Book Review: How To DJ

How To DJ: The Insider’s guide To Success On The Decks, by Tom Frederikse and Phil Benedictus In Association With Point Blank

Once my boss and some of the other people I work with found out that I was a college radio DJ [1], an inside joke developed where they would ask me how my weekends were spent clubbing, because it was so incongruous to them that someone like myself would have been a DJ of any kind, anywhere. Anyway, for many aspiring DJs, this is a book that not only needs to be read, it needs to be reread, owned, and practiced. For a book like this, knowing one’s target audience is essential. This is the sort of book that gives extremely worthwhile and practical advice to a DJ looking to master the club and the studio. The authors write from a British perspective (which is obvious from the language that they use for the paying customers in a club, punters, as well as expressions like fag for cigarette that are slightly impolite or somewhat incomprehensible for most American reading audiences), and it is clear that these authors have some serious club cred. In fact, there are a few ways this shows up, from their assumption that a good DJ is going to remain mostly quiet and not participate in a lot of banter, and in their snobbery towards mobile deejays who play contemporary hit singles and mix and mingle with ordinary radio audiences and towards the high-paying gigs that involve pandering to the tastes of wealthy hosts. What this book is good for is for encouraging someone who loves music and has a good sense of rhythm, music, and lyrics to master the tricks necessary to drop beats or mix vinyl or digital sources in the club, or to record demo cds for record labels and radio stations.

To this end, the book is very sensibly organized. First, the book discusses the technical tips of the trade that are necessary for someone to be a skilled turntablist: scratching, drop mixing, back-tracking, phasing, looping, mixing a capella vocals on top of an instrumental track, and even using three turntables at a time, if one is particularly ambitious. This section also discusses the tools of the trade—turntables, cd players, digital mixers, pre-amps, and FX units. Much of the advice is far less technical, though, along the lines of encouraging the DJ to be able to get along with others, be familiar with the tastes of a particular club or one’s customers, be familiar with good vocal and instrumental tracks that can be used in creating new mixes, and use the opportunity of being in the DJ booth as a way to be true to oneself, in all of one’s complexity, while also being responsive to others. This task, as difficult as it is, of both being honest and open through the choice of one’s music and the display of one’s taste and technique, as well as respectful of the audience and their tastes, is a large part of what it means to be successful at any kind of creative endeavor. This sort of engagement, with its mutual complex interplay, is at the heart of what it means to be successful at life. Given the careerist ambitions of the ideal reader of this book, it is no surprise that the second part of the book (slightly smaller) takes a look at the techniques of recording a demo cd and finding promoters and friendly radio deejays and getting to know club managers and other aspects of the business.

As a book, this is easy to read despite the fact that its British approach is a bit alien to many American readers. There are some parts of this particular book that are especially worthwhile, including the breakdown of different genres of dance music by beats per minute, the discussion of the history of how contemporary rap and dance music came to be, as well as a discussion of the different sorts of genres that exist, as well as the level of skill that is necessary in order to mix these genres well. The authors are clearly knowledgeable in music, and this book benefits from many humorous quotations from musicians like DJ Sasha, Boy George, and Dave Stewart (of the Eurythmics [2]) as well as the fact that the book is written in association with a well-regarded music education program. This is a good how-to guide for an aspiring deejay, and those who are able to rise above the prejudices of the author, and take advantage of its shrewd and humane advice to get along with everyone as much as possible, but be oneself and be decent. Hopefully this part of the advice should not be difficult for the book’s readers. At any rate, this is an example of a book that is written with clear ideals, blunt practicality, and also a great amount of style and humor. With luck, a reader who is serious about club music and the music industry would be able to use this book as help in achieving career ambitions, at least on a moonlighting basis.

[1] See, for example:

Notes From The Underground

[2] Why Aren’t They In The Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame: The Eurythmics

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
This entry was posted in Book Reviews, History, Music History and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Book Review: How To DJ

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