I was a DJ for about a year before I started any type of music production. I feel like today it is more common for people to be bedroom producers before they become a DJ. Some people are producing music for pop or hip-hop artists and have no desire to DJ and that is fine but most people that are producing dance music would like to eventually become a DJ. In this post I will discuss why being a DJ helped me with music production.
As a DJ your job is to mix songs together without interrupting the tempo and flow of the music. You need to beat-match the outro of the current track with the intro of your next track. This is when you are going to naturally learn about tempo (the speed of the song). Each genre tends to have a specific bpm or range of bpm (beats per minute). This is what makes that genre unique and also makes it easy for a DJ to beat-match songs in the same tempo. You can not beat-match two songs unless they have the exact same tempo. If one song is faster than the other then the drums will fall out of sync because one is moving at a faster rate than the other. You will quickly learn that genres like House, Progressive House, Big Room and Electro all pretty much stay around 128 bpm. They can reange to be a bit faster and also a bit slower but for the most part they stay around 126-128. Dubstep for instance has a slower tempo of 70 bpm or 140.
As a DJ you will naturally be listening to a lot of music and if you are using something like Serato or Rekord Box to DJ then you will be looking at an endless library of wave forms. A waveform is a visual representation of the track. It shows elements like the drum patterns, what parts have more bass, what parts have more high frequencies, and you can see what parts of the song are quiet and what parts are loud. After seeing about 1,000 of these waveforms you will have a very good understanding of the arrangement of tracks. You will quickly know that the typical formula for a dance music track is... Intro, Break, Build, Drop, 2nd Break, 2nd Build, 2nd Drop and Outro. After learning this basic arrangement you will soon get more detailed and learn when certain elements are introduced into a track and when a track might have a short one bar break to create tension before bringing in more elements and most importantly you will know how long different parts of a track will last for.
3. Staying Current
A DJ needs to have a very large library of music. He or she needs to have a mix of multiple different genres from multiple different time periods. People trust the DJ to give them what they want and also show them new music that they did not know they wanted. Between my laptop, my hard drives, and my main computer I would say that I have close to 5,000 songs downloaded. This library was not built over night by any means and it is constantly growing because a DJ needs to play some new and current music and every show. This helps you know what sounds are popular at the time and what direction genres are moving in. Now I think its very important to be yourself and find your own sound when producing music but it can't hurt to know what sounds, or styles are currently popular. The music you are making right now is most likely not going to sound the same as the music you are going to make next year. Every artist evolves their sound over time. That does not mean they sold out. That may mean that they are just maturing as a person and an artist or they may just want to stay current and not be left behind the curve. Staying up to date with the current sounds is very important as both a DJ and a producer.