For DJs

The Ten Commandments of DJing a House Party

By 3rd May 2017 No Comments

A private party, whether it’s at a private property or a venue, is fundamentally different to DJing at a club or a pub. Many DJs who’ve been doing one of these things most of their DJing career fail to realise this,  and end up making a bit of a mess as a result. At Full Effect we’ve got a bit of a formula for a standard house-party set, but each DJ will develop his or her own.

We’ve put together this guide to help you out it you play clubs all the time, and want to become a great Perth House Party DJ.

Full Effect DJs presents:
Ten commandments for Perth House Party DJ

The 10 Commandments of the Perth House Party DJ

1

Thou shalt read the room and play music that can be danced to

Reading the room: This is a critical skill often lacking in novice DJs. Song selection accounts for at least 50% of a DJ’s job. Being a good selector is about noticing how the crowd responds to what you’re playing, and not being afraid to do a 180 if you accidentally clear the floor. If you want people to dance, play tracks that are highly danceable. Look for a strong beat and baseline (the ‘groove’). This really interesting article (Link: http://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2014/05/30/317019212/anatomy-of-a-dance-hit-why-we-love-to-boogie-with-pharrell) suggests it’s actually the spaces between beats that make a song danceable, because our bodies want to fill them in.
2

Thou shalt not make it all about thine self

As opposed to playing at a club where you may have been invited to play particular music for a particular night, a private gig is all about what the host likes, not what you like and are interested in.
Remember, people want to relate to what you’re playing. If its’ some obscure nineties euro-house, they probably won’t be able to. It’s sad to see so many DJs who lack a basic level of musical sensibility and as a result play for hours and hours to empty dance floors, while they get their rocks off.
3

Thou shalt not peak early

A private party gig usually runs from about 6 or 7 through till midnight (or later by agreement). For the mobile DJ, this is most certainly a marathon not a sprint.
Indeed, for the first couple of hours as everyone’s arriving what you’re playing is barely noticed: you’re just background music, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. You’re creating an ambience and subtly encouraging people to drink and engage with each other. Play tracks with low bpms and keep the levels (relatively low). Do not use any effects lighting. No one will dance for the first hour or two – again, this shouldn’t be seen as a problem. Think of every party you’ve ever been to – this part is for mingling, nibbling and drinking. If you’re doing it right, however, every now and then you’ll notice someone tapping their toes, shaking a shoulder or just bopping a bit as they converse.
4

Thou shalt master the build

‘The build’ refers to a very gradual increase in tempo, volume and intensity starting at around 8pm and peaking at around 10pm. It’s so gradual that it’s not easily noticeable to non-DJs, but it will have an almost subliminal effect on the guests. The social lubricant (alcohol) has been flowing, and this is when people start to venture out onto the dance floor. Think of your mix as building a fire. You’ve put down the tinder in the first couple of hours, and now you’re starting to lay larger and larger logs. What you don’t want is massive swings in tempo, genre and intensity, as it ruins the build.
By 10pm and until 12pm you should be at peak intensity, ideally with everyone on the dance floor. At this point you can unleash as many bangers as you want.

5

Thou shalt respect the neighbours

Always ask the party hosts if they’ve informed the neighbours there’s a party going on. It is there responsibility to do so, but its ultimately you who is responsible for the largest amount of noise that’s coming from the party.
If the hosts haven’t already, and there’s a neighbour who’s definitely going to be affected, quickly knock on their door and offer an apology in advance for an disturbance. This will go a million miles towards them not calling the police or initiating any other hostile confrontation later in the night.
6

Thou shalt not repeat songs

This is never okay. Sometimes it happens because the DJ wants to replicate the success of when he or she played it the first time, other times it’s because the person who requested it wasn’t paying attention (too bad, you missed it!) – either way, it’s a sin punishable by wearing a sign hung around your neck that reads ‘I’m a shit DJ’.
7

Thou shalt not allow a guest to plug in their iPhone

At some point during every house party set, you’ll experience that dreaded moment when some guy, often wasted, says ‘hey dude, I’ve got a banger over here, hand me the aux!’ I cannot stress enough what a terrible, terrible idea this is. They are about as qualified to be in control of the music as Donald Trump is to be president, and they almost certainly do not have a ‘banger.’
You need to somehow deflect this guy. Unfortunately at a private party you can’t just have security move them on, so your best bet is to make up an excuse like you don’t have an input for phones or iPods on your mixer.
Or if you don’t care for sparing their feelings, just tell them they’re being a backseat DJ and you spent many dollars and many hours training to be able to do this.
8

Thou shalt not appear sullen, uninvolved and aloof

This one occurs so often its become a cliché and ripe for satire. The DJ who’s so concerned with looking cool that they fail to interact or connect with the crowd on any level. There’s nothing wrong with moving your body a bit while you DJ and showing that you’re involved in what you’re playing – it will encourage the crowd to do the same. There’s nothing that alienates the guests faster than a DJ who looks like he’d rather be anywhere else and can’t believe he’s playing for these fuddy duddies instead of at some cool club.
9

Thou shalt not bash the mic

At a house party, with the exception of making announcements, the microphone is to be used sparingly. You shouldn’t be totally silent, but you also shouldn’t be interrupting every single song with a running commentary (this gets annoying fast). Everything in moderation. As per commandment seven, do not ever, under any circumstances, allow a guest to take the microphone from you.
10

Thou shalt not get drunk

This one is pretty straightforward – drunk DJs are sloppy DJs. Being drunk behind the decks shows a total lack of integrity and professionalism.
At house parties you’ll often be offered drinks. There’s nothing wrong with accepting once or twice (you know your own limits), but it isn’t worth putting your reputation and equipment at risk by getting totally wasted.
Besides it being totally unprofessional, you’ll never forgive yourself if you ruin someone’s wedding by missing important cues, or spill a beer all over your own decks.

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Author Vince Cargeeg

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