For every DJ, having the ability to flawlessly mix records and maintain clean transitions between tracks is what it's all about. Whether it's a short two-hour set or a 12-hour marathon, a DJ must build momentum by tweaking the mix, layering beats with rhythm and using the EQ at precisely the right moment. If done correctly, your entire set should feel and sound like one massive continuous track with peaks and valleys. By following some of the examples listed here, you can avoid some of the pitfalls that most DJs face. And it will help you stand out from the rest of the jocks trying to make names for themselves.
For me, mixing records is only half the story. You have to understand how to “work” the mix and manipulate frequencies while making the transition between tracks. To do this correctly, you must first understand how the EQ on a mixing board works. Nowadays, almost all DJ mixers come with a built-in EQ. There are lots of different models and price ranges to choose from, but most mixers come equipped with the basic EQ features including highs, mids and lows. Fancier and more expensive mixers come with more complex features such as effects, filters and samplers. But for this article, I'll be sticking to the basic EQs.
MANIPULATE THE LOWS
First, you should understand that an EQ is a frequency response. Turning the EQ to the left or to the right will manipulate the frequency response from your turntable to the channel on your mixer. You can cut out or increase the low end, the mids and the highs of each record while mixing. This plays an important part when mixing two records, and it gives you full control of your mix.
To start off, each of your turntables should be hooked to one individual channel on the mixer, and each channel should have one EQ layout. Start by playing a record on turntable 1, and cue up the record that you want to mix on turntable 2. While doing this, turn the low-end frequency down on turntable 2 so that it's nearly cut off. This will give you a much cleaner transition between tracks and prevent the two records from competing for the same frequency during a mix. While mixing in the record from turntable 2, slowly turn down the low-end frequency from turntable 1 and slowly turn up the low-end frequency from turntable 2. Don't let the low-end frequency of any one turntable overpower the other, and keep it leveled. You can also turn down the low-end EQ on both turntables, giving the feel of a breakdown in a track. Then, at the right moment, with one jolt, quickly turn up the low-end EQ on turntable 2, giving the dancefloor the full force of the low end. If it's done correctly, you'll know it. The crowd will go nuts, and you'll see hands waving in the air — it's one of the best feelings a DJ can experience. You literally feel that you are in control of your environment, and the crowd will love you for it!
AVOID EQ PITFALLS
One of the biggest mistakes I see DJs make is having all their buddies come into the DJ booth to chat it up while mixing. Not paying attention to the club's sound system and misusing the EQs can really damage your party and your career as a DJ. I've also witnessed DJs overdo the EQs by not giving the track enough time to groove on its own. Always remember this: Overuse equals overkill. Keep your levels aligned; don't let one frequency overpower the others; and, most important, don't turn around and chat with your mates in the DJ booth. You should always pick and plan your timing for EQ manipulation. And pay close attention to your set and how it builds. When you get the hang of this, you should also try messing around with the mids and highs while in the mix. Depending on the type of track you are about to cue in or the type of mix you want to do, they can really play a big part in the mixing process.
I have been DJing for more than 15 years, and I can tell you from experience that one record can sound totally different from one sound system to the next. When it comes to sound, every venue is unique in its own way. You must train your ears and know your records before stepping into the DJ booth to take control of a club. I usually try to get to a club at least one hour early to check things out. First, I normally step inside the booth and see what type of gear I'll be working with and make sure that everything is operating properly and mounted correctly. Then, I usually ask the DJ who's playing before me if he or she has had any problems or difficulties with the equipment. It's always good to know this before you encounter the problem while in the middle of a mix. Then, I go out to the dancefloor and listen to the speakers and the frequency levels, get to know the sound system and experience what the people are hearing or will be hearing throughout the night. So when it comes time for you to spin, you'll know exactly how far you can tweak and push the system — without the people giving you hints that you are clipping frequencies by closing their ears or, worse, walking off the dancefloor!
Knowing your sound system, your mixing board and your audience can mean the difference between a disastrous gig and one that will put your name on the top of every promoter list. If you would like to hear some of the EQ examples I've touched on, you can go to my Website, www.saeedyounan.com, and download one of my live mixes or check out my new CD, Saeed Younan Re-Mixed (2005), on Star 69 Records.