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Thread: What should I play?," "what would you play?," "give me music!"

  1. #1

    What should I play?," "what would you play?," "give me music!"

    Over the last couple days I have seen more than one post from people flat out asking for playlists worth of music to DJ with and I want to cross post something I wrote for Reddit a month ago.

    Instead of just complaining about it or saying something snide I figured it was time to do something about it and first explain why these questions are looked down upon and then explain what you can do to find your own music without asking.

    Why the Question is Frowned Upon

    • If you don't care about the music you're playing neither will the audience.

    When DJ's spend hours digging through music they have countless "Ah-hah!" moments where that 1 minute preview catches their attention and they just have to have the track. That moment when you know you need to have it is the same moment that innumerable possible transitions and mix combinations go through your mind and it is what connects the DJ to their music. That connection is a part of the passion that we all share for the music we're playing when we're behind the decks and without that connection to the music your set is going to be boring and you're going to be no more exciting than a radio playlist.

    If you're playing someone else's library it will be insincere and you won't have the intimate knowledge of the music or the same passion for it. I might as well rent a jukebox if you don't know and love the music you're playing. Doing the leg work and finding those gems yourself is a key part of knowing your library.

    • Every DJ needs to have their own sound and digging for music is not only an important skill but it's a deeply personal experience.

    As more and more of our role behind the decks is automated and simplified one of the last remaining things that separates the great DJs from the mediocre DJs is the music they're playing and the connection they have to it. Anyone can go out and download the Beatport Top 100 and play a set but it is the amazing DJs who take you on a journey with their music (sorry for the cliché) and actually help you get lost in the music.

    When two DJs playing the same genre are booked back to back on the same stage it would be ridiculous if they both played the exact same songs, we would expect them to each have their own unique sound and flavour... Why then would you want to sound exactly like some other DJ by asking for all of their top tracks? Do you really want to sound exactly like me when you play out?

    People have told me when they walk in to an event and I'm playing they can tell it's me even before they see me; I like it that way. It means they know what I sound like and they can tell from the song selection and mixing that I'm behind the decks. That is what you should be aiming for. People should be able to hear you in your set.

    How to Dig For Music

    It would be unfair of me to say "dig for your own music" and not at least give you some pointers on how to go about it. I will explain my method for digging on Beatport but keep in mind there are lots of different ways to dig for music going back to it being a deeply personal experience.

    1 - I go to open the house section or tech-house section (my genres) and browse through the new releases or search for artists or labels I know I already like. The new releases are a better place to start than the charts because by the time a track hits the Top 10 for a genre it is probably already over saturated. Now, that is not to say you should never download anything from the Top 10 but it should not be the foundation for your entire library.

    2 - When I find a track that catches my attention (let's use Jo Manji - Long Train for this example) I have a number of options after I add it to my cart:

    • I can click the label (Funktion Recordings) and browse their house releases as most will likely be similar and through that I will find not only tracks but other artists to use as jumping points.
    • I can check Jo Manji's releases to see if anyone remixed Long Train and checkout tracks by those remixers.
    • I can checkout other labels that Jo Manji has released on for similar tracks and artists.
    • I can use the Beatbot Recommendations section of Beatport to see if it found anything similar.
    • And finally I can see if Long Train is included in any releases or DJ charts to find similar songs.

    3 - When I find a similar track by those methods, say Dancin' (Original Mix) by B-Sensual & No!end (which was in the recommendations section of Long Train) I repeat that process all over again using that track and it's label (B-Sensual) as the jump off... Within 5 minutes of opening Beatport I will have 20+ tabs open.

    That's all without leaving Beatport... You need to remember that everything on Beatport for the most part can be clicked: the artist, label, genre, remixer, and so on. These links are like breadcrumbs for you to follow and the further you follow them the more gems you will find buried deep in the catalogue.

    Where to Find Music

    I invite everyone to share their methods for track digging below and their sources of music (please no illegal sources).
    Last edited by NickJames; 02-20-2013 at 10:21 AM.
    → Reddit: omers on /r/DJs and /r/Beatmatch

  2. #2
    This. Learn to love spending hours sampling hundreds of tracks or you won't make it as a DJ. Period.

    EDIT: This would make for a good sticky post.
    Last edited by CamDaze; 02-20-2013 at 04:12 PM.

  3. #3
    awesome post Nick. + Rep

  4. #4
    Deez Beats! KLH's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2012
    In your head
    Quote Originally Posted by CamDaze View Post
    This would make for a good sticky post.
    I added this to the MEGA Thread!

    Visit DJF's Beginner's MEGA thread and drop by my Facebook Fan Page.

  5. #5
    Great article .... good post
    When I started out I'd go for the top 10s on beatport but noticed it wasn't my sound so I started to look around more on there and started to find my style ( tech-house, house, prog house) and was able to find this due in large to digging and listening to hours n hours of music ... I now know the importance of actually looking for music not just going to the charts ... If you're new to DJing em I and I know how you want to play the tracks you hear on your favourite podcasts but you need to put in the time to find your own style

  6. #6
    Quote Originally Posted by KLH View Post
    I added this to the MEGA Thread!

    Cheers good sir
    → Reddit: omers on /r/DJs and /r/Beatmatch

  7. #7
    Chubby Cox Hausgeist's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2012
    Gem City, Illinois, USA
    People have told me when they walk in to an event and I'm playing they can tell it's me even before they see me; I like it that way. It means they know what I sound like and they can tell from the song selection and mixing that I'm behind the decks. That is what you should be aiming for. People should be able to hear you in your set.

    I'll keep this down here for a bit, then I will sticky it (in addition to it being in the MegaThread). Good post, Nick. Thanks.
    Everybody is going to have an opinion.
    Just do your thing to the best of your ability and have fun with it.


  8. #8
    Join Date
    Mar 2012
    over there
    Good post.

    I never understood posts going along the lines of "I'm getting into DJing, what music should I play?" surely it's self explanatory, if you're into DJing I'd hope it's because you enjoy particular music, DJs, etc... by all means ask for some pointers and refer to the list of music shops but sometimes there are very suspicious cases of the tail wagging the dog, it makes me wonder why someone's into DJing if they're not already into music or prepared to spend a lot of time finding good tracks.

  9. #9
    From what I've seen/read about the "what should I play" issue, there's two schools of thought.

    For club DJs, you find what moves you and you play it. Really go with the music that moves YOU.
    Then you find venues that appreciate your brand of music.

    For wedding/event DJs, you play what the client wants to hear.
    Take their request list for songs and build on it. If they want Top 40, you play Top 40. If they want Country, then you play Country.

    If somebody can't figure it out following one of those two patterns then I don't think they need to be DJing in public yet.

  10. #10
    Member Era 7's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2012
    Kassel / Inside your speaker
    good post must spread some rep
    Quote Originally Posted by EarnYourKeep
    name one dj that can replicate richie's drums in a minimal techno way, this coming from a plastikman background...then again i figure trance heads would respond this way they always seek the BUILD UP AND DROP THE BASS BRO

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