DJs: It’s Okay to Let it Play

DJs: It’s Okay to Let it Play

As I write this article, I’m sitting at a local bar and grill which I often frequent.  I’m preparing to destroy this delicious late lunch and wash it down with a cold beer.  This place serves very simple, tasty Greek dishes… and I’m looking forward to eating my order of “Feta Steak”, which is basically a type of gyro.

I’ve eaten here many times, and as I think about the dishes that they serve and what I like, I notice that there is nothing super fancy about them.  The ingredients to my order are fairly simple: some meat, some feta cheese, a little sauce, and a pita wrap.  That’s pretty much it.  I find myself appreciating the simplicity of this dish.

Though there are only a few ingredients, you can tell that a lot of thought went into selecting those few.  Each ingredient stands on its own, and you can taste each one independently.  There’s no filler in there to distract you from what really matters.

I wish more folks would take a similar approach to DJing.  Of course, I don’t at all mean that there is no place for fun tricks (or even filler), but too many DJs try too hard to add something for its own sake… when no addition is necessary.

This seems to be an increasingly common phenomenon, and it kinda makes sense.  When you consider the fact that digital gear and software easily handles all the DJing “basics”, it’s not a stretch to think that some DJs feel obligated to stay busy.  This is also the same reason you see a lot of DJs frantically tweaking and flipping the EQ knobs as if they are on fire.

Let me be very clear about this, because I don’t want there to be a misconception (I can see the comments now!).  I’m not anti-exhibition when it comes to DJing.  When done with precision and tact, DJing tricks can be a lot of fun to watch and listen to in a club, bar, or house party type of setting.  I personally know some great scratch DJs that I could watch all day long, as well as some people who like to explore the ideas of “controllerism”, live remixing, mashups, and that sort of thing.

The only point I’m really trying to get across here is that, sometimes, it’s just flat out annoying when you hear a fantastic track that gets smashed/cut/looped/effected to bits.  It is, of course, your call as the DJ to determine when this is going to ruin the immersion for your listeners.  This is simply another part of crowd-reading.  I’ve said it before, and I’m sure I’ll say it again.  Don’t put ketchup on a steak… make a better steak.

At the same time, sometimes we just love our extra condiments.

All I’m saying is, sometimes it’s okay to kick back, close your eyes, and let your music do the talking… and you shouldn’t feel guilty for that.

Comment below, and tell me what YOU think!


  1. Greg
    Mar 27, 2014 @ 12:35:19

    I agree some tracks were made to be listened to but even the biggest dj’s don’t even play full tracks. I think the ability to create a new feel for a track live is sometimes better than hearing it how you know it. Much like conversation I had earlier today about Snoop’s Gin and Juice. Everybody loves it but the first time I heard I covered by a Bluegrass band, it blew me away all over again. Adding a twist or a new element when you play a track gives it a feel that is different and that will also get people interested much like that cover of Gin and Juice did for me.


    • David Michael
      Mar 31, 2014 @ 10:44:33

      There’s definitely something to be said about adding your own twist to a track. Context is king. But, that context can come in many forms… whether you’re “live remixing” it, or simply the timing of when you play it and what tracks you surround it by.

      Thanks for your insight Greg!


  2. Reggie Davenport
    Mar 31, 2014 @ 09:39:51

    I agree 100%.
    In fact I am not a trickster at all; I prefer to let it play…


    • David Michael
      Mar 31, 2014 @ 10:43:23

      Same here, Reggie… though I do mess about with scratching and things here and there for fun, in general, I prefer to just hear the tracks unmolested!


  3. HSN
    Aug 03, 2014 @ 16:13:28

    There’s a bunch of DJ’s out there who think that by playing constantly with the EQ buttons and by jumping up & down all throughout their set they can give the impression of a top DJ. However, actually they are either playing too busy, that is tiring the track out, or they don’t know anything about DJ’ing and just trying to cover that up. So, I totally agree with your article dear David and thanx for bringing such a basic issue up. Sometimes less is more and I believe that we, as DJ’s, should keep that more often in mind. But this is something that comes with maturity I believe: being a good listener and being able to decide what each track requires…


Leave a Reply