You’ve gotten yourself a collection of music, you have a music player, cables, possibly speakers, and a venue to try out some DJing! Wonderful, time to get started! You’ve most likely put countless hours into getting all the above prepared, but that is usually the easy part. Easy? Yes, because once you have those items, it’s minor tweaking on your setup. The initial investment of the above are static and don’t require as much time past said investment. Now arranging the music, this is where things become difficult…
Just because you have music, doesn’t mean you can just put it on shuffle or play it one after another. You may have acquired playlists from other people, but those aren’t yours, they may help, but you want to bring your own personality into DJing, so playing someone elses playlist is out of the question. Otherwise why DJ if you aren’t bring out yourself?
Time to start building your own tandas, finding or making your own cortinas, making the dance flow smoothly… or at least attempting to. When starting out, you’ll find yourself sending more and more time building a tanda, hopefully it’ll be good. For every hour of music you’re arranging, expect it to take about 3 hours of your time to make. Sometimes more, sometimes less. All depends on the software and your ears. I’ve found I spend about 2 hours per 1 hour of music arrangement on average. Depends on the venue and the community and what type of music people wish to be played.
Tandas are your bread and butter of your music. I have a much more in depth write-up about tanda building, but the basics are you want your tanda to be a collection of similar composition. Usually the same orchestra and composer, so if you’re playing an instrumental De Sarli, make sure the rest in the tanda is also instrumental De Sarli, of similar quality and orchestra. If you have a singer, make sure the other songs have the same singer and they are of the same quality. There are more best practices, but that is the basics.
Cortinas are a bigger upfront effort, but are much easier to deal with and use afterwards. Some software will give you the option to set a fade in and out to a song with a length before moving to the next song. Personally, I find music, add my own fades and length, and re-save them. Makes it easier to drag and drop, or offer them to others. Cortinas are usually different style of music, something that is more difficult to dance to, or more humorous I’ve found to work well. I have cut down different gaming music or pop-music into cortinas. Cortinas and type are just as important as the tandas themselves. Having a heavy metal cortina after a vals will really throw off the mood on a dance floor So plan accordingly.
So you have some ideas on the above… now it’s time to start building a playlist for your own Milonga or Practica. Your job as a DJ is to keep people dancing, keep the flow and energy of the room moving. Playing 2 hours straight of high energy Milongas from D’Arienzo is not a way to go. Playlists has a flow, at least the good ones do. Do you start off a night with something simple and easy going, do you bring more energy at first, do you just build up, how do you bring things down…
Building a Playlist is difficult, and you’ll find yourself spending multiple hours working on just a single hour worth of music. A good playlist is like the ocean, there are waves of energy, some getting more intense, some slowing down, then there’s a big climax like in a movie, a twist possibly, things dying down towards the end as people get tired, etc. When it comes to making a playlist, there is a usual standard format of Tanda order, usually TTVTTM (2xTango-1xVals-2xTango-1xMilonga), in 3-4 songs Tandas for Tangos, and usually always just 3 for the Milongas or Vals Tandas. Your cortintas also need to follow the flow, so you don’t break the energy completely. This is where experience and knowing your community comes into play. You wont get it right all the time, but over time you should start to get a feeling of it all.
For good measure, announcing Last Tanda and having La Cumparsita as the last song is a nice touch, sometime a requirement (depends on the community).