Know When to Play a Song

I just moved locations, from Texas to Massachusetts. In preparing to DJ a dance here, I visited an event – to get the feel of the music. At the event, I noticed great music, played at the wrong time. Here is some general DJ instruction to help have a solid event.

When doing a dance for the general public, it’s important to remember:

  1. They don’t all like the same music as you do
  2. They don’t all dance at clubs
  3. They might actually like to slow dance to get to know someone

With this in mind, knowing when to play songs will help you to keep the floor full. Pay attention to which songs, when you play them, motivate people to get up and dance. Lead with those. Next play songs that keep them up.  If you start to loose the floor, change style. Preferably  never play more then two of the same style in a row.

To keep things simple, I look at my music styles like this:

  • Fast – songs that have a steady beat that you dance to
  • Slow – songs with a slow beat that you can easily follow to slow dance to (includes waltz) (floor reset)
  • Novelty – Songs that are old, but everyone knows them or will dance a specific way to them
  • Line – Not country line dancing, but any song with instruction or there is a known line dance.  I clump this with novelty.
  • Disco
  • Swing
  • Country – mostly slow and swing songs unless your group knows how to two or triple step.
  • Latin – so many styles here, stick with pop hits
  • Other
  • Sing-a-long – when you play this, everyone may jump around and sing, or they may just sing – but they are really not dancing.

To play the right song at the right time, you have to mix these formats.  I build sets 1-1, 2-1, 3-2,3-1, with the first number representing anything except a slow or sing-a-long.  If I was running a 2-1, fast to swing to slow, line to fast to slow.  If I was running a 3-2 I would play fast to fast to disco to slow to sing-a-long.

You are really looking for the right mix.  If you cannot keep your floor full, you are failing, change style and adjust your mix.

I have done a dance of all latin or all country.  The key is understanding the music and dance style within that group. For example, country dancing has two/triple step, swing, cha-cha and slow. I followed the same set pattern and had success.

Knowing when to play the right song also means saving the best stuff for 2/3’s of the way through the dance. People don’t show up till mid way, so you have to have the party jumping when they walk in, but if you played your good stuff, you will get a request to play it again – so just hang on to that Harlem Shake or whatever is hot.

Think about it, right after a slow song, you are already on the floor, then ‘that’ song comes on, you are going to stay.

The party should be jumping towards the end, when everyone is there, so save your good stuff.

Closing out is just as important as the mid point jam. You need to have a good song you have saved for last. This keeps everyone there till close and it helps him or her to remember your performance. After your last set, time the end of the night to have at least one slow song, I try to get two in when possible, it tapers off the night nicely.

Knowing when to play a song is just as important as knowing which songs motivate everyone to dance.  Good luck at your next event and leave a comment.


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2 Responses to Know When to Play a Song

  1. Nichole says:

    Thanks for the great advice! I am the advisor to a City Youth Council. We host dances about 4 times a year. We bought your CD’s years ago. I just spent hours and hours looking up songs and lyrics to and new songs to our playlists. I wish you had your play list for sale!

    • djabe says:

      We are almost there. We really hope it saves everyone time and money while increasing the quality of events.

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