Tools of the Trade


MON 19 JUN 2017


When you are at a club have you ever wondered, what it is that a DJ does when he is behind a console? The constant bobbing of the head and shuffling of the feet is always coupled with knob-turning and fader thrashing and we are quite sure there are a few of you who must be curious about the artist’s antics. Well, there is a method to the madness that comes hand in hand with being a DJ. The evolution of audio engineering and technology over the past few years has certainly helped put a new ‘spin’ on the way music is exploited by selectors at clubs and festivals across the world. Here’s a quick run-through of what you need to get your mitts on if you think you have what it takes to hold your own behind the decks.

1) Tape Recorders : We are quite sure you have heard of the term ‘Mixtape’. A mix tape is a set of tracks mixed or produced by an artist and is generally meant for promotional listening purposes. The roots of DJing owe their beginnings to innovators who literally used Tape decks to play one-track after another way back in the 60s. By quickly stopping,starting, rewinding and sampling music these innovators laid the foundations for the principles of modern day scratching even though the music wasn’t continuous in parts.A very few beatmasters are left in the world who still used Tape decks to mix, guys like ‘Ruthless Ramsey’ show us how it’s done even today.

‘Ruthless Ramsey’ demonstrates the art of Tape DJing

2) Vinyl Turntables : The foundations of modern day mixing were laid back in the 70s in the boroughs of New york by DJ Kool Herc who was known for his dabbles in audio experimentation. Herc used two Technics SL-1100 vinyl turntables to play a copy of the same record at the same time  and used the break-beat mixing technique to quickly jump back and forth between the records while using his fingers to pull and push the record. In 1971, engineers at Technics in Japan introduced the Technics SL-1200, which has now go on to achieve a ‘cult’ status in the electronic music world and was the accepted standard for DJs back in the day.

Veteran DJ/Producer Move D plays a House/Disco set on vinyl at ‘The Lab’

3) Compact Disc/USB Turntables : The advent of the compact disc in 1982 revolutionized the music industry in more ways than one. It meant that a lot more music could be compressed and stored on a single medium than ever before as CDs were capable of holding more information than a regular vinyl. As a result CD Turntables or players were born. The CD players are technologically far more superior to regular vinyl turntables and could offer looping,track select,BPM visualizations and much more tactile control on the decks than a regular vinyl turntable. However, in terms of audio quality , vinyl was still a step above.

Further technological advances and the widespread popularity of MP3s in the past few years also meant that CDs were soon obsolete and were replayed by USB drive capabilities that allowed DJs to have even more music in their inventory.

Watch Laidback Luke’s amazing CDJ demonstration on the Pioneer CDJ-2000 Nexus

4) Digital DJ software and Controllers : Today the electronic music industry is a multi-million dollar sector that sees technological advancements almost on a daily basis. Cutting-edge software such as Traktor from Native Instruments in Germany signalled a paradigm shift from jog-wheels and physical pitch faders toward virtual control.THe interactive UI is modelled on a complete DJ setup that is flexible and can be manipulated in a number of different ways thus expanding performance possibilities to those who wish to explore it and it is extremely simple to use. Softwares are also used in conjunction with controllers such as the Native instruments Kontrol X1 and the Allen & Heath K2.

Simplicity is also it’s downfall in some ways however as up and coming artists would flock to digital mediums since it is not as tough to grasp as vinyl turntables or CDJs.

Felix the housecat demonstrates Digital DJing.

5) Live Performance Set-ups : Sometimes, even the latest advancements in beatmatching are not enough for performers who want to take their game to the next level. Nowadays, musicians try and bridge the divide between the studio and the console resulting in live or semi-live set-ups. Synthesizers, Drum-machines, Midi-Controllers, USB keyboards , Effect units are used aggressively by the upper echelons of the electronic music fraternity. The boundaries are limitless and are a marker for things to come in the near future.

Minilogue demonstrate the jaw-dropping capabilities of a Live-Set

And there you have it!

The weapons on a Modern Day DJ simplified. If you are planning on joining the band-wagon anytime soon, choose wisely!

By Clubbers