The Disc Jockeys and staff of Music on the Strand would like to acknowledge and thank "DJ Photographer Extraordinaire," Rob Clark for his entertaining and informative example.
This gifted, dedicated, and hard-working individual knows how to satisfy, please, and most importantly, entertain the crowd. He is an inspiration to all Event Staging, Party Motivating, DJ/MCs, as well as an excellent photographer, as evidenced by some of his "catch-action" photos that appear on our website.
I. THE PREMISE – We get paid, not just to play music, but to create an atmosphere – an atmosphere that is conducive to people getting up on the dance floor and getting involved. The typical crowd at a wedding reception is not likely to be the type of folks who are out at the dance clubs every weekend. People generally feel awkward when dancing. We should, therefore, try to do everything possible to create a comfortable and energetic atmosphere on the dance floor. Smooth, seamless segues from one song to the next – without any awkward pauses, dead air, or difficult transitions – are most helpful.
Whether it is recent dance music, dance classics, oldies, Motown, rock, swing, or country, EVERY dance set can benefit from beat mixing. It is NOT just for club music with a heavy bass beat.
At private parties (yes, even wedding receptions), we should try to use as many helpful tools as possible to help create an atmosphere of dancing and celebration. There are all sorts of tools that we should use such as:
solid music programming (knowing what to play and when in order to create the best response)
reading the crowd - good MC skills to be able to shape the atmosphere that the couple wants
experience with wedding protocol so that you can take care of the behind-the-scenes issues smoothly so that the bride and groom are never even aware of the careful coordination that is going on
appropriate sound system for the size of the room, number of guests, etc.
appropriate lighting to help create more visual energy to compliment (not overtake) the atmosphere
etc., etc., etc.
The list of important and useful tools could go on at length. One skill, that I DO think is very important, is being able to create smooth segues and seamless transitions between songs. Far too many DJs misuse their microphone by talking over bad mixes. Far too many DJs have no clue about beats per minute of their music and end up sending their dance floor crowd through all sorts of unnecessary hoops trying to keep up with the beat of the new song.
The fact is, people dance to the beat. They move their bodies to the beat. It stands to reason then that if the beat is going to change from one song to the next, the people on the dance floor will likewise need to stop, listen for the beat of the new song, adjust their body movements to the beat of the new song, then start dancing again. That adjustment is enough to send some people, who might already be uncomfortable dancing, back to their seats to "sit this one out." I don't want to provide any such excuse for the crowds on my dance floors.
That means that EVERY song, regardless of the musical style, has a BPM that should be taken into consideration when picking out the song to follow. It does not ALWAYS need to be the exact same beat. It might be some that that is a jump UP in BPM (to create a jolt of energy). It might be something slightly higher in BPM that IS beat mixed on the 32 count to help the people on the floor continue dancing without interruption. There are all sorts of skills that DJs need to be good DJs. I personally feel that beat mixing is a critical skill that is not the most essential but certainly belongs on the list.
Let's look at some of the definitions of terms, getting into the basic elements of mixing, then outline some sources for further information.
Definition of Terms
Before we can even get to the interesting stuff, we all have to be speaking the same language. Here are a few terms we should know as we discuss beat mixing.
Bar - Individual time divisions in a musical score, represented by vertical lines on the staff, are bars. Each bar normally contains the same number of beats and are also known as a "measure."
Beat mixing (also referred to as: beat matching, beat synching, hot mixing, mixing) - The art/skill of bringing the beats of two different songs into phase with one another and fading across. For example, if the song the crowd is hearing (song A) is 118 beats per minute (BPM), and the next song you want to play (song B) is 122 BPM, you either slow song B down to 118 BPM using pitch control, or slightly speed up song A and cue it up to the beat. When you are ready to bring the song B into play, "throw" the CD (i.e., hit the play button on the "1 count") so the beats stay aligned and listen to it on your headphones. Listen to the two songs play (song A through the speakers and song B in your headphones) for at least 32 counts to ensure that they are in sync. If they are not, use the + and – "Pitch Bend" buttons to gently speed up or slow down song B in your headphones. Once you are sure things are in order, use your cross-fader or individual channel controls to let the new song blend into the old one, and eventually go completely across so only the new song is playing. This will give the illusion that the song never ended. Once you get the hang of getting beats into sync, you will quickly find many more interesting ways to fade in and out of songs. This whole process is greatly simplified using a DJ application and computer Computerized Performance System.
Beats Per Minute (BPM) - The number of beats during one minute of a song. An identifier of a song's tempo. To calculate this, take a stopwatch and count the number of beats in 60 seconds (or count for 30 seconds and double the number). Some mixers have this feature built into them as well, providing a digital read-out of the BPM of the songs on each channel. Of course, Computerized Performance Systems, depending on the DJ application being used, provide a variety of simplified ways to measure the BPM.
Cold/ Fade – This refers to the type of ending of the song. A cold ending will be abrupt and sometimes dramatic. A fade ending does just that—it fades away. When it does fade, the energy decreases as well. So it is usually best not to play songs all the way through if they do fade. At the same time, songs with a cold ending require a quick and smooth transition so that there is no dead air during segues.
Cross fader (alias: x-fader, fader) - A slider control which moves from one input channel to another in a very smooth fashion. The volume on each channel is inversely proportional to each other, so if the x-fader is completely on the left side, you will only hear the input for that channel. Once you start moving it to the right, you will gradually hear the right channel becoming louder. When the x-fader is in the middle, each channel will be of equal volume. As the x-fader continues to the right, the right channel will approach full volume, and the left channel will diminish.
Cueing – Playing the music only through your headphones (without the sound coming through your speakers so that the crowd could hear) to find the spot you want to start the next song. Once you have determined the best place within the song to start (most times on the 1 count), you can hit the Play button (or throw the vinyl record) on the 1 count as you are listening through the headphones, and adjusting the speed as necessary in order to line up the beats to the song that is playing through the speakers. In the digital world, the cue points can be set per song as per the wishes of the individual.
Measure - A measure is a musical notation device that distinguishes a specific unit of time comprised of a fixed number of note values (whole, half, quarter, et cetera) of a particular kind, fixed by the meter and bracketed by two vertical lines across a staff of music. The two vertical bar lines are separated by the distance required by the number of notes contained in the measure. This portion of musical notation does not determine the rhythm, tempo or note values; the measure does contain the notes and various note-types. Tempo, rhythms and note values are determined by time signatures and tempo markings. Each measure of a time signature of 3/4, for example, will contain three beats, one for each quarter note. If a dotted half-note is contained between the two vertical bars, it will receive three beats and the measure will be over. The measure can also contain six eighth notes and a number of different combinations of note-type fractions depending upon the musical context. How fast the respective beats are is determined by the tempo.
Phrase - A natural division in the melodic line, similar to a sentence or part of a sentence. (Usually 4 groups of 8-counts for a total of 32 beats)
Pitch bend - The temporary changing of pitch to get beats in phase. These are the little + and – buttons next to the PITCH button on your CD players. This gives you the ability to "nudge" the speed up or down temporarily to get the song on beat. It has the same effect as placing your finger on the vinyl to gently slow it down or speed it up. Once you release the pitch bend button, the song will go back to the current pitch control settings.
Pitch control - The ability of a device to change the tempo (speed) of a song. Essential feature on your CD players if you are going to beat mix. Most pitch controls allow the song to speed up or slow down plus or minus 8 %. (Some players allow plus or minus 16 %). Computerized Performance systems provide much greater parameters.
Key Lock or Pitch Lock- The ability of a device to change the tempo of a song, without changing the key (e.g., on Denon 2500 and Pioneer CD decks). This lets you drastically speed up songs with vocals without a "chipmunk" effect. Most DJ computer applications provide this important feature.
Segue - (pronounced SEG-way) Italian for "follows," a segue is used to indicate a smooth, flowing transition from one section of a composition to another without any pause or interruption.
Tempo - The speed of the beat. Usually measured in Beats Per Minute (BPM).
Throwing (Slamming) - Starting the song in at full volume on the 1 count (the first beat of an 8 count). The term originates from vinyl DJs who have the turntable spinning at full speed while lifting the record off the platter with their finger holding it with the needle in the groove just before the 1 count. When the DJ wants to start the record, he "throws" the record, giving a record a little push when it starts up so there is not any lag time while it gets up to speed. This effect is simpler with CD players that have "instant start" (normal CD players may take a few tenths of a second before a song starts). Computerized Performance Systems can execute a clean slam with a touch of a key.
II GETTING STARTED - First we need to know the beats per minute of our music. As defined above, the BPM is simply the number of beats in a song in 60 seconds. You can use a stop watch, or, if you would like to take advantage of your computer, you can use a BPM counter built into the DJ Software.
It is helpful to know the intros of songs and the 8 counts. So what’s an 8 count? Let's take a very basic song that most people will be familiar with, "We Are Family" by Sister Sledge. Sing the song to yourself while tapping out the beats:
We are fam-i-ly...........I've got all my sisters and me.....
We are fam-i-ly............Get up everybody and sing!.......
These 4 groups of 8-counts form one 32-count phrase (4x8=32 for the mathematically challenged). It's best to mix at the 32 count. In other words, the best place for the new song to come in at full volume will be at the first beat of a new 8-count at the completion of this 32-count phrase. Got it? Note: in many songs, as in "We Are Family," the first note of the song is not always the first beat of an 8 count. In this song above, the single and album versions have a drum riff that is actually number 8 beat. So if you want to begin matching the beats on the 1 count of the first 8 count of a 32-count phrase, you may want to skip over the drum riff.
Many songs have 32-count intros (32-counts of instrumental track) which make them much easier to mix. With these songs, you can listen in cue to song B through the headphones while song A is playing through the speakers. Once you have matched up song B on the 1 count of the 32-count phrase so that it is in sync with song A playing through the speakers, you can bring the volume up and you have 32 beats to make sure that is right on track. At the end of that 32 count phrase of song A, song B is already at full volume and is ready to take over.
What if the song does not have a 32-count intro? I’ve heard this reasoning used by some DJs over the years to say that they don’t mix because not all music has 32 count intros. I’ve heard others say that you can only beat mix with "House" music or "Club" music. My answer to that is that it does not matter what type of music it is or whether or not it has a 32 count intro. Songs do NOT have to overlap for a full 32 counts to produce an effective beat mix segue. For example, when segueing 2 "oldies" songs, if song A ends cold on the 8 count and you hit song B perfectly on the 1 count so that the beat is continuous, then you have created a smooth beat mix. The same holds true for virtually any type of music, be it rock, alternative, country, etc. beat mixing is not just for "disco" or "club" music.
Putting Sets Together - Once we know the BPM of our music, it is easier to think about what songs might go well with each other. Generally it works well to group songs together that are of a similar style. For example, if we are putting together an oldies set, it generally works well to put several songs from that same era together. That way, people who enjoy that type of music will enjoy several songs together. Mixing an oldies-song into a hip-hop song into an alternative rock song – even if done perfectly on beat , might not create the desired effect of continuity on the dance floor. The oldies fans might exit once they hear a hip-hop song. And the hip-hop fans might depart as soon as they hear crunching guitars from an alternative rock song. Granted, in some cases, these types of transitions might be exactly what the crowd goes for. But, generally it’s good to put sets together that are of a similar style.
Great Tips for a Festive Spring Wedding
Adapted from an article written by Emanouela Canzano
Ahhh, love is in the air. The grass is getting greener, the flowers are blooming, and the birds are flying back North. Its that magical time of year again; when the cold winter is behind us, and warm winds are blowing. Thats right, its SPRINGTIME! What better time of year to get married in than spring!
A spring wedding can be so romantic and festive. After a snowy and cold winter, a celebration is sometimes very much needed. And decorating ideas are aplenty for such an occasion.
Some tips for a festive spring wedding:
If your wedding is near Easter, you could use chocolate bunnies or eggs in mini baskets with ribbon for favors.
Many types of flowers are more abundant during the spring. Use brightly colored tulips or lilies in your bouquets or centerpieces.
Give your guests flower seeds for favors. Many online wedding vendors carry handmade paper cards with seeds imbedded in them. Guests can plant the seeds at the appropriate time of year and always remember your special day.
Use flower shaped candles as favors. Many craft stores offer floating candles in a variety of shapes such as: roses, sunflowers, daisies, or carnations.
Sprinkle multi-colored rose petals on your wedding cake or on the tables for a festive spring look. You can buy silk or real petals in bulk.
Spring tends to be the time of year when colors make a splash and the winter blues fade. Choose a pastel pink, yellow or blue for your colors. Have your bridesmaids wear soft pink, yellow, lilac or blue gowns. These pastel colors look fabulous on almost every type of girl. Use pastel colored flowers in their bouquets.
Or fill the tables with color. Fill in between the dishes and glasses with different colored flowers and greens, or pastel Jordan almonds. You could also add a large dish of colorful, fresh fruit to each table. Your guests would love a bite of fresh strawberries, peaches, kiwi, or watermelon.
Release butterflies after the ceremony instead of rice or bubbles.
Have cocktail hour outside before it starts to get chilly. Theres nothing nicer than sharing a beautiful spring afternoon or evening with family and friends.
Also, spring and fall weddings traditionally tend to be more popular than summer weddings in North Myrtle Beach. It may be easier to plan a spring wedding since many vendors are booked for later in the year. I was married in the spring and found most of the vendors in my area to be free from the New Year to mid May. I had my choice of the best reception site, photographer, and ceremony time. But be cautious about planning your wedding on the prom nights in your area. Your dear fiance and groomsmen might end up with powder blue tuxedos with ruffles instead of elegant Brooks Brothers black.
May your North Myrtle Beach wedding plans go smoothly. Music on the Strand's DJ ENTERTAINMENT looks forward to being a part of your special day!
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