Temecula’s Best DJ’s… DJ Corner
•••►Temecula’s Best DJ “Welcome Video”◄•••
Examples: #1 #2 #3 #4 #5 #6 #7 #8
How to hire a DJ • “Airtight Alibi” (original song live with Terminal Romance)
Coming soon: YouTube “DJ Corner” videos!
Including questions answered, “how-to’s,” documentaion, strategies and more!
Email me with any topic requests at: email: firstname.lastname@example.org
This page is the concept of Dennis J. Barela as a result of working within the DJ, Music, Pro Audio, Recording and Entertainment Industries for decades. Our friends and associates have wanted a page to gain knowledge of the DJ industry that is more advanced than many of the resources currently available.
It is recognized there are many organizations such as the A.D.J.A. (American Disc Jockey Association) that are respectable resources within the industry. However, since their teachings and knowledge is mainly focused on the beginner to intermediate DJ, many have requested a forum to address advanced concepts.
This page will be updated regularly and you can feel free to email questions or comments to: email: email@example.com.
►►►Additional past articles and posts:
If I have to see one more ad or post from a DJ claiming to have “passion” I swear that my head is going to implode!
What cables should I buy?
What is “line level” and how is it different from “phono level?”
What is the best way to set up “nearfield monitors” in my studio?
I have recording software that allows me to change the “sample rate.” What’s the difference?
At what level does sound damage hearing?
Is it worth the money to send my out of warranty “modular” amplifier to the manufacturer for service or should I just buy a new amplifier?
Martin or Taylor?
Why are you using plastic cases?
Is there such a thing as using too much studio foam?
Is there a “best way” to power on and off my different components?
I have agreed to provide my sound system to be used as a P.A. for a live band. How much wattage should I use?
A comment on “signal chain.”
Why do you think there are so many corrupt DJs in the marketplace recently?
Just what is a decibel?
My son/daughter is interested in a career in the music industry. Do you have any recommendations?
You mentioned “mastering” music tracks. Aren’t you just making the music louder and adding more bass?
Is there any way to increase or guarantee tips or gratuities?
I was at a recent performance of yours on June ## and I couldn’t hear the father of the bride when he gave a toast. What’s up with that?
What’s up with so many wedding ceremony officiants offering sound systems lately?
Can’t I just rent equipment and have a friend do all of this?
A customer wants to do Karaoke and wants a microphone to sound “fuzzy” like the band “Nine Inch Nails.” How do I do this?
Who’s Microphone is better?
How good or expensive of a sound system should I invest in? How much is too much bass?
How do I transition from an “amateur” or “club DJ” to a wedding DJ?
I have been hearing a “plopping” sound when I use a lot of volume in my mix. What is this?
Is AUTOTUNE the musical equivalent of using SPELLCHECKER? Only in the same sense that driving Autopia at Disneyland qualifies you to pilot a hook & ladder downtown during rush hour!
Why is it that so many bands these days try to put so much bass into their music?
Should a customer hire a DJ who uses iPods?
Provide unique services!
Is any part of your performance or music selections pre-programmed or automated?
Venue Ceremony Sound System Setup
I recently performed DJ services at a venue that I was semi-familiar with. As usual, I arrived very early to allow plenty of time to setup and to address obstacles that may present themselves. So what happened? Something very common; Many venue personnel are paid an hourly wage and many of them arrive at the last moment to assist you and give you critical information and guidance. A recent issue relates to my contract that reads:
“Unless specific instructions for placement location of equipment are not given at least 24 hours in advance of performance by the Purchaser or event coordinator, DJ Service will, on the day of performance, assess the venue, electrical loads, location of and number of guests and dance floor location. DJ Service will then setup where he deems is the best location to deliver performance. If DJ Service is subsequently asked to tear down, reposition and/or relocate equipment an additional fee of $100 per relocation will be assessed by DJ Service payable prior to performance in cash (a receipt will be issued at that time). In addition, DJ Service is not responsible for consequential time delays.”
I had already assessed the ceremony location and found the best, logical place to setup for the ceremony with attaining the best results in mind. About 30 minutes before the wedding a “house coordinator” arrived on site and (you guessed it) told me that I had to move my sound system. I have the clause above within my contract to attempt to avoid problems. Still, even though this is a common incident, I have never had to force a bride or family to pay this fee. This is just another common, irritating part of being a DJ. A bride wants her day to be special and has enough to worry about without stressing over an issue of this nature. So what do you do? You do whatever it takes to exceed the customer’s expectations and to contribute to making the day the bride’s best day of her life.
“Licensed DJ?” Best of luck!
I received a call today from a prospective client who wanted information about a wedding DJ. After about a 5 minute conversation, she stopped me and said, “I don’t want to waste any more of your time. I just spoke to a couple of ‘licensed DJ’s’ who are a little more than half of your cost!” My reply: “You should really consider some different priorities and mathematics if you want a successful wedding DJ. First, there is no such thing as a ‘DJ License,’ second, if your main concern for a successful wedding is a cheap DJ than I wish you the best of luck! <click>” (I hung up on her.)
What the hell are these dirt-bag, “wanna-be” DJ’s saying to these people? There are DJ associations who cater to beginners and part timers (association names withheld for legal reasons [“Ameri-con DJ Association”]) and they inform these corrupt, uneducated, unethical, uninsured, inexperienced “pirate novices” that the wedding industry is lucrative. But, damn, have some scruples and ethics!
“Dedicated DJ Power Source” Just what does that mean to you?
It’s been a while since I have been able to post anything upon this page but I am going to address a topic that seriously needs addressing. I have performed in several venues recently where the manager, coordinator or owner of a facility will come up to me and proudly announce, “This is your dedicated DJ power source!” They commonly have an outlet with a tag, sign or marking that proclaims to the world that this “outlet” has been set aside and dedicated for the sole use by the DJ.
Unfortunately, most of these people do not know the proper definition of a “dedicated outlet.” Just because you do not allow anyone else to plug into the receptacle does not make it dedicated. What I have found lately is that many facilities use extremely long runs of wire throughout their facility to feed lighting, appliances, landscaping devices, water fountains, charging devices, etc. All of these devices create surges and draws upon the electricity within the line as well as noise. What’s worse is that this setup can be critically damaging to pro audio equipment. In fact, I would bet money that the majority of owners, managers and coordinators have absolutely no idea as to how their building is wired and what other electric components are wired along the way upon the same circuit unless they personally have consulted with and paid a licensed, qualified electrical contractor to “pull the wire” and run a “truly dedicated outlet” reserved for DJ purposes.
My personal contract reads the following regarding “dedicated DJ power”: •►”DJ Service requires the unrestricted use of a minimum of one 20-amp circuit outlet per sound system from a reliable power source within 50 feet (along a wall) of the setup area. This circuit must be free of all other connected loads (especially loads from rechargeable vehicles, lighting, landscape lighting, pool and/or spa equipment, microwave ovens, appliances with electric heating elements and coffee makers). Any delay of the performance or damage to DJ Service’s equipment due to improper power is the responsibility of the Purchaser. An additional comparable 20-amp outlet on separate circuit for dance floor lighting (if contracted for) is required.”◄•
When power outlets are “daisy-chained” together with other demanding, power and amperage-hungry devices along the line it can create dangerous amperage readings of well over 130 volts (a typical pro audio device for use in the U.S. is designed to operate between 110 and 120 volts. In addition, these other devices in the power line can create power surges and noise to audio systems as well. Worst case scenario: this type of wiring can destroy sensitive pro audio amplifiers and components.
Please, facility owners, it is important to have a proper “dedicated DJ power source.” To accomplish this, you must run a separate set of cabling (of proper gauge depending upon the length of run [consult a qualified electrician for proper gauge of wire needed]) In my particular contract, I make sure that I am not liable for delays or performance issues due to improper wiring and/or outlets. It is also important to have a completely separate outlet if intelligent dance floor lighting is used as, again, lighting can cause noise along the line that can be problematic for a DJ who is seeking a pristinely clean sound.
I hear stories from DJs and even facility personnel who tell tales of DJ equipment that just stops working for no reason at all (so they think). Many modern pro audio devices now contain circuit breakers that “trip” and shut-down the equipment before catastrophic damage can be inflicted upon the gear. Many DJs have no idea why this happens and they just look perplexed not knowing how to alleviate the problem. Even worse is that an important client can have their event interupted or altogether ruined by these improperly wired outlets.
I personally use Furman “Surge Blocks” which provide surge protection and also help prevent or reduce noise from RFI (radio frequency interference) and EMI (electromagnetic interference). Still, the best piece of equipment that I have at the beginning of my signal chain to address this problem is a Furman “power conditioner.” Aside from better and superior protection from surge, RFI and EMI issues, a Furman power conditioner can take a direct lightning strike and, although the Furman will be destroyed, the equipment will remain undamaged (Please don’t try this at home; this is claimed by the manufacturer). I also like the Furman’s with LED voltage readouts (as compared to a digitally numeric readout [LED/LCD]) so that you can visibly see the power changes and surges in an effort to thwart any impending perils.
Incidentally, these Furman units also have “dimmable rack lights” to be able to make adjustments to your equipment on dark stages.
As you may have realized in reading this post, I highly recommend using Furman Power Conditioners. Of course, to get the full benefit and protection from these units it is important to have them wired at the top of your signal chain.
Topic: First Dance within your timeline.
Whomever (I assume a wedding coordinator) decided that having a bride and groom perform their “first dance” immediately following their “grand entrance” should be given 100 lashes with a wet noodle! This is ridiculous!
How do I properly address a microphone?
Below are images showing the proper way to address (or speak-into) a “hand-held” or “mic-stand-held” microphone. It is also wise to instruct your guests who will use the microphone to do the same. Remember, that it is human nature to not like the sound of your own voice through a sound system so many people who are not accustomed to using microphones usually pull them away from their mouth (increasing the distance between the microphone and your mouth is the wrong thing to do). Let your sound-man regulate the volume.
I have also heard of DJs who use “lapel” or “lavalier” microphones to hide them underneath lapels. How can I say this?: This is a stupid idea! All you are you are accomplishing with this action is to “muffle” and decrease the sound, volume level and degrade the natural intonation coming from the microphone(s). The best practice is to use professional equipment that is in good and cosmetically good condition.
For years photographers have brainwashed couples and DJs into thinking that having microphones in pictures is a bad thing. Horse hockey! Bunny Balls! Hogwash! Horsefeathers! Poppycock! (expletives avoided for journalistic integrity) You are doing your job and your job is to produce the best possible sound. It is like asking your photographer to use a disposable camera. It is the equivalent of requiring a photographer only to use “sunset lighting” in their pictures because it will look the best. The photographer may be good, but I highly doubt that he/she is able to freeze time and in doing so freeze and hold the sun from setting. This is not logistically possible. Tell anyone who wants you to hide microphones (in a professional manner) to beat feet! You are doing your job and are being paid to do so with the greatest results possible.
Please follow these guidelines to avoid audio problems.
How long can I safely listen to loud music?
The graph to the right shows the permissible amounts of exposure time to loud music. Notice that the graph references “slow response.” Slow response is a setting associated with decibel meters that shows more of an “average” spl (sound pressure levels) as opposed to spikes in levels.
Question (from Rob Parker): What do the different classes of pro audio amplifiers mean? (Audio Amplifier Classifications)
The following information was written in the late 1990’s by Dennis A. Bohn and may be referanced on Ranes professional audio referance page in its entirety (assuming the link still works). The Rane site has a large amount of great details and information, I suggest those interested in audio visit and read up. The information for this page may have been updated since it was originally posted such a long time ago.
amplifier classes Audio power amplifiers are classified according to the relationship between the output voltage swing and the input voltage swing, thus it is primarily the design of the output stage that defines each class. Classification is based on the amount of time the output devices operate during one complete cycle of signal swing. This is also defined in terms of output bias current [the amount of current flowing in the output devices with no applied signal]. For discussion purposes (with the exception of class A), assume a simple output stage consisting of two complementary devices (one positive polarity and one negative polarity) — tubes (valves) or any type of transistor (bipolar, MOSFET, JFET, IGFET, IGBT, etc.).
—class A operation is where both devices conduct continuously for the entire cycle of signal swing, or the bias current flows in the output devices at all times. The key ingredient of class A operation is that both devices are always on. There is no condition where one or the other is turned off. Because of this, class A amplifiers in reality are not complementary designs. They are single-ended designs with only one type polarity output devices. They may have “bottom side” transistors but these are operated as fixed current sources, not amplifying devices. Consequently class A is the most inefficient of all power amplifier designs, averaging only around 20% (meaning you draw about 5 times as much power from the source as you deliver to the load!) Thus class A amplifiers are large, heavy and run very hot. All this is due to the amplifier constantly operating at full power. The positive effect of all this is that class A designs are inherently the most linear, with the least amount of distortion. [Much mystique and confusion surrounds the term class A. Many mistakenly think it means circuitry comprised of discrete components (as opposed to integrated circuits). Such is not the case. A great many integrated circuits incorporate class A designs, while just as many discrete component circuits do not use class A designs.]
—class B operation is the opposite of class A. Both output devices are never allowed to be on at the same time, or the bias is set so that current flow in a specific output device is zero when not stimulated with an input signal, i.e., the current in a specific output flows for one half cycle. Thus each output device is on for exactly one half of a complete sinusoidal signal cycle. Due to this operation, class B designs show high efficiency but poor linearity around the crossover region. This is due to the time it takes to turn one device off and the other device on, which translates into extreme crossover distortion. Thus restricting class B designs to power consumption critical applications, e.g., battery operated equipment, such as 2-way radio and other communications audio.
—class AB operation is the intermediate case. Here both devices are allowed to be on at the same time (like in class A), but just barely. The output bias is set so that current flows in a specific output device appreciably more than a half cycle but less than the entire cycle. That is, only a small amount of current is allowed to flow through both devices, unlike the complete load current of class A designs, but enough to keep each device operating so they respond instantly to input voltage demands. Thus the inherent non-linearity of class B designs is eliminated, without the gross inefficiencies of the class A design. It is this combination of good efficiency (around 50%) with excellent linearity that makes class AB the most popular audio amplifier design.
—class AB plus B design involves two pairs of output devices: one pair operates class AB while the other (slave) pair operates class B.
—class C use is restricted to the broadcast industry for radio frequency (RF) transmission. Its operation is characterized by turning on one device at a time for less than one half cycle. In essence, each output device is pulsed-on for some percentage of the half cycle, instead of operating continuously for the entire half cycle. This makes for an extremely efficient design capable of enormous output power. It is the magic of RF tuned circuits (flywheel effect) that overcomes the distortion create d by class C pulsed operation.
—class D operation is switching, hence the term switching power amplifier. Here the output devices are rapidly switched on and off at least twice for each Sampling Theorem. Theoretically since the output devices are either completely on or completely off they do not dissipate any power. If a device is on there is a large amount of current flowing through it, but all the voltage is across the load, so the power dissipated by the device is zero (found by multiplying the voltage across the device [zero] times the current flowing through the device [big], so 0 x big = 0); and when the device is off, the voltage is large, but the current is zero so you get the same answer. Consequently class D operation is theoretically 100% efficient, but this requires zero on-impedance switches with infinitely fast switching times — a product we’re still waiting for; meanwhile designs do exist with true efficiencies approaching 90%.
—class E operation involves amplifiers designed for rectangular input pulses, not sinusoidal audio waveforms. The output load is a tuned circuit, with the output voltage resembling a damped single pulse.
The following terms, while generally agreed upon, are not considered “official” classifications
—class F [If the person from Motorola Communications Division (I believe) who wrote me with all the great input re broadcast amp classes, could write me again. I would appreciate it. I did all the suggested edits, then promptly threw away your suggestions, forgot to save the file, and lost them all! Write me (Dennisb@rane.com). Thanks!]
—class G operation involves changing the power supply voltage from a lower level to a higher level when larger output swings are required. There have been several ways to do this. The simplest involves a single class AB output stage that is connected to two power supply rails by a diode, or a transistor switch. The design is such that for most musical program material, the output stage is connected to the lower supply voltage, and automatically switches to the higher rails for large signal peaks [thus the nickname rail-switcher]. Another approach uses two class AB output stages, each connected to a different power supply voltage, with the magnitude of the input signal determining the signal path. Using two power supplies improves efficiency enough to allow significantly more power for a given size and weight. Class G is becoming common for pro audio designs. [Historical note: Hitachi is credited with pioneering class G designs with their 1977 Dynaharmony HMA 8300 power amplifier.]
—class H operation takes the class G design one step further and actually modulates the higher power supply voltage by the input signal. This allows the power supply to track the audio input and provide just enough voltage for optimum operation of the output devices [thus the nickname rail-tracker]. The efficiency of class H is comparable to class G designs. [Historical note: Soundcraftsmen is credited with pioneering class H designs with their 1977 Vari-proportional MA5002power amplifier.]
Comment: ADJA (American Disc Jockey Association)
It truly pains me to say this (having been a former member) but any DJ service displaying an “ADJA” logo or affiliation should be a red-flag that the DJ in question is a beginner or inexperienced DJ as these type of associations cater to training and networking of beginner DJs. Nothing is worse than seeing DJs from as many as 100s of miles away (based upon their telephone area codes) that advertise as if they were true residents who also display the ADJA logo. Pleased guys, stop being desperate pirates!
Public Speaking = Public Enemy #1
I was listening to a talk radio show the other day and they were commenting on how “public speaking” is the number one fear for the majority of humans in society.
As usual, it got me thinking about work and how so many customers are trying to get low-ball DJs to perform at their event. Any of you reading this post know that you have heard the horror stories of bad emcees who cannot speak well in person.
Consumers, I will say it again: Interview any and all prospective DJs. Listen to them. Watch how they address questions, issues and their presentation. Listen to how they sound when leaving voice-mail messages. Look for bad grammar or a tendency to swear while talking.
BAM! You’re a DJ!
So many brides are asking for a low price quote or a “bid” to DJ at their wedding. I would like to lend a bit more perspective on an often addressed topic:
Picture yourself in a “Guitar Center” (or similar music store). A young man wants to be a shredding sex-God/Rockstar and purchases his first economy guitar and amplifier. BAM! He is now a “guitar player.” (The same can be said about DJs) Well, everyone has to start somewhere. His life is now full of hundreds of thousands of hours in practice, sweat, gigs, persistence and luck. It takes time and effort to perfectly hone whatever industry that you want to be in.
Let me put it in focus: If you want a “really cheap pizza” go to any of the clusters of cheap pizza joints around any college town and you will, for a very small price, get what you have paid for. If you want a “really great pizza” prepare to drive further (or fly) and to spend much more money to enjoy the epitome of pizza excellence.
The same goes for so-called DJs. Many buy their first DJ gear and because there is no governing board, licensing agency or oversight committee, BAM they are a DJ! They work a few gigs and: BAM! Now they are a wedding DJ.
Ladies and gentlemen, if that is what you want for your expensive day’s investment I wish you the best of luck. I now graciously bow-out of any bidding contest when it comes to DJing weddings. Couples need to understand that a DJ interacts more with your guests than any other vendor. They will probably never get near the chef. The florists are long-gone. The pastor left hours ago.
Still, many couples opt for playing a price game. Hopefully this small post will be another chip off of the “wedding DJ iceberg” when it comes to hiring a good wedding DJ. Weddings do not just fall together. There are scores of problems that can and may occur. Most often, it is the DJ who must immediately act, isolate the family and guests while still performing his duties. (Yes, it is OK to envision a circus with a clown spinning plates and never wanting any to fall because that’s pretty much the job and stress level of a DJ at a wedding)
Simply put: Couples, get out of the “bid and quote” mode and focus on the “interview” mode for hiring your DJ. Then, combined with research on the DJs and when you are comfortable that you have found the person that you feel will represent you for your costly soiree, money will take a back-seat to all of your concerns.
Again, think of the overall investment of your wedding day. Do you want a $28,000 (current national statistic) successful wedding or a $28,000 flop and regret wedding?
One last note is to please remember that DJ organizations like the “ADJA,” “NAME” or the “GMEA” are havens for beginner DJs looking to learn a new profession as a DJ. The display of these qualifications means virtually nothing when all is said and done.
How many hours should my party last?
When investing a large sum of money in a “once-in-a-lifetime” event, many people are intrigued with the idea of creating a party so “over the top” and epic that they want their party to last as many hours as they are allowed. In theory, this sounds fun but please take into account the following paragraphs.
Please consider the size of the crowd, the logistics of putting on your event, your location, the weather conditions at your event location, if alcohol will be served and if ”hard alcohol” will be served. I have seen all-day weddings where hard alcohol is poured from the moment the day starts or the weather is hot or there are so many delays that guests just keep drinking and drinking. Having a great time, getting a buzz and celebrating with family and friends is all in good fun but there are distinct differences between “tipsy,’” toasted” and “trashed.” ”Regale” and “regret.” ”Celebration” and “inebriation.” ”All-out,” “black-out” and “pass-out.” ”What did I do last night?” versus “Who did I do last night?” (I think you get the picture)
Hey everyone wants to have a great event, right? Everyone likes to party, right? Consider this; Many times customers will only allow water until a specific point in time, offer only sangria in the beginning of an event or choose to have no hard alcohol altogether in an attempt to help “pace” the alcohol consumption of their guests.
Yes, you want to create the “ultimate party” but if Grandma has to be carried to a taxi, if someone slips, falls and/or passes out, if friends get into fights because of over-indulgence, if a bridesmaid’s biggest memory was that of vomit, your “epic party” could easily turn into an “epic fail.”
In my experience, the optimum amount of time for a wedding ceremony and reception or a private or corporate party is usually 5 hours in length. There is an old saying in the entertainment industry of “Always leave them wanting more!” This is also true with a great event when just half an hour in extra time could be the difference between an “epic party” versus a “tepid party.”
Also, please provide your guests with appetizing, alcohol-absorbing foods so that the chance for hangovers is minimized.
Recent Compliment from a Venue Owner.
The other day I received some extremely humbling words of praise from a local venue owner and manager. He had said, “We recommend you because you make our job easier.” He went on to say that they have such a large staff that the workers often accept kickbacks and incentives paid by immoral DJs to refer their substandard services. However, what he has learned is that what the employees are doing is perpetuating laziness, increasing work demands, creating unnecessary confusion and producing inferior results. He then stated that when he has me on-site as a DJ, I take control of the day, address issues, problems and obstacles and that he (and his staff) therefor do not have to work as hard and things go considerably smoother and are more successful with his events when his customers choose me as their DJ.
On the other side of the coin, since his staff accepts kickbacks from other DJs who do not perform on par with my services, there is more confusion, redundant work and “picking up the slack from others.” He stated that many of these other DJs perform many times at 150% to 200% of what I charge for my services but the covert transactions by employees end up costing him money since he ends up having to employ a large staff to accommodate all of the issues that go unresolved by sub-par DJs.
Yes, to this day I feel it is a injustice to the Bride and Groom, customer, and/or the venue for corrupt DJ companies to pay incentive money to venue staff member for their recommendation. It ends up costing all parties involved more while receiving less in services and passionate performances.
Internet Reviews about DJs
This post is directed not only to DJs but to consumers as well and I will share this post on other blogs for the public at large.
If you just received DJ services and are eager to go out and post the experience upon the internet please try to resist the temptation.
It seems that “consumer review sites” are a modern, information-age phenomenon but are nothing more than propaganda tools for the advertising agencies that post the information. By telling the internet as a whole to “index” or “not index” content (display, record and disseminate for public use or the use of information in search engines) allows reviews to be proliferated upon the internet and across the world. This manipulation can be at the expense to innocent DJs (and any small business) all for the profit of the advertising companies and the small business-people who are held hostage and must allow to be extorted in an effort for their “positive” content (as opposed to negative reviews) to be seen by the public. (Example: Y*elp.com)
The problem lies here: Recently a customer posted a negative comment about my company using an alias upon the internet. (Using aliases upon the internet itself is a serious crime) However, I was able to identify the customers and call them to ask about their experience. It seemed that their view and perception of the services that they received were skewed and inaccurate.
Why? A good DJ or any other vendor (for that matter) is in the job of “isolating” and “indemnifying” the guests of honor, bride and groom and guests. Customers usually never know the real problems and obstacles that arise as they strive to create a polished, professional performance and/or service. The customers ultimately removed the review by their choice but please read on…
In my case, the bride said that her “bridal march” music ended too soon. However, she had asked that the song start 1:30 into the song and then fade out at 3:35 and that she had choreographed it and was familiar with the timing (this is not a problem if there were no challenges or problems to overcome). This is all and good but in reality, it was an unseasonably, extremely hot and humid day and all the vendors were having problems getting the guests seated, guests were arriving late and walking in the path of the bridal party, the flower girls and ring bearers (as usual) were difficult to work with in all of the day’s excitement, The groomsmen missed their cues, etc. Because of the delays I had no choice (when all was said and done) to “loop” the track over again (while issues were being addressed and resolved) and play it back while ultimately fading the song when the bride and groom reached the alter. To the bride, however, this was horrendous even though it was all completely out of my control. (I have personally seen many DJs who would have just given up and left “dead air” for the bride to continue her walk)
From there, her officiant (like most officiants) did not know how to use a microphone properly and, in addition, did not “announce” the couple after the ceremony (leaving no cue for a DJ to play music). As a DJ, it gets tiring attempting to instruct and train numerous novice officiants, vendors, family members and guests at every event when given the usual 3 minutes to do so when these people are completely distracted by all of the day’s commotion.
As a DJ over the years I have assembled furniture, replaced A/C breakers, worked on guests’ vehicles, waited tables, troubleshooted heaters, tended bar, 86′d guests, acted as backup photographer, dealt with wild animals, cleaned up refuse and waste, worked around rain and other weather anomalies, worked with drunken guests, etc. not to mention having to deal with traffic, weather, Mother Nature, other vendors, last-minute schedule changes, alcohol, etc. I have literally assisted customers, bridal parties and guests with: electronics charging, first aid, tampons, sunglasses, sunscreen, insect repellent, clothing stain removers, deodorant, cologne, tools, condoms, rearranged flowers and cakes, provided rope, bungee-cords, safety pins, wardrobe malfunctions, loaned and ore given formal wear, blankets, giving ice and cold drinks for passed out and/or injured attendees, relocating vehicles, jump-starting vehicles, allergy medications, pain medications, loaned extension cords, supplied other vendors with resources that they forgot or didn’t have, re-positioned and/or reinforced numerous gazebos and arches, given directions to guests, released tables, troubleshoot electrical issues, given batteries, allowed for extra services at no charge that were not contracted for or advised of in advance, miles of gaffer tape, performed CPR, tolerated drunks too close to hazardous (literally life-threatening) electrical equipment while otherwise being distracted from doing my job, scores of last-minute changes and spontaneously ad-libbing of events, provided sewing kits, provided Sharpie markers and pens in the hundreds, loaned out my cell phone and other equipment, etc., etc. This list is literally endless.
Please note that I am in no way complaining about my job or duties. This is part of the job. However, before consumers go forth and say bad things about any DJ and their performance you should talk to all the vendors and the guests as well to gain an accurate and proper perspective of the services delivered. I can even remember at the end of the night (at this particular event) that all of the vendors were literally “high-fiving” each other for the great performance and services that were delivered regardless of and in light of the large amount of obstacles. This was being done because the obstacles were numerous but we were all able to provide amazing services when considering the enormous amount of problems that occurred back stage and behind the scenes.
I have literally had women offering sexual favors to play songs that were expressly forbidden by the bride. I have had men threaten me with violence for not playing songs forbidden by the customer. Later these disgruntled guests (who were never a contracted party) may complain about me upon the internet because I refused to play the “Chicken Dance,” an inappropriate song/genre or a song with explicit lyrics that the bride has forbidden. In their eyes, I was the worst DJ in the world when all along I was merely following the directions of the customer. (Oh, sweet alcohol: you capricious two-sided coin! )
A wedding is literally a “Murphy’s Law” event. (Anything that can go wrong will) It is the job of your major vendors to overcome obstacles, weather, traffic, alcohol-fueled guests, catering delays, logistical last-minute changes, be resourceful, adapt, reschedule to adjust for guests’ delays, injuries and other unforeseen issues in an effort to otherwise isolate and protect the persons of honor while still delivering a Hollywood caliber performance so that the bride and groom never know that these problems are occurring behind the scenes. Heck, they have enough to worry about on their wedding day!
As I have told performers many times over the years: no one ever goes to the circus to watch someone sitting in a chair or doing math. They want to see danger; they want you to walk the tightrope. If you are not performing at the very edge of the envelope of your abilities, you are not offering good services and/or providing your customers with what they deserve!
Please, only disseminate negative information upon the internet about any DJ if the service was truly a bad experience without justification.
How to “wrangle” a wedding officiant.
(click to view/read)
OK, I know that many officiants will now think that I am a complete d*** for doing this. Still, it has to be done.
I am tired of officiants arriving 5 minutes before a ceremony and advising me that they need to plug in a musical instrument or need extra microphones, etc. I am also tired of the fact that (in my experience) only about 5% of wedding officiants actually know how to use a microphone properly but the blame always goes to the DJ when an officiant doesn’t use the microphone in the correct manner.
Yet still, the straw that broke the camel’s back was an officiant that I encountered at a recent wedding. I rattled off several tips and instructions for a successful wedding ceremony (as much information as I could give in the 2 minutes that his arrival time granted me), but still, wedding ceremony officiants seem to believe that a microphone is a miraculous, supernatural device that can reach out in any direction, through any distance, at any angle and amplify their voice loudly and clearly. This particular officiant was talking literally 3 feet from the microphone!
The result is that I now have handy, dandy cards that I will pass out to wedding officiants as they breeze through the doorway seconds from the start of a ceremony (see image at right).
As it is, I have to include a disclaimer within my contract that releases me from liability due to anyone’s use or misuse of microphones. What is the world coming to?
Offer Unique Services!
I just performed a wedding this past weekend where the bride wanted to surprise her groom for her bridal march. The groom is a HUGE Rolling Stones fan and the bride asked me to play an acoustic version of “Wild Horses” for her entrance. As usual, I got carried away and recorded this mix in my studio (including a bass track) and also performed an additional live acoustic guitar performance as well. It was fun and a great, emotional surprise for all. Wild Horses
Do you subscribe to a music A&R service to provide your music tracks?
Absolutely not! I use the “20/40″ rule-of-thumb. I used to pay services for new releases but quickly realized that I was paying for a few good tracks, the company’s profit, as well as about 85% “B-Tracks.”
What I quickly learned is to find a reputable music reporting service and purchase all the tracks that reach within the top 20 on the “Billboard Charts.” For my clientele I weekly buy “Top 40″ and “Country” tracks but you may also need to purchase Hip-Hop, Urban, Dance tracks, etc. depending on your clientele.
I want to provide outstanding services to guests and keep them on the dance-floor all night long. If a track can’t make it into the “Top 20″ of the nation’s “Top 40″ tracks then it is trash for all intents and purposes.
If a customer asks specifically for tracks by all means go out and purchase them. They will let you know. Otherwise, don’t waste your money.
Also watch trends with the motion picture industry, YouTube and television.
Update: 5-14-2013. Personally, the programming of music these days is actually ironic. In the days when I was a professional musician I was always told that recording industry A&R reps (artists and repertoire) would give (on average) a “demo tape” an average of about 10 seconds to pique their interests before it made its way into the trash can. Strangely enough, I find myself doing the exact same thing every month. God bless the “edit.”
(Satirical, Ironic Question:) How much is a pound of ground beef?
This is practically the question that the majority of brides are asking when they get prices for DJ services. It is a very unfortunate reality. There is no “DJ license,” “DJ educational accreditation,” “DJ governmental oversight committee,” “DJ licensing exam,” “Department of Justice (DOJ) fingerprinting and background check,” etc. In fact, there is no definition or defining elements that go into the title “DJ.”
When a couple is getting married I often hear people say that, “my friends and family are “party people” and just getting them together will turn into a good time.” Is this seriously what they want? When I set out to perform at a wedding I want to get all attendees to act and react completely different from normal or what is expected. I want them to celebrate beyond anyone’s (including their own) expectations. People’s memories are loaded with fun Saturday nights from their pasts that they know they had but don’t quite remember all the details. I want the event to be THE party of their lifetime: Defining, unique activities and moments forever captured in photos, video and especially permanently etched into their memory as the definitive example of a “party of a lifetime” and “dream come true wedding.”
I utilize the powers to make people cry with emotions that they have repressed for years by, as a DJ, professionally presenting all persons in attendance with the real definition of family, friends and love. I also invoke the powers to get people to laugh, celebrate, dance and break down psychological walls and barriers that they may have built over the years from hurt, disappointment and cynicism I want them to know that this gathering is what life is about and to break down their inhibitions and allow themselves to celebrate life, love, family, friendship, traditions, ethnic and social diversities, respect and optimism for the future. I know that I am doing my job when even the other vendors who often work at weddings get emotional, dance through the rooms as they do their jobs, laugh, cry and take notice of what I am doing. If I do not accomplish this, I am doing my customers and attendees a great injustice.
I just performed a wedding last night and and some of the comments were, “I have never been to a better wedding,” “Unbelievable fun,” “Brilliant work by the DJ,” “This was the wedding to beat all weddings.” Even the owners of the facility said, “This is why we recommend you. We know you will do a great job and reflect on our place of business. However, tonight you were at your best. Thanks!”
Back to the original question: “How much is a pound of ground beef?” Most customers treat DJs as if they are a commodity. This is ridiculous because a commodity is a product that has equal value and with pricing that fluctuates with demand and the economy at any given time like gasoline, wheat, gold, silver, corn, coffee, sugar, etc.
Personally, I have given up responding to customers who are seeking pricing in this way. They have no concept of the importance of a good, experience, qualified, prepared, resourceful, professional DJ. They are on the verge of turning tens of thousands of dollars into a complete failure. Why? Because they are about to spend $30,000 on a day of celebration that they have dreamed of all of their lives and that they want to remember for the remainder of their lives but instead will get disappointment and a loss of their entire investment.
The bride and groom that I worked with last night were a doctor and a NASA scientist. They knew the importance of hiring a qualified professional. I doubt that people ever came to them and asked, “What is the cheapest price for open heart surgery?” or “I am personally going to the international space station and SpaceX said they would do it for $5 million dollars but I want to do it for under $500. Could you help me?”
Question (from potential customer): I just found a DJ service who costs one-third of what you charge. Why should I hire you?
I get this question often. Let me try to put this into perspective: If you had the money to have a pre-weeding trip to take your entire bridal party for a night to see your favorite recording artist perform, what are the chances that you would have a great time? Most people would say that there would be about a 95% success rate. But why is this? It’s because your favorite recording artist has its “label,” public relations representatives, sponsors, management and production companies behind them. There is no way that they would allow for a poor presentation or performance. They will invest large sums of money to assure this. They also have years of experience to see to it that success will be the end result. They will only use the best pro audio equipment and technicians. They cannot fail because their future success depends upon it.
In the DJ business, many consumers shop for the absolute lowest price DJ when they are investing tens of thousands of dollars in the event itself. This is such an insult to yourself, your friends your family and to those providing the dollars to make your event happen.
Most DJs have little to no experience in the industry, They know very little about their equipment. They usually know only volume, bass, mid and treble. These is a vast amount of other knowledge that is needed for a successful DJ event. From how much power, to haw many guests, to the performance environment to the volume levels , to the sound quality and beyond. Most DJs do not know the inter-workings of compression, headroom, sonic maximization, what individual; frequencies do and how they pertain to performances, how frequencies are interpreted by the human ear at different volume levels, how different musical instruments “sit” within the overall “placement” of a mix, etc.
To truly have passion for the music industry you must spend thousands of hours in education, hands-on experience and use and investment in vast amounts of equipment Unfortunately, there are more part-time DJs than full-time DJs. Why do you think this is? It is because they want extra dollars and they know that there are a great deal of people who want only the cheapest price that they can find. They have a truer, more important obligation and passion than the DJ business. Most DJs only have one sound system that some “music store representative” claimed would be adequate to up to thousands of attendees. (This is a ridiculous statement that is relied upon by many naive DJs)
As an example, I carry 5 sound systems with me at all times that can be configured into 12 different ways and sizes depending upon the demands of the venue and the numbers of attendees. I have overly-redundant equipment in cords, hardware, adapters and couplers. I hear often of big-named DJ companies who send their people out with (for example) one set of speaker cords. Ridiculous! If a cord goes out your day is over. I have NEVER been to a facility that doesn’t have unique needs in the way of speaker placement, distance and configuration. I have had venues that need only 10 feet of cabling and others that require hundreds of feet of cabling. To do less that what is necessary for any given event is cheating the customer.
This is unfortunate since the performance, success and interaction with your DJ plays a direct role in how long your guests stay, their level of enjoyment and the overall success of your event.
Once again, I implore all clients to do your research and even if you are not in my area, use websites like mine that are great resources for consumers who want to educate themselves about the industry and who want to know what issues are important and what questions are pertinent to the success of their day. Don’t sell yourself short. Don’t let your day be “just as good as” your friend’s wedding. Make you day the one that will stand out and be in the memory of you family and guests for the rest of their lives. The difference is usually only a couple of hundreds of dollars (the amount you lose by only one or two guests leaving early).
Posted 4.2.2013 “Airtight Alibi” on YouTube (original song performed live with Terminal Romance)
If I have to see one more ad or post from a DJ claiming to have “passion” I swear that my head is going to implode!
• Moving thousands of pounds of pro audio gear thousands of miles across highways, up hills, across lawns, up stairs
• Travelling hundreds of miles just to perform all at your own expense
• Devoting thousands of hours to learn and perfect your talents
• Performing on stage at 110% and literally collapsing at the end with a big smile still on your face
• Giving up financial gain over your art
• Giving up relationships for your art
• Practicing your musical instruments for thousands of hours until your hands and body sweat and bleed
• Investing in redundant pro audio equipment because you never want to let your audience down
• Understanding and educating yourself in the history and theory of music
• The act of actually “paying” for music, instruments, gear, studio time, recording sessions and lessons
• Pouring your emotions, heart, soul, life and relationships into your own songs
• Ignoring stereotypes of your art
• NOT complaining about how heavy or cumbersome equipment is
• Opting for the expensive, heavy, redundant equipment over the cheap and light equipment
Everyone is passionate about music. It is a universal attraction to all humans.
However, music passion IS NOT playing, scratching or dubbing pirated music tracks through discount equipment that other people have spent millions of dollars and hundreds of thousands of hours of blood, sweat and tears to create.
If you want to be artistic or passionate get up off your butt and do what most cannot, will not or refuse to do regardless of difficulty, understanding or financial burden! Push the envelope of your abilities, who you are and what you want with your music. Get YOUR interpretation of music out to the world no matter what!
Topic: (from many) What cables should I buy?
I have been wanting to address this topic for some time now. As I was looking for a nice graphic to add to the website, I searched through Google Images and found nothing that suited. So, I opened up my file with my own pictures that I use for insurance purposes. Problem solved. (This alone is a good topic: keep pictures of your equipment for insurance purposes in case of theft or disaster)
If you go into any of your local pro audio stores and you imply or otherwise divulge that you are a DJ, chances are they are going to try to take advantage of you. They will bombard you with “lifetime guarantee,” “gold plating,” “standard in the industry,” etc. They may even claim that NASA cyborg silkworms braid the shielding with a Kevlar/silk composite for strength and to block alien radio signal transmissions. (Rubbish)
This needs to be said: If you are an average musician or DJ and if the salespeople are trying to sell you that “premium brand” because it’s gold-plated and lifetime guaranteed, I have some swampland in Idaho I’d like to talk to you about. Yes, gold is a great metal for transferring signal and corrosion resistance and, yes, that heavy “monstrous” insulation may be great for insulating against noise.
However (and I say this from experience) it is far more likely that your expensive “boutique cords” will be stolen, get tripped over or kicked-out, have a door closed on them shearing off the insulation, get disconnected wrong (i.e.: by pulling the cable and not the connector) or get the “old hatchet-job” from a drummer’s cymbal falling and becoming a guillotine for your $100 cable, than you actually having the luxury of utilizing its warranty. (I am also pretty sure that there is a “knucklehead out-clause” in the guarantee agreement)
I do own some of these cables but (as with my guitar cable) it is purely for cosmetic, aesthetic purposes and I consider it “pro audio jewelry.”
Gold is not infallible. (Let me say that again:) “Gold is NOT infallible!” In fact, there is a problem in science that usually causes some type of corrosion or reaction with what is know as “dissimilar metals.” That is to say: if you join together aluminum and brass, eventually something is going to come between them. Different metals have different properties and will eventually have some sort of corrosion, oxidation or other catalytic response to each other being in contact.
Aside from gold connectors, the wire, its type, the insulation and more factors also have key elements in the quality, durability and sound quality of a cable. Guitar Player Magazine did an article years back and had determined that after 18′ of cable you begin to get signal loss and noise. This test was meant for Hi-Z guitar cables sending passive signals from an average guitar. But, still, it had an impact on the industry and now 18.5′ guitar cables are very common (they didn’t just pick that random number/length out of the sky).
Another point to mention is that many DJs spend thousands of dollars on thick, fat, gold plated cables when (if you look inside your pro audio components) the same signal is being handled through teeny, tiny little bare wires. Ironic, huh?
If you own a studio and have to deal with “signal noise,” “EMI,” RFI,” “and “noise floor” that is when you invest thousands in premium cabels. Let me give an example: (Again your equipment is only as good as the weakest link in you audio chain) You have this 10 year old cable hanging around the studio and you use it. It’s actually not a bad cable, in fact it’s excellent. The problem is that this old or cheap cable may have [for illustration purposes] +.02db hum somewhere in the 5000Hz range. The problem here is that if you use the same cable for all of your mics and instruments that .02db multipied times 120 channels in a pro audio mix [not uncommon these days] adds up to 2.4db of noise in your final mix at 5000Hz.) This problem can cause hundreds of thousands of dollars in damage of time and talent.
However, with modern cables as a DJ or as a guitarist the noise is negligible and fact is, you probably are getting more noise from somewhere else other than your cable. I do have to say, however, that the lower the frequencies, the more important heavy gauge quality insulated cable is to transfer the signal. (Bass players: that means you!)
There are products that I have mentioned before from “Caig Industries” that are excellent products. They are solvents that clean, flush, lubricate and condition the physical metal to improve their conductivity and thus your signals. Guess what? Surprise: They make one of these products specifically for GOLD! Yes, gold can still have issues with transferring your signal. Many of the top manufacturers in the pro audio and electronics industry use these products but they don’t like to advertise it. They want you to bring your equipment in for service when all that was needed was some cleaning and conditioning of a connection that caused your entire system to fail.
One last note: Whatever cable you choose whether you want “Godzilla Cables,” “Hoser Cables,” “Monotony,” “Living Wires,” (don’t want to get restraining orders for naming names) etc. make sure that you get cables with premium connectors! Recently I tried some cables from a new company that was selling on Amazon.com to see if I would like them. I figured it was a $30 gamble. Well, I lost! The cheap connectors they used were not up to the high standards of tolerances as you find with Neutrik, Switchcraft, etc. The vibrations from my speakers actually wiggled the Speakon connectors out of the ports and disconnected themselves. Instant trash!
Question: (from Brian Rodriguez) What is “line level” and how is it different from “phono level?”
Line level is a term used to denote the strength of an audio signal used to transmit analog sound between audio components such as CD and DVD players, TVs, audio amplifiers, and mixing consoles, and sometimes MP3 players.
In contrast to line level, there are weaker audio signals, such as those from microphones and instrument pickups, and stronger signals, such as those used to drive headphones and loudspeakers. The strength of the various signals does not necessarily correlate with the output voltage of a device; it also depends on the source’s output impedance, or the amount of current available to drive different loads.
Consumer electronic devices concerned with audio (for example Sound cards) often have a connector labeled “line in” and/or “line out”. Line out provides an audio signal output and line in receives a signal input. The line in/out connections on a computer sound card are generally unbalanced, with a TRS connector of 6.35 mm (1/4″), 3.5 mm (1/8″ miniature) or 2.5 mm (3/32″ subminiature). The connections on most other consumer equipment use RCA jacks. In most cases changing the volume setting on the source equipment does not vary the strength of the line out signal.
A line level describes a line’s nominal signal level as a ratio, expressed in decibels, against a standard reference voltage. The nominal level and the reference voltage against which it is expressed depend on the line level being used. While the nominal levels themselves vary, only two reference voltages are common: decibel volts [dBV] for consumer applications, and decibels unloaded [dBu] for professional applications.
The reference voltage for the decibel volt (0 dBV) is 1 VRMS, which is the voltage required to produce 1 milliwatt [mW]; of power across a 1 kilo ohm [kΩ] load. The reference voltage for the decibel unloaded (0 dBu) is the voltage required to produce 1 mW of power across a 600 Ω load (approximately 0.7746 VRMS).
The most common nominal level for consumer audio equipment is −10 dBV, and the most common nominal level for professional equipment is 4 dBu. By convention, nominal levels are always written with an explicit sign symbol. Thus 4 dBu is written as +4 dBu.
Expressed in absolute terms, a signal at −10 dBV is equivalent to a sine wave signal with a peak amplitude of approximately 0.447 volts, or any general signal at 0.316 volts root mean square (VRMS). A signal at +4 dBu is equivalent to a sine wave signal with a peak amplitude of approximately 1.737 volts, or any general signal at approximately 1.228 VRMS.
Peak to peak values are twice the peak values.
When digitized, the number of bits must be assigned to the entire peak to peak range with both negative and positive voltage values. That requires the use of one bit for a sign (+/−) leaving N−1 bits for the data values. Hence a 16 bit (CD standard) only has 15 bits for data which gives 215 (32,768 different values) for both positive and negative voltage values. 24 bits means there are 223 levels (8,388,608 levels) and 32 bits yield 231 (22,147,483,650 levels).
Digitized values run from 0 for zero voltage up to the maximum designed value for the circuit. There is no absolute maximum, and it depends on the circuit design.
Line levels and their nominal voltage levels.
Use Nominal level Nominal level, VRMS Peak Amplitude, VPK
ARD, Germany +6 dBu 1.550 (approximate) 2.192 (approximate)
USA professional audio +4 dBu 1.228 (approximate) 1.737 (approximate)
Consumer audio −10 dBV 0.316 0.447
The line level signal is an alternating current signal, meaning that its voltage varies for example from −2.192 V to +2.192 V. 
Impedance bridging is employed to ensure that very little power is transferred and the line in circuit does not load down the output of the other device. When a line out signal, with its output impedance of around 100 Ω, is connected to a line in with an input impedance of 10 kΩ, most of the voltage appears across the input resistance and almost none of the voltage is dropped across the output. In effect, the output impedance of the source, and the input impedance of the line in form a voltage divider with a shunt element that is large relative to the size of the series element, which ensures that little of the signal is shunted to ground and that current requirements are minimized.
The signal out of line out remains at a constant level, regardless of the current setting of the volume control. You can connect recording equipment to line out and record the signal, without having to listen to it through the device’s speaker, and without the loudness of the recording changing if you change the volume control setting of the device while you are recording.
The impedance is around 100 Ω, the voltage can reach 2 volts peak-to-peak with levels referenced to -10 dBV (300 mV) at 10 kΩ, and frequency response of most modern equipment is advertised as20 Hz – 20 000 Hz (although other factors influence frequency response). This impedance level is much higher than the usual 4 – 8 Ω of a speaker or 32 Ω of headphones, such that a speaker connected to line out essentially short circuits the op-amp. Even if the impedances would match, yielding the theoretical maximum power transfer of 50%, the power supplied through line out is not enough to drive a speaker.
Line in expects the kind of voltage level and impedance that line out provides. You can typically connect the line out connector of one device with the line in of another. However, doing this with a straight cable directly connected to both devices and having both devices on AC power, you may run into a ground loop; although some devices provide isolation by using an opto-isolator, which does not create a physical connection between the devices.
A line input has a high impedance of around 10 kΩ, as is often labeled as “Hi-Z” input (Z being the designator for impedance)..
Line level in traditional signal paths
Acoustic sounds (such as voices or musical instruments) are often recorded with transducers (microphones and pickups) that produce weak electrical signals. These signals must be amplified to line level, where they are more easily manipulated by other devices such as mixing consoles and tape recorders. Such amplification is performed by a device known as a preamplifier or “preamp”. After manipulation at line level, signals are then typically sent to a device known as a power amplifier, where they are amplified to levels that can drive headphones or loudspeakers, which convert the signals back into sounds that can be heard through the air.
Most phonographs also have a low output level and require a preamp; typically, a home stereo amplifier will have a special phono input with a built-in preamp, which is much more sensitive than a line-level input. The phono preamp applies RIAA equalization to the reproduced sound.
Question: (from Joshua Hart) “What is best way to set up “nearfield” monitors in my studio?”
A: Many musicians and professionals working within the Pro Audio industry use speakers known as “near field monitors” that allow accurate monitoring of sound from any recorded or live media. Two speakers are preferred since the human brain is an excellent processor of information analyzing the “environment” that sound is generated from using the two ears that we have evolved with. This post focuses on some of the basics of “nearfield” speaker placement, how, where and why.
(It is my opinion that systems using more than two speakers are just “hype” in the industry since the human body has only two ears and does a great job of assessing environment size, depth, height, reflections, reverberations, location within the environment, etc. of sound. Further, the human brain can isolate sounds mixed with literally hundreds of sources to concentrate just upon one sound. This is a feat that is very difficult to accomplish using man-made devices. As an example: Hook up a good, quality microphone and listen to it through headphones. You will hear that lawnmower, passing cars, your dog, a helicopter, a bird singing, a trash truck, the refrigerator cycling on, the television, your shoes squeaking and kids playing outside. The human brain is able to assimilate all of these stimuli and more and isolate and analyze the sounds. Modern electronic equipment can then duplicate what the human ears and brain can do but at a cost.)
It used to be that studios had huge wall-mounted speakers that required equally large rooms to work properly. Commercial studios are carefully acoustically tweaked. I won’t go into acoustic treatments here, but needless to say a properly tuned room will make any monitor system work much better.
Nearfield monitors are smaller and are designed to be placed closer to the listener. One of the benefits of this is that you’ll hear more of the direct response from the speakers and less of the room. This means that the room doesn’t have to be quite as perfect to get decent results.
Rooms have modes, which are frequencies that resonate particularly strongly in the room as a result of the geometry. Because rooms usually have width, length, and height, they tend to have three modes. As a result of this, it’s a good idea to have each of these modes line up in different spots of the frequency spectrum so that you don’t end up with a huge bulge in one frequency range. This means that you either need to have a room with dimensions that aren’t cube-like or are irregular. It also helps to have the speakers placed such that the speakers aren’t the same distance from any two walls to avoid setting up the same resonance in two dimensions. Symmetry to the left and right if the walls are parallel, however, can help balance the reflections from those walls reaching your ears differently.
Generally you’ll want to have your speakers spaced apart from each other the same distance they’ll be from your ears. Basically it should look like an equilateral triangle. The speakers should be angled roughly along those triangle angles. The “tweeters” should be directly facing your ears as the frequencies that they produce tend to be more “directional” than other frequencies.
It’s a good idea to have some sort of acoustic treatment on the ceiling, behind you, to the left, and to the right in the middle between your listening position and the speakers because this is where sound will bounce from the speakers to your ears.
A good set of speaker stands (or some rubber feet if the speakers are on a desk) can go a really long way in reducing their mechanical coupling with the floor or with your desk. Auralex® makes a great product called MoPADS that work excellent in isolating vibrations to a desk or speaker stand. If the speakers are coupled, they’ll cause the bass to transfer into the room’s materials, causing more annoying resonances. Be aware that even if one of your speakers are placed in a room where the back wall is different from the other (i.e. a corner) you will even notice an increase or decrease in tonal and/or bass response for that speaker thus producing an inaccurate representation of the sound and it’s environment.
Question: (from James Muratone) “I have recording software that allows me to change the sample rate. What is the difference?”
A: This question is asked a lot by DJs, music lovers and recording enthusiasts alike. The “sample rate” (or “sampling rate”) is the number of samples (or pieces of information) per unit of time. The time is usually referenced in “seconds” of time. It must be noted that digital music is only a computer or other digital device’s digital representation of an analog signal or “sound wave.”
All sound creates a sound wave that varies in size depending upon it’s frequency. The more samples you have or assign, the better the representation of the original wave form. I won’t go too far into frequencies at this point but it should also be noted that the more samples you have the greater the demand on your computer to reproduce.
Many times when music files are compressed or converted to another file type they lose a lot of their original fidelity due to the fact that the computer and/or program is “simplifying” the signals involved in the music. This is why many recording enthusiasts and music aficionados will demand only the highest of sampling rates available regardless of the size of memory that the file will occupy on your hard drive or how taxing they can be on your computer RAM (“random-access memory”) to reproduce.
If you look at the diagram to the right, you will see that a higher sampling rate (top picture) is an 880 Hz sine wave sampled at 88.2 kHz which results in a much better representation of the original sound wave. Compare this to the bottom picture which is the same sine wave sampled at 44.1 kHz. Remember that at it’s core, the information that a computer recognizes are “on” and “off” signals. This is why you notice abrupt angles involved in the representation of the original sound wave.
When converting files, many times your program will offer the choice of “variable bitrate” (VBR) or “constant bitrate” (CBR). Some recording software will even allow you to choose the actual bitrate (CBR) that you record at (again at the cost of space). VBR allows the program you are using to choose the bitrate that is most advantageous to achieve high fidelity while keeping the file size down. The advantage of using a VBR is that it produces a higher quality-to-space ratio as compared to CBR.
The most popular file format for the past decade or so has been “mp3″ files. These files do a pretty good job even when offering a VBR to produce high fidelity files while maximizing your file space. Microsoft tried to get in on the action by developing the file technology known as “wma” but the file type has never really become as popular as Microsoft would have liked.
Question: (from various) “At what level does sound damage hearing?”
A: Every day we experience sound in our environment such as the sounds from television and radio, household appliances and traffic. Normally, we hear these sounds at safe levels that do not affect our hearing. However, when we are exposed to harmful noise (sounds that are too loud or loud sounds that last a long time) sensitive structures in our inner ear can be damaged, causing noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL). These sensitive structures called “hair cells” are small sensory cells that convert sound energy into electrical signals that travel to the brain. Once damaged, our hair cells cannot grow back. NIHL can be caused by a one-time exposure to an intense “impulse” sound, such as an explosion, or by continuous exposure to loud sounds over an extended period of time such as noise generated in a woodworking shop.
It should be noted that long or repeated exposure to sounds at or above 85 decibels can cause hearing loss. Let me expand upon what a “decibel” is and how music compares to other sounds.
Many times an event facility owner will come out with a “decibel meter” or start talking about decibel levels and local ordinances. It may be surprising to some that many common sounds that we as humans are subjected to on a daily basis are actually LOUDER than most DJ rigs.
Editor’s note: It is again my humble opinion to mention that much of today’s popular music is specifically designed to irritate anyone over the age of 25 with exaggerated bass frequencies that do not occur naturally in life. (Sorry, irritating adults is an age old tradition that will never cease) A good DJ or pro audio “sound man” will take this into consideration and compress and/or attenuate these frequencies depending upon the age of the audience and/or local ordinance.
The decibel (abbreviated dB) is the unit used to measure how loud a sound is. The decibel scale is a little odd because the human ear is incredibly sensitive. Your ears can hear everything from your fingertip brushing lightly over your skin to a loud jet engine. In terms of power, the sound of the jet engine is about 1,000,000,000,000 times more powerful than the smallest sound that your ears can just barely hear. That’s a big difference!
On the decibel scale, the smallest audible sound (near total silence) is 0 dB. A sound 10 times more powerful is 10 dB. A sound 100 times more powerful than near total silence is 20 dB. A sound 1,000 times more powerful than near total silence is 30 dB.
Here are some common sounds (including my personal pet peeve: “the dreaded leaf blower”) and their decibel levels:
50 dB Refrigerator
50 – 75 dB Washing machine 50 – 75 dB Air conditioner
50 – 80 dB Eelectric shaver
55 – 70 dB Dishwasher
60 – 85 dB Vacuum cleaner
60 – 95 dB Hair dryer
65 – 80 dB Alarm clock
70 – 115 dB Leaf blowers
75 – 85 dB Flush toilet
80 dB Ringing telephone
110 dB Baby crying
90 – 115 dB Subway
120 dB Ambulance siren
130 dB Jackhammer, power drill
130 dB Percussion section at symphony
140 dB Airplane taking off
95 – 110 dB Motorcycle
110 dB Symphony concert
110 dB Car horn
110 -120 dB Rock concert
112 dB CD player on high
117 dB Football game (stadium)
150 dB Firecracker
157 dB Balloon pop
162 dB Fireworks (at 3 feet)
163 dB Rifle
166 dB Handgun
170 dB Shotgun
Question: (from Gil Leslie) “Is it worth the money to send my out of warranty “modular” amplifier to the manufacturer for service or should I just buy a new amplifier?”
A: You bring up a great point. Many of today’s amplifiers are “modular” in design. What this means is that servicing and repair is easier and less expensive for the manufacturer and the consumer because different components are “plug and play” and easily replaceable. This concept is more along the line of Henry Ford’s idea of assembling a product (in his case, cars) that can easily be manufactured and repaired by having “like parts” that are easy to swap in and out.
The only problem is that amplifiers (like automobiles) these days are much more complicated. They have lots of computer chips, sensors and data gathering gizmos in them that transfer huge amounts of data to computers and other componentry. With “modular” designs this data can get lost with detachable plugs over time. Why? Because oxidation can wreak havoc with these connections that plug in and out. Even systems using gold plating of the metals can become the victim of oxidation over time.
My recommendation: If you are “mechanically inclined” I recommend that you (always unplug any electronic devices prior to attempting disassembly) disassemble the casing of the unit and locate all plug-in type connectors. Unplug the connectors and apply a product made by “Caig” called “Deoxit” for most common contact metals and “ProGold” for gold connectors. It is a product that not only cleans the connection but actually improves the “conductivity” of the metal allowing for more voltage and/or data to transfer through the connections. After applying this product wait about 10 minutes for all of the solvents to dry. Then reassemble the unit making sure that all connectors are re-connected and try it out.
I have known many people to find that this remedy can be a life saver in that you may revive that old amplifier and very well may save yourself a few hundred dollars in the process.
Please let me know how this works out.
Question: (O.K. I’ve been asked this question often:) Am I a “Martin man” or a “Taylor man?”
A: Some things need to remain confidential.
Question: (From an “unknown DJ” who performed at Falkner Winery) ”Why are you using plastic cases?”
A: While cleaning up this past weekend I was approached by a DJ who performed right next door. Like other encounters that I have had in the past he asked (in a laughing voice), “Why are you using plastic cases?” (as he was proud of his own anvil-style flight cases)
It never ceases to amaze me how little the majority of DJs know about the pro audio industry. I do not use “plastic” cases. Most cases that I use are manufactured by SKB or Pelican. These cases are made of composite materials and were originally developed by the U.S. military and currently used today in the armed forces, police and rescue services because of their superior design.
Even though they may be more expensive they are lighter, more durable, secure, water-tight (can actually be used as flotation devices) and protect equipment better. Since most of my equipment can be heavy almost all of these cases are on wheels as well. Most importantly, they are lifetime guaranteed. This is important for equipment that has to endure the punishment of the road. I have never had a problem with warranty issues from these manufacturers as they have always stood behind their products.
My advice for the serious DJs out there: Choose quality, professional equipment if you are serious about your profession and want to protect your investment.
Question: (From Brian Nunez) “I am building a new studio. Is there such a thing as using too much studio foam?”
A: Thanks for asking. Yes, you can actually install too much studio foam. “Studio foam” or other types of sound insulation are used to stop sound waves from bouncing around a room. They are also known a “diffusers” because they stop the repeated bouncing around of sound waves within a “space.”
Think about it: If you blindfold yourself and someone walks you outside your brain knows that from the lack of sound waves bouncing around (and from the sounds of nature) that you are outdoors. If someone then leads you into a bathroom you can tell that as well when you start talking because there is a lack of sound-absorbing material in bathrooms. In fact, many of the tiles, floors, counters, mirrors, glass, fiberglass, etc. actually encourages the sound waves to bounce back and forth more than usual. The sound waves are “reverberating.”
The brain can also tell if you are in a large room verses a small room as well. Over years your brain has taken notes as to what different rooms and areas sound like. Once again, the brain is an amazing tool for interpreting space.
If you use too much sound absorbing materials in a studio you can create an “anechoic chamber.” These chambers are commonly used in manufacturing of products to assess how products “naturally” sound or are affected by sound. They are used for speakers, automobiles, tools, appliances, etc.
When you walk into an anechoic chamber most people who are not accustomed to them instantly get an uneasy feeling. This is because their brain is not receiving any type of information or feedback about the “space” that you are in and it becomes human nature that your body releases adrenaline and gets into a defensive mode because it is not familiar with this environment and is having problems assessing what you are encountering.
Remember that sound waves are very similar to ripples in a pool in that they bounce off walls in various directions and some sound waves get absorbed by other materials and furniture within the room. You want a studio to “sound” like a room but you also do not want this effect to be exaggerated. This happens with parallel walls, corners and materials that do not absorb sound waves (again, like in a bathroom). Corners especially are known for accumulating and exaggerating low end frequencies. If you want to hear “true” sound from your studio monitors, care must be taken in corners.
There are various sound absorption devices specifically made for corners. These devices are commonly known as “LENRD’s” or “low end node reduction devices.” Lots of low end may be what consumers want these days but if you are needing to judge your mixes you need accuracy and not exaggeration. To the right is an example of some of these devices. If a sound engineer or producer adds too much bass trying to “amaze” the listener without listening to the mix in a good studio, the result is a mix that sounds like mud.
It should also be noted that some “studio monitor” manufacturers have even designed monitors that can “listen to” and asses the room and make adjustments as necessary to achieve a “natural sound.” The more we learn about the amazing devices our ears and brain are the better we can create great studio products thus making better audio recordings.
Question: (From Alex Grabowski) “I recently had a problem with a power outage that caused a loud noise in my system when everything was powered back on. Is there a “best way” to power on and off my different components?”
A: Any time you have a power outage with any pro audio equipment it is crucial that you immediately make a dive for your power strip and/or power conditioner to switch it to the off position. Why? Because more times than not, someone who “tripped” the circuit or accidentally unplugged your power supply will most likely reset the circuit or plug back in the power very quickly in an effort to avoid looking like the dork they are. The problem with this is that your equipment can sustain very high input signals from equipment still being turned up thus causing damage to amplifiers and/or speakers.
This even brings up another point: It is very important to always have a stage flashlight on hand for such problems. Many manufacturers like Surefire, Maglight and others produce good flashlights that you can have on your belt at any given time for problem solving. Dark stages are part of the business so a professional should always be prepared. These manufacturers even have small yet powerful models that can be worn with stage clothing or formal wear.
This brings up another issue: It is very important to “maximize” your signal going into your amplifier to reduce stress on the amplifier, lower noise and prolong the life of your amp. To do this you must be familiar with your “signal chain.” A signal chain is the music signal that passes from component to component to amplifier. It is important that the volume be maximized just to the threshold of distortion. Usually, this is at approximately 70% to 80% of volume. Many pro audio devices will show this as a “0″ reading or a nominal level. Although distortion is not much of an issue with digital devices (like computers) it is important to note that many digital and analog devices are able to increase the signal to make up for signal loss in other areas of the signal chain. (Many digital components can be set at 100%)
Another point to make is that consumer audio has an output of -10db while pro audio equipment will have an output of +4db. This is why you should always try to avoid mixing consumer and pro audio equipment since the “makeup gain” required may force you to induce some distortion and/or noise in the process. If you have properly optimized your signal, you should only have to minimally increase the output at the end of your signal chain.
Amplifiers, however, most commonly use an “attenuator” for volume adjustments. What this means is that when on “0″ (completely counter-clockwise) the amplifier will infinitely reject any signals coming in. As you turn up the attenuator it allows more and more signal to be introduced into the amplifier’s input circuitry thus creating volume. It should be noted that attenuators allow the amplifier to achieve maximum output almost regardless of where they are turned to depending upon the strength of the input signal. A big mistake that I see with DJs is that they turn the attenuators all the way up an then adjust the volume from other components (like their mixer). This is the wrong thing to do since the amplifier will then produce much more noise, heat, distortion (not to mention shortening the amplifier’s life) and be susceptible to damage from uncontrolled signals or someone turning the AC power back on (or plugging back in your AC power) before you can shut down your equipment.
When it comes to a signal chain there definitely is a correct way to turn components on and off. Generally you “power on” your signal chain from the top down and you “power off” the components from the bottom up.
What this means is “power up” your computer, mixer then your components (equalizers, compressors, sonic maximizers, effects processors, crossovers, etc.) followed last by your power amplifier. This lessens the chance of damage to your equipment caused by a stray signal.
To “power off” always turn your amplifier off first then power off your components, mixer and computer in the reverse order. Again, this lessens the chance of causing damage to your amplifiers and/or speakers.
Question: (From Derek Overton) ”I am usually a DJ but I have also agreed to provide my sound system to be used as a P.A. for a live band and I want to have enough power for the vocalists but I want to make sure that I have enough power. How much wattage should I use?”
A: When determining the amount of power needed to be heard above a live band the general rule of thumb is to have ten times the power of your lead guitarist. This is usually about 1000 watts RMS minimum since most stage guitar amplifiers are about 100 watts. This amount of power assures that you will have the necessary amount of headroom to get the job done without worrying about feedback. It’s also recommended to use a compressor on the vocals so that you don’t have spikes in the signal which can also contribute to feedback.
Why use this method? Since the lead guitar and the vocals are fighting to be brought to the front of the mix and share many of the same mid-range frequencies, it is important to use this math as a rule of thumb. (Note: So what all competes with these midrange frequencies? Vocals, guitar and the “crack” or “snap” of the snare drum)
Many times bass players will use considerably more wattage than guitarists but you should not worry about the bass player because:
a) It takes more power to reproduce electric bass frequencies.
b) Bass guitar frequencies usually do not compete with the same frequencies as vocals so the vocals should still be prevalent and centered in your mix.
Follow-up email & Q: “What kind of reverb should I use on the kick drum?”
A: You almost never use any kind of reverb on the kick drum since it tends to “mud-up” the mix and contributes to a sloppy “tempo” or what musicians call “the pocket.” The surrounding room or outdoor areas should contribute enough “life” to the sound of the kick drum naturally while keeping the mix “tight.” Still, unless you are performing sound reinforcement services for a concert setting and all instruments are mic’d, there should be no reason to mic or amplify the kick drum as long as it’s a professional drum kit.
Please guys, I cannot say it enough about how important your signal chain is. I could really get into discussing exactly what a “signal chain” is but what it boils down to is that your sound is only as good as your worst piece of equipment. Whether that be your extension cords, power strip, power conditioner, audio card (not a “sound” card!), components, amplifiers, speaker and signal cables and speakers, etc.
Please be a professional and invest in quality “pro audio” equipment that will keep your signal chain pristine!
Question: (From Kevin Vasquez) Why do you think there are so many corrupt DJs in the marketplace recently?
A: The corruption of the economy and even my industry sickens and baffles me. I perform for more weddings than any other type of event.
Still, the first person the bride & groom encounter is the “wedding coordinator” and/or the “event facility manager.” I only wish that customers understood better since these vendors know they are not going to get “repeat business” for weddings (usually). They will try to get low-ball vendors or even recommend “house DJs” or “recommended DJs” that are either paying referral fees or who are getting paid extremely small amounts for their work (usually because they are not worth the price). If a coordinator or manager can free-up cash to divert sales to themselves, be all means they will. Meanwhile the bride and groom get poor DJ services.
When customers do web searches it is uncanny that I am always told that the one thing that people say NOT to “cut-corners” on is your DJ. Still, they end up getting convinced by others to use funds elsewhere.
A good DJ’s music and performance can open up otherwise timid guests in a social situation. Think about it: If just one or two guests leave early because they cannot relate to what the DJ is doing you are losing hundreds of dollars. If a dozen leave you have lost thousands. You are also losing precious memories that will never be created or recovered.
Many times brides will splurge on their facility because it makes an impression on the guests. They will also pay extra for a photographer because they will capture and retain memories from the night. Yet a DJ can give a good or bad impression from the way they dress, act, speak, conduct business, interact with guests and perform. A DJ also creates many of the moments that a photographer captures and is a true “coordinator” in the way they emcee and organize the activities. Remember: with weather, traffic, guests, personality interactions, alcohol, vendors and fate you cannot be in denial and must accept the fact that things WILL go wrong. It is the job of a good DJ (and your other major vendors) to be able to assess, negotiate and troubleshoot the problems so that they are never realized by your guests.
A good DJ can break-down guests’ inhibitions and get them to socially participate and interact in ways that a manicured lawn, fold of a napkin or flash of a camera cannot. Many consumers think that there will be nothing tangible to take with them from the DJ. Nonsense! My company provides copies of “keepsake wedding CDs” that include ceremony seating music, ceremony music, introduction edits and music, activity music edits and music plus more. My customers get to keep those memories that they helped to plan out. And just like you can remember emotions, smells, tastes, sights and sounds from your childhood when you hear certain songs, that’s what will happen when you hear that music again. In fact, a good DJ will “instill” new memories upon all of your guests in this same way with music that will last a lifetime!
I even hear from some people that “My guests won’t need motivating” or “This is a party crowd.” In reality, you don’t want your guests and family to act predictable. You want to tear down the social and psychological barriers so that they act and interact in different and enhanced ways than what you are accustomed to. This will truly create memories and a once-in-a-lifetime event.
I can’t count how many times multi-million dollar facilities and DJ brokers have asked me to submit a “bid” for DJ services. Obviously, they want the lowest bidder so that their profit margin will increase. Many DJs out there are working themselves to the bone in order to earn a living yet providing bad service.
In this industry there are so many DJs touting that they belong to organizations like the Amer DJ Asso (for example). (Name expressed cryptically on purpose) It was Groucho Marx who once said, “I refuse to join any club that would have me as a member!” That says so much! These organizations cater to beginners! In other words, these DJs cannot get hired upon their own merits so they join these clubs to learn and network while the organizations profit (although many times masquerading as “non-profit” entities).
How many people really call 1-800-Dental? (Name expressed cryptically on purpose) Do you want a dentist who otherwise does not have impressive skills and qualifications so they are forced to join an organization that is obviously getting referral fees? And who do you think ultimately pays the price? The consumer!. What about the Bureau for Better Businesses? (Name expressed cryptically on purpose) ABC’s 20/20 recently did a story about them where they will give anyone a positive rating for a price! (They managed to get a well-known, middle-east terrorist organization to get an “A- rating”)
The fact is that there are so many ways to be able to deceive customers in the DJ business. The most common is the equipment. Most DJs claim that they have sound systems that can handle crowds of 250 guests or more. Usually this is a flat-out fabrication! Quality, professional audio equipment costs serious money but also requires upkeep, resources, skills, knowledge and man-power. For most consumers the data is too confusing to try to decipher to see if the DJ company is actually being truthful about their abilities.
Other ways that “budget DJs” can cut prices is by not having quality equipment, backup equipment, insurance, legally obtained music, etc. They often cut corners on their attire, their business practices or even sub-contract DJs to the lowest bidding subcontractor. A professional has many business expenses and devotes many hours to your event. An example of an old worksheet that I gave to customer some 10 years ago looks like this:
Expense Notes – $ Hrs
1) Advertising, management, customer development, web administration. Thousands per year
2) Stationery Thousands per year
3) Telephone calls (labor; before, during & after) varies 1.25
4) Telephone expenses $5.35
5) Media kits & brochures $9.20
6) Postage $3.78
7) Consultation appointment (time including travel) 4.5
a. Gasoline 4 gallons @ $4.99=$19.96
b. Travel & expenses Meals, lodging, misc. auto expenses
8) File building, office Copies, forms, contracts, lists, checklists, conversation logs, misc. 3.25
9) Process deposit .5
10) Process contract .5
11) Endorse and forward contracts to customer .25
12) Compile music requests & lists 1.75
13) Organize music requests & lists Music tracks must be coded, numbered & referenced for locating 2.25
14) Locate special requests music (retail) Web, shopping, download services, & archives- Avg: $8.99+ tx .75
15) Obtain & purchase music (internet downloads) Average: 18 tracks per customer @ .89 per track= $16.02 1.25
16) Custom CDs, edits (music, labor, supplies, CD burning) Average: $15.50 5.0
17) Rehearse playing order of music selections 1.25
18) Custom CDs (creation, editing, labeling, burning) Blank CDs, labels, etc. .75
19) Dry cleaning & laundry expenses $8.50 (not including time & gas) .75
20) Clothing (3+ clothing changes per event) (ongoing)
21) Last min. calls for details, concerns & bal. due (not including telephone expenses) .5
22) Travel expenses to event 1.5
a. Gasoline 4 gallons @ $4.99=$19.96
b. Travel & expenses Meals, lodging, misc. auto expenses
23) Set-up at location 2.25
24) ***** Performance Time ***** (including arrival music) 4.5
25) Consumables (CDs, gaffer tape, batteries, bulbs, office supplies, etc) $10.00
26) Tear-down at location 1.25
27) Travel expenses (return to base) 1.5
a. Gasoline 4 gallons @ $4.99=$19.96
b. Travel & expenses Meals, lodging, misc. auto expenses
28) Process final payment .5
29) Inventory and check equipment .75
30) Commercial Insurances (liability; professional) $440 per year (yearly expenses¸50 wks=8.80)
31) Professional organization affiliations $365 per year (yearly expenses¸50 wks7.30)
32) Continuing education varies
33) Website related expenses Thousands per year
34) Equipment maintenance varies ($30-40k of equipment per event* ) 1.5
35) Equipment purchases varies ($30-40k of equipment per event* )
36) Equipment repairs varies ($30-40k of equipment per event* ) .5
37) Documentation expenses varies
38) Business licenses and (auto) insurance $2025.00/yr ¸ 50 weeks = 40.50
Totals: (not including business location) $193.82 + 39+Hrs.
…and things haven’t changed much business-wise. A legitimate company spends hundreds of dollars just to prepare, advertise and perform. Still, many customers get insulted when you will not do a job for $200. If that’s what you want, check your local high school because that’s just about the quality of service that you will receive.
All too often I see people who pinch pennies on their DJ because they think that anyone can do it. Once again, there are no “do-overs.” Any person can program a computer or automate another piece of machinery based upon statistics or information gathered upon the internet but only a human being (and a professional at that) can assess and read a crowd and take the necessary steps to making your event better than it could ever have been imagined otherwise.
Many times I think I write these types of articles just to “blow off steam” from my own frustrations of seeing consumers being duped by unethical DJs but it is truly my sincere hope that the industry can ultimately be changed for the better with consumer education.
The bottom line: Research. Ask questions. Investigate. Hire smart.
Best of luck to you!
Question: (From Devon Wong) Like many DJs, I am occasionally told that I am too loud. Just what is a decibel?
A: Many years ago, early acousticians came up with a simple method of comparing two sounds. A sound that was perceived to be twice as loud as another was said to be one “Bel” greater in sound level. The Bel was used as a unit of comparison and is not a unit of measure. Its namesake, Alexander Graham Bell, was a pioneer in the science of audiology (the study of human hearing). It soon became apparent that this unit of comparison was not very useful in describing the difference between similar sounds (especially by today’s standards with so many unnatural sounds that are created by technology, science and music). A small unit of comparison, the “Decibel” was established. One decibel (1 dB) is one-tenth of a Bel. Since a decibel is one-tenth of a Bel, then 10 decibels (10 dB) would equal one Bel. In other words, a sound that is twice as loud as another sound could be described as being 10 decibels (10 dB) louder. By definition, one decibel (1 dB) represents the smallest change in volume a human ear can perceive. The average ear, however, can only detect a 3 dB change.
Question: (From: many, various) My son/daughter is interested in a career in the music industry. Do you have any recommendations?
A: I am often asked this question and will probably delve into the topic further as time goes on since it can be a confusing topic.
First and foremost: The music industry can be very attractive to many individuals. However, it can literally chew you up and spit you out. A “true musician” is born with their brain wired for music. When it is right, it is right and there is no reprogramming the brain to not think in the terms of a musician. Still, the vast majority of those in the industry do not have “what it takes” and are usually chasing the dream or the desire for fame. The industry not only wants the natural gift of musicianship but the marketability of the individuals outward looks and physical attraction. It’s sad to say but true. If you have torturously exposed yourself to television programs such as “American Idol” or “X-Factor” you will see that the vast majority of people attempting to enter the industry do not have what it takes.
Unfortunately, many of these individuals continue to attempt to enter the industry as they are “masking” or avoiding the “talent handicaps” that they possess. Again, it is a gift to be able to understand and manipulate tempo, verse and music. It is math that your brain is literally juggling creatively. Many people go through life never fully understanding their language, tempo, upbeats, triplets, backbeats, harmonics, timbres, etc. or cannot engage in the cerebral “multitasking” that is needed to write, author, play and/or conduct music. Many may also not possess the dexterity involved in playing the musical instrument of their choice or not able to use their voice as a vocalist either from lack of learning through repetition and practice or because their many mechanisms that make up hearing and brain functions cannot translate what they are attempting to interpret and manipulate.
That being said, many times the industry seeks out unique singing voices with unique characteristics. Very often if you hear your favorite vocalist talk in every day conversation (if you have a keen ear) you can hear very unique and sometimes quirky aspects to the tonal characteristics of their speech. This can translate into a unique and attractive singing vocal quality.
Probably the best advice that I can give is that I highly recommend getting assessed and trained/instructed by qualified academic educators. Many musicians who do not themselves possess the necessary equations of talent and inherent gifts spend their lives “masking” their shortcomings. If you are assessed or instructed by these individuals, they are merely passing on their handicaps and misconceptions of music or it’s understanding.
Again, I look forward to addressing these topics at length more in the future.
Question: (From Trevor Davis) You mentioned “mastering” music tracks. Aren’t you just making the music louder and adding more bass?
A: Absolutely not. The task of “mastering” involves normalizing a music track so that it can be optimized for use with many types of sound systems and broadcast media. There are many very unforgiving sound systems that would have adverse reactions to simple volume or tone adjustments. In fact, most consumer audio uses tone adjustments that are merely “graphic equalization” adjustments. I like to compare this type of adjustment to taking long rope with two people holding it in mid-air. If a third person takes one hand and raise a portion of the rope at any given point with one hand it also impacts the surrounding rope by raising adjoining sections to some degree. This is very analogous to “graphic equalization” or your typical bass, mid and treble adjustments.
(Image at right: These four separate frequency adjustments reflect a 5db change. The first frequencies denoted by the numbers “1 & 2″ demonstrate the effect of typical “tone” control that shows significant impact upon surrounding frequencies. Frequency numbers “3 & 4″ represent “parametric” frequency cut and boost adjustments that minimize the affects upon adjoining frequencies.)
However, “parametric equalization” is able to select narrow sections of frequency and cut or boost them accordingly with minimum impact on the surrounding frequencies. This is crucial since (especially in low frequencies) attempting to make certain frequencies louder can create muddiness, unintelligibility and create a mix that is associated with “listener fatigue.”
Also used in mastering is phase correction and compression used upon certain frequencies as well as many other sophisticated devices, philosophies and strategies that are beyond the scope of this article. A mastering technician also strives to “match” all of the tracks of an album so that they present themselves similarly (tonally & dynamically speaking) to the consumer upon a broad array of playback devices.
Another consideration is how the human ear interprets different frequencies. The thumbnail at right (click to view) shows the “Fletcher-Munson Free Equal Loudness Contours Graph.” This graph outlines how different frequencies throughout the psycho-acoustic (human hearing) spectrum are more or less sensitive upon the human ear and how this phenomenon can change as decibel levels increase. It is important to note that this is how humans are sensitive to certain sounds as all creatures are sensitive to different frequencies in different ways and to different degrees depending upon their survival and biological strategies.
This page has addressed the phenomenon of how “signal chain” can affect the way that your audience perceives music. Remember that many different electronic devices can influence their “fingerprint” on your music that will “colorize” the sound to one degree or another. Even the efficiency or exaggeration of how your speakers, software, cabling, listening (monitoring) environment or electronic components can reproduce and/or handle certain frequencies can have an impact upon how your audience interprets the music.
These explanations are only the tip of the iceberg when explaining or defining “mastering.” Mastering is an art form all it’s own and uses many sophisticated devices to optimize and maximize music and audio tracks using constantly evolving principles, abilities and understanding of the interpretation of sound by humans. It must be acknowledged that this music will be played upon many possible devices that may be used to present them. Also important in mastering is to be able to conserve the original character and artistic content of the tracks while not over or under-accentuating it’s characteristics, expression or feel.
Question: (From Several) Is there any way to increase or guarantee tips or gratuities?
A: Although many people may think that there is a magic recipe for getting gratuities many times the best bet for a possible reward is to always do your job 100% no matter what the circumstances are. Yes, there are sometimes some things that you can do that create an opportunity for the customer to offer a gratuity but when all is said and done, sometimes it just depends upon the customer.
Several times I will conduct what I believe to be a spectacular performance and have (in my opinion) saved the day for the customers or covered for mistakes or shortcomings of other vendors. Unfortunately, most times there is no way that the customer will recognize what you have done since the day is usually a frantic endeavor on their part and they just don’t notice. The bottom line is that if you are a true professional, you must know in your heart that you have done your best.
Sometimes there is no telling when a gratuity will be passed on and many times it is impossible to read what the customer is thinking. Many times they work in an industry that itself depends upon tips as part of their income and they truly believe that it is warranted. Other times customers are on a budget and have already over-extended themselves in trying to create a once-in-a-lifetime event.
Still other times I have even delivered an excellent performance and vendors are voicing their praise, thanks and giving me congratulations only to find that there was some small, slight thing that may have occurred (most times without knowing about it) that the customer did not agree with. This calls to mind the importance of thorough preparation and and complete planning to insure success. At one event, I performed where the customer also hired a jazz saxophonist to play live. This musician allowed for “dead air” or “silence” in between tracks that you would think most professional musicians and broadcasters would understand to be taboo. I saw it as very unprofessional and uncomfortable for the guests but the customer ended up defending the saxophonist when I tried to place quiet snippets of instrumental music within his periods of silence. It goes along with what I have known for years: In my opinion, about 95% of musicians are flakes and “wanna-bes.” I can say this because I have spent decades as a professional musician, stage manager, concert promoter, engineer and producer and have experienced this phenomenon first hand. Just like with DJs, these non-professional make it that much more difficult for us professionals who try to be professional and to try to escape the stigma of these amateurs.
As is common in all service industries, you take the good customers with the bad and maintain your composure and professionalism by delivering performances that are always those that you are proud of. It all evens out in the end.
Question: (From Janine #######) I was at a recent performance of yours on June ## and I couldn’t hear the father of the bride when he gave a toast. What’s up with that?
A: I remember this performance vividly.
The father of the bride and everyone else who was planning the wedding never disclosed to me that this person would be speaking for 25 minutes while talking over a slide show. Because silence can be uncomfortable with many guests, after about minute I had made a decision to play some quiet music in the background while he spoke. If I recall, you had even come up to me to tell me that I needed to lower the music because he couldn’t be heard.
The problem: This person was using the microphone “off-axis” and was repeatedly puling the microphone away from his mouth (not the optimum way to use a microphone). The truth is that this person had a HUGE amount of power behind them. So much so that he
could have caused hearing damage or hearing loss if he were to drop the microphone, speak or touch it in a wrong manner. Even though compression was applied to the mix, the actions of this person are typical since human nature influences most people who are not accustomed to using microphones to pull away from them. This is yet another reason why I now contractually require all persons who will be using microphones to review the page upon this website at: http://aperfectdj.com/tutorials.htm.
Sometimes this issue in an ongoing battle. Inevitably, there will always be someone who will complain in these instances.
Question: (From Steve Eicher of Unique Mobile Sounds- “Dreams Do Come True” Weddings) What’s up with so may wedding ceremony officiants offering sound systems lately?
A: This is an increasing phenomenon. With the bleak economy more and more wedding vendors are attempting to reach into the pockets of other vendors. This is such a shame.
Many wedding officiants are bad-mouthing DJ services as having too steep of pricing for their services and offering low-cost alternatives. There are so many problems with this issue that it’s hard to find a place to start.
First, when was the last time that you knew of any wedding officiant who knew anything about sound and/or music? The truth is that most officiants enter the industry by going online, filling out a form, sending in a few dollars to the state and -bang- they are a wedding officiant. In time many officiants develop an ego and start to think that they know more about sound than a DJ or a sound man. Ludicrous!
First: It has been my observation that almost all weddings start late. On average, I would personally say that the majority of my weddings start about 15 minutes late. (If I only had a dollar for every time there was a delay in the ceremony and the officiant says, “We have to start NOW! I have another wedding to get to!”)
However, most officiants must work multiple jobs to earn a living meaning that they are working 2, 3, 4 or even more jobs per day. With having to travel across broad regions, these vendors are rarely on time. Setting up sound for a ceremony means assessing the facility and power sources, setting up, teardown, sound checks, troubleshooting, etc. Officiants rarely, if ever, will do these things. Many audio professionals recognize that silence is uncomfortable. Still, unless an officiant is willing to arrive 1½ to 2 hours in advance for parking, setup, sound checks, last minute details with the bridal party and/or venue staff and at least 45 minutes of seating music, things will quickly go awry. Even still, it is more professional and comfortable for plenty of recessional music to be playing as well at the end of the ceremony Most officiants that I have witnessed are “Wham, bam…” types of vendors who hurry out to their next job.
If you want to send your officiant running for the hills with his forked tail between his legs just ask him a few questions like:
• What is your amplifier output?
• At how many ohms?
• What is your current ohm load?
• What are the “crossover frequencies” of your speakers?
• What is the frequency response of your sound system?
• What is the frequency range of the microphones that you use?
• What are the key frequencies of the human voice?
• What is proximity effect?
• What is proximity boost?
• What is the “Fletcher-Munson Free Equal Loudness Contours Graph” and how does it affect the amplification of the human voice during a ceremony?
• What is the correct way to address a mic?
• What is a “noise floor?”
• What is “headroom?”
• What are “standing waves?”
• What is a “LENRD?”
• What is a phase anomaly?
• What frequencies contribute to listener fatigue?
• What is a compressor? How can you “manually compress” a signal?
• What is the difference between “shelving equalization,” “graphic equalization” and “parametric equalization?”
• At what frequency does music start to sound “muddy?”
• At what frequency do you boost to increase fullness in the human voice?
• At what frequency do you boost to increase boominess in the human voice?
• At what frequency do you boost to increase presence in the human voice?
• At what frequency do you boost to increase sibilance in the human voice?
• At what frequency do you boost to increase air in the human voice?
• In how many feet does it take for a 20Hz audio wave to fully form?
• How do you maximize your signal?
• Is your signal -10db or +4db?
• What is ambient noise?
• What is reflected signal?
• Are your mics dynamic, condensor or ribbon?
• Is the polar pattern of the mics that you use cardioid, half-cardioid, super-cardioid, hyper-cardioid, omni-directional or figure 8?
• What is the difference between an “A-B” mic placement and an “X-Y” mic placement? What are the advantages or disadvantages of these placements?
• Are your mics high impedance or low impedance?
• What is a vocal’s “placement” in a mix?
• What do you do in the event of wind?
• What are the effects of wind on audio?
• What happens if you are directed to reposition and re-setup your sound system?
• Who troubleshoots your system if there is feedback while you are performing your duties as an officiant?
• What happens if someone accidentally unplugs something or changes an adjustment in the sound system while you are performing your duties as an officiant?
• Who will adjust volume and intonation levels “on the fly” for voice and audio?
• Who fades the music once the bridal party and/or bride reaches the alter?
• How am I assured that someone will accurately recognize cue and fade points?
• Who will “loop” music tracks if there are delays?
• What do you do in the event of delays, wardrobe malfunctions or errors of the bridal party?
This list of questioning can be endless but the bottom line is that NO wedding officiant should be performing any sound services to any degree when they should have their priorities aimed elsewhere. Unfortunately, the consumer is just asking for trouble if they choose to procure sound with an officiant.
On television and in the movies, music just happens to magically appear from nowhere and the content is perfectly relevant, faded and edited. In the real world, however, this is not true. Television and motion pictures take place on sound stages where everything can be manipulated, augmented and edited later. A wedding ceremony is a “live audio event.”
Question: (From a prospective client) Can’t I just rent equipment and have a friend do all of this?
A: You could. In theory. We have the technology today to automate just about everything. In my opinion , however, you would only have about a 5% chance of success. Why? With the thousands of weddings, events and productions that I have performed NONE have gone off on time. NONE have been problem-free. None have been without personal drama and issues. NONE have followed any anticipated sequence or timeline. Why risk a $30,000 party to chance? With weather, alcohol, traffic, vendors, equipment failures, attitudes and personalities a wedding, event, concert or party is literally a definitive “Murphy’s Law.” That is, “Whatever CAN go wrong WILL!” A professional DJ is accustomed to dealing with all of these obstacles while still delivering a polished, professional performance and not allowing your guests to be bothered by the problems and issues taking place behind the scenes.
If you’re willing to take these chances you could always rent a sound system, do research on music choices and entrust a friend or relative to be alert to receive cues, make changes, troubleshoot technical and personal issues, deal with problems and chaotically interact with vendors and guests. Even further, they must have a knowledge of the history of music to be able to creatively deliver music for all ages, moods, bride’s wishes, the erratic and ever-changing (alcohol induced) progression of the crowd, etc. This person must also know the progression of the event at hand and be able to deliver accurate, professional, announcements and directions to maximize the time your event is limited to while at the same time not boring, confusing or rushing your guests.
I have had several customers in the movie, television and radio industry. When I talk to them they understand that at a wedding, a DJ acts as an engineer, producer, gaffer, music director, road crew, “public relations” specialist, emcee and a DJ at the same time. The people of this industry know that this is an extremely difficult task and that you only have one chance to get the job right. In addition a DJ has to also be an account representative, salesperson, accountant, etc. in order for your services to be a success. People who use relatives or friends with rented “consumer” equipment do not know how to troubleshoot problems, deal with microphones and their inherent problems (such as feedback), don’t have backup equipment, are not insured, don’t have with them the many additional, ancillary equipment needed to adapt to unique problems, obstacles and issues, usually don’t know the progression of the events at hand, are at the mercy of temperamental consumer-grade equipment that may fail, create delays or not be able to cross-fade music properly to ensure a seamless, successful performance. What’s worse, they usually end up subjecting your guests to their personal music preferences instead of playing the bride’s wishes or the music that will make your night a success by catering to what your guests want to hear.
“Dead air” (when the event goes awkwardly silent) can be the death of your production. Imagine your favorite restaurant or retail store with no music. This would never happen because these businesses know that when there is silence things become uncomfortable and people stop enjoying themselves and attempt to leave. One other aspect deserving mention is that a friend or relative trying be a DJ with his iPod and a rented sound system will have to move the equipment from ceremony to cocktail hour to reception creating that same awkward silence during the down time. Obviously, you don’t want this.
So, yes, you can automate and save money. But why would you take the chance? Why would you risk your guests leaving when you know that your special day is costing about $300 per attendee? Investing in a good DJ is like investing in yourself and in the success, time-maximization and memories that your special day deserves.
Thanks for your questions. Dennis J. Barela
This page will be updated regularly and you can feel free to email questions or comments to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Question: (From Andy Madea) A customer wants to do Karaoke and wants a microphone to sound “fuzzy” like the band “Nine Inch Nails.” How do I do this?
A: There are many ways to do this using external software for “distortion” or “fuzz” however when using digital equipment these days with the human voice it will NOT sound all that impressive and many times sound outright irritating. The way that studios create this “overdrive” effect is by using “analog” equipment (not digital or computer) and using vintage microphones.
If you consider buying these vintage microphones it should be noted that they “clip” or exceed the maximum amount of signal and therefor “distort.” Analog distortion can many times be interpreted as pleasant when used in the right amounts with the right instrument but digital “clipping” or “distortion” sounds nasty, unpleasant and “harsh.” Always experiment with your equipment and settings in advance of your job to “dial-in” the right sound. Keep in mind that different people have different mic use techniques, dynamics and volume levels so be prepared to make adjustment “on the fly.”
One other note about vintage equipment: Over the years it has been recognized that cigarette smoke leaves trace amounts of film and particles upon electronic components that can be harmful and destructive to them. These days most studios are non-smoking but you may want to ask if the vintage equipment came from a “non-smoking studio” so that you are assured that you get a piece of equipment in top condition.
Observation: (From Dennis J. Barela) Who’s microphone is better?
Last month I did a job with an associate DJ of mine. He required my assistance since it was a very large crowd and he needed a larger system to move more air. He was to be the emcee for the night and I let him try a variety of microphones. Were were strapped for time and didn’t get the opportunity to expand on the topic but he kept asking me to “increase the treble” but never got the results that he wanted. He eventually came out with his personal microphone which was a Sennheiser 500 series mic. He heard himself and said, “See, that’s the results of a $1200 microphone!”
I respected his decision and the job went well. The reason I wanted to address this issue is that there is no perfect, good, better or best microphone for any job. It is human nature to “not like” the sound of your own voice. I, personally, like using a Shure Beta 58a for my vocals when performing live. It should be mentioned that there are boutique and specialty microphones that can range into the hundreds of thousands of dollars. Most recording artists, recording engineers end producer usually have their “favorite” microphone based upon the person, their voice and the “image” you want to create.
Beta 58a Frequency Response
Beta 58a Frequency Response
I would like to refer to the images at right. The first image is a frequency response chart for a Shure Beta 58a. These charts are compiled usually by the manufacturer in an anechoic chamber to see their performance results. As I have mentioned before, the human ear usually comprehends frequencies from 20Hz to 20,000 Hz although most adults usually only hear to about 16.000 Hz. Still, the brain and ears interpret these frequencies differently as volume increases and decreases.
In the first chart you will notice that they show several “curves.” These curves are associated with “proximity boost.” This means that the closer you are to addressing a microphone in its correct manner will actually give you different results. As DJs many of us experience this when shy people using microphones address them off-axis and far away from the mic as if the microphone is supposed to reach out and capture all the nuances of the human voice. It just doesn’t work that way. As you can see, if you address this microphone closer and straight-on the microphone will exhibit the “proximity boost effect” and make your voice sound lower, with more body and more powerful. This is why when people hold the microphone too far away they sound “weak” and “mouse-like.” However, speaking closely within six inches of a microphone helps to accurately represent the person’s voice through the sound system and is very helpful when trying to “punch through” a mix or the ambient noise of a crowd.
Sort of on the sideline: This is why I now commonly make customers sign a contract addendum that states that I am not responsible for the “lack of knowledge or misuse of microphones” by those using them. (It gets tiring with people complaining that they can’t hear grandpa and then the next joker up to the mic is the “Best Man” who thinks that it’s funny to tap on the mic screen like idiots in the movies. Meanwhile, while still having the exact same amount of power to the same microphone, this person can not only damage low-end speakers but can actually damage the hearing of those in the audience (another reason why I use a compressor on these mics).
500 Series Frequency Response
500 Series Frequency Response
In “figure 2″ you will see the frequency response of a 500 series Sennheiser microphone. What should be noted is the rise in frequency response in the 12,000 Hz range. This is typical of many Sennheiser mics and why they have common recording studio functions depending upon the voice or instrument you are trying to capture.
The gentleman that I worked with has a low but soft-toned voice with very few highs in his natural voice. Remember, everyone is different and “uniqueness” is what can make your services special. People can sound boomy, nasal, high-pitched, mono-tone, airy, etc. Many males usually like an increase in the lows which many microphones provide. However, the person that I worked with wants the “airy” sound of a Sennheiser microphone. It is not his natural vocal sound but instead the optimum sound that he prefers to accent and maximize his vocal talents. Frequencies in the 12,000 Hz range are usually used in the recording industry for vocals, snare drums, cymbals and horned instruments to “carve-out” the tone that the engineer is looking for.
It should also be noted that “accurate” and “flat response” microphones are usually needed to capture the raw sounds and tones of musical instruments and where they stand within a mix. With vocals you can get more creative.
Common topic: How good or expensive of a sound system should I invest in? How much is too much bass?
It’s actually a double-edged sword: Cheap systems cannot deliver high quality, high performance demands or deliver enough sound for larger groups or in outdoors environments.
Still, with some customers you need to have the most linear, true-to-life sound possible. Yet these systems may be too complicated for beginners to operate or to troubleshoot when things go wrong. Another problem I have encountered: Many event facilities and managers who do parties and wedding almost every day quickly get tired of too much bass or the excessive shaking that can be created even though your customers are asking for more and more. You have to be careful not to get yourself blacklisted from a venue due to excessive volume or bass.
One trick I learned recently out of necessity is to use bass baffling or LENRD (Low End Node Reduction Device) to try to tame your bass sound waves. Unlike high and mid-range frequencies (which are directional frequencies), low end frequencies travel in a complete circle and have much more of a tendency to penetrate furnishings, landscaping and even dancing bodies and therefor travel in greater distances. (Much like a stone being dropped into water in that the waves travel equally in all directions)
Many times event coordinators will place you (the DJ) in a corner or in a “cove” type architecture area. Unfortunately, these environments exaggerate low end frequencies. If you are close to these speakers you will experience a “music hangover” from being pummeled by bass waves all night. Even the military has weaponry that uses sub-sonic low frequencies that can immediately create discomfort, damage buildings, machinery and/or weaponry, stop aggressors in their tracks and even induce bowel movements. This is not exactly the effect that you want upon your audience.
Example of LENRD
Example of LENRD
My solution was to take studio foam (like Auralex™) and place it behind the bass or sub-woofers to help reduce the bass from going in the opposite direction of its intended focus. (see image) It should be noted that “wedge type” studio foam is the best for controlling low end frequencies as opposed to pyramid, egg-crate or textured studio treatments. Independent testing has shown that this type of treatment can reduce low end frequencies from penetrating the intended location by as much as 45db. I quickly learned that I was no longer bombarded by bass waves when I was placed behind the speakers due to lack of space or poor planning at the venue. This can greatly reduce your personal fatigue and help to not anger your venue management because of excessive amounts of bass penetrating sensitive off-premises areas or even venue work areas.
Even still, I highly recommend to my customers to NOT seat older guests or people with hearing aids next to the DJ setup as it will only cause problems exponentially and could start a war between the older folks who want quiet music and the “headbangers” and “bumpers.”
Observation/Question: How do I transition from an “amateur” or “club DJ” to a wedding DJ?
I was driving through a local Starbucks today when a worker saw my signage on my truck and asked if I like what I do. He went on to say that his friend is a DJ who works at a local bar and if it would be advantageous to make a crossover to being a “wedding DJ.”
O.K., aside from a “wedding DJ” being more profitable I will try to handle this topic delicately. Contrary to what DJs in the past used to say there are no “skills” involved in being a DJ (not even if you spell the word with a “z” as in “skillz”). A DJ is not a musician and is not creating a copyrightable work of art. That being said, I mean that there is no musicianship value for pushing buttons, beat-matching and cross-fading. In fact, all of these elements can be achieved through computer software these days.
The “talents” of being a “wedding DJ’ are many. You must be a good businessperson, salesperson, bookkeeper, laborer as well as having sufficient knowledge in music, music theory, music history and electronics. You also must posses work ethics, self-motivation and social skills.
Now here is where I get to walk upon hot coals and try not to piss anyone off: I have the authority to make these comments because first and foremost I am a veteran musician who was performing for audiences of all types since being a teenager. I do not consider myself a snob and admit that in my early days I had a “wild side” and have seen some amazingly scary things in my past as a performer and a pawn of the music industry.
As a club or party DJ it is a bit easier to find your niche in the business and adopt your style and familiarize yourself with the industry and the equipment involved. However, unlike parties with younger ages and clubs, people who attend and pay for weddings are quite a bit more lucid. Club and bar owners like to keep people intoxicated, dancing and opening up their wallets all night long.
At a wedding, however, you (usually) have a group of older persons paying a substantial amount of money for the “event of a lifetime” for their child and guests of all ages. When I talk about lucid I mean that when some guy is spending tens of thousands of dollars for an event he will notice if you try to transition and beat-match from Frank Sinatra into Usher during the Father/Daughter dance and he may well not like it at all.
Unlike clubs and parties where some guests are under the influence of “who knows what” people will genuinely notice that you just transitioned from Haddaway to Cascada to Pitbull to 2 Chainz. It’s important to know that you must cater to all ages, cultures, music tastes and all degrees of intoxication. This is why I also ask in my planning documentation if it is a “non-alcoholic event.” Let’s face it: You have many more obstacles to overcome at a non-alcoholic event. With alcohol your grandmother may very well lose her inhibitions and be out dancing and grinding to “In Da Club.” Without alcohol she may eat, dance to a Tony Bennett tune and leave early. As a DJ you have to truly “read” a crowd, play accordingly, adapt and play to everyone. (Every wedding is different in that with alcohol consumption and differing crowds you never know which age group or demographic leaves early, stays all night or literally takes-over the party)
You must also be able to be a good emcee by delivering accurate, concise, intelligible announcements and directions in an effort to maximize the day for your customer. You will find that as a “wedding DJ” you may have to wear many hats and do things that some may consider to be beneath them or not within their job description.
I have literally had to assist caterers in moving food and/or equipment, move automobiles without the convenience of a key or the permission of the owner, troubleshoot coffee makers, install circuit breakers, provide emergency lighting, CPR and other medical aid, clean up dog or other animal waste, try to sober-up groomsmen, attempt to locate amorous couples just prior to their wedding ceremonies, open up my toolbox to repair facility property, utilizing hammers and duct tape in some very creative and vast-encompassing manners, removing animal carcasses, try to perform while keeping a “third-eye” on drunk women (and men) who keep falling (with drink in hand) into my equipment, rescuing children from fountains, pools and electrical, taking photographs, jump-starting cars, help with wardrobe malfunctions, assist in not letting furniture, flowers, linens, etc. from blowing away in the wind, pouring champagne, loan out formal wear, direct traffic and even once had the duty of keeping an ex-girlfriend off the premises The duties can be endless.
However, you do these these things because you are passionate about your business and you sincerely care about your customers and are willing to do almost anything to be assured that the bride has the luxury of having the most important day of her life turn out to be a success. You must be willing to do whatever it takes and many times get no recognition for your labors all for the sake of a successful event. You must be happy with the fact that the bride and groom end their night with big smiles on their faces yet know little about the “above and beyond” tasks that you performed throughout the entire day to help get them there. (Yes, sometimes there are 8, 10, 12, 14 or 16 hour days)
If you are just starting out in the business I always recommend joining your local DJ association (they specialize in beginner DJs). However, if you are successful, you will quickly learn all they have to offer and move on or else you end up falling into the rut of being a “networking who**.” Yes, your interaction with these clubs and associations will become just as redundant as selling Herbal Life or Tupperware. You will have to recognize when to cut the cord from these amateur and beginner associations and move on so as not to waste your time or to be taken advantage of by others wanting to farm your knowledge and exploit your resources.
I also cannot say enough about making friends within the industry and having good, professional associate DJs. Here’s where you must be able to read people because a true friend and associate DJ will be there to assist with new insights and ideas, motivation, to rescue you in the event of equipment issues, equipment failure, illness, resources and lead sources. They are a precious commodity as a self-employed individual. Still, keep your friends as friends by putting your relationships, arrangements and agreements in writing. A handshake is a nice gesture but in reality a true professional will not be insulted by asking for documentation, agreements and contracts.
Question from “FLDJ“: I have been hearing a “plopping” sound when I use a lot of volume in my mix. What is this?
The sound that you are hearing it quite possibly a very critical “warning sign.”
Many DJs know that distortion is bad and that it can be harmful to speakers. However, it sounds like you are experiencing what is known in the industry as “over-excursion” of your subs, woofers or low-end speakers. This hazard can be even more damaging than distortion to a speaker.
Let me explain: If you view the image “Exploded View Speaker” you will see the components of a common speaker.
Exploded View Speaker
Exploded View Speaker
Speakers use small amounts of electric current to create magnetic pulses to “move” the speaker cone to literally move the air thus creating sound waves that the human ear can hear. When electrical current flowing through the voice coil changes direction, the coil’s polar orientation reverses. This changes the magnetic forces between the voice coil and the permanent magnet, moving the coil and attached diaphragm back and forth.
So then just how does the fluctuation make the speaker coil move in a back and forth motion? The electromagnet is positioned in a constant magnetic field created by a permanent magnet. These two magnets (the electromagnet and the permanent magnet) interact with each other as will any two magnets. The positive end of the electromagnet is attracted to the negative pole of the permanent magnetic field, and the negative pole of the electromagnet is repelled by the permanent magnet’s negative pole. When the electromagnet’s polar orientation switches, so does the direction of repulsion and attraction. In this way, the alternating current constantly reverses the magnetic forces between the voice coil and the permanent magnet. This pushes the coil back and forth rapidly, like a piston.
When the coil moves, it literally pushes and pulls on the speaker cone. (See “speaker image 2″) This pushes, moves and vibrates the air in front of the speaker, creating sound waves. The electrical audio signal can also be interpreted as a wave. The frequency and amplitude of this wave, which represents the original sound wave, dictates the rate and distance that the voice coil moves. This, in turn, determines the frequency and amplitude of the sound waves produced by the diaphragm.
Speaker Image 2
Speaker Image 2
As for “over-excursion” it should be noted that excessive power (more power than the speaker is rated for) or excessive clipping will cause the voice-coil to move beyond the maximum distance that it was designed for. The voice coil can actually get hung-up on the internal components and then lead to speaker malfunction.
I have noted before some of the differences in “Pro Audio” equipment as compared to “Consumer” audio equipment. Usually, pro audio equipment will represent the signals fed to it accurately to the best of it’s ability. This meaning that the sound is not “exaggerated” or “over-emphasized” to accommodate it’s inherent design shortcomings and/or limitations.
Since the extreme low end of human hearing is in the 20hz range, many consumer audio devices (like those bumping, irritating cars that annoy you upon the streets) will exaggerate or compensate for the fact that it does not have the benefit of the approximately 60 feet of space that is required to fully develop a sound wave in this range. This misrepresentation can cause damage and is just another reason to NOT mix “Pro Audio” and “Consumer Audio” equipment.
Question/Satirical Observation from “Derek Anderson” (Veteran guitarist, vocalist, songwriter, recording engineer, pro audio specialist): (After watching the Grammy Awards) …Is AUTOTUNE the musical equivalent of using SPELLCHECKER? Only in the same sense that driving Autopia at Disneyland qualifies you to pilot a hook & ladder downtown during rush hour!
Good comment, Derek. As you and any recording engineer and/or producer knows these days we have a plethora of studio effects and tools available. The first rule of recording is to NEVER use effects or tools excessively. They should only be perceptible to the trained ear and not outwardly obvious to “Joe Public.” They should accentuate, brighten and colorize the art that is music and NOT dominate or take credit for the work itself. In other words, I completely agree.
Years back, Beyonce’s inaugural performance would have never been in question because you either had talent or not because it shows in your performances. However, today, (in pursuit of the almighty dollar) recording artists are seen more as a “marketing formula” by the music industry executives whose persona’s are created with makeup, photography, plastic surgery, media, tabloid exposure and digital effects and tools. We have so many digital tricks at our disposal that the recording industry just has to present a cute face and a tight butt and let the computer geeks sell it the rest of the way through. Sad.
I personally believe that back in the 1960′s the recording industry realized through cartoons and television shows like “The Banana Splits,” “The Archies,” “Josie and the Pussycats,” and “The Monkees” that successful recording acts don’t have to be discovered, they can be fabricated. Their target and most profitable consumer market and demographic (young teens) has a habit of eating up these acts as they search for role models and heroes who are there contemporaries while handing over their parents’ money with pleasure. This philosophy has expanded to a ridiculous degree these days. Synthesized, designer drugs are just as addictive to young adults as “synthesized, designer recording artists.”
I have said it before and I’ll say it again: Anything that is repetitive can and eventually will be taken over by computers and/or machinery. Art and music defies logic and many times questions it, bends it, contorts it, makes fun of it and redefines it (logic) in the creative human process. It’s more than just “on/off” as is the basic ways of computers. Losing “the arts” in schools is like slowly accepting and succumbing to the extinction of the human race by silicon successors.
Question from unknown source by email: Why is it that so many bands these days try to put so much bass into their music?
This is a topic that I am asked almost daily. For generations, teenagers have tried to piss off their parents with unique music that adults cannot understand. Lately, the pro audio industry has perfected many tricks to produce lots of low-end punch. Psychologically, the human brain (and most other animals) equate low frequencies with large animals and therefor danger. This is also complicated with the fact that when traditional radio was popular the radio station with the strongest, loudest signal usually had more listeners. As a result, modern music has lost much of it’s dynamics (the use of the effect of different volume levels at different parts of songs used to convey power, energy and emotion).
In the music industry it has become a war of who can be more urban, gangsta, drop the most F-bombs, disrespect women the most and (of course) have the most bass (low-end frequencies). It has practically taken the art of music and made it a virtual genitals contest. Ridiculous in my opinion.
If you are a good musician, recording engineer or producer there are ways you can still sound “sinister,” “sexual,” “Gothic,” “innocent,” “powerful,” “mysterious” and/or ”vulnerable” by using talent, dynamics, effects, mixing techniques, delivery of your song and without shaking the roof off of every building within reach of your average long-range missile. The best example I can give is to listen to some of the various tracks from the band “Garbage.” This is a group of talented musicians who are also recording engineers and producers. They can brilliantly convey these “darker” moods without the use of excessive foul language or ridiculous and unnatural amounts of low frequencies.
General Topic: Provide unique services!
Rule #0: Always find ways to be different from other DJ services and offer unique services to your client that they cannot achieve with any other service. Create the demand. Close the client. Give the client exceptional service and performance. Retain the client. Get referrals!
Here are some examples:
Wedding Recessional [rock edit sample] Classical track with Dennis J. Barela playing rock guitar tracks in the background
Franks_wedding_vows Wedding vow edit sample
Jasons_edit A message from Jason to his wife on their wedding day
Phone_call_to_tony Phone call to the groom from his sister
Kims_tribute_to_daddy Kim wanted to remember her deceased father in this Mother/Daughter Dance
Amanda_hammers_time Amanda wanted to emulate the popular YouTube video “Evolution of Music”
Christines_edit Example of custom editing available
At_last_twist_and_shout_ (benson_edit)_ [rme] The bride didn’t want a traditional First Dance
Kristinaz_fatherdaughter_[rm2] A special Father/Daughter request (Note: The ceremony example below is a large file so please be patient and use a fast connection)
Quinteros_ceremony [m] A recording of a live wedding ceremony at a local Temecula winery.
Wild Horses A bride wanted to surprise her groom (a big Rolling Stones fan) with this special bridal march performed live by Dennis
Tyger & Matt Ceremony Tyger & Matt wanted a professional recording of their wedding ceremony from a local Temecula winery.
Galliher First Dance Mashup [rm] Lauren wanted to have some fun by mixing a traditional “first dance” with some fun.
I Loved Her First~The Twist (e) [rm] Kayla wanted a traditional song for her Father/Daughter dance that got more interactive to get others to join the dance floor. She got her wish.
Ana Lopez 15 (mashup) [rm] Ana wanted a Quinceanera mashup for her Father/Daughter dance that reflects her unique personality.
•••►Temecula’s Best DJ “Welcome Video”◄•••
Examples: #1 #2 #3 #4 #5 #6 #7 #8
How to hire a DJ • “Airtight Alibi” (original song live with Terminal Romance)