You’ve got a Music Library stuffed full of great tunes – but what’s the best way of organising it?
Back in the days when vinyl or CD was the medium of choice for the gigging DJ, carrying a whole DJ library to the gig was no a possibility. Instead, the DJ would plan what they intended to play, so that they would only have to carry a few boxes of records/ CDs. Nowadays, with computer-based DJ rigs taking precedence, and the DJ Music library stored on a hard drive or USB memory stick, the number of songs that DJs have at there fingertips is vast.
The DJ is no longer be searching though a few boxes of tracks for the right one, but potentially thousands and thousands of tracks. With such range, it becomes far more important to have your music organised in a meaningful and useful way.
Here, we offer some useful tips to do this.
So much data…
One of the great things about DJing from digital files is that tracks can have a huge amount of useful, associated data. So, whilst a CD or record would have the artist and track name on the sleeve or inlay, a digital file can have BPM, genre, rating, along with other user defined tags.
The key to having a DJ library that exudes ‘Zen’ with everything that easy to find is using this data to your advantage. First of all, however…
Know your music!!
Whilst there is romantic idea about a DJ grabbing a killer tune in the afternoon, then using it to turn the dancefloor into a sweaty mass in the evening, this is not the best idea in the grand scheme of things.
It’s better to spend time getting to know a track well – where the builds and breakdowns are, the key, the tempo, the genre, and where it would likely fit into the set.
The ‘star rating’ feature on software such as Traktor is one of the most commonly used sorting tools. Rather than being used to rate according to taste/ quality, most DJs use this to indicate when, within a set, this would be suitable.
Lower star ratings indicate that a track would be ideally played early in the night, moving up to 5-star tracks that should be played at the peak of a gig.
Some DJs limit this to just 3 ratings:
- 1-star = early set, deeper, more subdued tunes
- 3-star = main section of a set, bangin’, upbeat tunes
- 5-star = climax, all of your ‘big guns’- tunes guaranteed to bring the house down, ideal for closing a set.
Use playlist folders like record boxes
The other great thing about software packages such as Traktor is that you can have endless virtual record boxes or crates. And, unlike actual records, in a digital DJ library, tunes can be in several places simultaneously.
How you use these is entirely dependent on the range of gigs you play. You might play at an electro night during the week, and play functions at the weekends to pay the bills (*sigh…), or play rock nights alongside drum and bass, or any other combination of different musical styles at different gigs.
As a result, organising into genre folders can be a useful place to start. Plus, if you do play at venues with different music policies, organising into folders for each night can also be useful.
It’s a good idea to have a folder for new purchases, and a folder that is a kind of ‘go to’ folder to draw upon at whatever the gig is. This needs to be organised ahead of the gig, according to what the gig is.
If you use beat matching as a major part of your performance, you may also want to organise tunes according to their tempo.
Use comments to your advantage
The ‘comments’ section of an MP3 ID tag might have escaped your notice, because as a listener, they’re not the kind of thing you’d use often.
If you set up your own tag system, these can be an easy way of finding a track speedily. Use words to describe the track musically (e.g. funky, groovy, piano, minimal, etc), with other descriptors that might make it easy to find (record label, place you heard it, where you generally play it, or first played it – you get the idea).
Like all ‘house-keeping’ jobs, organising your DJ library can seem like a thankless task. However, investing a bit of time to do this regularly will improve your performances no end.
Being able to grab the tack you need at a particular time, in mere moments is invaluable, and will encourage you to be more creative and use the full scope of your library.
Joe is a contributor for the Dawsons Music blog. Specialising in product reviews and crafting content to help and inspire musicians of all musical backgrounds.