Digital DJ Tips reader Pocket Size Dave writes “I’ve been hired to DJ a silent disco, and being a bit old school, I use my left ear to cue in headphones, and the right to monitor the room. Since the audience will have headphones, what is your advice for manual mixing at an event like this?”
Digital DJ Tips says:
For any readers who are not up with the concept, a silent disco is where everyone wears wireless headphones, and no loudspeakers or booth monitors are provided for either DJ or crowd, making exclusive headphone mixing the only option.
This is where the split-cue function on DJ mixers shines, as it’s designed exactly for that. Unfortunately, this isn’t an option on much gear, and in those cases, you could use the cue/master mix knob to check your incoming track against the current one to keep them matched. Whichever is available to you, ideally you would practise without a monitor beforehand, finding the right volume balance between cue and master, and record your set to check any issues.
Once you arrive at the event, set up your gear like normal. The organiser will typically deal with the rest, but speak to them ahead of time if you have any doubts. Grab a pair of headphones intended for the audience. As the only way to monitor what they hear, it allows you to switch between each headphone set throughout the night to ensure adequate mixing.
Two or more DJs playing at the same time adds appeal for these gigs, since it grants the crowd freedom to switch channels. Their headphones have personal volume control (great for hearing, unless they turn it way up!), but they also have the mute button. Try to keep people from pressing this or taking their headphones off to chat, because no headphones equals losing the floor. Though a normal action for breaks, this vital piece of crowd reading information could indicate lack of interest, so use it to turn things around.
Unless the event specifies a certain genre, stick to songs containing a hook that people know. Silent discos are fun, novelty parties that invoke a lot of singing and interaction. To experience it fully, take your headphones off for a minute to find it resembles a karaoke bar with broken speakers. Although not designed as a competition, you want others to hear your mix, so visual enthusiasm matters. If the crowd sees your energy, they’ll switch to your channel and stay.
Want to go the whole hog? Without a full PA system, you lack the sensation of sound waves, so adding equipment like the Subpac (a backpack that adds the sensation of deep bass for the wearer) could enhance the atmosphere.
Have any experience working or attending a silent disco? Extra advice on mixing without a monitor? Feel free to share your ideas in the comments.