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Be the Life (and light) of the Party

Every one of us had a phase when all we want to do is party and drink all night, every night. Most would go to bars and disco houses and other places where there’s loud music, beer and a lot of dancing.

You’ll also notice that these places invest a lot on their music, going with the current trends and playing upbeat dance beats that would keep you on your feet. Some even hire professional disc jockeys (DJ) to play music all night long.

What is a disc jockey? A DJ is a person who mixes recorded music for the audience. They were originally called disk jockeys because they used vinyl records, or disks, in the past. As technology and music developed, the term stuck, so we still use the term regardless of the medium a DJ uses.

There are also different kinds of DJs. In radio stations, DJs are the people who introduce the song, play it, and host the program. They usually use a different, often catchy, name to gain a following.

In bars and discos, DJs are in charge of playing the music, often mixing songs and creating mash ups to keep parties alive.

Animated_dj

By Dj Crazy Hot-Shot (Dj Crazy Hot-Shot) [CC-BY-SA-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Hiphop DJs usually provide music as accompaniment to a rapper, creating beats to set the melody/flow of the lyrics. In reggae, the DJ is the one who sings or raps along with the music.

You may not know it, but there are more than a million professional DJs in the world. Knowledge of music and arrangement techniques is a must before someone can become a DJ. There are also some music classes that one can take in preparation to becoming a professional disc jockey.

Just like any other profession, there are certain tools and equipment that they use in mixing, arranging, recording and making music.

Sound recordings in a DJ’s preferred medium : vinyl records, CDs, computer media files;

A combination of two devices to play sound recordings, for alternating back and forth to create a continuous playback of music;

A multiple sequencer which can mix several tracks

A sound system for amplification or broadcasting of the recordings or a radio broadcasting system

A DJ mixer, which is an audio mixer usually equipped with a crossfader used to smoothly go from one song to another, using two or more playback devices;

Headphones, or earphones used to listen to one recording while the other recording is being played to the audience, or to listen to both recordings simultaneously;

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By Djfairlight (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Optionally, a microphone, so that the DJ can introduce songs and speak to the audiences.

Other equipment could or can be added to the basic DJ setup, such as electronic effects units, computerized performance system, multi-stylus headshells, special DJ digital controller hardware, samplers, sequencers, synthesizers and some DJ software.’

Some DJs would also require a source of light, especially when playing in dark places such as bars and clubs. Flashlights, headlamps or even small key ring lamps are ideal for those who need some light while working. If you are the adventurous type, you can even try and synchronize your lights with the beats for a more fun and exciting party.

Some of the special techniques used by DJs are cueing, equalization and audio mixing. Based on a DJs skill and style, he or she can even arrange a song differently and add some parts of other songs to it.

The skills and techniques a DJ uses depend on what kind of environment he or she works in. Radio DJs are more concerned with music cueing rather than mixing, while club DJs are concerned with smooth transitioning of one song to another.

Some DJs also use turntables, which enable them to manipulate the song as much as they want. DJs usually use turntable techniques such as beatmatching, phrasing and slip cueing, as well as beat juggling, phase shifting, needle drops, scratching, back spinning and others.

As technology continues to develop, several music software are now available, making it easier for DJs and musicians to mix, arrange and create music with just their computer and other equipment, which would then be easily saved as a file that they can bring anywhere they want.

By Tero Heino (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

By Tero Heino (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

There are also portable music equipment that DJs can bring with them where ever they go, making it easier to make and play music.

Being a DJ is a skill, but some people are born with unique musical talent, making it easier for them to work with music. Some DJs started just by tinkering with music on their computers, while some had classical music training. Some learned on their own, while some went to music school and had formal training.

Working with music also has its downsides, especially in terms of licensing and rights. Most DJs use other artists’ music, mixing them up and creating another song out of several songs.

In the past, DJs had to haul several sets of cassette tapes and CDs every time they perform, sourcing the music from these medium and playing them for the public. Now, DJs use digital music files, making it easier and more convenient for them to perform in public.

However, they have to have a license to use music, and to ensure that each artist or composer responsible for the song is given proper credit. Nowadays, DJs can easily buy albums of different artists online, ensuring that they are using songs legally.

Same goes for DJs who create their own albums and produce their own music.

There are also professional organizations of DJs who help new DJs in acquiring and using music, without violating laws. Some of the new international anti-music piracy laws also help protect artists and DJs by making it more difficult to download music and other forms of entertainment for profit.

Becoming a DJ is a tedious process, but if you are the type who likes to be the life of a party, then it is worth the time and effort you spend knowing more about the profession.

By Possan (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

By Possan (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons