My desire to be a radio disc jockey was once a Facebook status in my early Mass Communication years. It is only until I was hired as a Multimedia/Web/Social Media Manager last October 2015 in a local radio station here in Davao City that I was able to fulfill that dream. I was under the news department but seeped into the entertainment department courageously just to be a DJ. Thanks to DJ Clea. Without her help and guidance and the permission of the station, I wouldn’t able to taste how to become one.
My DJ-ing stint is not long enough to be considered myself professional or expert though but I have learned a lot during that short span of time. Thus, it is but proper to call it “basic” and could be the start-up skills for the neophyte or budding DJs like me. Also, these do not debunk the I-learned-these-skills-in-my-radio-class idea. In fact, practicing it makes me feel authorized enough to share what I learned to those aspiring jocks.
It can be categorized into something technical knowledge and an interpersonal one. However, you can fully understand it through practice. But no worries, I want to share this handy basic tips and skill you can bring the moment you decide to begin your radio journey.
Note: I believe that radio business in other parts of the countries is quite different and may vary from culture to culture. This knowledge is based mostly a Philippine radio station perspective.
WIDEN YOUR MUSIC LIBRARY
To be in the radio industry, especially FM is to deal with music. (And I guess one of the reasons why you want to be a DJ is you love listening to music.) As a DJ, you have to be knowledgeable about the music of different periods, from 80’s hits to the current jams. There were a lot of AHA moments during my mentoring with DJ Clea when she introduces me to a song I know except the title and its artist. And she admitted it is normal. What I usually do is to research the song on the web using the lyrics. And to be honest, it is doubly difficult if you are trying to figure out a song which has undecipherable lyrics or just music or melody. EDM or club music is one.
You should also be familiar with various genres, even metal rock. Our programs are based on genres. My debut program is folk rock and country. I play the songs of Bread, Lobo, Cat Stevens, Lobo, Kenny Rogers, James Taylor, Don Mclean, Elton John, Eric Clapton, Simon and Garfunkel, Freddie Aguilar, Asin, Coritha, Bayang Barrios, Maan Chua, Joey Ayala among others. But sometimes, DJ Clea would allow me to play mellow or slow rock like Christopher Cross or Survivor, Reo Speedwagon, or Firehouse at the last quarter of my show. So if you are not familiar, you might mistakenly insert songs that do not belong to the genres required by the program. However, it depends on your program format. You don’t necessarily have to like it but least you are aware of it, especially those hits and those well-loved by the people of any ages.
Aside from that, know also the songs’ tempo. It could be fast (usually dance or pop or club), slow usually love songs) and MOR (middle of the road, not too fast, not too slow). This would usher you to the next skill.
Lastly, keep updated with the songs. List them as you hear them. Know the artists of different times and what people love to hear. The key here is to listen more and research more.
Everywhere I go, I always have earphones plugged in my ear and listen to other stations. I was able to observe how their programming goes on and most especially what songs they play and how it is playlisted. And ironically, I can say that many disc jockeys fail at this. This is the foundation of a mix.
This is quite challenging to illustrate. I’ll try my best. Remember the tempos? What you should keep in mind is that songs having the same tempos or beats should or best listened to if they follow each other. In moments that you have to escalate the speed and mood of your playlist, choose songs that have tempo not far from the one you played first.
The parts of a song that matters here are the beginning and the ending tunes. There are two types of tunes in a song, the fade or the gradual and the drop or the sudden or definite beat to punctuate a song.
Based on my experiences, I find it best to put next to each other songs that have similar intro and outro beats. My preference is If the song ends in a fade, it is good to follow it with a song starts with a fade. Same goes with drops. I am also fond of arranging songs having quite the same melody or sound or instrument. Acoustic follow by an acoustic or electronic next to an electronic and some of them belonged to different genres. For example, Katy Perry’s Roar sounds nearly identical with Sara Bareilles’ Brave. Although, DJing software like OTS DJ has an auto beat match feature, meaning they crossfades the tails and the heads of the song for you. So the beat matching is enhanced by great song choices.
In other words, my formulas are based on:
1. Instrument (acoustic, piano, electronic, etc.)
2. Beat (fast, slow, MOR, etc.)
3. Genre (Pop, Ballad, Rock, Folk Rock, Dance, RnB, )
4. Beginning and End (fade or drop)
However, there is no limit to experimentation. Just the right mix.
Why is it important? You don’t want to cut the mood of your listeners. Make sure your playlist is not a rollercoaster ride. The transition should not be obvious, and if it is, at least it is smooth. If you pull it off effectively, they wouldn’t notice it is the next song they are listening to. It makes them enjoy it.
DO’S AND DON’TS IN PLAYLISTING
Playlisting is the manner of organizing songs in a program clock or hour. Briefly, it is creating a playlist. DJ Clea told me that, ideally, there are more or less 15 songs in an hour but it can be cut if you have commercials, adlibs and breakers and stingers within the program clock.
From what I have learned in my radio class and practiced in a short-lived stint, a huge no-no in playlisting is PUTTING TWO OR MORE SONGS OF THE SAME ARTIST IN THE SAME HOUR.
Before I proceed to the nitty-gritty of adlib, I want to let you know first that the station where I worked caters audience in C, D, and E bracket. Ad-libbing in CDE radio stations is quite different from AB radio stations. In the AB stations, only a quick and concise speaking is required. However, whether it is AB or CDE, adlibbing is very challenging.
Adlib is spontaneous speaking on air. This is where the glam of the radio personality comes in. It is one of the motivations of freshmen in the communication courses to enter into the radio industry, the voice modulation, the projection and such. But how did I learn them? Practice.
First, you should have something to say. As what DJ Clea shared to me, “You are behind the mic not because you have to say something but because you have something to say.” The basic elements that should be present in an adlib are the time, the call sign, name of the station, the program, and your (DJ) name. The audience should know what station and to whom they are listening to. Plug your text line for greetings and requests.
Our time is ____. You are listening to 105.9 Balita FM. Welcome to the first-hour drive of our program Best of Folk Rock and Country Sunday. This is DJ Amber and I will be with you for two hours of playing your favorite folk rock and country songs, from 12 noon down 2 in the afternoon. If you have songs in mind, don’t hesitate to text me through this number______. For our next song, here’s _________.
Be as creative as you can every time you say your intros and extros so as not to bore your audience. State them in different ways, juggle them taking care not to confuse those who are listening. For the adlibs in the middle of the hour, some radio jocks read light news or tips, throw poll questions or topics, read greetings and text messages, or just brief, snappy song introduction, again, depending on the program. This one also calls for creativity and imaginations and ounces of humor if you have.
The voice and projection? Be confident with the sound you create. Record yourself and listen to it until you get used to it. It takes time to develop until you find the right projection unless an expert coaches you. What matter is that you are confident with what you are saying and you’ll be able to say it confidently. The listeners may not see you but they can sense your nerve wrack in your voice. They can hear the laziness or disinterest or tiredness in your voice and you want to avoid channeling that to them. One of your primary purposes is to uplift their mood. They can determine how you feel just by listening to you. Again, practice.
Most importantly, channel good will. Say something good, something positive, and motivational and uplifting, something useful and something they can learn alongside with humor and entertainment. Good example is that of Nicole Hyala and Chris Tsuper in Tambayan of 90.7 Love Radio Manila. Their program is mostly talk, as far as I know.
And again, it depends on your program format.
PLEASE YOUR LISTENERS
Your listeners are diverse in so many aspects such as age and status and thus, their tastes when it comes to music. Know what these people want to hear. Know the hits of the times and mix them right to be able to strike a balance. It is easier said than done though because you also have your own biases. There are songs you like but are alien to your audience’s ear. Or songs you despise but are their earworm. Despite that, it is them you should consider. TIP: To be safe, classics are timeless.
BE WILLING TO LEARN
Above were just technical know-hows. And you can never adapt them if you are resistant to learning. Before you will be listened to, you should first listen to those ahead of you. During the first few board work, you will still have a lot of mistakes and palpak and semplang. It is natural. DJ Clea just laughs at me whenever I push wrong buttons or say something weird or stupid because she also does that sometimes. Don’t be afraid to be corrected. It is the only way to learn.
SOAR THE AIRWAVES BY KEEPING FEET ON THE GROUND
DJing can be an instant stardom. Your parents, siblings, friends and neighbors would be proud to hear you on the airwaves. And when you are able to please few avid listeners, you will gain fans or should I say new friends other than your squads at home. In my case, there are those who go to our station just to see or meet us or bring us something. You become a radio personality. And some people will look up to you, find for you, and commend you for a job well done. It happened to me. But it doesn’t mean you are already above them. You should keep your character and values intact.
Lastly, LOVE WHAT YOU’RE DOING
The enjoyment and the good feeling while doing the job will greatly influence the whole mood of your board work. It resonates to the songs you play. Should I explain more?
I can still remember my first month of board work, the jitters-excitement mixed disrupted my sleeping patterns. They render me restless. And I still have it except that excitement weighs heavier before than now. I owe all this experience to my mentor DJ Clea who equipped me little and thrown me in the battle right away, making me learn all this on my own. And of course, to the station who entrusted me some of their programs. I feel so privileged. My DJing experience was as memorable as the music I played.
It’s been a while since I posted on my blog. For the past days, I was going through a lot and in fact, one of them is the temporary shutting down of the radio station where I am working. The struggle of letting go of the one you love doing has never been this real, especially if it is one of your dream careers.
Heartfelt thanks to those who made me a part of the industry that spoiling the people of their innate love for music. I will never leave with nothing. And so, just how I was shown generosity, I am also doing it in return. They say, “you can not give what you don’t have.” I say, I am sharing what is given to me. So here it is. I hope you enjoy and learn something.
For those who have dreamed to be a radio jock, for those who consider music as life, you can’t apply all these if you haven’t lifted your butt and going after it. So try your luck. There are still so much to radio than meets the ears like program clock and all. Who knows, you might just complete someone’s day with the music you play.
If you have ideas you want to share, add, please feel free to leave a comment. I’ll appreciate it. I hope you learned something from this. Thank you for stopping by. This has been DJ Amber, signing off! Happy DJing!!