the second derivative

Many thanks to Sunset and Hush for having me out last weekend – both gigs were fun and gave me a chance to push wildly different styles of music.

I’ve had a note in my files for about a year now to write a thing about “Rates of Change”, as applied to DJing in specific and music in general. So:

In DJing, the rate of change is pretty static, and is, in general decided by the style of music one is playing; deep techno and deep house move pretty slowly, hip-hop and dubstep move pretty fast, at the moment. (This touches on the timeless DJ question of how much respect one should have for one’s music, but we’ll mostly ignore that for now.)

What we won’t ignore is how this motion can be manipulated over time and over the course of a set. A DJ who mixes slowly at the beginning of a set and quickly at the end has set up an increasing curve not only for the velocity of his set, but also for the acceleration of his set. Appleblim and his 110-to-140-to-70 BPM sets spring to mind here.

However, it can be REALLY hard to manipulate this in ways that are not linear. Having a DJ flash through three records, then play two looong tracks, then play two more fast ones will, 90% of the time, not work. Steady ramps are best, when talking about acceleration.

This also applies to composition, especially in dance music. If you’re making a track with dramatic changes every sixteen bars, you need to keep that up, or risk people getting bored. Likewise, if you’ve set up a massive, 32-bar groove, any fast changes will feel like a break before the groove comes back. This leads into points about moving just outside people’s expectations, as opposed to totally outside their expectations…but I’ve made those points before, so I won’t do so again.

In conclusion: change is good. Changing your change is also good – but do it most carefully.