Salsa > What do you want from a Salsa DJ

Discussion in 'Salsa' started by matty, May 14, 2010.

  1. matty

    matty New Member

    hi, i have a background in DJ-ing electronic music though i left that behind me some years ago feeling somewhat unfulfilled by the music,however currently im really passionate about salsa music and "while the iron is hot" im thinking of embarking on DJ salsa in bars and nightclubs and just wondering what your opinions are on the subject. so i can try to be as good a DJ as i can.

    do you like a salsa dj to..

    • Play all songs you know
    • Play all the old classics
    • Play new stuff only including all the reggeton-salsa fusion
    • Play lots of romantic and slow stuff
    • Only fast high energy stuff

    • Always play out the full song and even have short break before the next to allow everyone to look for new dance partners.

    • Blend the tunes together creating a non stop seemless mix to try and keep everybody dancing all night.

    • to do some hip hop style scratching at times

    • mix it up with other latin music styles such as
    or even house music

    • or just stick to good old salsa

    and finally

    • does it matter to you at all? or will you dance to anything?

    By the way i plan on doing all of the above! but it would be nice to hear your preferences

  2. Variety is good. But don't play too much other stuff if the venue is salsa. You just have to learn to read the crowd better. Watch them. And don't play the music so ear bleeding loud that people can't carry on a conversation. The thing I hate most about some of the clubs in LA is the music is so loud it hurts my ears and it makes the atmoshere so cold 'cause nobody can talk to any body.
  3. It's good to stick some in.
    Some old classics.
    Variety is the spice of life.
    Mix it up!
    Absolutely not. Mix more mellow stuff in too. El Cantante for example is pretty mellow, but quick. It sounds beautiful and every Salsa dancer in Houston loves that song.

    Absolutely play out the whole song. Don't chop the song down. That is sooooo agravating. A lot of salsa dancers pick their partners based on a specific song or song type and if you cut the song short they don't get their entire dance with that one person.

    Yes, please provide a break so we can switch partners.

    No. This isn't techno music. It's a dance style where we want to mix it up with a lot of different people. Breaks are very important for that.


    This is pretty expected. You'll need to feel out your audience to play what they want to dance to. Don't skimp on the salsa though. And an occasional cha cha too.

    I know it's popular but I hate it. Again, feel what your audience wants.

    Personally I'll dance salsa to any song provided it's not too fast or too slow. But a goood salsa will really have me smiling. Keep looking for fresh fun songs.
  4. urish

    urish New Member

    Matty, when DJing salsa music the key is "less is more".

    It means that the DJ has a very little (but not simple) work - Just choose which songs to put and in what order. Mixing music, scratching music, etc. will annoy the dancers, since many of them know the music by heart and expect to hear the original song.

    Additionally, I wouldn't go for a break between songs - what I do in our Friday social, I usually start playing the 2nd song the moment the first one ends. In some songs I do mix the last note of the first song with the first note of the next one (it works very well with "La salsa y el guaguanco" and "No le pegue a la negra", for example), but usually I just put them one after another, with no silence in the middle.

    Most importantly, find some Salsa tunes that are popular amongst the dancers, they'll save you in case the stage is getting empty. For instance, some of the songs that work pretty well here - always when I put them everyone gets on their feet:

    Marc Anthony - Valio la pena
    Willy Chirino - Los campeones de la salsa
    Al Delory - Via
    LA 33 - La Pantera Mambo
  5. tangotime

    tangotime Well-Known Member

    I did a survey on 2 sites about " mixing ".. not ONE person wanted it..that style has changed .I used to mix, but now "space " about 3/4 seconds between.

    And.. you need to invest in a very comprehensive library.. it takes yrs to understand the differences and complex music ( it aint disco ! )..
  6. urish

    urish New Member

    I agree about the no mixing thing, however I don't think the space is necessary. The only situation when I do put a space is when I want to announce something in the mic. I used to put spacing between songs, but that seems to create a sort vacuum, so now I just stick the songs.
  7. matty

    matty New Member

    what i was hoping to do really, in terms of mixing would be to simply wait for a time close to the end of the song and queue up the next song say.. skipping the intro so that it just kicks into the next tune. i try to chose the correct count so that say if the melody starts a couple of beats early as is normally the case in salsa, then i will count back and also change over from one song to another that many beats early so it is seemless but doesnt mean changing the song in any way.

    though i also recognize that i need to pick carefully which songs i would cut short, so as not to annoy anyone who may know it well and want to dance to all of it.

    i agree that hearing a DJ beat mixing two salsa tunes it does just sound wierd.
    and of course one of the tunes must also be sped up or slowed down to the tempo of the other one which might not be such a good thing either.

    which leads me to another question for the DJs

    do you ever play a song just a little slower in the club than you might do on a CD, just to make it that bit easier to dance to?

    i say this because there are a lot of beginners in the clubs here so this could be an idea, though obviously not drastically slower just a little.
  8. It's also not just about different tempos, which are pretty simple to adjust. It's about mixing the music properly. I can't tell you how many times I've been dancing through the end of the song, the dj mixes the song into the next one and then all of a sudden I'm dancing on 5, or worse, on 3 or heaven forbid on 2. LOL

    Seriously, there's a lot to mixing songs.

    Oh, and as an advanced dancer who LIKES dancing to slower songs, I personally like it when the DJ slows the songs down a bit.
  9. Joy In Motion

    Joy In Motion Active Member

    A couple of things...

    I wouldn't cut the song short at the beginning or the end (unless the song is extremely long, then you might possibly fade it out early), and I wouldn't put a space in between either. Most salsa music has an intro that provides a perfect opportunity for dancers to find other partners and get settled into the song. If you are able to, you might want to do some traveling to other salsa venues and see what is typical for DJs to do in this style as well as how dancers respond. There will be variances of course, but there are some expectations that hold true across the board. Violating them may upset the dancers, so there's no harm in holding off on DJing until you feel comfortable with your knowledge of both Latin music and the culture of the Latin dancing community.

    If you have a lot of beginners, I would choose some songs that are already not too fast instead of slowing it down artificially. For those who know the song, it will be frustrating to have to slow down how fast their body feels it should be moving. There is plenty of great salsa out there of all speeds, so this shouldn't be a problem. You will want to cater to all levels and you will want to allow for a progression so that dancers just arriving can warm up, so alternating between slower and faster (as well as simpler rhythms to more complex rhythms) in a logical manner should feel comfortable to the dancers. At the very start of the night, stick with some tried and true favorites, nothing too fast or complicated, until you feel like the crowd is warmed up and there is something to build on. Even dancers arriving later in the night can sense this.

    As far as what style to play (old classics, romantic, etc.), you will want to play a variety and see what is getting a response from the dancers. This will depend on your own individual community but also on the particular crowd that night as well as their particular mood. Every night has its own energy, and a good DJ knows how to assess that energy and plan their music accordingly. If you notice that no one is into a song and they are impatiently waiting for another, fade it out and go for something else. And pay attention to requests, complaints, etc.! Sadly, many DJs get arrogant when they receive suggestions and other feedback.

    Above all, you have set up positive expectations and then keep it consistent even as you experiment and mix it up a little. When you do this, you create trust among the dancers and they in turn will bring a positive energy to the venue and contribute to the overall atmosphere and inspire you as well. If they never know what they are going to get, they start feeling insecure about where their night is headed. I would recommend watching the dancers as much as possible; you can definitely find inspiration for your DJing by doing this. And I honestly feel that unless have one of those rare talents for DJing, or just spend so much time doing it that you gradually develop a good instinct for this, it is important to know/learn how to dance at least a little bit (more would be better) to see how it feels to be on the other side of the music. Latin dancing is different from any other music/dance genre and has its own unique culture and characteristics.

    These are some of my thoughts. DJing is definitely an art form. Enjoy!
  10. Ray Sison

    Ray Sison New Member

    Variety is very important--as one can get tired of almost any type of music without variety. For me, the Salsa rhythm wears on me after not too long (as well as the singing of some Salsa performers, which does not sound pleasing to my romantic ear). So, I would need lots of variations in speeds and also in other rhythms and styles to mix things up...
  11. urish

    urish New Member

    I usually don't slow down music - if there are beginners I simply put slow songs. Some examples:
    Caja de sorpresas by El Gran Combo
    Mi Media Mitad (I think it's by Rey Ruiz)
    Scandalo by Africando

    And there are plenty others... I have most songs stored with BPM info so when I need slow music I usually put them in 80-90BPM range.

    BTW, there are some cases where mixing is proper, if you can do it right:
    for instance, when I put rueda music and I see that people are really into it and want to continue when the song is about to end, I sometimes mix another one into the current one, to keep the drive high.

    Well, that's the only situation I can think of right now...
  12. matty

    matty New Member

    I have been doing that actually, really the first time the idea occurred to me to DJ latin music was after a year long visit to South America having gotten quite addicted to visiting Salsa Clubs in every town and city :)
    Such as Azucar in Buenos Aires, Maestra Vida in Santiago Chile, Son de Cuba in Peru, La Casa De la Musica in Havana, and i think i even saw a live performance from Ricardo & Viviana in Medellin Colombia before i even knew who they were! or maybe it was a couple who just looked a lot like them...

    and and im also very fond of the fact that most every nightclub in Peru and Ecuador will have a salsa set during the night.

    if only i knew then , the moves that i know now!;)

    maybe L.A. next! :notworth:

    anyway when i got back home (to Ireland - of all places) i was surprised to find a remarkably healthy salsa scene here too in my home town of just 100,000 people!

    So i have now been dancing Salsa for 1 year , and i go to all the parties but what i find so strange is that in the last year of going to salsa clubs here i can positivily say that i have not heard one song by "el gran combo" or "grupo niche", or any song which i broaght back with me from South america or even any song in the "best salsa tunes of all time " thread on this forum...

    and its not because they are sick and tired of them , because i when i play them i have people coming up to me asking me, "whats that song?"

    this is perfectly excusable because its not a Spanish speaking country, and for most people here , Salsa is about dancing really and they wouldn' t know where to start with the music side of it, but if the DJs dont play it when are they going to hear it?!

    So, this is what has me thinking that there is a slight niche in the market, im tired of hearing the same 5 CDs at the parties...

    No salsa scene could be complete without the bellowing voice of Jerry Rivas!

    I love that song!:)
  13. urish

    urish New Member

    That's the reason I began DJing salsa as well...

    Just an example - on our last Friday social when I put the Mambo from Dirty Dancing (Johhny's mambo), a few dancers came to me and thanked me for putting it. I've been around almost every salsa club in my country during the past 3 years, and never heard it played anywhere...

    And there are other examples, such as "El Tiroteo" by New Swing Sextet, "El Gallo y la Vaca" by Richie Ray & Bobby Cruz, "Picoteando Por Ahi" by Henry Fiol and many others...
  14. matty

    matty New Member

    they are brilliant songs! i especially like that "picoteando por ahi"

    where can i get to hear a mix of yours Urish or go to one of your club nights! :D

    that is a very good point and a good reason for me to look for possible mixes should i find myself in that situation.. however please forgive my ignorance but, when you say "Rueda music" is this a specific kind of salsa tune ? or you just mean any tune which you happen to be playing at the time... im guessing any song with a fairly clear and regular patern to it would lend itself better to a rueda. like perhaps "miguel enriquez - abre que voy"

    in terms of good ways to plan the overall mix,
    i have heard DJ bringing it slowly up into house music and one DJ in Chile who slowed the music down more and more throughout the last hour until it just petered out.
    i personally found this a little dissapointing as i often arrived to the club late when the music was already slowing down.
    another DJ i know likes to mix and match the songs all night and just end the set on a smoochy number like "monton de estrellas"
    i suppose this is something that is entirely between the DJs preferences and the crowd in question.

    any preferences from DJs or dancers?
    anything that works better ?
  15. urish

    urish New Member

    Sure, if you ever get to Israel drop me a message and I'll gladly host you in our of our socials....

    Mostly Timba music (Los Van Van, El Rubio Loco, etc), even though I have seen many people dancing rueda to boogaloo music too...
    I have even once been to a place where they danced Rueda to every song, even romantic salsa music like marc anthony's etc.... crazy people!

    As a dancer, variety is very important for me... I like romantic music and mainstream, but I do like very much the more hardcore salsa... A good DJ will be give me a well-thought mix of those, and if he manages to surprise me with a good song so much that I will come and ask for its name I will worship him (so was the case with Guarare).

    Most girls, however, like what's more pop - I made a survey amongst a few tens of girls, most favorites these songs:
    - Te mando flores by fonseca
    - Valio la pena by Marc Anthony
    - Color Esperanza, Donde van by diego torres
    - Tabaco y Chanel
    - Son de amores by Andy y Lucas
    - Seduceme by la india
  16. DJ Yuca

    DJ Yuca Member

    The requirements for different salsa audiences can vary enormously, so don't feel you have to have one style of DJing - if you're playing a Latino night then play bachata, merengue, cumbia, reggaeton, Latin house, whatever else and of course lots of salsa. If it's a hardcore salsa audience then play salsa dura, salsa romantica, mambo, cha cha cha, possibly timba, new tunes, old tunes, really old tunes, slow, fast, vocals, instrumentals, NY, Miami, PR, Colombia, Venezuela, Rep. Dominicana, Cuba - there's a lot of variety within the bounds of pure salsa.

    In reality almost all audiences fall somewhere between the 2 extremes, but whatever the audience there will always be people who appreciate something different with some depth, please do not neglect these people.

    As for mixing - some people dislike it, others don't mind it, however I don't think anybody actually likes it.

    Really the best way to learn is to get out there and play, and spend a lot of time in between gigs researching and buying music (preferably from all eras).
  17. borikensalsero

    borikensalsero Moderator

    I want to forget there is a person behind the DJ booth :)

    For a salsa dancing crowd,
    a few seconds gap between songs.
    music from late 60s to today.
    a mix of genres
    a marked beginning, middle and end to the night with waves of high and lows within all three stages.
  18. Amanda Coyle

    Amanda Coyle New Member

    for me lots of variety is important
  19. BugBear

    BugBear New Member

    A good friend of mine is a salsa DJ. Recently we were at a festival, and on the way back he told me that he was talking with the other DJs about mixing and cutting the songs shorts. They told him, that he should never do that. Whatever tempo or lenght the artist choose, he did it for a reason. I also believe that whenever people create latin music, there is always something they're trying to tell us or share an emotion, etc. And if you cut a song short, or change the tempo, it's like you're... destroying(for lack of a better word) what the artist created. And, yeah, a lot of dancers get irritated if you cut a song short. If you don't like something about the song, just don't play it. Save it for later, or for another time. :)

    Also, don't spend the whole night looking at your equipment. Look at the people. And keep in mind that the people are looking at you too. If you look like you're having fun, that really affects the people. You can get a pair of maracas or claves and sometimes just follow the beat of the song. You could also line up some good songs, once you get the people going, and go down for a dance or two. Though I've only seen people do that at smaller, local parties. :)

    Hope this helps, and good luck! :)
  20. Amen to that about altering the songs. No offense, but I for one think that DJ should not try to play the role of a musician and start putting his own interpretation into the songs. People naturally will develope a liking or disliking for any songs the way they are, we don't need a third party tampering with it. I don't even like it when a band other than the original band playing a popular song.

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