What Exactly Do DJs Do Live?

Standard mount turntable cartridge
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No one knows exactly what DJs do in their console. You see them move their hands. You see them contort their faces in weird ways while moving their hands. But those are mere byproducts of the actual thing they do. But what exactly is that thing? Are they simply pushing buttons? Frying pancakes? Stirring soup? Who knows? It's a mystery to most of us. We were really curious about this, so we reached out to several DJs and experts on the art of deejaying to find out what exactly DJs do when they play live.

DJing According to DJs

"The number one thing they do is entertain! To be an effective DJ the most crucial element is to know how to engage an audience by mixing one track into the next. This is done by matching BPMs (beats per minute). There are additional things that you may see a DJ do while performing live. When you see them twisting knobs between songs, they are adjusting their EQ (sound level/quality). They scratch records if they perform using vinyl. Some DJs also add visual effects that they control themselves from the DJ booth or audio effects that they add for fun to the songs they mix. Some also dance while performing (spinning) or have a mic to interact with the crowd. Additionally, some create live mashups of songs." - Melissa Bessey | Founder, Media Allure

"I believe the real question is, "Are you just standing there playing an iTunes playlist or are you actually doing something?" Most DJs are manipulating the songs to blend seamlessly together by changing speed, looping sections, changing EQ and Key. If you are good at your job, it is a constant search for the perfect song to keep pulling your crowd along with you on the music set ride. If you falter, the dance floor clears. Then there are those moments when just the perfect beat hits and the crowd goes wild...that's why we DJ." - DJ Rob Alberti | http://www.robalberti.com

"DJs don't do anything but push buttons! It's the biggest freaking joke on earth! Did you see this spoof?" - Dan Nainan, Comedian | http://www.nainan.com  

"As a DJ and a musician for over 20 plus years, I get to hear it from both sides. Musicians tend to think a DJ does nothing more than press some buttons while musicians spend hours and hours each and every day of their lives crafting their musical abilities. Music is medicine.  Music is a universal language. It's also art, and art is subjective. There are DJs and turntablists, and both groups have their respective talents. A turntablist would be much more akin to a musician. As turntablism is very similar, in a way, to being a percussionist. True turntablism skills on the record players, sometimes more than 2, is an art form and something that does require many hours of practice, just like any musician.

But being a DJ these days also has its special talent and merit. I had a friend who was a musical snob. Who only listened to "opera" and "classical" music. He asked me one day, so you just play "other people's" music. Like that involved no talent whatsoever.

I told him, quite proudly,"Yes, that may be true. But my job actually is making people dance, smile and have a good time." Having dedicated as many hours as any musician, in my lifetime, to researching, listening and searching for the best music to make people feel good and be happy and having done so, makes me happy. To see a sea of faces smiling and happy is one of the most rewarding jobs on the planet." - DJ Angelique Bianca | Los Angeles Veteran DJ for over 20 years. | https://www.mixcloud.com/angeliqueakaangelfreq