Let’s face it. Tracks with vocals perform better in the charts and on the dance floor. Lyrical vocal tracks encourage people who aren’t into dance music to join the groove by providing them with a hook, a feeling or a phrase to latch on to. Signing up for the DJ game means using the methods that work. Techno heads might be there for the sound system itself, sure. But if it’s numbers you’re after, getting a vocal into your production is a good idea.
Make it female
Regardless of where you fall in the gender spectrum, female vocal tracks are more popular and in demand than their male counterparts. We won’t get into the reasons for that here! So find your local upcoming singer and start offering her a part to play in the production of your next track. You might have to hunt a few different options. Sometimes collaboration is like that. You don’t always hit a good working relationship right up front. But collaborate anyway. But be persistent and keep the intention to create a hot vocal track alive. Something will come of it.
Make it trained
There’s a difference between someone who can sing and someone who is trained. The difference is not so much in the quality of the vocal delivery. Trained singers have higher expectations. They are generally more professional, arriving on time and prepared. And, most importantly, they’re less in need of coaching and reassurance in the studio. Nobody wants to work with an inexperienced artist or someone subject to the dreaded ‘red light syndrome’.
Make it yours
Making a name for yourself. It’s what we’re all after, isn’t it? But for DJs, it’s especially difficult. We need our own stuff. We need to have tracks that others don’t have. We need to be in the know. So create a sound around your work. Start by recording your own vocal samples. Tune them, layer them, pitch them and compress them until they sound fat. Then invite a singer around to collaborate. Write out parts. Don’t expect gold to just land in your lap. Listen to music that isn’t dance music for inspiration. How about the passion of a tango track to inspire your next techno track? Either way, the recipe is simple: make your own stuff. Copy only as much as you need to. It’s the only guarantee that nobody else has what you have.
Make it good
Production quality and the controversy around the loudness war is a fierce debate. Pop and dance music producers are particularly obsessed with the ability to make a track sound loud and good across a range of systems. But within this art, the art of meaningful composition can be a little lost. So focus on writing good melodies and lyrics above production quality. Especially when you’re starting out, and you’ll probably only hear your music on mobile phones and the occasional, run-of-the-mill PA system anyway. Make people want a song because of its memorable content, not it’s polished packaging. It is more likely that you’ll get requests for a good but poorly produced song than you will for an excellent production with no spirit or soul to it. Do the best you can with what (and who) you’ve got. And when you’re done, write another one.
Making your tracks stand out starts with good songwriting. Not a songwriter? Doesn’t really matter. Collaborations with songwriters, musicians and especially singers is a great way to leverage your skills into great tracks. Sign up for DJ classes today and pick up more tips from the pros.
John Bartmann is a music producer and DJ.