The Top 25 requested songs (hint, hint)

If you don’t have these songs, you should probably get them.  They are tried and true for playing parties, weddings and most social gathering type events.

Don’t judge, just get them!

Rank Artist Name Song Title Download Now
1 Mark Ronson feat. Bruno Mars Uptown Funk
2 Journey Don’t Stop Believin’
3 Whitney Houston I Wanna Dance with Somebody (Who Loves Me)
4 Walk The Moon Shut Up and Dance
5 Taylor Swift Shake It Off
6 Pharrell Williams Happy (From “Despicable Me 2”)
7 Neil Diamond Sweet Caroline
8 Cupid Cupid Shuffle
9 Ed Sheeran Thinking Out Loud
10 Black Eyed Peas I Gotta Feeling
11 Bon Jovi Livin’ On A Prayer
12 Bruno Mars Marry You
13 V.I.C. Wobble (Radio Version)
14 Usher Yeah!
15 Van Morrison Brown Eyed Girl
16 Rihanna feat. Calvin Harris We Found Love (Album Version) [feat. Calvin Harris]
17 DJ Casper Casper Cha-Cha Slide
18 Maroon 5 Sugar [Clean]
19 Beatles Twist And Shout
20 Kenny Loggins Footloose
21 Justin Timberlake CAN’T STOP THE FEELING!
22 OutKast Hey Ya! (Radio Mix / Club Mix)
23 AC/DC You Shook Me All Night Long
24 Animal House Shout (From “Animal House”)
25 Michael Jackson Billie Jean

 

Trust us, you need all of these songs.   When you have certain people sitting at a party, this list gets them on their feet.    Well, sometimes with a shot of alcohol in tandem.

Cheers!

Powered LOUDspeakers. My speakers are loud. Do they count?

No.  Your speakers that happen to be loud are likely not “dynamic powered loudspeakers”.

“Dynamic Powered Loudspeakers” are specifically built speakers that are amplified and capable of being tuned per channel, for use with other components on the back panel of the speaker.  They also accept one or various cable types including XLR, 1/4 TRS input and possibly thru channels as well.  Their construction provides for excellent amplified sound from the speaker box meant for small to medium sized crowds.

Investing in a  loudspeaker setup means you are investing in your (DJ) business.  Investing in yourself to be able to play anywhere you want.  Anywhere that has power that is.  We’ll talk more about power preparation in a later blog post.

Let’s get down to brass tacks (the essentials).  

Today we’re going to examine my Mackie SRM450 loudspeaker.  I bought my pair of 450s used off of craigslist.  Risky, sure, but they are an amazing quality and have held up perfectly for me.  I would recommend you buy new to get a warranty with them.   For me, I love taking stuff apart and fixing it so I was willing to buy used.

It’s 1000 watts of amplified excellence with an integrated 2 channel mixer in the speaker.  I rarely use the mixer in the speaker since I typically put my microphone input thru my MultiMix mixer board or my DJ Controller board.  However, it makes this purchase very versatile.  I could plug my acoustic guitar into this loudspeaker directly as well as plug in my microphone to this speaker directly and play to a crowd.  Versatility means extended value…..I could rent this asset out to local artists and make money off of my equipment when I’m not using it.

In the photo below, you can see each channel has its own amplification ‘gain’ knob.  Mostly you’ll want to just start at the line level input signal from your mixer board or your DJ Controller board.  Then ….pump up the volume… from that source and test (well ahead of time!) the limitations of either distortion on the top end or a decibel reader to make sure you don’t cause any type of ear drum damage at the party.  Thankfully, these speakers also have “automatic feedback destroyer” technology built into the circuitry.  That isn’t standard on all speakers and may be hard to identify for other brands.   A very excellent feature !!!

Most any smart phone these days (android / IOS (apple) / Samsung) has an available decible reader that you can use to guage what is acceptable for setting your loudness limits with the gain knob.  These are important for being able to comply with city noise ordinances.  Check with local authorities to know what to expect.

If the volume or tuning isn’t what you like, add some gain and try again.  Remember, start at line level or ‘low’, depending on your knob reading — add volume to max (testing it) from the source (mixer board, DJ Controller board, etc) and then try increasing the gain – only if needed!

You can also purchase higher quality and more accurate decibel readers, which are what the police will likely use if they are called.

Here are 3 well recommended decibel readers.  They’re very affordable and great to have for other applications as well.   nudge, nudge…  you can use this for your car stereo system too to make sure you’re not going to get a ticket for bumping your ride in the wrong spot at the wrong time.

     

Alright now, focus…  back to it.    >   The channel 1 and channel 2 inputs shown in the image above accept both types of cables (XLR male or 1/4″ TRS).  These two types of cables are the standard types of cables you’ll be using in the DJ life.   The THRU port is to either daisy chain the same circuit to another speaker (maybe you want 2 left channel speakers) or to a powered bass speaker for extra POUNDING bass.  This THRU output sends the unobstructed line level signal thru the speaker to the other cable.

If you’re not interested in purchasing loudspeakers, it means you’re planning to work your DJ skills at home and either stay in that mode of fun / just for kicks DJ skills or you’re hoping to hop the fence of working hired gigs and go straight to the varsity league of playing clubs (clubs that already have their own setup).

Here’s a link to the Mackies that I bought:

Don’t forget your headphones!

How did Adam Wiles become the richest DJ in the world as ‘Calvin Harris’?

100% pure grinding – and a true passion for the art.

Originally named Adam Wiles, he worked at a Scottish grocery store in 2004.  He lived with his parents and had dreams of being a musician. How did he get from there to making $63 million last year and dating Taylor Swift?   Results not typical, right?  But …  if you really get into this art of being a DJ…  I mean, even a fraction of that is more than a LOT of people make in a lifetime!

His marked entrance into mainstream popularity began about 10 years ago.  After producing a remix of All Saints’ single “Rock Steady”, his effort started to spread with popularity.

 

        

 

Enter the remix producer  <  Sample someone else’s hit, edit, enhance, back-beat, add personal flavor and release.  With some legal checks on copyright approvals of course.

Honestly, with enough time and practice you really only need a computer.  I’ve remixed several songs this way over the years, just for fun.  With sampling machines, keyboards, beat machines, and SO many options, this is a very realistic goal for nearly any DJ.

Dovetailing with remix producing, Calvin’s popularity began to trend up as a hired DJ.  To date, this is his regular job (paired with producing in his spare time) making up for a large portion of his $63 million earned in 2016.  Armed with a DJ Controller, USB stick and headphones..  this is the modern DJ’s lifestyle.

His fee is in the mid 6 figure (~$500k) range for playing night clubs.  To play a music festival, his fee rises to 7 figures.  Yes, that is at least 1 million dollars for a few days work.

Should you start learning a craft like this?  At the bare minimum, you’ll have a lot of fun.  You could start playing local parties.  You could start charging a fee.  Your name could explode if you do well and network a bit.

Step 1…   Be a couch DJ.

Step 2…   Invest in and learn a DJ Controller.

It won’t happen over night.  But if you get into it, you could have a lot of fun and start making extra cash on the weekends.  Meet a lot of people.  Networking.  The sky is the limit right?   You have to commit to it and cut your teeth in the art.  Develop your style.  Make sure it works for you and an audience.   Go get ’em, tiger.

Ever since I bought my first DJ controller (Numark MixTrack Pro 2), I’ve been hella hooked!  Well that, and using the DJAY app for fun on my iPAD…  which I actually used during a live gig a couple of times (line level input to my DJ Controller board from iPAD stereo output port) and it worked quite well.

 

The Couch DJ. This is too fun.

Sitting on the couch with a tablet or a smart phone and mixing beats is a lot of fun.   It is VERY inexpensive, comparatively speaking.   This setup will work on your iphone and ipad.   It is possible it works on android devices as well but I haven’t checked in on that yet.

You likely have a good amount of music already on your tablet or smart phone.  Why not mix up your research routine by chilling on the couch and exploring your music meshing, beat matching or queue point options.

This very unique and specifically engineered cable will allow you to be the couch DJ.  It’s so fun.   Griffin engineered a very special type of cable splitter to allow queuing music to go out one cable (to a set of headphones or ear buds) and the other cable to carry the live signal!

 

The DJay app by Algoriddim is also a must have.   It’s 2.99 and is worth every single penny.

 

You’re welcome!   😛

Microphone Check, 1, 2, 1, 2.

In my opinion, you need to buy a microphone 3rd.  First is the DJ Controller (with the assumption that most people already have some music to use)..  get comfortable with it, have fun, hone your skills.

Second is the loudspeakers to perform with at a party or event (upcoming blog post about loudspeakers!) and 3rd is a microphone.

Every DJ needs a microphone.

You don’t have to use a microphone a lot.  A lot of the time you’ll be delegating that to someone at the party..   the party host to make a quick announcement, the best man to give a speech, the whoever for whatever.

Your responsibility is knowing WELL in advance of the party that there won’t be performance issues with the microphone when it is go time.

After you buy the microphone, setup all of your gear in your living room or garage and test it out.    A LOT.   Make sure not to get too close to the speakers or the quality will degrade (as feedback protection kicks in at a high level).

Loudspeakers should be positioned evenly to disperse the sound across the crowd and bounce off of the back wall.  Ideally, the speakers should be about 5-7 feet off of the ground.  This setup will provide optimum sound coverage in a 10×10 or 20×20 room and allow for minimum feedback protection in the microphone.

Alright, alright….   get to it!  I know.   Here are the good deals and proper mic’s to get.

Wireless mic’s make things a bit easier.  It’s relatively cost effective to buy 2 so I’ll show a couple of good options with good reviews..

 

      

While buying wireless mic’s makes life a bit easier, it does add a couple of extra considerations.  (1) Battery management for the wireless microphones.  You don’t want the mic going dead or near dead during use or just before the gig.  Always have battery spares available!   (2) You’ll need a power source for the wireless receiver and then the cable going from the receiver to your mixer or DJ Controller.  (3) Choosing the right broadcast channel at the gig location is necessary ahead of the gig.  Do this as soon as you get your speakers and system turned on.  “Microphone check.  Check, check, 1, 2, 1, 2.  Check.  Microphone check.”  You get the gist.

There are some cheaper wireless microphones out there on fixed frequencies.  I don’t recommend them due to the fact that at some location you will run into interference issues on that fixed frequency and they won’t work well.

What is feedback?

Feedback is a party or event no-no and will have you scrambling to fix an issue that never should have happened during the party.  Feedback can also damage ear drums in the perfect storm of a problem.  This is the number one reason to not just buy a $12.99 microphone.   At a minimum, budget around $30 for your Mic.  The better the quality of their design, the less chance you’ll have issues with it.

(SCIENCE, yo!)  The microphones job is to send electrical signals of what it is hearing to … the controller or mixer where the signal is amplified and then sent out the loudspeakers.   Yup, you guessed it..   the microphone hears what is coming thru the speakers too.  Quality microphones have a feedback detection feature that helps to eliminate the sound loop (it knows what it hears near and far and cancels out the far signal thru the mic).  The more that feature has to do it’s job (REALLY loud music or environment), the more it degrades the voice speaking thru the microphone.   In most cases no-one will notice what is happening.  However, try standing and speaking / singing thru your setup to know what to expect during a party.  Try it with just speaking and no music as well as with music playing.

Can’t I just use a standard $12.99 wired mic?     Well, you can.  It could be a nightmare during a live gig if you run into any distortion or feedback problems.

In case you want to, make sure to research the proper cable type (the quality mic’s may not be sold with a cable).  Usually there is an XLR female to male cable that works with most setups.  However your setup might need an XLR to 1/4″ cable.

What else could the microphone come in handy for?

Happy Hour karaoke?  Yup, you could add on some popular karaoke features to your setup and be a multi-purpose DJ.  Play a few hours of karaoke line-ups and then DJ for 3 more hours and call it a night.

 

Where’s your head at? Lets talk HEADPHONES.

From ear buds to noise cancellation and cup positions, lets talk Headphones!

Why do DJ’s need headphones? Well, so they can sample upcoming songs and play with queue marks and beat matching prior to the actual transition that the crowd hears. In the headphones, the DJ is listening to a closed signal that the audience cannot hear.

– Here are a few of my favorites –

Over the ear with collapsible cups to help queue in one ear and hear the crowd and exposed sounds in the other ear:

        

      

 

What do DJ’s use headphones for?

  1. Confirm beats per minute match
    • If the upcoming song is sped up too fast, it may sound bad.  Think of a song that is 100 beats per minute (bpm), sped up to 130 bpm.  That song may just sound too fast for people to like.  Don’t mix that song directly over.  Pick a new one!
  2. Confirm beat timing (ex: 4/4 time vs 6/8 time)
    • Music is composed in different rhythms.  Mixing a song that is 3/4 time to a song that is 4/4 time can be quite challenging.  It can be done, but it takes a quick transition and maybe effects to pull it off cleanly.
  3. Tune/Tone/Peaks
    • Matching the tune and tone of a song to the upcoming song is sometimes important, depending on the genre and feel that you want to portray.  If a song is in the key of A minor and you switch to a song in the key of B sharp, it might not flow well.
    • Some songs have shrieking peaks that are not good for transitions.  Some are good for transitions.  Most of the time a transition is a chorus part of a song that doesn’t have too much peaking or dead spots.
  4. Scratching and sampling
    • Some DJs get sample happy with Air Horns and effects.  Try not to annoy your crowd with too much fluff.
    • Queuing up a scratch point on a song and playing with it before delivering it can make all the difference in the world.  Most of the time you should do this before the gig to know what you like to scratch to.  Doing it on the fly requires a few practices in the headphones before flipping that fader across the first time.

           

 

DJ Controller Price Ranges

Budget $200

This style of DJ controller is an extension of whatever hardware you are going to run it with.  It will enable you to perform the core essentials of being a DJ:

–   Mixing a song into another with a smooth transition

–   Microphone plug-in to be able to communicate to your audience thru the speaker outputs

–   Headphones jack to be able to queue up additional songs and prepare a transition

The controller is typically USB powered and can usually connect to a smart phone, tablet or laptop.  It is really only an input device for software on the device you will be using it with.  Think of a computer keyboard in a similar way.  It sends signals and data to your computer, is interpreted by the software (keyboard driver) on your computer and then does something.

I personally had the Numark Mixtrack Pro 2 and found it to be a great starter kit to get going and see if I liked playing with DJ stuff.   The controller board typically needs a software license upgrade (you usually get a trial) if you are going to be using it on a laptop.   I’ve heard of people getting them to work on an iPad and will research that more if you want.   Leave a comment below if you are interested in using this with an iPad or other tablet and I’ll check into it and post a blog update.

       

 

Budget – $300

DJ controllers within this budget are geared towards laptop DJ’s.  The controller board is effectively a precision piece of hardware built to let you control your music collection on your laptop.   In general it allows for better inputs and outputs to the DJ board (headphones jack sizes, microphone inputs, phantom mic options, XLR outputs to jack into professional speakers, line level inputs, etc.).    The controller requires software on your laptop in order to function.  Normally the controller is bundled with intro software.  The two best versions of software I have seen are Serato DJ and Rekordbox.  It makes sense that rekordbox will reign supreme since Pioneer has some of the top DJ controllers on the market and this is their software, launched around 2015 and receiving several updates since then.

   

 

 

Budget $800

This price range of DJ Controller boards includes the best of the best for still being an input device for a laptop or other type of software interface.  The features are very rich, add travel convenience for overall needed gear and allow for excellent performance, control and timing.  One of my favorite features is the on-board track hot spots that I can mark ahead of time including marking a looping section.  If a looping section is marked, it is depicted by a yellow pad instead of other colors.  Additionally, the sampling features are nice to have and quickly accessible from the hardware.

   

I know what you’re thinking.  Why is the RR controller about $100 more?    The out-of-the-box licensed Rekordbox software package and the controller board have more features.  In the end, I upgraded to the DDJ-RR from my Numark MixTrack Pro 2.  It is a very solid piece of equipment.  One of the main benefits I like is having XLR outputs on the back of it so I don’t need to bring an audio interface with me to run my speakers with.  The DDJ-RR does it all for me and acts as the sound card for my laptop as well.

 

 

Budget Under $2000

All-in-One DJ Controllers.  This type of DJ controller does not require any laptop or other device in order to use.  However, you can if you want to.  Typically, you can use a computer to help configure the controller, playlists, scratch settings and various other tweaks to your planned events.   The music media is primarily loaded onto USB flash drives keeping your luggage very lightweight and easily manageable.

Either you are a rich kid, aspiring enthusiast or a pro that wants to make it big in the DJ world.  Professional DJs can make a TON of money playing gigs around the world and feeling like they live the life of a rock star.    The hardware in this price range is the best of the best in the industry.  It requires considerable time to master but in large part the functionality on these controllers can translate very well from lower price ranges.   To be clear, if you’re using another lower level controller board and want to upgrade to this level, several features will be similar.  Having said that, additional features on higher end models like LCD screens help you navigate your set list without needing a laptop.

 

   

 

 

Now lets get to that upper level.  Where the big boys play.  Where 100’s or 1000’s of people are commanded to feel music from one amazing controller.  The CDJ, which has a long history in the DJ world and the newer platform the DDJ-RZX.  The idea that you have everything you need on board of the DJ Controller and no need whatsoever of a laptop at the gig.   You can still utilize a laptop if you want.  There are actually several benefits to preparing your gig with a laptop on the CDJ.  You can export your entire playlist to a USB or CD disk.  You gain features here like being able to use or import CD’s, use SD cards, better (longer) throw slider controls for more precise beat mixing.

   

If you’re not convinced, I’ll be diving deep on these two in an upcoming blog post!

 

A world of difference with a laptop stand!

It’s such a simple purchase.  This purchase makes life so much better.  SO MUCH BETTER!  Personally, I really recommend the PYLE-PRO PLPTS25.

Here’s why!

It’s very sturdy!  I use this on my desk at home when I’m not playing a gig and it helps to dual screen my macbook pro right next to my apple thunderbolt display.  It places your laptop at a great angle in case you want to use the keyboard or trackpad while working on beats.  It holds up to 8 lbs, which far exceeds any laptop I’ve heard of.

It will also hold other items quite nicely like a MultiChannel mixer, EFX Machines, lighting controllers, etc.

SUPER easy to put together and it has rubber grips to help grab ahold of whatever you choose to display/support on it.

Highly recommend!

I have my audio interface sitting on the base of this stand with my 15″ MacBook Pro on top of it.

Music Types, preparation and research

There is a time and place for every song.  How do you choose what to play and when?

What kind of a DJ do you want to be?   If you want to be a working DJ that entertains events such as weddings, corporate parties or other hired events you will need to approach your preparation with inclusive input from whoever will be hiring you.   You may have rules to abide by like no music with parental advisory ratings, volume limitations (sound ordinances) or specific timing to work into the set list for announcements or special songs.

If you are throwing a house party for fun, it’s up to you!  Just remember that your guests may not stick around if your set list isn’t setting the right vibe.  As the DJ, you are the life of the party.  You have the opportunity to set the night in motion and get people to let loose.

If you plan on booking gig’s at nightclubs and bars, you’ll need to establish yourself with promoters and build up a reputation.

Lets talk music types.   Top 40.  Hip-Hop.  Electronica.  House Music.  Trance.  Trip-Hop.  Trap Music.  80s, 90s, 2000s, 50s, 60s, Country, Latin, Reggae…   the lists go on and on and on.  Don’t be the guy that won’t play what he doesn’t like.  You have to appeal to your audience.  That’s your job, to identify with and know what they will like.

You should do research before any gig to know what will work well for the people who will be hearing the music.   It is normally a good gesture to let whoever is hiring you pick out 10-15 songs that you will guarantee you will play.  You will be responsible for sourcing this music with them or providing it on your own dime.  There are certain songs that will become part of most of your set lists.  There are some songs you’ll find that will work great at one party, but bomb out another.  Paying attention to your audience is key.   Know what gets people moving.   Have the awareness to know if a certain song is killing the vibe.  This is your job.  It can be stressful at times, but don’t let it show.

Must Have Songs:

   

   

   

 

Here are some gem’s that will get older generations or small kids to dance:

   
   

!!  Smart Phone Apps  !!

Always be ready to document a great song that you hear.  There are a few apps such as Shazam and SoundHound that will quickly listen to and attempt to tell you the name of the song you’re hearing and the artist.  They also allow you to research your history or most smart phones also allow for a quick screen shot to store your find in your photos.  See what works best for you.