By Stu Chisholm, “The Complete Disc Jockey”
In a Facebook group where I am an active member, there was recently a weeks-long argument about whether or not DJs who use the “synch” function of DJ software to mix beat-on-beat qualify as “real DJs.”
As you can imagine, the old school DJs who had to practice long and hard to do what can now be done with technology felt that they deserved higher status, whereas the synch fans thought that the result – a satisfied client and full dance floor – is all that matters.
(Note: they’re BOTH right, but I’ll get back to that in a moment.)
Will the “Real” DJ Please Stand Up
As the conversation played out in its predictable fashion, I was reminded of past debates about whether or not you can call a DJ who never owned a turntable a “real DJ.”
The same was asked about DJs who don’t use BPMs or beat mix at all. And what of the DJs who didn’t know the year of release and chart position of all the songs ever played?
All of these discussions about techniques and tool in our trade made me think about analogies in other industries.
For example, when automatic transmissions first appeared in automobiles, it was a very long time before they found their way into any type of professional race cars. When computers became household items, affordable digital cameras came along and programs like Adobe PhotoShop arrived, the days of darkrooms, enlargers and smelly chemicals seemed to vanish overnight.
Drivers still drove and photographers still snapped their photos, and I suppose some of them argued whether or not those who did things the new way were “real,” too.
For the rest of us, though, it’s the results that matter. It’s who won the race, not what they drove; it’s the quality of the shot, not the equipment used to capture it.
Here’s What Really Matters
This is why the synch fans are right; it’s the quality of the performance and happy revelers that matter.
This is also why the old school DJs are right; the new technology was developed to emulate what they originated, and there’s much more to it than simply lining-up a couple of phrases of a song!
Knowing what’s behind the technique, even if you’ve never done it yourself, is invaluable if you want to avoid a “train wreck” of a mix.
The correct songs still must be chosen, the BPM must be within a certain range, the mix must take place in either a rhythm break or the harmonic keys must match or the mix will be “sour,” and so on. Beat matching is but one of many skills that a DJ can bring to bear to achieve his/her goals.
Don’t Fight the Inevitable
People today are doing much the same things as they’ve always done throughout history. What changes is that technology allows us to do them in different, more efficient and effective ways.
It is pointless to fight the inevitable change that technology brings. It is also wise to know what led to that bit of innovation to use it most effectively as well as to have a “Plan B” should it fail.
Know your past, embrace the future, and save the slams for the basketball court!