I started DJ’ing because I love music, I recorded the BBC essential selection onto tape every week, I listened constantly to music, taking my radio/tape player everywhere with me. Music followed me around from the bedroom to the kitchen and even into the bathroom. I was always around music, it shaped my tastes and encouraged me to source more music and to develop my ear for “good music”.
Troubleshooting in the 90’s
I would head to by bedroom, put a record on my parents old hi-fi stereo and speed it up manually by hand to line up with the tape player, even though the turntable had no speed control.
As it was not possible to hear sound from both the tape player and the phono at the same time, the extent of my troubleshooting was to discover that, if I placed the slider switch half way between tape and phono, I could hear both. This is how I learnt to DJ.
As technology has developed and we are pulled into the marketing machines of the 21st century, we are tempted by all the new gadgetry, the slick systems and the shiny new computers.
A computer has become modern place for a DJ booth. This can be seen as a special time for music. The accessibility of music for all and the excess of choice for all of us to pick the format we prefer and to learn the simple skills of hitting sync and then waving our arms around in the air.
This “ease” however, is peppered with frustration at incompatibility issues and the all too often need for troubleshooting.
I am inundated with people asking me to help them fix this, or fix that.
“My widget isn’t working with my fandangle?”
We have made things too complex. To drive a car we don’t need to understand the combustion engine, so why should we need to delve under the hood of our computer before we can DJ?
DJ or I.T. Consultant?
We seem to have created a school of technology rather than a school of DJ’ing. I am asked questions of how to fix something, not how to do something! The skills we need to learn now, is not how to DJ, but how to become a computer technician. The landscape has changed and the skills required have morphed.
Sometimes, hell, all the time; I just want to put some music on a play with it. I don’t want to have to go into the settings, or the preferences, scrutinize a plethora of digits and routings before I can hear some melodic sounds emanating from my speakers!?
We seem to have over-complicated an otherwise simple and pleasurable past-time into a painful and distracting mess of unnecessary tasks.
Choices are Amazing
Life has become very special, we are honoured to have such choice, but the excess does have it’s downside.
If I’m going to use a computer to DJ, I want it to work with no effort on my part. I don’t want to spend 3 hours looking for a how-to video online to achieve a degree in computer technology before I can spin some tunes.
Freeing up the time we spend troubleshooting would send you in a different direction creatively with music. We have to make technology work for us, not us working for the technology.
Keeping it Simple
I recently had the opportunity to hang out with my friend Subb-an and witnessing his methods and choices was eye opening. Whilst he has used Traktor in the past, travelling the world as a DJ is complicated enough, without the added complications of dealing with potential issues with technology.
Subb-an explained that he uses iTunes to organize his music, he worked out his sets before the gig, loading a USB stick with music for use on CDJs. He also carries a small selection of about 20 limited edition records with him. Knowing that the club will be providing technics and CDJ’s makes his set-up hassle free.
Whilst we don’t all have the luxuries of demanding a specific set-up for our DJ needs, we can certainly learn from the pros as a way of keeping things simple.
We must remember why we are in the business of playing music and it’s exactly that, to play music.
Whilst sometimes it can be fun to look under the hood of our computer systems and tweak midi mappings to make things special, maybe we need to once again turn our focus onto the music and away from the magic that powers it. The information age is forcing us to become a jack of all trades and a master of none. In order to succeed do we really need to know everything about everything, or just a lot about something?
Simplify and amplify – Whilst I will always embrace technology and praise the advancements and wizardry of the brainiacs behind it, I will continue my attempts to simplify wherever possible.
I’m off to buy my first piece of Vinyl in 12 years……
What’s your experience been of the digital DJ era? Have you moved from Vinly to Digital only to go back? Are you always gonna be a tech head? Did digital DJ’ing change your life! Let me know your thoughts, I’d love to hear all angles on this!