I love psychedelic music – the uptempo stuff is just the best way to dance the night away and the downtempo stuff is, in my opinion, one of the forefronts of musical complexity in the world today. The best part of psychedelic music is, of course, the psychedelic parties. If you are a DJ your first and primary job is to keep space ship earth going at warp speed and your secondary task is to get invited to the next party. So lets talk about how to make your sets better.
A good DJ set goes beyond choosing great songs and transitioning between them artistically. Now that we live in a (mostly) digital age (sorry, I said it…I still love you guys who stick to the vinyl) there are a lot of factors to take into account that are often overlooked, underplayed, or are misunderstood. So lets talk about something that is pretty specific to psychedelic parties – the effects of psychedelic drugs on hearing.
The honest truth of the party world is this: Psychedelics (acid in particular) heighten the sensitivity and perception one has to sound while alcohol and other drugs usually dull the sensitivity and perception of sound. Most parties are not psychedelic parties and most money is tied up in non-psychedelic parties which means most advice on DJing is delivered from the perspective of dulled sensitivity to sound. As we want to DJ psychedelic parties we must take that heightened awareness of sound into account in both our live sets, and our recordings of our sets.
1. Only/Mostly DJ lossless files
Due to heightened sensitivity from psychedelic drugs a listener will be able to perceive the difference between an MP3 and truly lossless file. They won’t know why but they will prefer the set of a DJ who plays lossless files over an equivalent set from an equivalent DJ who plays MP3s. You’ll notice lossless files get more movement and reaction from the crowd, especially over higher quality sound systems. Of course if you DJ mostly lossless files with a minority of MP3 files that’s fine too – some tracks are incredible but impossible to find in lossless.
2. Set the sample rate of your DJ software to 96Khz
Sure your lossless files all say they are 44.1 – but sample rates are not truly equal across all software. It gets complicated with the whole encoding and decoding algorithm thing so I’ll just say this: The difference between an MP3 and a lossless file is huge when people are high on acid, and the difference between a 44.1 and a 96khz sample rate is equally huge when people are high on acid. All things being equal – the DJ who plays lossless files at 96khz is going to be the most danced-to favorite of the crowd for no other reason than the clarity which brings with it sharpened pleasure.
3. Use an external sound card, not your built-in headphone jack
It is possible to do a stellar set with a laptop and no controller – as far as the dancing goes it doesn’t matter if you twiddle a knob or not. What does matter is signal amplification. You see, even if you have a MacBook Pro the signal that comes from the headphone jack is just not good enough to deliver quality audio at loud volumes over a large sound system. Even if you are DJing lossless files at 96Khz, audio coming over the headphone jack is going to fall short of the desired level of audio perfection desired by yourself and the crowd. What you need is an external sound card that has a great pre-amp inside. This allows your computer to output high quality audio signals at volumes suitable for parties without distortion from clipping. In addition to all that an external sound card actually computes audio for your computer which means you can get significantly better performance out of your computer than you had before.
4. Keep your Digital Master Volume Knob at -10db
Clipping sounds bad, even “inaudible” clipping can cause headaches. The best way to avoid clipping is simply to take the master volume control of your software to -10 and then use the master volume knob on your external sound card to amplify the clean signal to an acceptable level. The lack of distortion means more people will dance and they will dance longer.
5. If you are going to use keylock then make sure you aren’t bending the pitch more than 3-7 points
Being able to keep the key of a track the exact same while changing it’s tempo is awesome, but this relies on algorithms that fail at a certain point and cause audio artifacts that are similar to playing an MP3 – people will “feel” that something isn’t perfect. To avoid this just make sure you stay 3-7 points from the original tempo – for example if your track is originally 140BPM then you can bend it all the way to 143BPM without percievable audio artifacts, and you can go all the way to 147 if you absolutely have to without people caring too much if it’s just once in a while. Generally speaking 3 points is invisible, 5 points is acceptable, and 7 points is able to cover emergencies. I personally never go more than 2 points when DJing uptempo stuff and try not to go more than 3 on downtempo stuff.