So, you wanna be a DJ . . .
Just recently, I found my thing–DJ-ing. When I first arrived at my college, Loyola Marymount, I started a small AM show called Carl’s Underground, where I played my favourite trance and drum’n’bass CD’s. I was majoring in math and eventually got into music after getting one of them affordable fretwire guitar kits Then, about mid-semester, all the equipment crapped out except for the turtables (a pair or ancient pre-1200’s Technics), so I bought a couple trance tracks on vinyl, and I instantly fell in love with using them. Since then, I’ve gotten my own equipment, many, many more records, and I’ve gotten pretty decent at using them to DJ. I am getting into the LA club/rave circuits right now. Look out for my DJ name–nomadicDJ! This section should help out the beginner DJ on aspects such as equipment, records to buy, and aspects of DJ culture. I’m somewhat a beginner, too, so if you have any feedback or advice, drop me a line! My dream is to be a top 10 dj in the world.
First, this is what you gotta get . . .
My setup: two Technics 1200’s with Gemini BPM-150 Mixer.
What to get is a very good question. Basically, all you need to start out with is two turntables and a mixer. While many people choose different brands of mixers out of personal preference (i personally chose a Roland DJ1000), there is only one turntable to ultimately own as a professional DJ, and that is the Technics SL1200 MKII. Sorry I’m not a Pioneer man but I respect them. This is the standard in DJ turntables, as it has been for 20 or so years, due to its rugged and classic design. However, as a beginner DJ, you might not want to pay top dollar for a pair of Technics, which run at about 500+ bucks each. You might want to start off with something a bit more affordable, such as a pair of Gemini’s, Next’s, or Stanton’s. These run at about half the price of a pair of Technics, but at the cost of not being Technics. I currently have a pair of Technics, but I started out with a very basic pair of Gemini’s to get me going while my vinyl collection grew.
There is one thing that you must know in buying turntables, though, and that is to make sure that it is a Direct Drive turntable. This is because it gives the most flexibility in cueing up a record or scratching. Another type is the Belt-Drive turntable, which will play the records, but will make DJ-ing very tricky and inefficiant. Forget about this type of turntable. I, having started DJ-ing with no prior knowledge about DJ-ing, bought a pair of belt-driven turntables in a package by Technics SL-1200MK2Gemini, and they hampered my improvement as a DJ, as well as making it impossible for me to be able to do a professional gig until I could buy a pair of direct drive turntables and learn to use them. It is better, even if you don’t go straight for the Technics, to start off spending some extra money on a pair of Direct Drive turntables–its worth it, believe me.
Another alternative is to buy a package beginner set, such as Gemini’s ScratchMaster package. These sets, made by most equipment manufacturers, contain everything you need–2 turntables, a mixer, slipmats, a video or guide, and all the cables you need. I started out with Gemini’s Spinmaster package, the most basic package. I have to warn you, though, that though this is the cheapest package, it comes with two belt-drive turtables, which is not good. I recommend a higher level, such as the ScratchMaster package. Stanton’s DJ package offers an exceptional value at about $500 for two nice looking belt drive tt’s and a basic mixer. I don’t think Technics manufactures a package of their own, but I do know that many stores include 1200’s in their own pakcages. These in-store packages often turn out to be a good deal.
Mixers are another story altogether. Mixers vary greatly in price, size, capeablilities, ruggedness, and just about every other aspect that will come to mind. Choosing a mixer depends mainly on your personal preference and mixing style. Scratch DJ’s often like small, simple, but smooth mixers, while some DJ’s love huge, 19 inch mixers with like 12 inputs and EQ’s. What basic features should you look for in a mixer? First of all, look at its ruggedness. Mixer’s go through a lot, so a rugged one would be a good idea. Also, to enhance the life of your mixer, I suggest finding one with a removable cross-fader, so you can replace it when it wears out (which is sooner than you’d think). Next, how many channels do you want? I only really need 2–one for each turntable, but some like to incorporate more turntables, CD decks, and even synth’s. EQ’s are always a good investment, as you can change the base, midtones, and high tones to create the feel you want in your music. Finally, I suggest making sure the cue has a test fade, because this comes in very helpful in beatmatching.
Roland DJ1000 MixerI personally chose the Roland DJ1000 mixer, because of it’s good quality, and a special feature–a DSP filter, which creates funky sound effects with the music. Many mixers boast their own special features such as this. One is a BPM counter. Though these seem appealing, I don’t suggest you use one. For a long time, I had a Gemini BPM-150, that counted the beats for me AND told me when the songs were in sync, but when it came time for my first club performance, I was in big trouble because there were no familiar beatcounters in sight. To avoid disaster like this, learn to trust your ears!!
Alright, you got the stuff–now you gotta get a style
When you become a DJ, you must figure out which genre fits you best. For instance, my main genre is trance and progressive house. Others include Hip-Hop, Jungle, Gabber, House, Techno, Hardcore, Acid-Jazz, Trip-Hop, Pop, and many more that I probably left out. In adittion, within each genre, you must get your own personal feeling to the music you DJ. I, for instance, love to DJ very melodic trance and progressive house, while I sometimes digress into harder Acid Trance, or more clubby-sounding House. My signature sound is more on the melancholy side of trance–if you want to know exactly what I mean, come and hear me, or better yet, book me for a show!! A good guide to the different genres can be found on X-Radio.com’s website, by clicking genre. Of course, reading about the genres will not educate you nearly as much as actually hearing them. I recommend going to an underground record store (this might take some time to find), and giving the different sections a listen (be warned–most record stores have their own interperetation of what the different genres are).
Finding vinyl to DJ on is to me half the excitement of DJ-ing, because its so hard to find stuff. Part of the fun is the frustration of combing the earth for a hard to get record, and then almost having a heart attack seeing it on the shelf at a store. It does help if you live in a cosmopolitan area, such as Los Angeles, San Francisco, Detroit, New York, Toronto, or any major city in Europe. Ravelinks.com has a good list of record stores in major cities throughout the U.S. For those of you that don’t (power to you for still pursuing a DJ career), many record stores sell their stuff online, too.
Also, check out my very own Amazon.com affiliated store, where you can find records (yes, Amazon sells vinyl too, at a very good price!) that II have painstakenly searched out on Amazon.com for your convenience.