Sunday, November 07, 2010

Your Personal Style

Terrific Ceremony, and Some Fun

A “Camouflage Wedding” in the Woods

Halloween Costume Party Wedding Reception

Laughter is the Best Icebreaker

Monday, June 22, 2009

Average Wedding DJ

Adapted from an Article by Peter Merry
Average Wedding DJ (a.k.a. Disc Jockey, Dee-Jay, D.J., M.C., Emcee, Master of Ceremonies, Etc.) "A DJ who plays music and makes announcements at wedding receptions in a manner that is deemed to be average."

Do you want an Average Wedding DJ at your wedding reception? Or would you like to find the best wedding entertainment money can buy? An Average Wedding DJ will most likely show up on time, play the songs you've requested and maybe even make some announcements for you. But will that be enough? Will an Average Wedding DJ help you plan your reception in advance (not just on the phone 2 days before your wedding) so that your agenda will flow smoothly and all of your guests will have an enjoyable time? Will an Average Wedding DJ help you create unforgettable moments so that your reception will be remembered fondly by your friends and family for years to come? Will an Average Wedding DJ make sure there are no unexpected surprises that could bring your celebration to a halt? Will an Average Wedding DJ remember how to properly pronounce the names of your parents and wedding party members during the Grand Entrance? Can something that is just average create something that is truly remarkable? Think back on the Average Wedding DJs you have seen at wedding receptions in the past. Were any of those receptions...Remarkable? Unforgettable? Amazing? Or would those receptions be better described as...Average? Mediocre? Run-of-the-Mill? Forrest Gump's Momma said it best when she said (paraphrased) "Average Is As Average Does" .

If you want yours to be "The Best Wedding Reception...Ever", then you may be looking for something more than just an Average Wedding DJ. Might we suggest looking for a Wedding Entertainment Director™ instead? What is a Wedding Entertainment Director™ you might be asking? Obviously the word Wedding implies one who is confidently familiar with the detailed traditions of wedding receptions and the high expectations of wedding clients. The word Entertainment focuses on the primary service that is provided when one is hoping to create a reception that is more than just well-decorated, well-photographed and well-fed. And the word Director clarifies the role and responsibility of the Master of Ceremonies, whose primary function is to make sure that the reception is directed in such a way as to be and stay consistently entertaining.

The truth is, you will need More Than Just Good Music, more polish than the Average Wedding DJ, and more creativity than the Typical Wedding Band if you want yours to be "The Best Wedding Reception...Ever!". You need someone who specializes in creating Entertaining Weddings, and delivering Unforgettable Reception Entertainment. Don't settle for an Average Wedding DJ, search for the best Wedding Entertainment Director™ you can find.

"Average Is As Average Does"
If you are considering hiring an Average Wedding DJ, will you be content with an average overall reception entertainment experience? Can something that is just average create something that is truly remarkable? Would you expect an average caterer to deliver the best quality food and service? Would you expect an average florist to create decorations that are breathtakingly creative and original, or would you expect them to look...average? Why would you expect anything more than average from an Average Wedding DJ?

Average means ordinary, commonplace, humdrum, fair, intermediate, moderate, undistinguished, run-of-the-mill, mediocre, unexceptional, or typical.

These words accurately describe what you can expect your guests to experience if you select an Average Wedding DJ. If you would prefer for your guests to experience a reception that is exceptional, first-class, marvelous, outstanding, phenomenal, remarkable, extraordinary, sophisticated and wonderful, then you might just be looking for Unforgettable Reception Entertainment. It is possible that you could find an Average Wedding DJ who also happens to be able to deliver a high quality service and level of performance, but chances are they won't be just an Average Wedding DJ for long. Average Wedding DJs tend to deliver average service along with average performances due to an average level of skill and talent which then garners them only an average amount of demand forcing them into the range of Average Pricing.

This average level of service and performance also creates a reception experience that can best be described as McWeddings . When more and more of your guests have been exposed to more and more Average Wedding DJs, their expectations for having an enjoyable time at your wedding reception become lower and lower. But when you seek out the best Wedding Entertainment Director™ you can find by asking the right Questions, not only will your guests enjoy themselves, they will be raving afterwards for months and even years to come that yours was "The Best Wedding Reception...Ever!"

Average Pricing
When considering hiring entertainment for a wedding reception, the ability to make an informed decision can often be influenced by Average Pricing. Due to the large majority of Wedding DJs being only part-time hobbyists instead of full-time professionals, it's pretty safe to say that the Average Pricing you will encounter will be indicative of Wedding DJs who don't take their business seriously enough to make it their full-time career. In fact, in a DJ Times survey, 81% of the DJs surveyed make less than $46,000 per year. When you then speak with a full-time professional, their price may seem high in comparison to the Average Pricing you have already encountered. At that point, you will have an important decision to make. Will a Wedding DJ who offers Average Pricing deliver anything more than average results? Will spending more on a full-time professional Wedding DJ be a better value?

If you ask an Average Wedding DJ what they do that makes their service worth so much more than cheap Wedding DJs, they will most likely give you a short list of things they do and services they offer that set them apart from the bottom end of the pricing scale. But if you then ask them what a high priced Wedding DJ will do that is so much better than what they currently offer, they will typically try to tell you that there is no difference. They will claim to offer the same level of service and performance as the high priced Wedding DJ, only at their discounted, average rate. The really interesting part is this answer will be entirely similar when it is asked of the cheap Wedding DJ in comparison to the average priced Wedding DJ. "We do the same thing...we're just cheaper".

All Wedding DJs do many of the same things, but how those things are done determines whether you are dealing with a professional Wedding Entertainment Director™ or an Average Wedding DJ, because "Average Is As Average Does". Pricing for Wedding DJs is tied directly to their skill and talent levels, because the top performers will always see increased demand thus allowing them to charge increasingly higher fees. But an Average Wedding DJ will not see as much increased demand and will thus be stuck in the range of Average Pricing.

Think for a moment about your wedding reception. What aspects of it are most important to you? Will it be having the world's most memorable wedding cake? Will it be a photo album filled with artistic images that make you look like a celebrity? Will it be creating an enjoyable celebration that your guests will remember for years to come? Your priorities will determine the kind of reception you will experience. If decorations are your highest priority, you will have a well-decorated reception. If great catering is your highest priority, your reception will be well-fed. But if having Unforgettable Reception Entertainment is your highest priority, then finding the best Wedding Entertainment Director™ money can buy will be your goal.

Part-Time Hobby or Full-Time Career?
According to a DJ Times survey, 64% of Wedding DJs work on a part-time basis while holding down regular weekday jobs. Will your photographer be a part-timer who isn't qualified enough to do wedding photography as their chosen profession? Will your catering be done by somebody who just enjoys making food for large groups of people on the weekends, but their real career is as an accountant? Based on the ratio of part-timers who DJ weddings, it's a pretty safe bet that an Average Wedding DJ is also a part-timer whose loyalties, priorities and time are divided between your reception and their regular, 9 to 5 job. It's been said that there are no waiters in L.A. and New York, only actors who are between acting jobs. But have you ever seen an exceptional movie actor who is still working full-time as a waiter? The best rise to the top and turn their passion into their career. But based on the stats, the Average Wedding DJ may not have the time or the skills to give your reception the full-time attention and service your day deserves.

One of the reasons given by part-time hobbyist Wedding DJs for not being full-time, professionals, is their belief that they won't be able to replace their income and medical benefits which are currently provided by their full-time, weekday job. So how do full-time wedding photographers do it? How do full-time wedding florists do it? They charge a professional fee that will provide them with the income and medical benefits they need, in addition to covering their annual business expenses and self-employment taxes. Because such a large percentage of Wedding DJs are part-time hobbyists, it's probably not too surprising to note that their Average Pricing is typically set too low to provide the necessary income needed to make this their full-time career.

Another excuse for being part-time is the idea that they just really enjoy being a Wedding DJ. It's fun and therefore, they don't care about making it their career or earning a professional income. But most who approach being a Wedding DJ as their full-time profession also enjoy what they do, in fact they are usually downright passionate about it. And because it is their full-time career, they have more time to invest in improving their service and their performance. They can afford to take time off to attend industry trade shows and workshops. They are available to meet or return your calls during the weekdays. And because being a Wedding DJ is their career, they have more pressure to deliver the best performance and service possible. In comparison, a part-time hobbyist Wedding DJ can get by delivering an average level of service and performance, some would best describe as McWeddings, because they still have the income from their full-time, weekday job to fall back on. This may not always be the case, but "Average Is As Average Does". Now you may find a rare part-time DJ who truly delivers exceptional service, but chances are if they are that good, they won't remain part-time for very long. It should also be pointed out that not every full-time DJ will be better than average either. But by asking the right questions, you should be able to determine whether or not you are dealing with an Average Wedding DJ.

McWeddings
When you're hungry and don't have much time, you might go to McDonald's® for a hamburger. But when you're going out on a first date you'll probably want to have an enjoyable meal (maybe even a hamburger) at a nice sit-down restaurant. On your wedding day, you'll probably get your hair done by a professional that you know and trust. Supercuts® will most likely never even be a consideration. Your guests will probably enjoy a 2 to 5 course sit-down meal or a well-stocked buffet. McDonald's® hamburgers most likely won't be on the menu. But when it comes to wedding entertainment, how many receptions have you attended that felt just like McWeddings? Just like every other reception...boring, run-of-the-mill, or average?
Some Average Wedding DJs may deliver slightly better-than-average service. But most Average Wedding DJs may likely be comfortable with delivering a McWeddings style of service and performance for several reasons. If this is their part-time hobby instead of their full-time career, then they might not have as much time to invest into improving their overall service and performance. If they are stuck in the range of Average Pricing, they may not be able to afford investing in their success by attending industry trade shows or workshops. If they have mistakenly focused on Gear Vs. Talent then they might be choosing to buy newer and better equipment instead of investing in techniques and opportunities for improving their talents. If they are not involved in a professional trade association, then they may only be exposed to the performance techniques and services provided by other Average Wedding DJs which will then further compound the fact that "Average Is As Average Does".

Here are some things to look for when trying to avoid getting stuck with McWeddings service and performance. Will your DJ meet with you in person to help plan your reception, or do they want you to fill out a basic form and just mail it in? Can they show you footage from their weddings, and not just footage of the guests dancing, but footage of the DJ making announcements in a polished, professional and personalized manner? Watch and listen closely. Do they call the Bride and Groom "The Bride and Groom" all night long or do they refer to them by their names? Do they announce the special dances in a uniquely personalized manner, or does it sounds like just about every other wedding announcement you've ever heard? Ask the DJ to share some creative ideas they have developed for other couples in the past. A professional Wedding Entertainment Director™ will have great answers to all of these Questions and then you can be confident that your reception won't feel like McWeddings, but instead you will have "The Best Wedding Reception...Ever!"

Weddings on the Strand


Weddings on the Strand is a subsidiary of Music on the Strand, Inc. started by Larry Green and Joe Durivage in the Spring of 2008,  to provide wedding shoppers with an easy, stress-free approach to securing all the Myrtle Beach area wedding services they want at discounted prices.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

A Word About Pricing



Rob doesn't just sit back and push buttons on CD players... he is able to skillfully and tactfully interact and get your guests involved in the celebration, all the while keeping you in the spotlight.



© Rob Clark 2000-2006

One of the first things that people want to know is:
"How much do you charge?"

Before you start scanning through our web site trying to find a price list, let us save you the time. We don't list prices here. Why? Because it depends on several factors:

date of the event,
type of event,
location of event,
duration of event,
number of guests expected,
atmosphere you desire (e.g., more on the laid-back side or on the high-energy interactive side? Or perhaps some place in the middle?)
The best thing to do would be to review some of the information on the web site first to get a good sense about his services then give him a call directly to find out first if he still has your date available then to discuss the details of your event.

As you are thinking about price...

Picture this…

Let's fast forward the calendar and imagine you are at your wedding reception …. (insert your own harp sounds and blurry screen effects as we time-travel...) This might take a couple minutes to read through, but bear with us as we paint a picture for you to consider.

You did it! You have finally made it through the ceremony and you are now married! You are so excited for the next phase of your wedding day, the reception. You have put so much time and effort (and, yes, money!) into your wedding day, now it is time to have a party!

You have your first dance, you are seated to eat, and you stop and look around. What a wonderful sight -- friends and family, many of whom have traveled long distances just to be with you today. You have dreamed about this day - wanting this to be the best party you have ever been to so that you can both cherish these memories for a lifetime. You have high expectations for this day that you will remember for the rest of your lives.

The DJ is trying to get the party started and get people dancing. But people are not responding as you hoped they might. He is trying but somehow does not seem to have much of a flair for being able to read the crowd and create a fun atmosphere with everyone getting involved.

You look around. Friends and family that you had hoped would be part of your wedding memories by dancing and celebrating with you are, instead, sitting down at their tables. You notice some of them looking at their watches. You sense that they are not just checking on the time out of curiosity but rather are likely trying to figure out how long they need to stay before they can leave without being impolite.

The handful of people who are dancing (mostly your bridesmaids) seem to be doing so more out of obligation and feeling badly for you because nobody else is dancing. This is NOT the atmosphere you had hoped for.

The DJ sees that people are not responding so he thinks that the answer is to play some group-dance songs. He puts on the "Macarena," "Chicken Dance," "Hokey Pokey," figuring these are simple dances that people surely will respond to - perhaps that will be what gets people out of their chairs. You see a few people get up to dance but the majority of guests rolling their eyes. You can almost read their minds: "oh no, not this cheesy music!"

The DJ puts on other fun dance songs - even specific songs that you had requested -- but by now the crowd has been "lost" and people are still not dancing. It's not just about the songs that are played. It's also about how the DJ interacts with the guests. It's about the DJ's ability (or in this case, INABILITY) as Master of Ceremonies to shape and create the environment and atmosphere you desire. The DJ has not read the crowd well and has not effectively been able to create a fun celebration atmosphere.

You had had visions of your wedding reception being THE best wedding reception that everyone would be talking about for weeks, months, and even years later. But instead, your guests are now looking for a polite way to depart. They find their opportunity, smile, shake your hand, thank you for inviting them, and say, "but we have to get going." One or two couples you might understand, but people are now leaving in droves. You feel the energy level of your reception slipping away.

You get an uncomfortable feeling in your stomach. You think of all the planning, all the details, all the money spent on so many different things, all the effort that you have put into making your wedding day something you always dreamed it would be. Now you realized that the reality of your wedding day is very different - disappointingly different - than what you had hoped it would be. You had tried to be wise in your selections of the facility, the food, the dresses, the photographer, the DJ, the flowers, etc. Your decision to hire, not necessarily the cheapest, but a "budget DJ" is something that you are now regretting.

Now stop. Freeze.

Think about this...

How much would it be worth to you AT THAT VERY MOMENT if you could have had, instead, a more competent and experienced Disc Jockey and Master of Ceremonies who WOULD be able to ensure that everyone was involved, celebrating, having a fantastic time from the very beginning? How much more would it be worth to you to have people not just politely thanking you for a pleasant time but coming up to you saying, "this is the BEST wedding reception they have ever been to!"? Would it be worth a couple hundred dollars? The few hundred dollars that you thought you were "saving" by going with the cheaper DJ?

Out of the thousands of dollars that you have invested into your wedding day, people will not remember as many of the particulars about the cheese-and-cracker table, the flowers, the centerpieces, and many other details. What they WILL remember is how much fun they had. The Disc Jockey and Master of Ceremonies is THE person who will, to a large extent, help shape the atmosphere for your reception. Many couples have said they realize that the DJ is going to either "make or break" the reception. To cut corners with such an important element is something that some couples do and, unfortunately, many live to regret.

10 Years from now...

Ten years from now, when you are reflecting back on your wedding day and your reception, will you be willing to say, "Well, it was an OK party, it wasn't great... but at least we saved a few hundred dollars on the DJ"? Or would you rather have the confidence to KNOW that you are making an investment into memories that you KNOW you will cherish for a lifetime by hiring someone of Rob's caliber?

Rob is not a "budget DJ." Nor is he the most expensive you could hire. But you will probably find that his rates are higher than many other DJs. We are equally confident that you will find that the overall value of the services he provides are worth every penny. To have the confidence knowing that you are hiring an experienced and gifted Disc Jockey and Master of Ceremonies who WILL be able to make your reception into a COMPLETE SUCCESS is PRICELESS.

Mike and Beth, a couple who hired Rob as the DJ for their reception, perhaps sum it up best with this, an exact and direct quote:

"With all the planning that is involved in a wedding, my opinion is that the entertainment is most important. If the food is good, the hall is good, etc., but the entertainment is not, the wedding will not be good. In this case, the entertainment made our wedding extraordinarily good. We could not have asked for a more professional, skilled, or generally pleasant and courteous master of ceremonies. The guests raved about Rob Clark's skills and the fun they had. In summary, Beth and I would not have any other Disc Jockey when we have another function. If you have the opportunity to book Rob, I would do so independent of any cost comparisons between his price and that of other DJs. I would have paid twice as much. Thanks again to Rob for his contribution to our great wedding." Mike and Beth

We would encourage you to read through some of the other recent comments that we have received by clicking on the link below. You will see a common thread throughout -- that with Rob's services as Disc Jockey and Master of Ceremonies, their events have been huge successes. He would be honored, as well, to be part of your event -- and your lifelong memories of your wedding day.

Whether you decide to hire Rob's services or not, we encourage you to make your decision for this important role based on the person:
(1) with whom you feel most comfortable,
(2) in whom you have the highest degree of confidence,
(3) whom you are going to be able to trust to take over the reigns of control for your reception, and
(4) whom you know will be able to help skillfully turn your reception into the best celebration it could possibly be, and to NOT make a decision based on price alone.

Some factors to consider about Rob's services::

his 14+ years experience and proven ability as Disc Jockey and Master of Ceremonies;
clients having hired him for their events in over 20 states through the country as well as Canada (people don't go through the extra expense of flying the DJ in from another state for an "average" DJ... they don't even do that for a "good" DJ... they do that, however, for a fabulous master of ceremonies and DJ who they KNOW is going to be able to guarantee their event is a huge success! That is why Rob has had clients fly him around the country to DJ their events);
recommended by peers and other DJs as a top DJ/MC (in fact, having been hired by over a dozen other Disc Jockeys to DJ their weddings!);
recognized as national seminar speaker and presenter for DJ3 Disc Jockey conference;
published author for national Disc Jockey University (DJU);
extensive music library (over 5,000 CDs at every event);
high quality professional equipment;
high quality back-up equipment on site;
fully insured;
member of several national and local disc jockey associations;
part of an emergency response network with other DJs in the area;
recommended by dozens of other professionals (photographers, videographers, wedding coordinators, and function managers); and
the confidence to KNOW that you are going to be treated to a fantastic party!
The axiom that "you get what you pay for" certainly holds true. But Rob's philosophy and approach is to give each and every client MORE than what they paid for and to EXCEED their expectations! With Rob's services you will NOT be disappointed. In fact, we are confident that you will be THRILLED!

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Sensible and Effective Lighting

A trap many DJs fall into, and from which some never escape, is to just splash the dance floor with as much excitement as possible. It seems obvious, if you light up that focal point with a variety of colors and gobos, you've got an impressive light show and folks will want to dance more. But what are the reasonS this is a trap?

1. When folks start dancing, you hardly notice or see these effects anymore. You might see some splashes of colors and movement, (if you're looking) but with all the activity on the dance floor, those effects definitely lose their impact and pretty much just disappear.

2. A lot of bright lights shining right on the floor can annoy people. It's just too much bright stuff flashing in their eyes. After a dance for teenagers, where I had splashed the floor with those common mushroom effect lights, I candidly asked a kid how he liked the light show. I was expecting to get some praise for how cool the effects were. He just came out and said the lights hurt his eyes.

3. Concentrating on the dance floor without considering the rest of the room is only concerning yourself with 1/6 of the total area where good lighting could enhance the production.

HERE'S THE CONCEPTION: People do see the walls and even the ceiling. That's five surfaces we can illuminate. So, you might want to first "paint" the walls and ceiling with color, and then project static or moving patterns over this initial color layer. As for the dance floor: wash it with color. A color wash serves to light up the dance floor with appropriate colors, and also serves to colorfully light up the dancers. Changing colors, sound-activated or in a chase sequence of different speeds, bathing the dance area, serves to draw folks to the floor, provide atmosphere, and doesn't get lost in all the activity of moving bodies like gobos and a lot of bright flashes. Where there are lots of bodies moving around (as in DANCING), there's no longer a flat surface which is necessary to distinguish gobos and patterns.

Customizing the light show to uniquely compliment each event takes more time and effort, however, the results are a much more impressive production and much more impressed clients.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

An Approach to Lighting and a Little Bragging

On Friday, April 21, three chapters of Delta Sigma Phi met at the M Grand Hotel for their fraternity formal. The room was modest in size as was their number (about 120). They paid a little extra for a well-conceived light show and this simple combination of effects was provided:

4 Chauvet Color Splash Jr. LED Par Cans to provide a wash of color on the dance floor
2 Martin Mania DC1s to wash the side walls (changing colors and moving textures)
2 Martin SCX 500s set to "plug and play" hanging from the same tree as the LEDs to provide a an "endless," unpredictable variety of gobos and colors on top of the DC1-created effect and throughout the rest of the room.

Simple, small, BUT effective, as revealed in this little letter:

Dear Mr. Green:

Thank you so much for helping us plan our Formal. I appreciate your hard work that made our party such a success. Everyone had the most wonderful time. They thought the music was very up-to-date and made getting on the dance floor effortless. THEY WERE VERY IMPRESSED BY THE LIGHT SHOWS. THIS WAS A NEW FEATURE THAT EVERYONE LOVED AND HAD NEVER SEEN BEFORE. We have never had a DJ that was so professional and had such sophisticated equipment. Again, thank you for helping me to have the best Formal that our Fraternity has seen in years.

Sincerely,

Sydney Hester
Delta Sigma Pi Social Chair

How To Hire A Disc Jockey (by Dave Garrett)

When you start thinking about entertainment for your wedding, Remember there is more to it than just hiring someone to play music.

First you need to get some referrals. Some great resources to start with are friends, family, parents, photographers, caterers and hotels.
You can also use major search engines such as Yahoo, Google, WeDJ.com or others. There are also Bridal Magazines and the Yellow pages.
Next, make a chart out of the names and numbers you get so you can keep notes as you talk to each one that you call.

One of the most puzzling things you will notice is the great disparity of pricing from one DJ service to the next. However, we suggest that you leave the question about price for last. First you need to find out what makes the DJ worth their fee and there are many differences in what they provide. Remember, your entertainment can make or break a reception. While it may be attractive to shop for a DJ by price, just as with every other wedding service vendor, price alone is not the definitive factor in this decision. All DJ services are not equal. Ask these questions in order:

Are you available for my date?
Do you provide a written contract?
How many playing hours are included?
Is set up time and travel included?
How early do you arrive to set up?
Do you charge by the hour or do you have a package?
Is there an extra charge for additional hours?
Can you explain how you conduct the evening?
Do you provide a wedding reception planner? Is it available on-line?
What do you wear?
Do you do the announcements? Are you the Emcee?
Are you open to requests? From us? From the guests?
How large is your music collection and is it varied.
How do we pick our music for the event?
Is a wireless mic for speeches included?
Is basic dance lighting included in the price?
How long have you been in business?
How many WEDDINGS have you done?
Are you the DJ who will be at the reception?
What type of equipment do you have? (Discuss with them if it's professional equipment)
Do you bring back up equipment?
How much is your deposit/retainer?
What is the total price for the package?
Are there any additional charges?
How is payment arranged?

Remember, there is a lot of prep work that should be done prior to the wedding by the DJ. He/she should be able to explain what they will do for you in advance to ensure the success of the event. This includes providing a planner, sample format of how the evening will go, a tentative timeline, making sure they have the music you want and more. Advance preparation is what a professional DJ does as part of their service.

A true professional will spend a minimum of 10-20 hours preparing for your reception. This includes going over your plans (consultations), music purchasing and editing, setting up and tearing down equipment, working with other vendors, etc. In other words, what you are paying for is more than just a body playing music!

Music however, is a very important element at your wedding reception. You have thought about the music you would like and probably imagined the evening as you would like it to be. If the DJ does not have a sufficient music library, you may find your guests won't be on the dance floor as much as you would like. A budget DJ simply has not invested the amount of money necessary to provide you with a first class selection of music. At a minimum, 5,000 songs is a necessity today for a professional, and 10,000 or more songs is a very good music library. Therefore, it is important for you to select a DJ who has invested in an extensive music library. However, along with having the song titles, your DJ should also have a variety of music genres AND the know how to blend them into a pleasing mix. Also, find out if the DJ encourages requests from the guests or does he/she have a set music program. Decide in advance which you prefer.

As the guests begin to arrive and enjoy cocktails and as they enjoy their meals it is nice to have quiet background music playing. At some point after the arrival of the Bridal Party, it is customary for a toast(s) to be made to the new couple. For this, a wireless microphone is a necessity. A wireless microphone allows each speaker to be more relaxed and comfortable and make their speech where they are and a wireless microphone reaches places a standard microphone cannot. A professional DJ should never charge extra to bring or use a wireless mic. Today, it should be a standard part of his equipment setup.

After you book a DJ, you will need to reach them. Knowing they are available full-time without additional costs to you is comforting. Also, having a toll-free telephone number could save you quite a bit of money. A well designed website may provide extra benefits such as the newest included perk, an on-line planner and even their music library.

Finally, Listen to the DJ as they speak. Does he/she have a pleasing voice and personality? Remember, what you hear on the phone will be twice as good or bad when amplified on a sound system. Make sure the person you are talking to is the one that will do the wedding reception. If they try to pawn you off on one of their employees, ask to speak to the DJ who will be doing the reception. Never, ever accept someone you have never talked to. Remember, having confidence in WHO you hire is of prime importance in all your planning. As with all things in life, quality and professionalism is priceless.

THE BITTERNESS OF POOR QUALITY REMAINS LONG AFTER THE SWEETNESS OF LOW PRICE IS FORGOTTEN.
Our Thanks to Dave Garrett of Record-Go-Round Digital DJs for this article.
Record-Go-Round has been serving the Western Pennsylvania area for over 24 years.
Dave was a Radio DJ for over 20 years and is a Wedding DJ specialist.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Just in Case Bose PAS Malfunctions (by Cap Capello)

Dear Colleagues,

Part of my promise was to keep you updated on news, services, and such regarding our L1 systems.

My system is now 2 1/2 years old and running perfectly, a clean and crisp as the day it came out of the box, with well over 200 events under its belt. I would expect nothing less from the name it carries...BOSE.

Being a worry freak, and never being without a backup (or two) of everything, owning and bringing four L1 systems to every event gives the peace of mind that the client's event will never suffer because of my lack of preparedness and extra equipment.

BUT, what if something did go wrong? What steps would be required to get a defective unit back into action. I posed this question to BOSE yesterday and here is their response and policy:

- - - - - - - - - - - -

Glad (though not surprised) to hear that none of your many clients have experienced a system failure. In the event that anyone ever does, have them call PTS at 877-335-2673 Hours are Monday through Friday, 8:30am - 8:00pm EST and Saturday, 9am-5pm when they are with their equipment. This gets them directly to the team that supports our products.

PTS will help with troubleshooting/diagnostics. If service is deemed necessary, they are currently offered the following options:

Warranty Option 1 (Advance Replacement) - PTS offers advance replacement for all units (except cases of misuse/abuse) that are determined to be defective and within the warranty period. <45 days of ownership = new replacement product 45 days of ownership = Refurbished replacement product PTS provides a 2nd Day Air account number for return of defective product. Customer is instructed to pack the defective unit using the carton in which their replacement product arrived. Customer is given ship-to info for return of defective unit. Customer is informed that failure to return the defective unit will result in their being charged for the full replacement price. Credit card info is captured but not charged unless customer fails to return defective product within 30 days.

Warranty Option 2 (Repair) - PTS will offer warranty repair as an alternative to the advance exchange process. Turn Around Time is currently 3-5 weeks! LMTG is working to dramatically reduce this. PTS offers a free carton kit and sends via 2nd day air to all customers returning units for warranty repair. Inbound shipping for warranty repairs is the responsibility of the
customer.

Non-Warranty Option 1 (Advance Replacement) - PTS offers sale of products to replace those that are determined to be defective and outside of the warranty period. Customers can choose from either new or refurbished (discounted) stock. PTS provides a 2nd Day Air account number for return of defective product. Customer is instructed to pack the defective unit using the carton in which their replacement product arrived. Customer is given ship-to info for return of defective unit. Customer is informed that failure to return the defective unit will result in charging full replacement price. Credit card is captured but not charged unless customer fails to return defective product within 30 days.

Non-Warranty Option 2 (Repair) Turn Around Time is currently 3-5 weeks! LMTG is working to dramatically reduce this. PS1s repaired for a $250 Flat rate plus tax L1s or B1s repaired for a $120 Flat rate plus tax PTS offers a free carton kit and sends via 2nd day air to all customers that are returning units for non-warranty repair. Inbound shipping for non-warranty repairs is the responsibility of the customer.

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With warmest regards and best wishes,

Cap Capello
Musical Host - Disc Jockey
Email: cap@imadj.com
Web: www.imadj.com
Phone: 518.399.7451

Monday, April 17, 2006

Practical Beat Mixing

Presented by Rob Clark
Rob Clark Entertainment, LLC

I. The Premise – we get paid, not just to play music, but to create an atmosphere – an atmosphere that is conducive to people getting up on the dance floor and getting involved. The typical crowd at a wedding reception is not likely to be the type of folks who are out at the dance clubs every weekend. People generally feel awkward when dancing. We should, therefore, try to do everything possible to create a comfortable and energetic atmosphere on the dance floor. Smooth, seamless segues from one song to the next (without any awkward pauses, dead air, or difficult transitions) are most helpful.
Whether it is recent dance music, dance classics, oldies, Motown, rock, swing, or country, EVERY dance set can benefit from beat mixing. It is NOT just for club music with a heavy bass beat.

At private parties (yes, even wedding receptions), we should try to use as many helpful tools as possible to help create an atmosphere of dancing and celebration. There are all sorts of tools that we should use such as:
- solid music programming (knowing what to play and when in order to create the best response)
- reading the crowd - good MC skills to be able to shape the atmosphere that the couple wants
- experience with wedding protocol so that you can take care of the behind-the-scenes issues smoothly so that the bride and groom are never even aware of the careful coordination that is going on
- appropriate sound system for the size of the room, number of guests, etc.
- appropriate lighting to help create more visual energy to compliment (not overtake) the atmosphere
- etc., etc., etc.
The list of important and useful tools could go on at length. One skill, that I DO think is very important, is being able to create smooth segues and seamless transitions between songs. Far too many DJs misuse their microphone by talking over bad mixes. Far too many DJs have no clue about beats per minute of their music and end up sending their dance floor crowd through all sorts of unnecessary hoops trying to keep up with the beat of the new song.

The fact is, people dance to the beat. They move their bodies to the beat. It stands to reason then that if the beat is going to change from one song to the next, the people on the dance floor will likewise need to stop, listen for the beat of the new song, adjust their body movements to the beat of the new song, then start dancing again. That adjustment is enough to send some people, who might already be uncomfortable dancing, back to their seats to "sit this one out." I don't want to provide any such excuse for the crowds on my dance floors.
That means that EVERY song -- regardless of the musical style -- has a BPM that should be taken into consideration when picking out the song to follow. It does not ALWAYS need to be the exact same beat. It might be some that that is a jump UP in BPM (to create a jolt of energy). It might be something slightly higher in BPM that IS beat mixed on the 32 count to help the people on the floor continue dancing without interruption. There are all sorts of skills that DJs need to be good DJs. I personally feel that beat mixing is a critical skill that is not the most essential but certainly belongs on the list.

Let's look at some of the definitions of terms, getting into the basic elements of mixing, then outline some sources for further information.
Definition of Terms
Before we can even get to the interesting stuff, we all have to be speaking the same language. Here are a few terms we should know as we discuss beat mixing.

Bar - Individual time divisions in a musical score, represented by vertical lines on the staff, are bars. Each bar normally contains the same number of beats and are also known as a "measure."

Beat mixing (also referred to as: beat matching, beat synching, hot mixing, mixing) - The art/skill of bringing the beats of two different songs into phase with one another and fading across. For example, if the song the crowd is hearing (song A) is 118 beats per minute (BPM), and the next song you want to play (song B) is 122 BPM -- you either slow song B down to 118 BPM using pitch control, or slightly speed up song A and cue it up to the beat. When you are ready to bring the song B into play, "throw" the CD (i.e., hit the play button on the "1 count") so the beats stay aligned and listen to it on your headphones. Listen to the two songs play (song A through the speakers and song B in your headphones) for at least 32 counts to ensure that they are in sync.
If they are not, use the + and – "Pitch Bend" buttons to gently speed up or slow down song B in your headphones. Once you are sure things are in order, use your cross-fader or individual channel controls to let the new song blend into the old one, and eventually go completely across so only the new song is playing. This will give the illusion that the song never ended. Once you get the hang of getting beats into sync, you will quickly find many more interesting ways to fade in and out of songs.

Beats Per Minute (BPM) - The number of beats during one minute of a song. An identifier of a song's tempo. To calculate this, take a stopwatch and count the number of beats in 60 seconds (or count for 30 seconds and double the number). See software section below for tools that you can use through your computer. Some mixers have this feature built into them as well, providing a digital read-out of the BPM of the songs on each channel.

Cold/ Fade – This refers to the type of ending of the song. A cold ending will be abrupt and sometimes dramatic. A fade ending does just that – it fades away. When it does fade, the energy decreases as well. So it is usually best not to play songs all the way through if they do fade. At the same time, songs with a cold ending require a quick and smooth transition so that there is no dead air during segues.
Cross fader (alias: x-fader, fader) - A slider control which moves from one input channel to another in a very smooth fashion. The volume on each channel is inversely proportional to each other, so if the x-fader is completely on the left side, you will only hear the input for that channel. Once you start moving it to the right, you will gradually hear the right channel becoming louder. When the x-fader is in the middle, each channel will be of equal volume. As the x-fader continues to the right, the right channel will approach full volume, and the left channel will diminish.

Cueing – Playing the music only through your headphones (without the sound coming through your speakers so that the crowd could hear) to find the spot you want to start the next song. Once you have determined the best place within the song to start (most times on the 1 count), you can hit the Play button (or throw the vinyl record) on the 1 count as you are listening through the headphones, and adjusting the speed as necessary in order to line up the beats to the song that is playing through the speakers.
Measure - A measure is a musical notation device that distinguishes a specific unit of time comprised of a fixed number of note values (whole, half, quarter, et cetera) of a particular kind, fixed by the meter and bracketed by two vertical lines across a staff of music. The two vertical bar lines are separated by the distance required by the number of notes contained in the measure. This portion of musical notation does not determine the rhythm, tempo or note values; the measure does contain the notes and various note-types. Tempo, rhythms and note values are determined by time signatures and tempo markings. Each measure of a time signature of 3/4, for example, will contain three beats, one for each quarter note. If a dotted half-note is contained between the two vertical bars, it will receive three beats and the measure will be over. The measure can also contain six eighth notes and a number of different combinations of note-type fractions depending upon the musical context. How fast the respective beats are is determined by the tempo.

Phrase - A natural division in the melodic line, similar to a sentence or part of a sentence. (Usually 4 groups of 8-counts for a total of 32 beats)

Pitch bend - The temporary changing of pitch to get beats in phase. These are the little + and – buttons next to the PITCH button on your CD players. This gives you the ability to "nudge" the speed up or down temporarily to get the song on beat. It has the same effect as placing your finger on the vinyl to gently slow it down or speed it up. Once you release the pitch bend button, the song will go back to the current pitch control settings.
Pitch control - The ability of a device to change the tempo (speed) of a song. Essential feature on your CD players if you are going to beat mix. Most pitch controls allow the song to speed up or slow down plus or minus 8 %. (Some players allow plus or minus 16 %).

Key Lock or Pitch Lock- The ability of a device to change the tempo of a song, without changing the key (e.g., on Denon 2500 and Pioneer CD decks). This lets you drastically speed up songs with vocals without a "chipmunk" effect.

Segue - (pronounced SEG-way) -- Italian for "follows," a segue is used to indicate a smooth, flowing transition from one section of a composition to another without any pause or interruption.

Tempo - The speed of a song. Usually measured in Beats Per Minute (BPM).

Throwing - Starting the song in at full volume on the 1 count (the first beat of an 8 count). The term originates from vinyl DJs who have the turntable spinning at full speed while lifting the record off the platter with their finger holding it with the needle in the groove just before the 1 count. When the DJ wants to start the record, he "throws" the record, giving a record a little push when it starts up so there is not any lag time while it gets up to speed. This effect is simpler with CD players that have "instant start" (normal CD players may take a few tenths of a second before a song starts).

II Getting Started

First we need to know the beats per minute of our music. As defined above, the BPM is simply the number of beats in a song in 60 seconds. You can use a stop watch, or, if you would like to take advantage of your computer, you can use a BPM counter (see shareware URL sites in the resources section below).

It is helpful to know the intros of songs and the 8 counts.

8-counts and Phrases

So what’s an 8 count?

Let's take a very basic song that most people will be familiar with, "We Are Family" by Sister Sledge. Sing the song to yourself while tapping out the beats
:
1..2...3...4.5.6.7.8.1........2......3......4....5.6.7.8
We are fam-i-ly......I've got all my sisters and me.....
1..2...3...4.5.6.7.8.1......2....3....4....5.6.7.8
We are fam-i-ly......Get up everybody sing!.......

These 4 groups of 8-counts form one 32-count phrase (4x8=32 for the mathematically challenged). It's best to mix at the 32 count. In other words, the best place for the new song to come in at full volume will be at the first beat of a new 8-count at the completion of this 32-count phrase. Got it?

Note: in many songs, as in "We Are Family," the first note of the song is not always the first beat of an 8 count. In this song above, the single and album versions have a drum riff that is actually number 8 beat. So if you want to begin matching the beats on the 1 count of the first 8 count of a 32-count phrase, you may want to skip over the drum riff while in cue in your headphones.

32-Count Intros
Many songs have 32-count intros (32-counts of instrumental track) which make them much easier to mix. With these songs, you can listen in cue to song B through the headphones while song A is playing through the speakers. Once you have matched up song B on the 1 count of the 32-count phrase so that it is in sync with song A playing through the speakers, you can bring the volume up and you have 32 beats to make sure that is right on track. At the end of that 32 count phrase of song A, song B is already at full volume and is ready to take over.

What if the song does not have a 32-count intro? I’ve heard this reasoning used by some DJs over the years to say that they don’t mix because not all music has 32 count intros. I’ve heard others say that you can only beat mix with "House" music or "Club" music. My answer to that is that it does not matter what type of music it is or whether or not it has a 32 count intro. Songs do NOT have to overlap for a full 32 counts to produce an effective beat mix segue. For example, when segueing 2 "oldies" songs, if song A ends cold on the 8 count and you hit song B perfectly on the 1 count so that the beat is continuous, then you have created a smooth beat mix. The same holds true for virtually any type of music, be it rock, alternative, country, etc. beat mixing is not just for "disco" or "club" music.

III Putting Sets Together

Once we know the BPM of our music, it is easier to think about what songs might go well with each other. Generally it works well to group songs together that are of a similar style. For example, if we are putting together an oldies set, it generally works well to put several songs from that same era together. That way, people who enjoy that type of music will enjoy several songs together. Mixing an oldies-song into a hip-hop song into an alternative rock song – even if done perfectly on beat -- might not create the desired effect of continuity on the dance floor. The oldies fans might exit once they hear a hip-hop song. And the hip-hop fans might depart as soon as they hear crunching guitars from an alternative rock song. Granted, in some cases, these types of transitions might be exactly what the crowd goes for. But generally it’s good to put sets together that are of a similar style.

Here are some examples of songs (and their associated BPM) that might go well together:

Oldies Set:

Runaround Sue - Dion & the Belmonts (156)
Let's Twist Again - Chubby Checker (164)
I Saw Her Standing There - Beatles (160)
Great Balls of Fire - Jerry Lee Lewis (174)
Rockin' Robin - Bobby Day (174)
Rock Around the Clock - Billy Haley & Comets (174)

Motown Set:

ABC - Jackson 5 (96)
Respect - Aretha Franklin (112)
Ain't Too Proud To Beg - Temptations (124)
Sugar Pie Honey Bunch - Four Tops (127)
This Old Heart of Mine - Isley Brothers (127)

Alternative Set:

Love Shack - B52s (134)
Our Lips Are Sealed - Go Gos (134)
Mony Mony - Billy Idol (137)

Or
Love Shack (134) [then pitching up pretty dramatically to...]
We Got The Beat - Go Gos (156)
My Sharona - The Knack (160)
Whip It - Devo (160)
That's What I Like About You - Romantics (156) [pitching up to match 160, then pitching up more to about 168]
Dancing With Myself - Billy Idol (174) [starting by lowering the bpm to about 168 to match previous song, then after successfully mixing, slowly building the bpm back up to 174]

Dance Classics Set:

Macarena - Los Del Rio (106) [for those rare occasions I am called on to play this, I usually only play about 60 seconds of the song before quickly mixing out of it seamlessly into the next song such as...]
December 1963 (Oh What A Night) - Frankie Vallie & Four Seasons (106)
Stayin' Alive - Bee Gees (106)
Play That Funky Music - Wild Cherry (108)
Get Down Tonight - KC & Sunshine Band (112)
That's The Way I Like It - KC & Sunshine Band (110)
We Are Family - Sister Sledge (113)
Celebration - Kool & The Gang (120)
Boogie Nights - (120)
YMCA - Village People (127)
Born To Be Alive - Patrick Hernandez (132)
Disco Inferno - Trammps (132)

Recent Hits Set:

Electric Slide - Marcia Griffiths (108)
Getting Jiggy Wit It - Will Smith (108)
This Is How We Do It - Montel Jordan (110)
1-2-3-4 - Coolio (116)
Now That We Found Love - (118)
Copacabana - Barry Manilow (122)
Don't Stop Til You Had Enough - Michael Jackson (127)
Dropped A Bomb On Me - Gap Band (127)
Pump Up The Jam - Technotronic (125)
Whoomp! There It Is - Tag Team (128)

Progression of BPMs

As a general rule, it is beneficial to transition from a lower BPM song to a higher BPM song. Increasing the BPMs tends to have the affect of creating more "energy" on the dance floor. People move their bodies to the beat of the music. If the tempo of the music increases, so does the movement on the floor. As the song’s tempo increases, people will begin to move their bodies at the same rate – increasing the speed of their body movements and their heart rate. On the other hand, if we transition from a higher BPM song to a lower BPM song, peopleÂ’s movements and energy level will decrease –creating the sense of lost energy on the dance floor.

Note the progression of the dance sets above. The song sets generally move from a lower BPM to a higher BPM. With pitch control, each of these segues can be created seamlessly, all the while gradually increasing the tempo and BPM. If we were to take these same songs, switch the order of them and play them from 120 to 106 to 127 to 112 it would force the people dancing to readjust their body movements each time. This can be awkward and might provide just enough of a reason for people to exit the dance floor. That’s a chance I do not want to take.

This is also equally true for slow songs and ballads. Slow dance songs can vary in BPM from the 40 BPM range to 80+ BPM (generally speaking). The principle of transitioning from a slower BPM slow dance song to a slightly higher BPM slow dance song has the same effect. It is generally perceived as more comfortable to the dancers as opposed to transitioning to a slower song, which would have the effect of dropping the energy level even more.
The other thing to be aware of when using remixes is that many times, the remix artist puts in all sorts of samples, do-hingies, bells, whistles, etc. and the resulting effect is that it is SO different than the original song that people on the dance floor either don’t recognize the song at all and exit the floor, or think that it is too weird and exit the floor. My personal preference for remixes, particularly when playing at a wedding reception, is to use remix versions of songs that are fairly true to the original. That is, perhaps they have taken the original version of the song and have built in a 32-count intro and outro, a break or two, and have laid over the song a more danceable bass beat.

Practice, Practice, Practice
Bobby Orr, my all-time-favorite ice hockey player legend from the Boston Bruins quoted one of my favorite lines: "practice does not make perfect, practice makes better." As we strive to increase our skills in all areas of our business, beat mixing is one of the areas in which we can constantly improve. So what is the best way to practice? One of the best ways might be to take 2 versions of the same song, adjust the pitch of one song, then try to match up the beat of the second song.

Another beneficial exercise is to practice putting some sets together. Knowing several sets of songs with similar stylings will help. Practice mixing those sets together until you gain confidence to use those mixes in a live performance. Tape the mixes (from the output on your mixing board) and listen to them, critiquing yourself. You will find that, as you continue to practice, the mixes will become that much smoother.
Advanced
Sampling: As you gain confidence with your basic mixes, you can branch out to master even more challenging skills. Sampling is one of those. Sampling is simply taking a vocal phrase, a musical riff, drum loop, etc. and laying that portion of the track over the music that is playing through the speakers.

Take a classic example: "Gonna Make You Sweat" from C&C Music Factory has one of the greatest sampling lines, "Everybody dance now!" That phrase can be sampled and laid over the music to inject a jolt of high energy to a song. So how do you extract that phrase? You could digitally sample it. Some mixers have that capability; some CD players have that capability; and there are several types of digital samplers.

There are a couple keys to this. First, the sample needs to be the same BPM as the song that is playing. That "everybody dance now!" phrase is actually 4 counts of an 8 count in a song that is 114 BPM. If we were to sample that phrase and lay it on top of another song that is much different (e.g., 125 BPM or 100 BPM), the "everybody dance now!" sample will sound awkward an out of sync. If the sampler you are using has pitch control so that you can adjust the pitch of the sample, that is a great tool to use. If not, then you may want to consider using samples that are very close in BPM to the song over which you will be laying the sample.
Another issue to consider is where, within a 32 count phrase, you will want to lay the sample. Using our example of the "everybody dance now" phrase, that actually comes in on the 5 count of an 8 count. So if you were to lay that sample over another music bed, it will sound best if you lay it over at the 5 count of the song that is playing. Play the single version of that song and count out the 8 counts yourself. You will see that it comes in at the 5 count of the 2nd measure of a 32 count phrase.

This brings up the issue of where, within a 32 count phrase, is it best to lay a sample. Generally, it is best to lay a vocal track or sample over an instrumental music bed. Laying vocals from different songs over each other can sound jumbled and distracting.

Echoing: There is a lot of creativity that can be used with 2 copies of the same song. By playing them both at the same time, at the exact same speed, and ever-so-slightly "nudge" one a bit slower momentarily, it can create an effect that closely resembles the Doppler effect -- sounding like a jet going by. By placing a finger on the + or – pitch bend button and slowing down a song then speeding it up, it creates an almost 3 dimensional effect to the music.
Another version of this would be play 2 of the same songs delaying one by one measure. In other words, the song in CD cart 1 is playing and the same song in CD cart 2 is a few beats behind (depending on the vocals and instrumental beds, it might be better to create the echo at a 1 count, 4 count, an 8 count, or even one whole 32 count phrase). You can then switch the fader back and forth between the 2 songs, giving the impression that the song is echoing itself.

Key Matching: True trained musicians will tell you that songs blend together best when they are not only on beat but in the same KEY. So how does one determine the key in which a song was recorded? I have long forgotten the musical keys from my preadolescent guitar lessons and piano lessons. If you are like me and you do not instantly recognize the key of a song, you might want to purchase a key whistle. It is a relatively inexpensive device that you could find in most music equipment stores (places that would sell guitars, for example). When listening to a song playing at its original speed (in other words, without engaging the pitch control), blow this little whistle and listen for what it sounds like. Try blowing the various whistle keys until you hear the sound that fits well. Something that is not in the same key should be immediately noticeable and will sound brash. Once you find the key in which the song was recorded, it should sound like a perfect harmony.
Once you have determined the key, you can write that down on the CD jacket or record jacket. This becomes one other piece of information that you can use when deciding what songs blend well with each other. When you mix two songs together that are both on beat and in the same key, it will sound incredible!

Shifts in Energy and Breaks: As mentioned earlier, it is generally beneficial to build the energy on the floor by gradually increasing the BPM of the music. There are times, however, when dramatic shifts in energy can create an energizing effect. Take, for example, Rockefella Skank by Fat Boy Slim. During that song, it slams along then, at a break point, it slows down until it almost drags to a stop. Then, it builds again, faster, then faster, then faster still until it is slamming at full speed again. The crowd (obviously it has to be the "right" crowd for that song) will be captured by the music and will let their bodies move in sync – slowing down then increasing speed steadily until they scream when the music is back at full speed. It can be a fantastic effect. I have found, however, that it is best when used sporadically. Another example is the House Mix of "Fantasy" by Mariah Carey. It goes along at 125 BPM until a break where it goes back to the "Genius of Love" sample music bed at 102 BPM. Then, in dramatic form with a siren, it increases again until it is eventually back at 125 BPM. By the time it is back at full speed, the dance floor is jamming! Great effect on the crowd. (Best with "younger" crowds.)