Monday, November 16, 2009

Deconstructing the DJ: Blending It All Together

Mick Boogie mixing it up in Cleveland

A good DJ knows how to keep the party going, right? What better way to show it than by blending all the cool tunes together? There's nothing like being at a party and hearing two of your favorite songs combined! Screw the scratching and fancy turntabl-ism; those are nothing without mixing the right cuts at the right times. That's the art of blending.

Now there are many ways to blend multiple songs and tunes together. One pioneering thing Grandmaster Flash started was adding the
beat machine to his turntable set. He would play a combination of snare and bass drums while a record is playing, which went unnoticed by the crowd. If anything, nine times out of ten, most people think it's a remix or something.

Another thing people enjoy the most about DJs is the blending of two records; not just scratching two of the same records and playing one after another, but also blending them together to play simultaneously. It may seem very easy, especially with games like DJ Hero in our possession, but it takes a lot of practice and knowledge about audio mixing before you can truly learning the feel of the turntables. You have to know -- or at least have the ear for -- pitches, tempos and volumes on any two or more tracks (and it can be songs, samples, voice tracks, beats, or whatever) they want to mix. Then you need to know how to manipulate each track so they line up. Finally -- and the most basic thing to know first -- is the timing. Nothing's worse than adding a song that is a second and a half off of the other cut!

After you get all that down pat, you have to know the other type of timing -- when to throw that blend in! It basically has to blend in with the crowd, you can't just throw in a blended cut when the crowd just wants to hear top 40 music. A dance club or party, or at least a spot where a DJ is appreciated is the best place to showcase those blending skills. You also want to watch what you mix - the last thing you want to do is mix songs with beefing artists, or a slow jam with a get-crunk song. It gives the crowd mixed feelings and wouldn't know whether to slow grind or fight.

All in all, DJing is about knowing your craft and knowing your crowd. It's cool to say, "hey I took "Electric Feel" by MGMT and mixed it with "Passing Me By" by Pharcyde," but will the crowd be as hyped as you? I think not.

One DJ that mastered the art of blending is DJ AM. He, along with drummer Travis Barker, made a series of mixes called Fix Your Face involving two ultimate instruments: the drums and the turntables. Not only did the mix sound awesome, but it took DJing and turntabl-ism to a whole new level! Another DJ who has mastered the art of blending is Mick Boogie. His best mix had to be Unbelievable and Dillagence, both being tributes to two gifted hip-hop artists (Biggie and J Dilla). Click their names for the mix tapes and see for yourself!

Photo from the cover of Fix Your Face Vol.2 by DJ AM and Travis Barker

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