Open Letter From DJ Rob Swift- "Trust Your Ears"
It's Easter morning, 10:24am to be exact, and all I can think about is how 4 hours and 35 minutes ago I laid my head down on the pillow with thoughts on how the first thing I planned to do when I awoke would be to write YOU this letter. Before I go any further, I'd like to clarify the "YOU" I'm referring to isn't everybody reading this. See, this is an open letter to a specific person I had an encounter with during my DJ set at my monthly party in Williamsburg, Brooklyn's Club Legion. I don't quite remember if I got your name dude but what will remain with me forever is what YOU said during our brief encounter in the DJ booth. Let me refresh your memory in case YOU don't recollect what I'm talking about.
Remember asking me about Traktor? - In layman's terms, Traktor is a software that bypasses vinyl and allows one to DJ straight off a laptop. It's similar to Rane's Serato Scratch Live. - As I proceeded to crush the dance floor with the help of my Serato Scratch Live, my weapon of choice, YOU made it a point to visit me in the DJ booth and proceeded to ask "Hey, ever used Traktor?" I said "no". YOU then encouraged me to try it out. I asked "why?" Your response was (and I'm paraphrasing) "because Traktor is so ill. It lets you mix by seeing wave forms. So you can basically line everything up perfectly with no fuck ups. It's amazing." Perplexed by your reasoning as to what makes Traktor so ill I asked "YOU don't mix by ear?" and your response was "With Traktor you don't need to. It's just much easier."
The word Easy is defined as requiring or indicating little effort, thought, or reflection. When YOU use the word easy to validate why reading wave forms is a better alternative to trusting my God giving gift to hear, it brings me back to my background in Hip Hop. By now, we're all aware of the 5 elements which compose this form of art: DJing, B-Boying, Graffitti, MCing and Beat Boxing. As a kid in Junior Highschool, many a time I've tried cupping my mouth and producing a beat that a buddy of mine would be able to rhyme to. But it was hard! My lungs aren't strong enough to produce a beat that didn't sound like it was being played on a mixer that had no bass EQ, LOL. As much as I love writing, the truth is, I've always found it difficult to project my voice in a rhythmic way so my career as an MC was short lived. Now I wasn't too bad of a Graff artist. To this day I'm sure I can find one of my "RobSki" tags somewhere in Intermediate School 145 in Jackson Heights, Queens. But I could never master the art painting a piece. Writing with a spray can was always a challenge for me. Just yesterday, I walked pass Queens Blvd's LOST BATALLION youth center. While dudes where running up and down them shiny hard wood floors playing basketball, I was off to the side with my friends using that shiny hard wood floor to spin on my back. Yeah, I was a B-Boy too. But once I tried my first !990 (this is not a reference to the year, it's an actual move) and discovered how grueling it was to do a hand stand on one had and spin, I decided to to invest all of my creative energy into the element I was raised on from birth, DJing. Interestingly enough, although DJing is the element that has defined me as a person decades removed from when I learned how to execute my first mix, DJing can still be tough for me at times. Only because I keep trying to discover new and inventive ways of expressing myself through turntables. I still am and always will be a student of this art, training my ear a little bit each day to pick out sounds and rhythms YOU aren't cause of your fixation on those wave forms.
Here's what YOU must understand as a DJ. The forefathers of this thing we call DJing laid out a specific blueprint for us to study and apply in our own way. What's genius about this blueprint is it can be adapted to any form of DJ technology. Yes! Any form. Once YOU learn how to mix with nothing more than 2 turntables, a mixer, vinyl and a pair of headphones, the possibilities of what you can accomplish on a CDJ, Laptop, etc., are endless. Think of it this way, if I asked YOU what the product of 5 X 3 is, within a second, you're brain computes the problem and spits out 15 right? Without any effort, correct? Give a 1st grader that same mathematical problem and he/she will give you a puzzled look. Now ask that same 1st grader to pick out shapes, a circle or square and that would be easy for him/her. To me, YOU relying on those wave forms on your computer screen is the equivalent to a 1st grader not understanding the product of 5 X 3 but being able to pick out shapes.
Basically, what I'm saying is if YOU find yourself DJing at a night club and you find it hard to carry a mix between 2 records of varying speeds without looking at your laptop screen then you're a novice and YOU do not belong in a DJ booth in front of party goers. What happens if YOU experience a technical glitch with your laptop that prevents YOU from relying on those wave forms? What do YOU do? What happens if YOU can't rely on what YOU see? Do YOU trust your ears? I do!
In this day and age of technology, I cringe when I see DJs rely on wave forms from their laptops to execute a backspin or a mix. Aspiring DJs out there, I leave YOU with this. The most important sense YOU possess as a Disc Jocky is the ability to hear. Music is listened to and if YOU master the ability of separating sounds like a kick from a snare or a bass from a guitar, your third eye will see the music. This inner vision which we're all born with will propel YOU to levels of DJing you never knew existed. Don't take the Easy way out cause you're only limiting your own potential.
-DJ ROB SWIFT
originally posted HERE