Like clockwork someone will post what is seemingly a non-controversial question and then it blows up. And the latest is this discussion of how a Wedding DJ mixes. It comes up from time to time, but there were a surprising amount of DJs that outright said they don’t mix, at all. They play each song beginning to end, and that is all. Furthermore they shunned DJs that do mix at weddings and simply tried to make the word “club DJ” a derogatory word. But that could not be further from the truth, and these non-mixing DJs are frankly doing a disservice to their clients. Let’s talk about wedding mixing and show how I mix at a wedding.
Dispelling The “Club DJ” Myth
One of the first things to talk about is how the non-mixing DJ somehow has painted a picture that any transitions that are done in a wedding is somehow a Club DJ style. Now I’ve been a Club DJ before and it’s a skill all it’s own, but what many Wedding DJs try to achieve is simply great transitions from one song to the next. To create positive energy on the dance floor and to maintain it. This is somewhat different what a Club DJ does, where they can end up being a little bit more of the center of attention. And sure there are some Wedding DJs that prescribe to that philosophy, however it’s simply not the proper label for their style of DJing. Further a Club DJ is faced with some unique situations that frankly every Wedding DJ should learn to help better their craft.
The Art Of The Transition
In general the goal of the Wedding DJ is to create a seamless tapestry of songs to keep the crowd going. And sure, there are other elements that some Wedding DJs engage in like mic work, games, and the like. But we’re talking purely mixing here. And with that there are some tools that I employ to make my weddings fun.
It does not get any simpler. Take two decks, pull down the volume on one while raising the other. Of course if you are not properly beat-matching then a trainwreck will ensue.
Loops can play a big role in making it from one track to another. Setting 16, 8, 4, 2, or even 1 bar loops can help to make a seamless transition between two songs.
The Echo Out
Easily my most used option I have, it can of course be used in conjunction with other transitional elements. But there is just something a little extra epic with a proper echo out at your disposal. My echos decay pretty much after 4 beats although I can manipulate them to be shorter or longer and to echo a 1/32, 1/16, 1/8, 1/4, 1/2, 1, 2, 4 or more beats.
STEMS (VDJ, Serato) is the separation of “tracks” in the song to allow you to control up to 5 different elements of the track. I have been engaging in a lot more STEMS to allow me more creativity in my mixes. From isolating an acappella to doing just the hi-hats of a song, there are wealth of options to work with. You do need to either pre-analize or have a modern computer to speed the processing of STEMS. A M1/M2 MacBook Pro or Gaming PC is up to the task.
It’s always a clever option to find words, call outs, and the like to help with a transition. For instance this Blackstreet + Janet Jackson song “Boyfriend/Girlfriend” easily transitions into Destiny’s Child’s “Bootylicious” for a “Handle This” Routine.
Tone Play can come in a couple different forms. First the goal is to find those common sounds or patterns. For some songs there are just obvious similarities
Now not every tone is going to perfectly align with the transition so you can also shift your pitch on those tones to more closely match what you are trying to get to.
And in many cases your Tone Play matches a specific pattern in your other song. So many times these two transition techniques work in tandem.
There are so many scratching techniques to consider. And frankly when done right they can be welcome at any wedding. Now can scratching be overdone at a wedding, absolutely. So if you are a scratch DJ it’s best to gauge your client’s desire for that style and if they are all in, well you’re in for a party for sure. But like all techniques it has to be used in the right amounts.
The Full Play
There are absolutely songs that require a beginning-to-end play of the song unless otherwise a sweet routine allows you to jump out. A small list of that includes
- Sweet Caroline – Neil Diamond
- Paradise By The Dashboard Light – Meatloaf
- Born To Run – Bruce Springsteen
- Shout – Isley Brothers or Otis Day and the Knights versions
- Most slow songs
Sometimes, bouncing out of these songs too early can literally spell disaster for the rest of the night.
Transitions Are Important. Period.
Despite some of the naysayers, finding transitions to help seamlessly crate a night for your couples can absolutely elevate your skills as a DJ but improving on the end result for your client.