Hiring A Disc Jockey : Hearing Is Believing
Many "How To Hire A Disc Jockey" articles overlook one of the most important criteria for choosing entertainment. Your ears.
Forget checking for a business license (anyone can get one), or endorsement by some far removed, "official" DJ association. Send them their fee and you they will endorse you too.
Whether your entertainer is "certified" on paper or not, how his or her system sounds is critical. Most DJs are not experts in the technical realm of sound specifications. They may not even know what signal to noise ratio, total harmonic distortion or frequency response is. The truth is, DJs often put together a sound system that is limited by how much they can afford to spend. The resulting sound may turn out to be shrill (too many highs), unclear or "muddy" and even distorted.
This is where your ears come in. Ask for a live audition so you can gage for yourself how the DJ's equipment looks and sounds. We always offer a live listening experience to our clients. This is the only way to know if you like it. If your DJ is not willing to "audition" for you, it may be because he is embarrassed by the look or audio quality of his rig. This is a red flag.
Have your prospective DJ play a song you know. Think of one that that incorporates bass, drums, keyboards and vocals so you get a full range of sounds. Dance songs are usually good. Ask the DJ to turn it up for a moment. Now close your eyes and listen.
You don't have to be an acoustic expert to know if you like it. Is it full and warm or hollow and "tinny". Does it sound like an AM radio or more like what you might hear in a movie theatre Is the base "punchy" but not overwhelming, allowing room for the mids and highs? Are the highs too brassy, making dogs howl and babys cry? Are the mid-range (vocals) present enough? Is the overall sound flat or is there "depth"?
Remember, this is what you and your guests will be hearing all night long.
While the sound can be enhanced by the use of equalizers and sonic enhancers, the right speakers are key. Whether it's JBL, Yamaha, Mackie or others, speakers have their own sound characteristics. And off-brand, budget speakers are often lacking in sound quality.
Ask the DJ why he chose the speakers he has. Often great sounding, name brand speakers are not much more expensive than low-end, budget cabinets. If the DJ is scrimping here to save a couple of bucks, what else is is he cutting corners on?
I personally dislike "hissing" brass or cymbal sounds (highs) or too much bottom end (bass). For me, the midrange is where the melody is and I like to hear it. Warm and full vocals, keyboards and guitar with the highs and lows serving as complimentary bookends. For example, I'd rather hear emphasis on Sinatra's voice over his bass player.
Now go find the sound YOU like. You're already an expert as you've been listening all your life. Do a little homework and you will feel confident as your event approaches, knowing your guests will experience complete sonic satisfaction!
- DJ Craig
Craig has performed in clubs, on the air and now works exclusively for private parties. Upwards of half a million people have enjoyed his sound and lighting at special events for the past 15 years. He has been a guest speaker at classes on wedding and event coordination. Craig has been featured in the Los Angeles Times and has written articles for many wedding and party related web sites.