Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Music 101 - DJing a Road Trip

The Griswold family getting ready for a road trip in "National Lampoon's Vacation."

Whether your experience fits more in line with the Griswolds or a college-kid-spring-break-may-not-return-alive extravaganza, most of us have been a part of, and love, a good road trip.

I've been on a few of my own, both with friends and family, and have come to appreciate what I feel is the most important job during the trip; being the DJ. I've been tasked with this job on several occasions, which may be the reason I think it's important. I've felt the pressure. 

No matter how well you get along with the other people in the car, 10+ hours is a long time to be in a confined space. Silence can be brutal, and listening to music you hate can be worse, so here are some DJing tips to make your road trip a successful one.

No need to rush:
The excitement for the trip is at its peak as the car is finally put into gear and the city limits are behind you. There's no need to immediately jump into DJ mode. Everyone will probably be talking and it gives you a chance to enjoy your favorite radio station one last time. Wait until it’s time to start scanning for radio stations before you come to the rescue.

Know your audience:
As I mentioned earlier, nothing is worse than driving for hours, being tired and wanting to just be there, while listening to music you hate. You should know what your co-passengers like to listen to already and play something for everyone. Asking for requests is a great way to keep everyone entertained and make sure they get a song they enjoy.

Playlist loaded and ready:
DJing a road trip is mostly spontaneous. Conversations will spark over the jerk who nearly ran you off the road, people will sleep and you'll get off topic. It doesn’t hurt to have a playlist or two cued up so you have 15-20 songs in a row you can count on and you know everyone will love. Shuffle is a great feature, and sometimes you need the spark of just scrolling through your library until something jumps out at you, but not for 10 hours - especially if you plan on taking a driving shift. This also can help transition through genres and similar artists, so AC/DC isn’t sandwiched between Lady Gaga and Lady Antebellum. Doing a little work ahead of time can make the task a lot smoother.

Singing about driving:
There are plenty of songs out there with lyrics about, and seem to be made with the intent of being driving songs. You know what I’m talking about, either the song is about a car or the lyrics are focused around driving. Those can be nice touches, but don’t overdo it. Instead, find upbeat songs that sound good being blared while on the highway with the windows down. Throw in a song about the city you’re traveling to, if possible, for the end of the trip.

Timing is everything:
It makes sense that your favorite songs are what you will think to play first, and what your passengers will want to hear, but don’t be too quick to run through your A-list of songs. You’re going to already be in a good mood when the trip begins, so go with songs that will keep the energy up, but aren’t your best tunes. You can sprinkle one or two in at the beginning, but save most of your top songs for the final few legs of the trip. People are going to be tired and far less chipper than before. Saving these songs will bring your passengers back to life and increase the enthusiasm for when you actually arrive at your destination and the real fun begins.

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