Selection versus Flow

Discussion in 'Salsa Music' started by El Caobo, Apr 23, 2016.

  1. El Caobo

    El Caobo Maestro 'Salsa' Palmieri

    Selection vs Flow: Knowing that they are both important which has priority int your DJing or are they intertwined too tightly to distinguish?

    I'll be the first to answer.

    I believe that the song selection is what gets dancers to the dance floor; while the flow keeps them wanting to dance again and again.

    Of these two aspects of DJing, the song selection is the easiest. If we listen to enough music from a wide variety of sources, we can come up with a good list of "hits."

    As for the flow, there is more to it than most people understand, including beginning djs. Having a good flow does not only mean playing the songs in the proper order based on the vibe from the crowd, although that certainly is an important part of it. However, it also means controlling the tempo, so as not to sound choppy. Lastly, it means controlling the volume levels so that it is is consistent. Most dj software will analyze and regulate the gain of the songs so that if the controls on each side are in the same position, the sound should be very smooth. However, because of certain instrumentation, good djs always check the meters of the track in cue so and make slight adjustments to the trim.

    So, the answer the question, I personally believe that the flow has a higher priority for me.

  2. khabibul35

    khabibul35 Tumbao

    Well, apparently it's neither, because this DJ at at Thursday club in Zurich plays the same playlist every week and it doesn't seem to bother people (except me). The song choice isn't bad, but since it's the same every week, it is quite bad because it feels like the dance night is on repeat, which makes it bad song choice. Flow is also ruined if you know exactly what's coming next. Blah, can't believe his spot hasn't been usurped.
  3. El Caobo

    El Caobo Maestro 'Salsa' Palmieri

    It is difficult to believe that nowadays djs are still doing this. My guess is that djs do that because on commercial radio songs are in a rotation and djs assume that it is ok to play their songs on a rotation. Scenarios like that cause some people to believe that it is good to have more than one dj at a club. Trutfully, only one good one.who knows how to sound fresh everytime, is necessary. Having multiplie djs usually means that not all, and maybe not any, are beoing properly paid.
    DJ El Chino, TwoLeftFeet and matty like this.
  4. I just came from doing a DJ gig at a local weekly salsa social. I just love to flow aspect of the job! Having a real DJ software that takes care of the gains of individual songs and let's me cue in at the right moments is essential to get the flow of the song changes "just right". As a DJ, it really rubs me the wrong way when I hear two great songs mixed with an automatic cross-fade or a long pause that doesn't keep the rhythm and flow going. Of course the "good mixes" we are speaking of in the salsa DJ scene are very small and subtle when compared to actual club music (not to even mention mash-up music!). It's usually just a matter of having the other song start before the mp3-file of the other has ended playing, compared to the filter-cross-fades, beat-matching and pitch-matching done with club music.

    I actually never pre-select the songs for my gigs, I just go with the feel of the moment (Unless I have to play more than ten songs of kizomba/bachata or non-timba salsa). Of course that means that I really have to know the music AND have an actual DJ controller that let's me check the tempos, vibes and cue moments with my headphones. I wouldn't want to "fly blind" on a gig in a real paying event..

    About having multiple DJ's: Every DJ has their specialty. I'm a timba DJ and I'm not ashamed to say that I don't have the expertise to give a decent mambo/etc gig (not even close!). If the event is aimed at the whole salsa scene, two DJ's can play with their own strengths! I have done this kind of nights a couple of times and both the DJ's and the audience just loved it! Of course it costs about two times as much as a single DJ so the event's financial structure has to support it. But when it's done right, it's real magic for the party!
    Slowdance and Smejmoon like this.
  5. Smejmoon

    Smejmoon El Sabroso de Conguero

    I've not heard that DJ. And I've heard many DJs and good ones. It's just really, really hard to listen to new music all the time and create good playlists. Best I've heard is DJs who keep fresh every 2 weeks or month.

    How much of music do you need to listen to, to find a new good song? How many hours you need to spend per five minutes of dance floor time?

    Also different DJ is not just sounding fresh, it's different style, different personality, different drive on the dance floor.
    LarsM, TwoLeftFeet and timbero-fi like this.
  6. terence

    terence Maestro 'Descarga' Cachao

    As the man said " If they don't like the music, they aint gonna dance " ( or not come back )
  7. El Caobo

    El Caobo Maestro 'Salsa' Palmieri

    If over time a DJ has organized his collection, it's not very difficult to find an endless choice of hits. Also, sounding fresh doesn't mean playing different songs everytime, but playing enough songs, several, that have not been heard "recently" at the same venue. Some very hot tunes warrant repitition, but it's the entirety of the set that matters, IMHO. If the pay is proper, I'll be fresh everytime! I once was talked into doing a gig downtown Chicago, in the State Building, during lunchtime, for free. The venue was nice, but absent the pay, I was not motivated to be very fresh. I indeed played a lot of repeats.

    This is the most compelling position in favor of multiple djs and I would agree mostly with it. However, I can also make the case that a very good DJ can offer a different style as needed. For example, I play different on the radio than I do for my regular event. I play different still for private parties; where I play based on the guildelines of who is paying the bill, or my assessment of the attendees.

    Returning to the subject of the "freshness" of a set, take a look at this screen print from the laptop that I use exclusively for spinning:


    The bottom right gives the total number of songs on the laptop. It also indicates how long it would take to play, non-stop, every song in the collection.

    The issue of having a large collection is in finding the right songs when you need them. So, playlists are critically important. You can see a few of my playlists there, but there are several more of them.

    Along with having the playlists, being able to sort the songs is also very important. By clicking on any of the field titles above the list of songs, I can change the order of the listing. For example, if I were to click on the "Last Played" field, the songs would appear in reverse chronological order of when they were last played. Clicking on "Last Played" a second time would reverse the order (put them in chronological order). Clicking on the "BPM" field obviously puts them in order based on bpm. Clicking on the "Import Date" field sorts them based on when they were added to the collection. This has been very useful to remind me of the songs that were newly added to the collection. When doing gigs to a brand new crowd that hasn't heard me spin before, I often sort my collection based on the number of "PLAYS." Since the songs with the most plays tend to be the better songs, it's a good way to play monster hit after hit and hit There are more fields off the screen; such as "DATE RELEASED," that are important. The combination of these things (ample collection, multiple playlists, sorting) can really work wonders for the DJ.

    Lastly, let me just say that every DJ does it differently. If working with a team of DJs is what works for someone, that is what that person should do. Frankly, if the pay is proper, I'm for whatever a DJ does!
    Last edited: Apr 27, 2016
    Smejmoon likes this.
  8. Smejmoon

    Smejmoon El Sabroso de Conguero

    Just want to make clear, that I'm agreeing with you in principle, but it's very hard to do, due to .. us being humans? I've seen DJs who try, but if I hear them 5 nights a week, they still play the same things. Then they change things, but not every week. I hear it. Maybe not all people care. I heard that "La gripe" was played at least 4 times in Berlin congress and it bothered me. Also other music lovers (including DJs) notice these things. In Moscow people turn around and scream at DJs if they play same song same night. I've seen it. :D (Weakness of multi DJ scenario)

    Do you have previous playlists in archive? Would be cool little data mining project to see how song travels through your sets.
  9. El Caobo

    El Caobo Maestro 'Salsa' Palmieri

    Yes, I do have previous playlists archived. I don't review the archives much though. When I want to see which songs I've been playing a lot (and therefore must be good), I sort by number of "PLAYS," and take a look.

    By the way, I take to time to ensure that music that I add to my collection is good quality and has the metatags (artist, song, album, date released, etc.) completed. This is one of the reasons that I don't share music often with other DJs. A lot of times, I would get music with a lot of the tags missing, or even worse, incorrect, so the trade wouldn't exactly be worthwhile.
    Last edited: Apr 27, 2016
    Smejmoon likes this.
  10. terence

    terence Maestro 'Descarga' Cachao

    That's what I do.. list all that I play at a gig , for future reference..
  11. DJ Yuca

    DJ Yuca El Sabroso de Conguero

    Ha. The thing with La gripe is that the last minute is cumbia - do many congress goers change to cumbia for that part of the song?
  12. DJ Yuca

    DJ Yuca El Sabroso de Conguero

    This says a hell of a lot about the salsa scene - and confirms that things I have been saying for years are not confined to my locality. For whatever reasons, the salsa scene seems to attract a lot of people who really don't care about music, or actually want the music to be garbage. (Fortunately there are plenty of exceptions!)
  13. Smejmoon

    Smejmoon El Sabroso de Conguero

    Yes, they do. And then it switches back, if I recall correctly.
  14. TwoLeftFeet

    TwoLeftFeet Shine Officer

    interesting thoughts guys keep it going. I would go with flow over selection too (if i had to choose) there's nothing worse than being bundled through an erratic set of tempo's and genres regardless of whether they are hits or not. I must admit im gulty of this on occasion on my weekly night gig ie when trialling a new bunch of songs, there is always margin for fail buuuut im very very careful with my flow for big events.
  15. DJ Yuca

    DJ Yuca El Sabroso de Conguero

    I don't think I've ever seen a salsero changing to cumbia in a song with cumbia sections. In fact I think it's fair to say that the vast majority of non-Latin salseros have never even heard of cumbia. As I have remarked before: it is strange that cumbia can be so unknown on the salsa scene yet kizomba is so well-known. Particularly bizarre when we consider that plenty of salsa dura tunes have cumbia sections - I do hear examples on the rare occasions I am able to make it to a hardcore salsa/mambo event.

    (There's also La vida es un carnaval.)
  16. matty

    matty Shine Officer

    i think flow is very important. this is where a DJ express his or her intuition, their care for detail and how responsible they are in catering to a crowd and with the sound system they are trusted to use.
    if im hiring a DJ for any reason (any genre) this is where i would look. The playlist is also obviously important, but anyone can get a playlist, it does not mean you will have the same results.

    the problem with those multiple DJ events, i think , is that the wrong motivation is behind it.
    its a mentality of cheapening the art of Djing and simply using it as a bargaining tool. ie. ill tell this guy he can DJ and he will bring his friends. thats where you end up with people who are actually not even Djs, but dance teachers who are multitasking.
    in a bad scenario, the DJs will then see the set as the opportunity to play "their tunes", rather than part of an overall piece.

    On the other hand If the right motivation is behind a multiple DJ setup, in other words the DJs are chosen specifically because of the flow, and they actually choose DJs...then it could work out.
    El Caobo and timbero-fi like this.
  17. Exaclty! When I'm doing a duo gig with someone, I try to work the flow of their last song into my first one and then go from there to a direction that feels right considering their last set. Many DJ's just minding their own business isn't an ideal option for anyone..
    El Caobo likes this.
  18. For me, definitely selection. Who cares about the flow when the selection is bad? If The selection is good I will have fun and want to dance more.
  19. mookh

    mookh Changui

    Selection, flow.....I think, it's a selection, that creates a flow ;) if it's about salsa DJing.
    Volume leveling, tempo control, quality of the MP3 (if it's a digital dj) - these are the basics and default things for the Djs in any scene.

    As a dancer, I don't quite care about what equipment dj use to play music, what source they use and I don't care where and how the DJ get that music. All I care is about sound quality (sound system and the CDs/vinyl/digital files) and the selection of the songs. And I don't care if the Dj is controlling the tempo and volume right here on the spot, or he or she done these things at home using Audacity. DJ can do anything he or she want - dance, drink, communicate with others, throw his hands or legs up, doesn't matter - yet his selection keeps the crowd dancing. I don't like the "auto DJ" function that some DJs are using, but I can handle it if the selection keeps people dancing.

    But As a DJ (I'm not the Master, just some couple events in the Baltics) I don't care about dancers for 100% ;) I care more about the music. I think, that it's good to throw a challenge to the dance floor. It not always mean up tempo mambo or hardcore musicality song. It can be chacha with some bolero, songs that switches from salsa to chacha and back, etc. that's why I'm not the famous DJ in the area, I think :)) and "the flow" for me means to keep the balance between challenges and Marc Anthony ;) And that's why the prepared in advance playlist will not always work (but sometimes - it will).

    And here comes the part with payment. Only a few people can understand, that the main job of salsa DJ is not during the gig - it's before the gig, the preparation stuff - to find, to listen, to select, to do some adjustments etc. what people see - is how you push buttons or rotate the knobs during the gig and the songs just go one after another. They don't see the real work, that happens at home. Plus, a lot of people thinks, that to be a salsa (or a Latin, if we talk about bachata also) DJ is a peace of cake, just create a playlist of your favorite songs and that's it! With all this digital music stuff it became easier to call yourself a DJ...
  20. El Caobo

    El Caobo Maestro 'Salsa' Palmieri


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