Diary of a DJ

Carvin PA Kit

IMPORTANT – SEE THE BOTTOM FOR 2/9/2016 Update

I’ve taught dance for years and there is really nothing I like more than great sounding music. I’m a fan of it all.. Rock, Classical, Disco, Funk, Big Band, Country, Pop and even Dub Step, I love me some Dub-Step. Recently I was asked to DJ at a dinner club, I enjoyed it but their equipment was sub-par, so I’ve decided to buy my own.

This post is simply blogging the trials and tribulations of a newbie DJ.

It should be noted that if you have guaranteed gigs, you can very quickly pay off your investment of equipment. I was asked to prebook several events, so to me, the output of cash was well justified…and after it’s paid off, then you’re looking at pure profit.

Out of the gate I purchased 2 15″ Carvin PA speakers with an amplifier ($730) (seen above).

tepxtrem1501I used just the two 15″ speakers at two events..but I am a bit of an audiophile and was not quite happy with the bass of the speakers, so I recently purchased a 15″ Xtreme 1501 active subwoofer from Technical Pro (seen to the left). You can’t beat the price ($300) though I read both positive and negative reviews..I figured I’d roll the dice.

So far I’ve only tested the subwoofer in my garage, but I’m EXTREMELY pleased by the sound…I had to play with it for a bit, but once you figure out the balance between speakers and sub, it’s pretty golden.

Again, Keep in mind, I’m VERY picky about the sound and I’m digging this setup so far.

Finally, I purchase the American DJ Festive Pak 2 for lighting via Amazon for $100. There are 3 lights, 2 of which I’ll be using, but the third is a basic strobe, which most people hate, so I’ll be tossing that…or saving for Halloween!

NOTE: I had to learn this, so I’m passing it on to other newbies. There is such a thing as Powered (or active) speakers and Passive (or nonactive) speakers. Powered means they have their own power and don’t need an amplifier while Passive means they need an amplifier. Powered speakers generally run more expensive. My setup is two 15″ passive speakers that need an amplifier and a Powered Subwoofer. Powered subwoofers offer a more rich and deep bass from everything I’ve read…and if I’m going to invest, I want the best sound possible.

In my case, I connect the two passive speakers into the amplifier via the right and left ‘speaker’ outbound, then connect the subwoofer to the amplifier via the ‘monitor’ outbound. This way I control the speakers via the ‘Main’ volume and the Subwoofer level via the ‘monitor’ volume.

I’ve got two AV inputs on my amplifier so I have two different computers that hook in, each get their own volume on the amp. On one laptop I am using Club DJ PRO VJ6. It allows you to HDMI from your laptop to a large tv/monitor and run music videos while the music cranks from your speakers. The site says it’s $39.00 for only one more day…but it’s said that since I bought it 5 months ago. On the other laptop I use iTunes, which I was pleasantly surprised regarding how many dj friendly features iTunes has (auto fade, auto volume correction, song cue etc).

As I mentioned, I’ve only used my setup 2 times and this last time I had two issues where the music went dead for a couple seconds (which when you’re dj’ing it feels like an hour of silence). I am not sure what caused it, but suspect the amplifier went out momentarily due to overload. I am starting a Ladies Night gig every Thursday at a nearby bar, so If it continues I’ll upgrade my amp and let you know how it goes.

I also plan on tweet streaming live occasionally from the bar via TwitCaster  (@dancelesson)

Final Note: Everything but the Carvin Speakers I purchased through Amazon, and it’s been a GREAT experience.

Questions and comments are welcomed.

Latest Update: 4/16/2014
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4/16/2014 – So I’ve done approx 10 gigs using the setup described below…and I’ve had some issues.

My Carvin Amplifier (XP800L Powered Mixer) is not cutting it. Nearly every gig has some sort of issue. If I use just one speaker combined with my Subwoofer (sub with pole and 15″ speaker on top) then it works ok…but for the larger events, when I use both 15″ speakers along with my subwoofer, my amplifier will start dropping out (also known as clipping).

It works fine for the first 1.5 – 2 hours, but as the party gets going you’ll find you’ll need to boost the volume. This is when I’ve had the problem, numerous times. I’m not even turning it up 3/4 of the way, just past half way and it’s starts having issues. Also, the USB port started to smoke when I plugged in my Phone adapter, that’s no good. I took the Amp into Carvin and they said the USB issue should not be happening, and I can reduce clipping if I rely on the Main volume control more than the Input volume control. I tried that at my last gig and it did not have any issues after 3 hours, but…the volume was not being challenged at that gig because it was more low-key event.

I’ve researched and the Carvin XP800L delivers 140 watts per 8 ohms and my speakers are 8 ohms. 140 is not allot so I decided to update my amp. I’ve recently purchased the GTD Audio BM-226. I found it on Amazon and it’s REALLY affordable (around $170) …but it delivers 250 watts per 8 ohms, so that is nearly double what I currently have. The reviews were decent in regards to sound and power though the instruction booklet is pretty useless and is written in POORLY transcribed english. I have not used the new amp at a gig yet, but out of the box it’s very sturdy and it feels/sounds good.

Lastly, I’m not using Club DJ Pro as much and rely more on Virtual DJ. I’ve found it to be easier to match beats and it works great with a USB headset. I have also found that 128 Beats Per Minute is the hot trigger for getting/keeping people dancing. So query online for popular dance songs that are 128 BPM to build your library.

Lesson Learned: If you don’t have powered speakers, the Amp is the heart of the system and it needs to have power.

Latest Update: 2/9/2016
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I’ve had countless gigs now, mostly weddings, anniversaries and such.. Since purchasing the GTD Audio BM-226 amplifier I have not had a single clipping issue. This amplifier has proved to be WELL worth the affordable price (I hope I’m not jinxing myself).

Quick notation, I did do a gig at a beach and required a generator. I thought a 2000 watt unit would do the job, but it did not. There fortunately was a 3500 watt unit on the premises used by another vendor. They allowed me to plug in and it worked fine. I was unable to plug anything ELSE in, but for just the amp it worked fine. I was a bit screwed when my laptop died ;0). Keep in mind, the other vendor was also pulling juice, so perhaps if I had the 3500 watts to myself it would have been fine.

Please note, after 2 years now, both the Carvin 15″ speakers and the Xtreme Subwoofer have performed wonderfully. Well worth the money and I am now charging enough to where I’ve paid for my equipment 50 fold.

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The Waltz…Easy As 1, 2, 3!

If you’ve read my post ‘Why Dance? It Doesn’t Take A Genius” then you already know that women love men who can dance…ask any of them.

All cards on the table, the Waltz is a dance most men will do formally 1-2 times a year…maybe.

Note that I said ‘formally‘… all circumstances are different. The Waltz is a dance most commonly seen at weddings, anniversaries or other formal events. Of course your career and/or social circles may expose you to more formal events than the average Joe. Regardless…  if you know the timing and understand the basics, the Waltz is a dance you can do anytime, any place. It will draw envy from men and respect from women.

Different dances are dependent on the individual song and that song’s timing. Would you know a Waltz if you heard one? Below is a short list of songs that are different speeds of waltz tempo. For those of you who are familiar with playing or reading music, the Waltz has 3 beats per measure (3/4) while most other music is 4 beats per measure ( 4/4). Only the waltz is 3/4, that’s what makes it unique.

Short List of Songs You Can Waltz To:

Remedy & Sweetest Devotion – Adel (both fast viennese waltz)
Ray LaMontagne – Let It Be Me
Counting Crows – Raining In Baltimore
Journey – Open Arms
Sarah Mclachlan – Angel
Seal – Kiss From A Rose
Simply Red – If You Don’t Know Me By Now

So to clarify, you can dance a Swing, Fox Trot, Cha-Cha, Rumba, Samba, Tango or most any other dance to a 4/4 song. But you can only dance a Waltz to a 3/4 music, and no other music will work with the Waltz !

Defusing a theory: I hear all the time “You can’t teach me to dance, I don’t have any rhythm”. This is nonsense and I’ll prove it to you. Do you have a heart beat? Does it beat to a rhythm or is it completely erratic? When you walk down the street, do you walk in a rhythm or do you stagger, stutter and falter down the street? Just stop for a moment…if you need to, get up and walk through the room. Both your heart beat and the stride when you walk are very rhythmic. You don’t think about it, you just do it naturally every day!

Everybody has rhythm, some people just have a harder time consciously putting it to work.

I chose to write this post about the Waltz because it is the same rhythm from which you walk. If you were to count up to 6 with each step you took as you walked down the street, it would not be “1….23…..4..5…..6” it would be “1…2…3…4…5…6”. ….That timing, that walking….That is the Waltz .

Doing the Waltz is like walking down the street only you apply simple patterns. The timing and the rhythm remains the same as walking “1..2..3..4..5..6”.

The simple pattern applied is what’s called the ‘Box’ step, because it looks like a square on the floor…or a ‘Box’.  Just like walking, you step left, right, left, right, left, right. Also like walking you step in even tempo “1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6″.

At first it will likely feel stiff and not natural, but after doing it for 5-10 minutes straight, you will find it becoming more and more simple, more natural.

After teaching this basic step I often hear the common statement…”This is not what it looks like when I see it on TV!”. This is true, and the reason for that is the turning. I would GREATLY encourage you to practice this step WITHOUT turning. Practice it just as you see, do it over & over & over again, until you feel it’s becomes ‘easy’.

When is it ‘easy’ enough? When you can hold a conversation with another person while doing this pattern, then you’ve got it well enough to move on.

The animation to the left shows the same box with no hesitation, as it should be danced. Immediately start a new box upon completing the previous.

Turning The Box: Turning this simple box is likely not what you expect…you Do Not use your feet to turn the box. There is a surprising parallel between leading a woman on the dance floor and many sports. In boxing, the trick to a good strong hit is the utilization of your shoulders with your body weight. Similarly, when golfing or snowboarding, the trick to proper technique is the use of shoulders and manipulating your body weight.

Dancing is the exact same idea. Always continue stepping in the pattern above, then start to turn your shoulders to the left very slowly. Let me emphasis ‘slowly’.. one box step will not even turn you 1/4 . You will be better off doing a couple box patterns without turning…then after 2 or 3 boxes, start turning your shoulders slowly to the left. Do not think about turning with your feet at all, your feet will follow your shoulders and the box will turn on it’s own.

This is a baby step to the technique of leading a woman on the dance floor. Whether you choose to Tango, Swing or Salsa, you can lead most any woman with proper shoulder work (technically called FRAME).

The Waltz is a great stepping stone to more complicated dances and a great way to learn the basics of leading a woman on the dance floor.

This is where I’ll wrap this post but look forward to your feedback and I invite suggestions or requests.

Why Dance? It Doesn’t Take A Genius!

Learn the basics of most social dances

I’m a typical guy! I think Led Zeplin is the best rock band of all time, I drink beer, I watch football and my celebrity crush list includes Salma HayekCatherine Bell and Tanya Memme.

I am fortunate however in that I learned something very early on…Women Love Men Who Can Dance!

Knowing how to dance is like knowing several different languages. Most people understand Rock, Funk, Classical or Rap…but not many can also understand Tango, Waltz, Salsa or Swing.

My Revelation: I was aproximately 15 years old and our school was organizing a dance in which parents where invited. Parent attendance was rare so they planned to have a Waltz contest for the … ‘old folk’.

I had discovered the previous year that I liked moving around to music when a  friend put on Midnight Star’s “No Parking On The Dance Floor“. I really had never heard this kind of ‘electronic funk’ before and it pretty much blew my mind.

Aware of my newly found appreciation, my friend Lilas looks to me and says, ‘We should learn to Waltz for the contest’. Understandably, most 15 year old boys when confronted with a request to ‘learn the waltz‘ would tend to shy away, if not literally run away! Fortunately, my 15 year old, puberty bent mind processed the idea of spending time in close proximity with a pretty girl..and I accepted the challenge.

Now I hardly remember the school dance, nor the contest. As a matter of fact, we may never have even attended. But I do clearly remember going to the library, finding an ‘Arthur Murray book of ballroom dance’  and learning the basic waltz ‘box step‘ with Lilas.

**Did you know that when a guy knows how to do a basic waltz box step, there are ENDLESS girls lined up wanting to be taught?? This is something I learned almost immediately.

After my schooling I ended up visiting one of those Arthur Murray dance schools in Orange County CA. The next 5 years found me teaching social dance professionally. Ultimately I grew tired of all the egos, boas and glitter and left…but the education was invaluable!

Disclaimer: I am NOT telling guys to stop everything and walk into a dance studio… God No!

I completely understand guys cringing at the thought of dance lessons. Shows like Dancing With The Stars don’t help matters at all! The representation of men who can dance in the media is piss poor.

Guys, the reality is this…telling a woman you can swing or salsa has more effect than telling her you’re independently wealthy. Being lead around the dance floor is something very few women experience anymore…and women LOVE to dance.

If you are secure enough with yourself to walk into a dance studio..do it! If you feel better with private lessons, there are plenty of teachers in most any city, simply ask their training. Most independent teachers did, at one time, work through Arthur Murray or Fred Astaire studios.

Learn from books, learn from online videos. Learning the basic step patterns is important, but utlimately I recommend working at least a little with a female instructor to build your skills in ‘leading’.

Dances I recommend learning: (in order of ease)

Rumba: it’s easy and slow. The rhythm of a Rumba works with most any slow song. (anything but a waltz song)

Waltz: the basic pattern is the same as the Rumba, just different rhythm.

Fox Trot: great casual walking around the floor dance, perfect for those Sinatra fans

East Coast Swing: (aka Jitter Bug) same rhythm as Fox Trot, just more rhythmic than smooth

This Blog will be growing with actual instruction, please bookmark it for more later.