#Realdjing = Scratching?

#Realdjing = Scratching?

I’m not usually the kind of person to get involved in the “keeping it real” talk.  I’m not afraid to play certain songs in the club that other DJs are too cool for.  Also, I’ll happily admit that I rarely ever use my headphones when I spin anymore — I just watch the waveforms because I think it’s much easier.  You can say what you want about that, but it wouldn’t affect me much.  However, the whole notion that “#real DJing” exclusively refers to scratching routines does bother me a lot.  (Note:  This blog post is not designed to knock the art of scratching down a notch in terms of its importance to DJ culture….but more so to bring attention to other aspects of DJing, which I feel are equally as important.)

Truth is, most gigs I don’t scratch at all.  Not even once.  I’m awful at it, and I don’t have much interest in spending the time to get better.

Do I wish I knew how to?  Of course.  Adding a few scratches in my club sets would definitely impress some people.  Plus, we’ve all had someone come up to us at a gig and say, “Let me see what ya got!” and I’m pretty sure they’re not asking to see us perform a nice clean 16 bar mix from one song to another.  It would be nice in those situations if I had a little routine that I could WOW people with.

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There’s no denying that scratching is an important part of DJing, and likewise, essential to being a well-rounded DJ.  Think of the guys that you would consider in the Top 5 of Open Format DJs.  They can all scratch very well.  And I get that my lack of that skill will always keep me out of that conversation, no matter what else I might accomplish in the future.  But despite my lack of cutting ability, I still like to believe that I have some value as a DJ.  Yet, there’s a good number of people that would disagree, and that’s partly what inspired me to write this.

I recently saw one DJ I respect make a social media posts along the lines of, “If you don’t scratch at least once at your gig, then what’s the point?  You’re not really DJing.” and another DJ I respect said something to the effect of “I look at DJs who can’t scratch as just being lazy.  There’s no excuse for not knowing how to.”

To me, scratching IS JUST A PART of DJing — an important part in the culture, but not the deciding factor as to whether you’re a DJ or not.  If a young DJ asked me whether I recommend they learn how to scratch, I would definitely say, “Yes.”  But if they wanted to focus on other parts of DJing, I wouldn’t question that decision at all, and I would tell them to have fun and go all out doing what you love.  To some DJs like myself, learning to scratch isn’t the most appealing part of being a DJ, while to others, it’s their favorite part.  And I think that’s cool.  Some DJs put their main focus on turntablism and I have nothing but respect for those guys.  My friend DJ Ragoza fits in that category and I have nothing but respect for him.  He found a part of DJing that he loved and went all in.  Anyone who follows him on social media knows how passionate he is about turntablism, and he’s constantly practicing and putting up videos of different routines.  Last week, he flew from CT to FL to compete in the Tampa DMCs…..and won.  That’s a result of practice, hard work, and determination.

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THAT is 100 percent #realdjing.

I just like to think that DJ Ragoza’s work ethic can be applied to other aspects of DJing as well to earn that same hashtag.

In addition to turntablism, I believe….

Searching for music = #realdjing

Pretty much every song has a remix these days.  Some have tons of remixes.  Spending the time to go through all these is real important especially if you have a residency that would appreciate you not playing the same set every night.  For every popular song now, I like to have a Deep House version I can play opening, a few harder versions at different tempos that I can play during prime time, and then a more Progressive House type remix I can play if I wanted to drop it towards the end of the night.   Oh, and also a transition, preferably both up and down.  Without thinking, some of you might say having 8 different versions of the same song is a bit silly and excessive, but as someone who has been spinning at the same three spots just about every week for the last 5 years, I promise it isn’t.  Some nights I spin at the club are absolutely insanity while others are chill lounge type nights.  I also do some fun beach gigs over the summer.  Like at the club, it can be crazy with patrons who wanna rage, but sometimes it can be more chill where people just wanna relax on the beach and listen to music.   So if you’re like me and your crowd and atmosphere is constantly changing yet the staff at your residencies are for the most part the same — then you better have multiple remixes for every occasion not just to keep from sounding awkward to your unique crowd, but also to keep from sounding stale.

Editing music to fit your style = #realdjing

I spend a lot of time every week making custom edits.  Some take time, and some are extremely simple (Such as changing the intro to Audien’s remix of “Chains” or changing the intro to the song “Work” by Ruxell & Johnny Roxx.)  However, all are important to someone who prides them self on sounding smooth in the club.  I also make a lot of my own transitions for songs that I feel I want to start or end a certain set with.

Being able to rock a club with that music = #realdjing

This includes doing the proper preparation.  Formatting your night correctly.  Keeping the energy from song to song.  Being able to deal with adversity and adapting to different situations.  Etc.  All #realdjing.

Making mix tapes and podcasts = #realdjing

Doing research to find out what an artist’s next single is gonna be so your CD has lasting power = #realdjing.  Sorting through the thousands of remixes of songs to find the perfect tracks you want to use — and then spending the time to figure out the perfect order to place them definitely = #realdjing.   Doing car test after car test to make sure everything sounds good and your volumes are constant = #realdjing.  Now that you can make your mixes in Ableton, perfectionists like myself can easily spend many, many hours trying to get a 60 minute mix on point.  That’s keeping it real.

Being creative = #realdjing

This is something I’m really big on.  Not only do I want everything I do as a DJ to sound good, but I also want it to sound different as well.  If there’s a DJ in my crowd, I want them to think “Wow, I never thought about bringing in that song that way!”  “I wish I thought of mixing those two songs together!”  or “Holy shit, what remix is that?”.   A DJ manipulates music and there’s infinite ways to do so.  I’m always searching for new ways and nothing makes me happier as a DJ then when I find one.

Now this leads to the part of the article that I’ve been waiting to SPRING on you.  I purposely saved it for the last half partly because I wanted to save the best for last, and also because I want to discuss it in some detail.

Production = #realdjing

Again….

Production = #realdjing

DJ-Enferno

And I don’t just mean Enferno doing his Live Remix Project at the club.  That’s an example of someone combining technical skills with production skills and taking things to another level by performing live.  It’s obvious that’s #realdjing and I’m pretty sure every DJ respects that.  But when I say production = #realdjing, I mean it in a much simpler way.  The rookie DJ doing a redrum in Ableton = #realdjing.  The dude trying to find the perfect sound in Sylenth = #realdjing.  To me, labeling production as #realdjing is a no-brainer, yet I have a feeling a lot of people may disagree.

Besides the fact that both are based on manipulating music, Production and turntablism have other similarities as well.

Both take an extraordinary amount of time and focus. 

Producers spend many hours working on a track trying to find the perfect drums and sounds to use while turntablists are known for spending countless hours in their basements working on a routine.

Both producers and turntablists are constantly having their club-rocking skills questioned.

Nowadays, I’m always hearing people say “Oh those guys are producers, they know how to make tracks but have no idea how to rock a crowd.  People forget this was the same knock that turntablists used to hear all the time too.  “Yeah, dude can scratch but I doubt he knows how to play at a club.”  Sure there are cases where these stereotypes are true, but some people like to think they are more common than they really are.

It seems pretty obvious to me that both producing and scratching are huge parts of DJing, still though, there are plenty of DJs who won’t even admit that production is a part of the craft.  To anyone who’s ever uttered the words, “He’s a producer, not a DJ.”, would you ever say that about a Turntablist, or someone who makes Mixtapes?  If production isn’t a part of DJing now, is it just a coincidence that the top 1000 DJs all have learned to produce??  (That’s obviously not based on any real stats, but am I wrong?  Is there actually any DJ in the top 1000 who hasn’t gotten into production at all?)

Basically, as someone who got into DJing so I could make remixes (blends at the time) and later fell in love with doing clubs, it frustrates me to hear that some people don’t respect or understand the many hours I put into doing both of those — and don’t consider what I do #realdjing.  As I said in the beginning, I don’t have much interest in spending the time to get better at scratching.  But that doesn’t mean I don’t take that time and use it productively to focus on the parts of my job that do interest me.

29 comments

  1. I remember when I first started, learning what DJing is. It’s about playing the music you love and sharing it with others. Making simple mix CDs for your friends to listen to the latest music you found and want to share is DJing. Taking control of the radio in the car and sharing music off your iPod is DJing. The production, turntablism, transitioning, mixing, etc., are all ways we can share our passion for music as DJs.

    My two cents.

    Awesome post. Been a while since I’ve seen you guys post anything on here.

    • Thanks man….and I agree 100 pct. And we still probably won’t be doing anything too often for the time being, but I’m definitely gonna try and put up stuff here and there.

      Spring

  2. It depends on whether or not you consider yourself a musician. All DJs are not musicians, music aficionados yes, but unless your can manipulate sounds or rhythmically drum and sample in real time you can not attach that designation to what you do. Turntables (and now midi controllers) can be instruments in the right hands.

    • What’s up Ryan….I agree with your last statement about tables being instruments in the right hands. I was just saying that there is more ways that you can be passionate about DJing than just by turntablism.

      Spring

  3. I would agree with most of this article until it got to production. To me, production is a part of DJ culture and many DJs are producers, but producing is not #realdjing. A DJ is someone that plays back pre-recorded songs and sounds. Producing is creating those songs. They are not the same. I take nothing away from the DJ/Producers out there that have managed to become very good at both skill sets. Now Native Instruments is trying to blur the lines between production and DJing, but at the end of the day, producing is not DJing and DJing is not producing.

    • Rob….

      Obviously we agree that playing in a club and production are different things. Just like making a mixtape and scratching in your basement are different also. But all four of those things fall under the term DJing….and production = DJing 100 pct.

      I guess I have to ask: At what point you will believe that production is a part of DJing? Is it just a coincidence that all of the top 1000 open format DJs now produce??? Vice, Enferno, Scene, Spryte, Trentino, and all the way down the line….all produce.

      I go into it in more detail here —> http://www.remixreport.com/5517/dj-producer-dj-producer-picture-wrong/

      This is one argument I can’t fathom anyone could be on the other side of. But I’m really curious to hear where I’m wrong.

      Spring

      • I don’t think that production is ever part of DJing. Are they related yes. But that’s like saying a helicopter and an airplane are the same thing because they both fly.

        Producers produce music. They create music. The take individual sounds and create melodies and beats to be played back at a later time. They may do remixes to be played back by other DJs.

        DJs play music made by producers and musicians. They find the songs and arrange them in a way that hopefully will connect with an audience.

        Think of it as restaurant positions. You might have a Food & Beverage manager who decides what items go on a menu and the chef that actually cooks the food. Sometimes this is the same person (DJ/Producer) and sometimes they are separate people (DJ & Producer). The fact that these rolls can be separated and a person can only DJs or can only Produces means that they are not the same thing.

        You keep going back to the top DJs in the world and say that they are all producers and for the most part that is true. But that doesn’t mean that it’s the same thing. Thats the same as saying that DJing and Promoting are the same thing because most successful DJs have had to do promotions for clubs or events. Or because their name is what draws a crowd.

        You bring up turntablist and people saying that they are not DJs. Here I would disagree because at the end of the day, they are still playing prerecorded sounds (albeit in a technically a sophisticated way).

        Just because two thing are related does not mean they are the same thing. So no Producing does not equal DJing.

        • Here’s the thing though Rob… Not every successful Chef is a food and bev manager and vice versa. BUT literally EVERY DJ who is big or wants to become big produces. Every open format DJ in the top 1000 produces. And I’m not so sure that’s even hyperbole. I actually wouldn’t bet my life on 1000/1000 but I think I would do 990 out of 1000. But 1000/1000 wouldn’t surprise me.

          I would never have said producing is a part of DJing 5 years ago…..but things have changed.

          I guess another question is…..

          If a kid came up to me, while you were standing there, and said, “I want to become a DJ, what do I have to do to master my craft and become successful??”

          I’d tell him/her “You’re gonna have to get equipment, music, learn how to mix, maybe learn to scratch, learn how to rock a club, and learn how to produce .”

          Now, when I say “learn how to produce”, are you gonna look at me real confused and be like, “Wait, they said they wanted to become a successful DJ, why did you say production??”

          • You keep going back to this notion that everyone who is a big DJ is also a producer and I have never denied you that. But by saying Producing = #RealDJing, you are also saying that to be a producer you also have to DJ and that is simply not the case. You are saying to DJ you have to produce and that is simply not the case. So therefor they are not the same.

            There are literally tens of thousands of DJs around the world working as mobile DJs doing parties and rocking nightclubs as resident DJs that don”t produce. These are people that make a living off of DJing. Are you saying that they are not successful or real DJs?

            As far as the kid wanting to be a DJ, the problem is that you assumed that the kid wanted to be a globe trotting DJ like Tiesto. You should ask a follow up question of what kind of DJ do you want to be? Because if he/she wants to be a mobile DJ doing private parties, then learning to produce would not be high on my list of things. If they want to become a headlining globe trotting DJ, then yes, learning to produce is probably going to be best for business.

            The reason learning to produce is good if you want to be a mega DJ is because the attention span of today’s youth is so short. They want things that can be consumed in 3- 10min chuncks and its hard to fit a DJ mix into that short of a time period. So the best thing to do to promote yourself is to produce a song in the style of music that you play that can be consumed in 4min.

            This notion that to be a successful DJ you have to produce is garbage. There are a ton of “successful DJs” who are garbage as DJs, because they are not DJs. They are producers who have discovered that the best way to get their music played to disguise themselves as DJs. There are a ton of very good DJs who are garbage producers because people like you have said, if you want to be big you have to produce…so they did. And they hurt their reputation every time they put out a crappy track because its not what they like doing.

            So to recap. Yes most DJs in the top 100 in the world are also producers. If you want to be a globe trotting DJ, it is probably best to learn how to produce. However if your goals are not to be a globe trotting DJ but rather a mobile DJ or a local resident, then producing really has no bearing on that. Finally, one can produce and not DJ. One can DJ and not produce. So as I’ve said many many times, Producing is not RealDJing.

        • You are 100 pct correct that I should have clarified. I was thinking about that after I wrote that. But when I said successful DJ, I meant successful Open Format DJ who travels and is likely on an agency. — and that was what the kid wanted to be.

          With that said, I think you missed my point. I never said you have to produce to be a real DJ.

          The whole premise of my article is that there is more to being a real DJ than just scratching. And I agreed that
          scratching does = #realdjing, but I admitted I don’t scratch at all. And I still consider myself a DJ.

          So it’s absolutely true you don’t need to produce to be a DJ. Just as you don’t need to scratch. But scratching is still part of DJing…as is producing. And things have changed to the point where production is a more important part of DJing than scratching at the moment. You don’t have to scratch to be a top 1000 open format DJ at the moment…..but you do need to produce. Therefore, I’d have to say production is a part of DJing.

  4. IF you’re a hip-hop DJ or your love for DJ’ing started from hip-hop you absolutely MUST have some basic scratching skills even if its a baby scratch to transition. I would be bored out of my mind if I didnt throw a cut or two in my set BUT again my roots stem from Hip-Hop so it makes sense. I respect all DJs but there are certain ones that I look up to (DJ AM / DJ Yoni) because they’re diverse and can incorporate all aspects of DJ’ing

    DJ D-Tweed (@DJDTWEED)

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