about those DJs who, sadly, couldn’t care less about it).
I believe mixing is something intrinsic to being DJ, a skill so fundamental, so integral, so elementary, and so organic (I’ll lay off the thesaurus now…) that I can’t fathom being a DJ without the ability to blend songs together. Why would anyone shun the ability to make themselves better, make their work better, and to set themselves apart from other DJs?
Mixing allows for a smooth, harmonious and melodious transition from one song to another. Mixing ensures there’s no “dead air” from song to song. Mixing grants your floor / crowd an uninterrupted progression of the musical journey you’re working so hard to create.
Do you want to represent yourself in the best possible way and let the music / mixing speak for your endeavors? Would you rather sound like a bunch of sneakers in the washing machine, or worse — like the local Clear Channel radio station? (Yes, I know Clear Channel is a thing of the past. That’s why I used that name. My lawyers said it was kosher.)
I once had a gentleman point out to me the “history” of DJing, going back to the 1930s. He mentioned prominent names and cited historical dates as hallmarks to bolster his position that these early pioneers were perfect examples of why it wasn’t necessary to concern ourselves with a trivial 3-5 seconds of meshed music.
Well, that is all well and good, but doesn’t mean squat. With all due respect to those pioneers, mobile DJs and club DJs aren’t partying like it’s 1929; today those “deejays” would be called radio personalities. I’ll acquiesce that I can’t do what they can do. I also say with 110% certainty, most radio personalities can’t do what today’s DJs can do.
I’ll challenge ANY DJ to pick 10 songs, that’s 9 segues.
Test A: Don’t mix a lick. Blend, don’t blend, and try to avoid having 4 out of 9 of those segues sound like straight up train wrecks that would have even Marlee Matlin grimacing.
Test B: Mix the tracks in a linear, harmonious fashion.
Then tell me how the floor reacts to each test.
I’m not a betting man, but I’ll lay heavy money the people in Test B are going to have a better experience than the people in Test A.
My point in all this: Learn your craft. Get your fundamentals down pat. If you don’t know how to mix, learn. It’s not that difficult. If I can do it, you can do it. You don’t have to be the Michael Jordan of mixing. Kevin McHale had a Hall of fame career off the bench.
Any mixing is better than no mixing, kinda like sex. Something simple, clean, quick and musical. It doesn’t take much. If you’re not mixing, you’re not DJing (yeah I said it.) Heck, there are apps on your phone that can mix.
There’s no excuse for a professional DJ not to mix. That’s what the Sync button is for.
Now go out there and learn something.
Based out of Richmond, VA, DJ Tony Fernandez has been a DJ, Remixer, Producer, Musical Soothsayer and Audio Gear Oracle since 1980. Find him on facebook. Email firstname.lastname@example.org