Criteria of professional production. Part 3

DJ-friendly arrangement

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What are criteria of professionally-made tracks?


In this third and the final part of the “Criteria of professional production” series let’s talk about a DJ-friendly arrangement.

Part 1. Sound design
Part 2. Fills and transitions
Part 3. DJ-friendly arrangement

First things off, let me tell a quick “Mixing 101” for those music producers out there who are not familiar with DJing at all. If you know how Dj mixing works, just skip the next paragraph below.

At first, a DJ is looking for a starting point of the track — usually, it’s the first beat following the intro — and marks it as “Cue”. Let’s call this track as “Track B”. Then DJ sets the tempo of this track to match with another track playing on a background, “Track A”. Then the DJ waits for a proper moment — usually, the climax of the Track A — and starts the Track B from the Cue point. Track B fades in, and then the crossfade occurs usually at the 32nd bar since dance music usually progresses in 16-bar sections. Roughly speaking, that very basic mechanical part of DJ mixing looks like this:

Rough visual demonstration of DJ mixing basics

You may ask, why I’m telling all those DJs stuff, and why music producers should care about it in the first place?

Well, from the marketing point of view, DJs are one of your target audience group, they are professional consumers of your product (Gosh, I hate speaking this language). DJs host radio shows and podcasts that influences on people’s taste. Artists that make a living off music are plays as DJs, too. DJing is an inseparable part of electronic dance music culture, that is just fact. So, unless you write some Ambient/Easy listening or experimental music, as a music producer you should keep DJs in mind when making a track.

Here are some common DJ problems, and how to avoid them by making the structure of a DJ-friendly track on the music production stage:

Transition occurs after the 16-bars section

Picture 1a. Do you remember fills and transitions from the “Part 2”? When such transition occurs after the 16-bars section, it shifts the entire structure of the track for the extra 1~4 Bars or whether your transition duration is. This is not a DJ-friendly arrangement.
Picture 1b. The transition occurs within the 16-bars section, the structure remains unchanged. This is a DJ-friendly arrangement.

The break begins too early

Picture 2a. The breakdown starts too soon after the intro, it might be not enough time for DJ to mix the tracks. This is also one of the reasons why DJs prefer full-length tracks rather than their 3-4 minute-long radio versions.
Picture 2b. There are at least 32 bars between the intro and the breakdown. This is a DJ-friendly arrangement.

Too long breakdown with no anticipation

Picture 3a. The long breakdown that has no tension. Some tracks have one-, two- or even three-minute-long breakdowns with nothing but an ambience sounds, which literally sucks the energy out of the dancefloor. The only way for DJs to play such tracks safely is to cut those breakdowns off.
Picture 3b. The breakdown rising its energy level over time which led to more anticipation of the drop. This is a DJ-friendly arrangement.

Of course, these are not strict rules, but just general recommendations and a sort of “good manners”. It is up to you to follow these manners or not.

This was the last post from the “Criteria of professional production” mini-series, I hope you find it useful. Make sure to click the tags below for more posts.

 558   2016   Advice   DJing   Production

Since 2015, I’ve run an advice section giving my experience and answering readers’ questions on music production, DJing, performing, marketing, management, and other aspects of the music industry. The purpose of the series is to spread knowledge and cultivate professionalism in the music industry. The advice series works simply: you send me your questions, and I answer them with a blog post when I have something relevant to say. Send me your questions via the form.

© Daniel Sokolovskiy, 2024
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