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The Art of DJ-ing: More Than Pushing Buttons

| March 09, 2017

The other day I was talking to a friend and like always, I was talking about how much I loved EDM and rave culture.

In the middle of my monologue, he asked me why I go to shows. At first I didn’t understand the question. Why wouldn’t you go to shows? That was a question that made more sense to me. Then he made the argument that I’ve heard time and time again- “why do you go to a show to see a DJ just push buttons?”

Some people think that EDM is a sham. They think that sets are recorded ahead of time, and therefore there is very little talent involved in the actual performance. These naysayers (for a polite term) say that while performing at a show, producers just press buttons, jump in the air and shout into the microphone. So why pay hundreds of dollars to see a producer not actually producing?

First Things First

Blending together songs isn’t as easy as playing two tracks at the same time. Like many EDM fans, I have tried my hand at downloading free music mixing software. To put it succinctly, my efforts were in vain. What I made wasn’t music, it was noise.

Successfully pulling tracks together is hard. A producer needs an ear for beats, they need to know where the tracks should blend together and how to transition from one song to the next. The two tracks must have similar BPM (beats per minute) or the transition will be sloppy and choppy. 

DJ-ing Is Harder Than It Looks

Now imagine trying to throw together an hour (or two) of tracks, blending them perfectly, timing your drops, pyrotechnics and lights, interacting with the crowd and maintaining high level energy the entire time. Producers are incredibly talented, but they’re only human. Asking a producer to live mix an entire set is the equivalent of asking a composer to write a symphony on the spot.  

While tracks may be selected and blended together ahead of time, thanks to MIDI technology, producers can tweak certain aspects of their tracks without jeopardizing their performance. Producers have control over the synths, loops, drums and bass in their tracks and can adjust these during their live sets. 

EDC 2016 Kinetic Field

Some Producers Play Live

However, some producers do perform live. They may not always be actively mixing, but artists like Porter Robinson, Madeon, Big Gigantic and Emancipator are known for performing live during their sets.

Porter Robinson plays keyboard, Madeon sings and plays drums, Big Gigantic performs with a saxophone and Emancipator has been known to perform with a violin, guitar and piano onstage.

These instruments contribute to the live performance aspect of EDM that is quickly rising on the scene. Bit by bit, EDM is involving more and more live work. Mixing an entire set live is an almost impossible feat, but a stint with a keyboard, saxophone or guitar is very possible.

Porter Robinson

SO Why Do We Go To Raves? 

EDM fans don’t go to festivals or raves hoping to see a DJ blend together an hour or more of tracks on the spot. They go because festivals are a social event, they go to be with others who share the same passion for electronic music.

DJ-ing is so much more than pushing the drop button or twisting knobs and tapping on keyboards. It is an art that producers spend hours crafting and perfecting. Whether the mix is live or not, the fact is that the producer arranged and cut the tracks, they strive for perfection and want to present the best music they can for their fans.


about the writer

Lindsay Moriyama

Lindsey Moriyama

Read More...Lindsey was born and raised in Honolulu, Hawaii but now she lives, writes, bartends and stretches paychecks in New York City.

Illenium, Gareth Emery and Porter Robinson are her favorites, but you'll find her at any EDM event in any borough. A lover of every genre from trance to dubstep, you can find her on the fringes of a crowd gloving, dancing and bringing good vibes. A PLURR fairy, basshead, trance child and kandi kid all in one, this scene is her world.

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