Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Aspects of DJ-ing

Sometimes when I tell people, that don't dance any kind of swing dance, that I DJ, they assume that I mix my own music, that I scratch etc. In the Swing scene the reaction tends to be more: "It's just music put into a playlist". To me DJ-ing for dancers is neither one nor the other. Being a DJ denotes two parts: serving music to dance to and also educating dancers about music.

Serving Hot Tunes

The maybe biggest challenge for beginner and intermediate DJs is that we don't play for ourselves but for a room full of dancers. This does not mean that I play music I dislike but almost analogue to teaching - I only teach stuff I like. When DJ-ing this means something slightly different. I don't play all the music I like. I play the music that is the intersecting set of music from the tastes of the room and mine. 

Serving the room also means taking care of the ambiance. Do you want to have an easy-going or a high energy atmosphere? Do you want the floor to be crowded or not? Connecting the music in a way to shift the ambiance to where you want it can be done through tempo-managing and styles and various other ways.

And All That Jazz

The second aspect is to educate the dancers. We DJs spend countles hours on researching music, musicians, history and connections that make us the "experts". DJs should know what bands played at the Savoy and what the difference between Traditional New Orleans Jazz and Swing is.
For some people it's the music that made them start to dance Lindy Hop or Balboa or whatever Swing dance. For others the music is secondary and the interest is for example in the infectious joy. Music made the dance what it is. As the experts it is our job to play this music so people can have a chance to experience what it must have been like to dance back in the days. It is our job to play this music so people can find the spirit and joy of all those swing time era dances.

We DJs can call ourselves lucky. Swing music is considered normal in most scenes. As with any good teacher, we have to continue learning ourselves to be able to continue to teach and educate. This means continuing to research, understanding better, finding new old tunes etc.

It is for those two reasons I call myself Doctor Jazz. It's a song by Joe "King" Oliver and if you don't understand the connection, listen to the lyrics. :)