Ten Misconceptions of What It Means To Be A DJ
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Ten Misconceptions of What It Means To Be A DJ

It is not an easy job...

Ten Misconceptions of What It Means To Be A DJ

I have been a DJ and studied the art of turntablism for a decade. I have heard plenty of misconceptions of what it means to be a DJ. Honestly, it hurts me personally that people think of us in certain ways that bash on being a DJ. It is an interesting art form that continues to be pushed by others who want to push the culture forward. Unfortunately, the way we are viewed makes it harder for us to push it forward. We see people who use Spotify to play music at a house party and they claim to be a "DJ," is it though? Whether you are new to the game, interested in being a DJ, a veteran DJ, or an audience member, here are ten misconceptions of what it means to be a DJ.

MYTH: All DJs Do Is Press Play


This is by far the top stereotype that people think of when they see a DJ. I mean yes, you need to press play in order for the song to start, that is just common sense, but there is more to it. See, most people do not realize what we have to do when we are playing for a huge crowd. We have to read the people, how comfortable are they if we are playing rap, house music, or even country music? You have to get people comfortable. It is not play whatever you wish, you can, but how is that going to affect the people in that bar or club. Because how the people react will depend on your job status. If nobody is comfortable, good luck finding another place that will take you as their DJ.

Furthermore, there are many forms of art when it comes to DJing such as turntablism. Turntablism is what I focus on and it is my favorite. I used to focus on MIDITablism, but it was not right for me. The typical thing with turntablism is scratching. DJs do not scratch all the time, doing that becomes very annoying to the ear. It simply adds percussion, at least for me, and it brings something new to the table that brings excitement. Scratching can be used as a means to transition into a song. It adds more "flavor" than pressing play.

The biggest reason why people believe DJs press play is because that is what they see in the mainstream world. You see these festival DJs press play and that is it. No disrespect for them because they worked hard to get there. However, it has become an awful stereotype that people should wipe out from their brain. It is these "DJs" that have ruined the great art and ruined the image. Back then, people used to see Grandmaster Flash beat juggle or DJ Jazzy Jeff casually scratching while he makes a transition. Now what do we see? Press play. Oh wow so cool. Some people think it gets the job done, I think that is a very rude statement.


MYTH: Anyone Can Do It


No, not just anyone can do it. It takes dedication to really learn the art of being a DJ. Of course, anybody can buy DJ equipment, but it is basically a calling to be a DJ. Just like any other job, it requires studying in order to be good in whatever field you desire. Some people just do not have that quality to be dedicated to the craft. It requires an extensive amount of skill, knowledge with music and the ability to read the crowd. Like I said, that is a very important quality to be a DJ.

Furthermore, what people do not realize is that being a DJ can be quite draining. Especially on nights where people are extremely intoxicated, they get pushy, they start to spill their drinks, it becomes a nightmare. I can recount on plenty of times where people can get very selfish and become demanding towards the DJ in terms of having a certain song played. For some DJs, that can be very irritating. I even had people threaten me with pouring a drink on my gear, beat me up after I leave, or even unplugging stuff. People can be very crazy and it takes time to get through that. Sometimes security is not there and you have to learn how to deal with situations like that. For people who are impatient, it is not the job for them.

MYTH: DJs Are Not Musicians

VEKKED, Facebook

On the contrary, people have used the art of turntablism to use their gear as instruments. In fact, plenty of DJs have pushed the culture forward in DJing and incorporated interesting skills for competing or playing at clubs. For instance, the Red Bull 3Style, one of the biggest DJ competitions in the world, has plenty of examples as to how DJs are in fact musicians. Four Color Zack, Red Bull 3Style's 2012 world champion, changed the game by utilizing the technique of tone playing. It set the optional standard of transitioning with music, making it a fun and interactive technique to grab people's ears. It takes a huge level of creativity and a good set of ears to do this. People can take the notes of a song and play it as an instrument. If that is not musician worthy, I dare anyone to tell every world DJ champion that they are not musicians. Also, DJs know how to make people feel. We are music experts that have the knowledge to create an experience that Spotify cannot do.

If you are interested in seeing how DJs are musicians, here are a few routines you can check out.

DJ Craze "New Slaves" routine

VEKKED's "Franken-scratch" guitar

Skratch Bastid & Andrew Forde DJ + Violin "Redbone"

The Philharmonic Turntable Orchestra

Red Bull 3Style: World's Biggest Scratch Circle

MYTH: DJs Remix Music


People who remix music are producers. You can have a producer that coincidentally DJs like myself, but remixing is not focused on the field of DJing. Having an instrumental of one song and an acapella (vocal) of another song is not a remix, that is a mashup at that point. Remixing is taking an element of a song, usually a vocal or melody, and reworking an entire song in your own vision. People say DJs remix music is because they think "Oh they are taking songs and mixing it all together to make one," like I said, that is a mashup, not a remix. For instance, The Glitch Mob remixed one of Ghost of Tsushima's soundtracks and completely reworked it in their own vision by making it completely electronic while incorporating the original's songs melody.

MYTH: DJs Have EVERY Song And Can Download It Right Away

Clem Onojeghuo, Unsplash

We are not the God of Music or a radio station. People need to realize that not all DJs have every song. There are so many songs that are out there in the world, no one can expect that we can download each and every one of them. To top it off, we cannot download it on the fly, especially if we are playing at a place that has no internet. Or if the internet is bad there, it will take a while. I have heard "Couldn't you play it off of YouTube?" No, that is not how it works. A laptop, or for some odd reason a computer, is not connected with the house sound system. The DJ equipment is connected with the house audio by RCA or XLR. People have this misconception that DJs have every song. I met a DJ who plays music with strictly vinyl, not control vinyl. While shadowing him, people would demand him to download a bunch of songs when he told them that he is using strictly vinyl, yet they still would not get it. It is very sad to say the least, but at the end of the day, do not expect the DJ to have every song on the planet.

MYTH: DJs Touch Random Things Like Knobs


While we do touch knobs and buttons, it is not for show. When transitioning into another track, especially if it is progressive house, it is recommended to cut off the low end of the song you are trying to transition by turning down the low equalizer knob and then slowly cut off the other song's low equalizer, while bringing in the transitioned song's low frequency. There are dozens of videos of people randomly touching knobs and random stuff. Those are not DJs, they are just frauds at that point in terms of "DJing." Any DJ mixer has equalizer knobs, channel faders, cue buttons, and sometimes a trim/gain knob. All of those are functional and not for show.

MYTH: All DJs Have Very Big Egos

Digital DJ Tips

While there are some extremely egotistic DJs out there, I am not going to list names, there are humble DJs out there. Most notably, Skratch Bastid. When he DJs, he has this very big smile and is a very down to earth human being outside of the ones and twos (turntables). Being a DJ does not mean you can be above anybody else, regardless of status, people are still people. Yes, the power of controlling the music is fun, but that does not mean you can push people over and think you are "hot stuff." Reason why, that power of controlling music and that job title can be stripped away at any time. Do not expect to be treated differently, we are all the same. While some successful DJs are snobs, the people who are TRULY successful are the ones that are humble and have more talent.

MYTH: All DJs Know How To Mix


Just because someone has extremely expensive gear: A good pair of CDJs, a good mixer, and headphones does not mean they can mix. I cannot stress the amount of times I have seen a "DJ" with high end gear to only make sloppy transitions or attempt to look cool. Mixing can be a difficult task. Especially if you are mixing multiple genres. In progressive house or any electronic genre is a little bit simple to mix. Having that long intro can make mixing easy and the concept is called beat matching. However, if it is progressive house to rap, that can be difficult, but very possible. Sometimes people can tell how bad a transition is such as cutting off one song completely for five seconds and hitting play on the other song. There are people who have been DJs for four years and still have no idea how to mix properly. They just go for it because they think they can. Some could say as long as you play music and people are enjoying it, it is fine. Think of it this way. The DJ is playing psy-trance, a very fast pace genre. You are jumping, your heart is pumping, you are in the moment. All of a sudden, they cut off that psy-trance song and switch to slow pop music that has very depressing lyrics. People can get uncomfortable by that and that is why it is very important to know how to mix music and know what to play to get people going.

MYTH: Gear Is Everything

Alexander Popov, Unsplash

This is never the case. I have met and seen DJs with the most expensive equipment anyone could possibly get and still suck. I do not care if you have four CDJs, a high end mixer, and a MacBook, you can still be complete garbage. I would not say it is all for flash. Some people like myself do have to pay for more expensive equipment because we know what features we are looking for and need to utilize them. A beginner DJ should not have to buy $5000 worth of equipment. People can rock it with $200 of equipment. No beginner DJ needs a magnetic crossfader, I highly doubt they would know what that is. If you are interested or new to the DJ culture, do not buy extremely expensive gear. There are going to be "purists" who will judge you for not using vinyl. Who cares, you have to get your start somehow, so start small. You do not need a pair of Technics or a pair of CDJs to DJ, at that point it is just flash if you are spending your money on high end gear.

MYTH: To Be A DJ You Need An Awesome Name


My DJ name is literally my full legal name, Peter Truong. I did not have to use a stage name to be an awesome DJ, nor do I need the label "DJ" before my first name. It is not DJ Peter Truong, it is literally just Peter Truong. People do not need that "surname" because it is unnecessary. Sure, by all means call yourself anything, but if you are comfortable with yourself and do not have the need to change your name, keep it. If your name looks hard to pronounce, who cares? It looks awesome and it makes you stand out as a person. Some people think it does, I personally do not think this way. To me, it brings more character, it makes me think about that person and how they stand for themselves. If you are just playing music off of your phone and giving yourself a DJ name, please do not do it. That is extremely disrespectful for the people that have rightfully earned that title from the hard work they endured. That is like calling a home cook a chef. They have not earned the title yet, that is disrespectful for all the people that have worked towards earning the title chef.

At the end of the day, being a DJ is like any other job, a job. We are still people, no one is entitled to anything and I just hope the DJ culture continues to push boundaries as well as destroy stereotypes. I hope the people that have read this have a greater understanding of what it means to be a DJ and I hope it debunks of what people may perceive us as.

If anyone needs any assistance or advice related to DJing or electronic music production, feel free to contact me on Instagram.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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