The Hessle Audio co-founder takes time to think about how to hone your DJing skills. Plus: a note on Juno shipping as normal.
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Taking time during lockdown to get philosophical, Ben UFO has shared some advice for aspiring DJs. Ben is a committed vinyl collector, but also open-minded about digital DJ technology, regularly playing on Pioneer CDJs.
Recent time spent with the latest Pioneer kit pushed him to think about the best ways to learn to DJ, with his main piece of advice being to “cover up the BPM readers and learn to mix by ear”.
ive been borrowing some new pioneer stuff for the past couple of weeks, and it’s made me think about DJ tech and how i would approach teaching the skills that i feel like ive acquired over the last 15 years or so, but with access to all the new stuff that’s available now
— Ben UFO (@BenUFO) May 12, 2020
You can read his thoughts in full below:
it might sound basic, but i still think that one of the best things you can do if you’re learning to DJ is to cover up the BPM readers and learn to mix by ear. there are a few reasons for this, and none of them are about authenticity or elitism, or what equipment you’ve decided to start using
most newer DJing technology has been designed to streamline the experience of playing music, but technology will always let you down occasionally, whether it’s down to a flaw in the tech itself or errors you’ve made in preparation to use that tech. if you’re too reliant on it working perfectly, then you won’t be able to correct errors by ear when they do happen. if you can learn to mix by ear, you’ll end up with a more intuitive understanding of why a blend might be working, or why it might not be despite the BPMs matching
two tracks can be mathematically in time with each other, but can sound like carnage if the rhythmic emphasis across those tracks is very different. if you’ve learnt to mix by ear you’ll eventually be better equipped to think about what songs will fit together effortlessly and which will require a heavier handed approach in the mix. or, if you’ve decided that car crashes and heavy clangs are key to your aesthetic, you’ll be able to implement them with intention!
if you can mix by ear, you also don’t have to do as much tedious laptop admin preparing your set. you don’t need to sit in rekordbox or serato for as long. you’ll be able to trust yourself to improvise and you’ll feel more relaxed in the club itself as a result
it’s hard to articulate this kind of thing without sounding like a hippie, and this is mostly just a personal observation – but a big part of what’s kept me engaged with this for so many years is that when im really enjoying a set, i can get into some kind of flow state through playing the music. when i can get to that state, i feel at one with the ~~vibezzz~. it’s effortless and it feels like i’m inside the music. but if i’m overwhelmingly focused on the functionality of the CDJs and on stuff ive prepped in rekordbox, it’s harder to get to that place, and it can feel more like just another numbing screen-based activity – and crucially, that makes the end result *sound different*