Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Finding & organizing music

Danny writes:
I have started to DJ a bit outside of my college club and I was wondering if you had any tips. The main things I am wondering are (1) once you have a music base, how do you organize it and (2) what is your main source for acquiring new music/discovering new music. I read what you said about acquiring music, but I'm just wondering if you pick from all of those sites equally (do you use jazz-online.com?) or do you have one you use most?
My response:
My go-to source for finding tracks is definitely EMusic (followed by Amazon if it is not available on EMusic). I use jazz-online every now and again, especially if I am interested in exploring odd-ball tracks by a particular artist. For instance, I grabbed pretty much every Hot Lips Page off that site. He's got a fantastic rendition of St. James Infirmary that you should check out. I also buy a lot of music from current bands, either through BandCamp or directly from the artist webpages. When I'm at a weekend event with one or more good bands, I almost always buy some (or ALL) of their music.
As far as sources for finding out about new artists and music, I read blogs by other DJs and musicians (like Christian Bossert's, Sam Carroll's, Christian Frommelt's, Glenn Crytzer's, and of course Michael Steinman's). I listen to Hey Mr. Jesse and browse EMusic and Youtube. I've also found that reading about jazz musicians is a great way to discover new music--for instance, Count Basie has a fantastic autobiography, and there is a new biography of Louis Armstrong that is worth reading, and has a list of 30 essential Armstrong recordings.
Finally, as far as organization goes. I use iTunes to manage my music and JRiver Media Center to DJ. It's annoying to have to go back and forth, but I just can't work up the willpower to move everything over to JRiver. Regardless, I think that my organization scheme would be applicable to most music management software. I use the following fields: BPM (here's an online metronome), rating, comments, and grouping. I use the comment field to note anything peculiar about a track, such as an 8-minute introduction that can be skipped, or an extended drum solo. When I started out, I used the grouping field to describe the track as "lindy," "balboa," "blues," "charleston," etc. But as I gained experience, I realized that this was an inadequate (or irrelevant maybe) way to describe a tune. These days, I list the style of music (classic big band, small group swing, trad. jazz, modern combo) as well as whether there is a vocal (male and/or female) and any prominent instruments. Not that I list "clarinet" in every single Benny Goodman track, just anything that's not immediately obvious. I then create smart playlists that pull up styles, or I can search for tracks using the keywords that I've entered.
So there's my take. I'd be curious if there are other blogs or things that you find helpful. Leave a note in the comments!

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Soul, Gospel, Ears

Anyone who appreciates soul, or enjoys gospel music, or...pretty much anyone who has ears to hear with...should check out this article on Soul & Gospel from Sir Shambling's Deep Soul Heaven. The authors discuss the mutual influences between the styles of music and give a bunch of examples of gospel groups covering or adapting hit soul songs for sanctified purposes. There's samples (low fidelity, but complete tracks) of some really amazing, intense music. The Mississippi Nightingales' version of Devil Ride is awesome--certainly something you could play at a blues/soul latenight. Plus there's a version of Wade in the Water that you could spring on folks next time you get a request for it. Sit back and ask "What??!? You asked for this one--why aren't you dancing?"