Last time, in Why Smart DJs Play More Than One Style Of Music, we explored why you may want to push your boundaries and start playing multi-genre sets. Today we’re going to look at the practicalities of doing this.
By working on the following elements, you’ll be able to play confidently in situations that maybe you currently find daunting, or if you’re already playing this kind of set (as a wedding or mobile DJ, for instance), you’ll be able to improve the way you do it.
- Have an overall plan – Just because you’re going to play lots of genres, it doesn’t mean you are going to play a disorganised mess of a set. In fact, it’s more important than ever to have a plan. You might plan to DJ on energy level (slowly peaking, then dipping briefly at the end), or in cycles (building for half an hour, 20 minutes of peak, then 10 minutes for a breather, or in genres (half an hour of this, then that, then something else). It depends who’s there, when they come and go, how long they stay, what they’ve been drinking, why they’re there… Deciding on the “bigger picture” early on will give you confidence later on when you’re juggling your different styles
- Match major elements in your music – Just because you’re playing multi-genre, doesn’t mean there aren’t suitable links between your tunes. There are always links between tunes. Try matching tunes by BPM, by musical key, major musical element (two female vocals, big guitar riffs, similar lyrics, drumming styles…). You’ll only find this stuff out by practising, so practise mixing all types of stuff. When you find a mix that works, note it in the “comment” tag so you can repeat it
- Expand your repertoire of mixes – Rookie DJs often limit themselves by trying to beatmatch everything. Instead, try simplifying things by “cutting” (simply moving completely from one tune to another right on the beat), or mixing at the fade (again, try and do it on the beat). The theory is that if the tunes you’ve chosen are right, the mix just needs to be as unobtrusive as possible. In the other direction, you can learn advanced techniques like looping a suitable bit of the rhythm of the outgoing track to beatmix out of (however small it may be), or using “elastic beatgridding” (only in Serato ITCH and Ableton Live currently) to force difficult material into a format where you can beatmatch it, or even making your own (or finding) mix-friendly edits of tunes with intro and outro beats for mixing
Check out the further articles listed below for more detail on some of the above. As you can see, playing multi-genre sets properly takes a lot more skill than playing technically simple, beatmatched single-genre sets, but do it right and it can open all the doors we mentioned in the previous piece for you. It’s definitely something worth working on in parallel to you “normal” DJing.
Do you already play sets in this type of style? How do you go about planning them? Got any cross-genre mixing techniques you’d like to share with us? Please let us know in the comments…