Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Jumpin The Numbers

Swing DJ-ing is choosing music. Choosing music based on dancers, atmosphere, style, maybe place and several more aspects. Atmosphere is a two-way street. On the one hand, you DJ based on the atmosphere, and on the other hand you influence the atmosphere by the music you play. While there are multiple factors that influence the ambiance, the focus of this article is on the speed of the music played.

Speed Up!

What I often do to increase the speed of the music is something I learned from DJ Jenn: pick the next song 4 Bars Per Minute (BPM) faster and the one after 2 BPM slower. Then repeat. Example: 36, 40, 38, 42, 40 ...

This way you will continuously get faster (and increase the energy of the dance floor) but letting them get accustomed to the faster speed, by always having a little slow down.

I've added a few things to smooth out various little hiccups. Usually I encourage everyone to DJ the whole range from very slow to very fast. Sometimes this is not practicable, like when DJ-ing a floor of beginners who can't dance fast, or a late night floor where people want swing but are not ready anymore for fast tracks. The problem is that you'll get too fast out of a range that is comfortable to dance, if you stick to 4-2. If the music is too slow, the dancers will likely have no energy or go home. If the music is too fast it might be frustrating. So to stay in a good range, for example 34-42 BPM, you can change 4-2 to 3-2. This way, you'll go up slower and stay longer in the same range.

Another hiccup often occurs in the higher tempos, when the energy of the crowd is not high enough anymore to maintain fast tempos for a long time. It's the opposite problem from late nights. Opposite in the way that if you follow 4-2, you will stay too long in the fast range. The 50-60 BPM range will exhaust the floor easily. There are two way of solving this issue. One is to increase the intervals : go 6-3 or even 8-4. The other way is to go without going down anymore. Go up up up. 52-56-60.

And Slow Down

To go slower one can simply inverse 4-2 and go down by 4 BPM and then up by 2. I hardly ever do this. I prefer to drop the speed at once. The amount of the drop will vary depending on the energy available. I'll give you a couple examples:

60BPM to 30BPM

This might fit well onto a big dance floor with many people who you just exhausted on very fast music. They'll long for some slow tracks and a few beginners who got left out towards then end will happily join in again after getting inspired.

55 BPM to 40 BPM

This would be typical for a dance floor full of dancers with lots of energy. Dropping the tempo to low might kill the atmosphere here.

52 BPM to 29 BPM

This could be from a set where the scene is not accustomed to dance to beats over 42 BPM. So 52 was definitely on the very high end and dropping the speed to 29 will not kill their energy.

Remember to drop to odd and even numbered BPMs. Otherwise you will miss half of your music.

Occasionally I like to top things off before dropping the tempo. This is done by choosing a song that starts slow and turns fast. A classic is "After You've Gone". After this, people will be ready to dance to some slow songs that swing hard.