It’s the most wonderful time of the year and you want to celebrate the festive season with a rocking holiday party for your family, friends, or even colleagues (if you’re planning the office party). Let’s be clear: music will make or break your soirée and there might not be enough eggnog to keep the merriment alive unless you unleash your inner DJ and put a spin on your holiday party.
DJ versus Robot Playlist
Why even think of DJing your own party when you could have Spotify do all the work for you? Short answer: because it’s fun. DJing lets you share your favorite songs with your friends, get their attention, and feel that crowd response. A good DJ reads the mood of the people as they arrive and creates a flow that keeps the excitement going, as revelers move from the cocktail hour, to all-out dancing, to chillaxing. Contrast that with the subdued energy of a pre-programmed playlist running off a lonely laptop that’s kept out of sight in a corner of the room. You’ll look great behind the decks and your guests will enjoy a more memorable experience, wherever the evening takes you.
Choose Your Setup
Before buying DJ equipment, you’ll want to decide on a setup that best suits your needs and budget. Let’s start by discussing simple, mobile setups, then move forward from there. For mobile setups, there are three main scenarios you can choose from.
- Use a DJ controller with a laptop
- Use a DJ controller with an iPad or iPhone
- Use an iPad or iPhone only
I recommend you go with a controller because it is visually exciting and it adds an authentic DJ feel to your party. People will see you spinning, mixing, and they will be rocking to the music, along with you.
The ultra-compact, ultra-light, and ultra-practical Hercules DJControl Starlight is a good place to start. It connects to your laptop and enables you to play and mix the songs in your music library, with the included DJ software. The controller features two touch-responsive jog wheels that let you scratch and beat-match your tracks easily, and a crossfader to mix between songs. A variety of controls allow you to blend, loop, and add effects. There is a built-in audio interface for connecting your speakers, and a set of headphones for previewing your mix before you crossfade the music. To add lights to your performance, it even has a vibrant RGB strobe-effect backlighting beneath its base.
Next, you could look at the Numark Party Mix II DJ Controller. While offering pretty much the same features as those found on the DJControl Starlight, this controller makes a splashier statement, with larger jog wheels and a built-in LED light show that flashes to the beat of your music, delighting partygoers on the dance floor.
These two controllers can also be used to mix with an iPad or iPhone. You’ll need to provide additional power to your iOS device for it to power the controller. The Apple Lightning to USB 3 camera adapter, along with a USB power adapter, will help you do just that.
If you’re more of a minimalist, DJing on an iPad or iPhone can be just as fun. First, you’ll have to download a DJ app. There are a lot of good choices available, but one I really like is the easy-to-use DJ Player Pro app. It lets you load tracks from your iPad/iPhone’s music library and mix with manual beat-matching, tempo sync, beat sync, and many more features.
Now, bear in mind that with iPads and iPhones, you don’t have the option of using headphones to pre-listen, mix, and set up your next track. Or do you? Luckily, the nifty TRAKTOR DJ Cable by Native Instruments plugs into the headphone jack of your iPad/iPhone and splits the audio signal so that it goes to the speakers and your headphones. This makes for smoother mix transitions and a more enjoyable DJ experience.
Mobile DJ setups are a great option for any holiday setup, but if you really want to turn up (and you’re willing to put in the work beforehand), you might consider more advanced pieces of DJing equipment—such as a mixer.
A mixer will transform your conventional music setup into a legitimate DJ operation, thanks in part to advanced functions and features that allow you to manipulate, mix, and record your own musical creations.
One of my favorite mixers is the Numark M6, a beginner- and budget-friendly mixer that makes it (relatively) easy to mix and record your own music. The M6 offers four input channels (with 3-band EQs on each), broad connectivity support, and is class compliant with PC and Mac, meaning you’ll have the flexibility to mix and record music.
Now, don’t get me wrong: mixing and making your own music is a big step up from simply playing tracks off your iPad, but if you’re willing to put in the work beforehand, the payoff and crowd reaction will be equally huge.
A must-have for the serious DJ, the “right” headphones will let you go deeper into your mixing, plus, they’ll signal to the crowd that you are in control of the groove. Some of my favorite headphones include the popular Audio-Technica ATH-M20x, with large sound-isolating ear cups, and the Pioneer DJ HDJ-X, with a swivel mechanism that provides DJ-style, hands-free, single-ear monitoring.
Light and Music in the True Spirit of the Season
To liven up the dance floor, do not forget your holiday colors. Red for Santa, green for the tree, white for snow, and blue for well… Hanukkah Harry—’80s SNL, look it up! For up-lighting, an American DJ Mega Bar RGBA will quickly produce bright, variable color washes to enhance the ambience of your space. Also, consider the American DJ Ani-Motion Compact Laser, which produces 36 dynamic patterns and 22 different static effects in red and green, sure to add excitement to your party.
Whether you’re jingling holiday classics like “Run Rudolph Run,” by Chuck Berry, or slowing it down with Bing Crosby and David Bowie’s “Little Drummer Boy,” remember that there is a wide variety of people at holiday parties, so don’t stay with one type of music for too long. Constantly mix it up with old classics everybody knows and the newest beats for the “kids.” And oh! don’t be a Grinch—take requests and make new friends.
Hopefully, these suggestions will help you get started DJing in a dash and spread the spirit of a fun and music-filled holiday season. Leave comments or ask questions. We love to hear from you!