Last week in One Simple Habit That Will Massively Improve Your DJ Sets we explained how if you take a few steps to tune into the music you hear around you day-to-day (and not when you’re consciously sat in front of your screen in “music buying” mode), you’ll end up with a better, more crowd-friendly DJ collection.
This week I’d like to take a look at a long list of really simple things you can do to put some of this into practice. Do just a handful of these things and I guarantee you’ll become a better DJ.
Our 12 easy ways to get more music into your life
1. Turn the TV off and the stereo on
In some households, the TV is on almost by default, playing a load of rubbish mostly. Just switch it off and turn some music – any music – on. Get into the habit of switching on music, not the TV, in the morning. When people who were watching TV leave the room, don’t leave it on but turn on some tunes instead.
2. Put music on your smartphone
Your smartphone – or even your “normal” mobile phone – probably has the ability to carry a load of tunes. In photography circles they say “the best camera for the job is the one you’ve got on you” – and it’s the same with music. You may not always have your MP3 player or other music source nearby, but you probably always have your phone. Keep some music on it and some headphones with you too, and there’s another way you can sneak some music into your life in all kinds of situations.
3. Set the presets on your car radio (and revise them regularly)
Your car radio probably has half a dozen presets on it. Have you ever bothered to set them to any stations? Because if you haven’t, you probably spend more time randomly channel surfing when you’re driving than actually listening to anything.
Instead, set it to half a dozen likely channels, so at least you can channels surf between those, knowing you’re likely to hear something you like. And if a channel truly sucks, find a replacement. You’ll probably end up with the “best of a bad bunch”, but it’s still a lot better than “radio silence”
4. Watch the music channels on TV
Getting resistance for implementing #1 in your home? Try this tack instead. Memorise the channel numbers of every music station that exists on your cable, satellite or free-to-air network, and as soon as you get the chance, switch to a music channel instead.
There are some real gems to be found here in Europe on channels that recycle back catalogue material, and I’m willing to bet there will be at least something of use where you are too.
5. Put some kind of music system in every room of your house
Got a radio-cassette doing nothing in a cupboard or in the garage? How about an iPod speaker dock? Old radios knocking around in drawers? Just set them up and tune them in to something. However you do it and whatever you use, the goal here is to get music – any music – playing within a few seconds of walking into a room.
6. Install wireless speakers
If you’ve got the money, why not consider installing AirPlay, Bluetooth or Sonos wireless speakers in any or all of your rooms? These let you stream music wirelessly either from a console unit or (to me, more usefully) from your laptop, tablet or smartphone. Again, it just lets you get music on quickly whenever you arrive in a room to do something, and this was you can often have the same music playing in any or all your rooms at the same time.
7. Wake up to the radio instead of a buzzer
If you’ve got a radio-alarm on your bedside table but you use the buzzer instead of the radio to wake yourself up, then do something about it! Tune in to any station at all and wake up to that instead. Sometimes just putting one tune into your head first thing in the morning can not only change your mood (hopefully for the better) but it can get you thinking about music for half the day – this is a very good thing.
8. Fall asleep to music radio etc
If you can (some people can’t), try drifting off to music radio (or another music source) using the sleep function on any audio device that supports it. I think there’s something about music when you’re drifting off to sleep that gets into your brain in a way it doesn’t at other times. Either way, here’s half an hour of the day when you’d probably otherwise be in silence. Claim it back!
9. Prefer music venues when you’re on a night out
There’s a pub chain in the UK called Wetherspoons which famously, at least for a time, boasted about “never having music playing”. This would be bottom of your list when applying this rule. Instead, when you’re on a night out, consciously try and frequent pubs, bars, lounges etc that have music playing, rather than sports bars, traditional boozers etc that may not.
Of course, if you’re going clubbing then this isn’t an issue, but there’s no reason why music can’t play a part in your nights out the other days of the week too when you’re out and about.
10. Have a limited music device such as an iPod Shuffle
One of the problems us DJs have with music is we’re always trying to categorise, organise, jump off at tangents – we find it very hard to “just listen”. I love my iPod Shuffle because it stops any of that. I stuff it full of tunes I want to know better, then use it. Mine is a model before you could get it to speak track names through the headphones, so I just gave up worrying and listened!
I soon figured they’d be time to review what I’d heard back at a computer, later. Plus it’s easier to carry than a smartphone when you go for a run or hit the gym
11. Buy a lead for the MP3 Aux socket in your car
Chances are if your car is newish that it has an Aux or MP3 socket on the dashboard somewhere that lets you plug in an MP3 player or other music source. Go on, order a lead for it.
It’ll cost you next to nothing, and means you can throw your favourite tunes on in the car rather than rely on the radio or some tired old CDs in the autochanger that you never, you know, change. And when you’re looking for your next car? Make this a must-have requirement. Bluetooth? Even better.
12. Watch more films… with good soundtracks
If you don’t watch films, please do. They are a secret weapon for the DJ – packed with tunes you can pinch. you can capitalise this rich seam of ideas by checking out who’s behind the soundtracks of film, or searching “OST” to find original soundtracks on web stores, then watching the film of those you like the look of. Next time your partner wants to pull you away from the decks to watch a film? You now now how you can make that situation work for you.
This is background, not foreground
As we said last week, one of the ideas around getting more music in your life is to get it there when you’re busy doing something else. This isn’t about sitting down to listen to music – it’s about having it going 24/7 or as close as you can get.
The only concession to being a DJ you should make (apart from ensuring there’s always something playing, of course) is to have a way of recording for later use tracks that catch your ears. Shazam, a note on your phone, a real notebook and paper – whatever. Note, and forget. You can worry about whether they’re good for your DJing later on – for now, get on with your day. This is gathering, not analysis.
Remember, implement only one or two of the above and you’ll be improving your “musical life” to the benefit of your DJing. Implement half a dozen and you’ll have it at least 80% covered. Good luck!
Do you have a method for listening to music when you’re busy doing other things? How do you fit music discovery in with a busy life? Please share your thoughts and experiences in the comments.