Ooooohh! Doesn’t the person in that photo look cool? Well, said person (wearing one of her favorite outfits might I add) is yours truly performing a half-hour live set at the Good Life, a restaurant and club in Boston, MA. This performance concluded an eight-week long DJ program I took at MMMMaven, a DJ school in Central Square in Cambridge, MA. Read on to learn about my experience!
I first became curious about DJ’ing three years ago when I joined Souncloud. I spent so much time on the site listening to cool remixes of my favorite songs that world-famous, up-and-coming, and amateur DJs and producers from around the world were all creating. I son began to wonder if I should try it too. I searched Google for “DJ classes in Boston” and MMMMaven appeared at the top of the search engine. I know that a lot of people teach themselves how to DJ and produce but I wanted to take a class so I could have access to the school’s equipment because buying my own with absolutely no clue about I was doing would be a huge commitment. Additionally, I decided to start with DJ’ing, as opposed to producing, because I thought that would be too big a leap (note: now that I’ve taken the course, I don’t think this concern was very valid and I think the production class would’ve been fine for me to take).
I didn’t take the class at MMMMaven immediately after finding it though. Instead, what followed were about two years of me simply wanting to take the class. The course was a bit pricy (check their website for the exact price, but don’t let a number discourage you—they have some flexibility with pricing and payment) and it also didn’t really fit into my busy high school schedule at the time. But when I began thinking about I wanted to do with a whole year off school, I knew that the DJ class was the perfect addition to my gap year!
When I proposed taking the class to my parents, my mom was confused, while my dad was surprisingly supportive. He works in restaurants and has catered countless events, so he said he knew that DJs can make a lot of money from events like weddings. To be honest, the monetary aspect of becoming a DJ was such an afterthought for me! My first concern with taking the class was being able to jam out to my favorite songs and share them with others, and then eventually, after learning to produce, be able to create my own stuff. So it wasn’t really until I got ready to pitch the class to my parents that I realized what a bonus making money from this whole endeavor could be!
On the first Wednesday of June, I drove to Cambridge for my first class! The class met biweekly, on Monday and Wednesday, from 7-10pm. The school’s Central Square location was prime (many a dinner at Life Alive and class at Down Under Yoga were had before class) and parking was ample (I’d either park in a relatively cheap city-ran lot or, when I was lucky, for free on the street). There’s also a T-stop right outside the school, if you’re interested in taking a class here and that’s important to you. My teacher was Charles, an active DJ in and around Boston. Whenever he’s demo a transition or mixing technique for us I remember always thinking, I can’t wait for the day that I mix just as effortlessly. All the staff at this school were talented, knowledgeable, and approachable. I feel extremely confident that I got the best possible DJ’ing education because of this school.
The course was split into two parts: DJ’ing 101 and DJ’ing 102. We started 101 by learning how to set up our equipment, which included a mixer, turntables and headphones. When you take a MMMMaven DJ class, you learn how to mix on turntables with control vinyls, and then at the end 102, you get a chance to practice on CDJs. Charles explained to us that MMMMaven teaches its students on turntables because CDJs are easy to pick up when you first master the more nitty-gritty method of using vinyls on turntables. On the other hand, if you were to show up to a gig just to see turntables, you’d probably have a hard time!
101 also introduced us to the basics of the Serato DJ software, beat matching, mixing, and creating a set. This half of the course concluded with each student recording a 30-minute mix. Mine was so terrible that I honestly felt like I couldn’t finish the course and I regretted taking the class in the first place. In fact, all throughout 101, I felt pretty incompetent and discouraged. We would always spend the first half of each three-hour session learning new things and watching Charles demo, then we’d have lab time to practice for the rest of the time. I hated listening to myself in this lab time and was constantly comparing my sound to that of others in the class (BTW, we had six people in the class to start, then two left when 102 started; completing just one half of the comprehensive course is another option available at MMMMaven). In 102 though, after lots of lab time and learning more complex techniques and theory, I started to feel more confident and my final 30-minute set at the Good Life was such a huge improvement from my first 30-minute mix.
Speaking of the graduation party! I was really nervous leading up to the party. I still had the disaster of my 30-min mix running through my head and I felt that I hadn’t practiced enough. The latter concern was something I could’ve easily remedied, though, and eventually did by practicing in the studio every day in the week before the party. Students in my program had an almost unlimited access to the studio outside of class hours and I wish I had done an extra practice session each week throughout the course, but I was horribly lazy (I can’t even use the excuse that Cambridge was too far for me because I was in the Boston, Cambridge, and Brookline area everyday this summer).
The extra time in the week leading up to graduation time was invaluable to my final performance and I’m pretty sure I would’ve cried during my set had I not gone for more practice. I needed the time to plan my set, practice it, and then re-work the song order and experiment with different transitions and effects to choose the best ones. In short, I just needed to get my ducks in a row and feel comfortable going up to perform. I think I accomplished this goal because I really liked the songs I played at graduation and I think I mixed them well. The extra practice time helped me feel confident before, during, and after my set. I truly felt like I did a good job at graduation, and, more importantly, I felt that I had improved so much since the first class. Gone were the days when I couldn’t even beat-match two songs. Now I was a real DJ!
Overall, I am so glad that I took this course. When I get back to Boston next summer I plan to use MMMMaven’s equipment to record a few mixes to put on Soundcloud (my teacher mentioned that MMMMaven alumni can use the school’s studio whenever they want for a small fee), so that when I get to college I can play a few gigs. Regardless of if I never get a paying gig, at least I took a chance, tried something that made me feel unsure and unconfident several times, and now have a whole new hobby and skill.Any other aspiring DJs out there? Or has anyone else tried something completely new to them? How’d it go? Or do you have questions about my program at MMMMaven? I’d be happy to answer them! Whatever you have to say, put it in the comments below.
Also, as a special treat, I’llbe posting the songs I played at the graduation party into a playlist. You can find it here next Monday!