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Archive for October, 2011

Building A Setlist

If there’s one technique every DJ should know, it’s how to build a set list. The ability to put songs together in a way that will keep your guests entertained throughout the party is what sets good DJs apart from your 15-year-old nephew Logan. A great DJ has an intimate knowledge of his or her music collection, the current trends, and what tracks mix well together. He has the ability to “read the crowd” and knows exactly what to do with that feedback from your guests, making constant on-the-fly adjustments.

Over the many years I have been in this business, I have developed my own methods for building great play lists. While I won’t share all my secrets, I can tell you that I always build a unique play list for each of my clients and every event. I start with the feedback and requests I get from my clients at our planning meetings. If I know even a few of your favorite songs, I can put together a stream of music for an entire evening that put simply, flows.

Let’s examine a small part of my set list from a wedding reception I hosted last Saturday (10/1/2011) for a great couple, Victoria and Chris. The part of the play list I want to share with you is the crowning point about 3/4 of the way through open dancing. Here are the songs that made the evening unforgettable and packed the dance floor.

First, allow me to set the stage. I came into this part of the play list from a planned break or slow down. I had played the 12-inch extended version of “Brick House” by the Commodores, a track that last a full 6 minutes. It’s a great version of the song and people enjoy the track so much that I’ve played over 50 times, but I know people tend to get a bit tired by the end. Coming off this version of “Brick House” I had already programmed a slow song, “I Do (Cherish You)” by 98 Degrees, a great slow song for a wedding reception. I decided however to pull the track at the last minute and replace it with another slower song but one with a completely different mood than “I Do”. I instead played “Don’t Stop Believin'” by Journey. This turned out to be the right choice. “Don’t Stop Believin'” brought people back to the dance floor that had sat out on “Brick House”. I was really enjoying myself watching the guests sing along, “A singer in a smokey room, A smell of wine and cheap perfume…” Everyone knows the lyrics to this classic.

Following “Don’t Stop Believin'” is where I started the build up to the height of the evening. I started the next set with “Summer Love” by Justin Timberlake. “Summer Love” is great mid-tempo track at about 96 beats-per-minute. The ladies love Justin Timberlake and I think “Summer Love” is a guilty pleasure for the guys. This is a great track for a wedding reception and I love to play through the little drop out at about 30 seconds from the end. The crowd looks at me when the song goes silent and then smiles when it starts up again.

Some people consider Justin Timberlake the New King of Pop, rest in peace M.J. If Justin is the new King then Lady Gaga would probably be considered the new Queen. I played, “Poker Face” by Lady Gaga after “Summer Love”. “Poker Face” was one of the bride’s requests and it built the tempo up a bit more to about 120 BPM.

After “Poker Face” I hit the crowd with the DJs from Mars mashup called “Barbaramyte”. This mashup pits Taio Cruz’s “Dynamite” against Duck Sauce’s “Barbara Streisand” the result is an epic dance floor anthem that still catches many people a little off guard. “Dynamite” is a well known track that’s been around long enough now that people welcome the remixed variation found in this mashup. “Barbara Streisand” on the other hand hasn’t received a much airplay, at least not here in the United States. People loved the track and it was a great follow up to “Poker Face” pushing the tempo up to 128 BPM. More importantly, “Barbaramyte” was the perfect track to lead into the next track, the pinnacle of the evening, “Party Rock Anthem” by LMFAO.

“Barbaramyte” and “Party Rock Anthem” can blend well together as their tempos are similar but I chose to instead drop a sample during the fade out of “Barbaramyte” before dropping in “Party Rock Anthem”. The sample is the vocal only drop from “Party Rock Anthem” that says “Everyday I’m Shufflin'”. “Party Rock Anthem” was on of the groom’s requests and it was simply the perfect follow-up to “Barbaramyte”.

I hope this example provides you with a glimpse of how I go about building a play list. Each of my play lists are broken down into several set lists. The sequence for this set list started with “Summer Love” and ended with “Party Rock Anthem”. This wasn’t the end of the night, no we kept going but this was the highest crest of the evening. I followed “Party Rock Anthem” with seven more upbeat tracks and one final slow song as requested by my clients before finishing out the evening.

What do you think? Would this set list brought you out to the dance floor? Would it have kept you there wanting more? Let me know by posting a comment.