If you believe everything you see in the movies, then you know the truth in these words from Emil Faber: “Knowledge Is Good”—and while you can’t buy experience, you can buy knowledge from those who have experience. On his DVD Keys To A Great DJ & MC Performance, Mike Walter offers up 25 plus years of experience in useful and practical manner.
From the millisecond that the digital needle catches the groove, Mike shines the spotlight on the music—more specifically, the art of programming and mixing music. Understanding beats and the structure of dance music is essential to beat mixing so Mike has included a brief course in “Music Theory for DJs” and several flawless “real life” beat mixes that illustrate how to create seamless mixes. If you are new to the concept of beat mixing, there’s plenty of suggestions here to practice with, along with tips on how to develop your own mixes. On the topic of programming, Mike runs through a list of rules for building sets, the importance front-loading, and how to keep the energy escalating through the night.
In putting the emphasis on the music, Mike notes that this is a bit of a flip-flop from the recent trend that shifted much of the weight over to developing one’s MC skills, but his reasoning is sound. If I may add my own observations, now that ALL music is available digitally to everyone everywhere ALL the time, having a huge library of songs is no longer a selling point. In fact, it’s totally meaningless in this age of iTunes and Spotify—Telling a client “I don’t have that” will only get you a puzzled look. Clients no longer pay a DJ to bring the music—they pay them to program and present the music, which aligns perfectly with Mike’s stated priorities.
The hardest hurdle to hop in creating a onesizefitzall training track for DJs, is navigating all the regional differences and traditions. This is especially true with wedding receptions. To deal with this, Mike plays it safe and goes with what he knows best—the format followed typically by weddings in the Northeast U.S. This allows him and his staff to focus on what they, as MCs, do to excite a crowd. Mastering the nuances of being a competent MC is something that each individual must do for themselves, so while much of what is being shown here could be duplicated, Mike’s intention is to practice it, get it down, and then make it your own. Becoming a great MC takes a lot of hard work. It requires self-confidence and skills that few are born with. Mike approaches straight on the fact that there will be tough nights when things just aren’t going well—maybe the crowd just never warms up to you or the bride is a control freak—and he suggests ways to keep these situations from throwing you off. He explains that, as a performer, the line between being a DJ/MC and an actor can sometimes be a very fine one.
Worth The Price? ($99 + shipping)
Mike Walter’s stated goal for this DVD is to “Help you DJ and MC and ultimately throw better parties and increase demand for your services.” Can it do that? Most certainly—especially if you are still trying to find your place and style as a DJ and MC or want to accelerate the development of your MC skills. It’s obvious that Mike has invested a considerable amount of time and money into this project, he has the credentials, his teaching style is to the point with little fluff, and he doesn’t talk down to, or over the heads of the viewer. The DVD is structured in a logical manner and it is easy to find what you are looking for. The only nit pick I have (and just because I’m so obsessed with sound quality) is that I wish there could have been a section on the basics of understanding a DJ sound system and how to create the best sound for the room. Maybe that’ll be in the sequel. — RAL
Mike’s backstory as a DJ begins with Star Entertainment in New Jersey, where he learned the business from John Murphy and Rick Galdi. Murphy and Galdi were among the first prove that running a Mobile DJ Service was not only viable, but quite profitable. They knew that for a multi-system DJ service to thrive, their DJs had to be consistently trained. That’s the philosophy that Mike Walter brings to his own multi-system service and that’s what he brings to this DVD. BTW, along with owning Elite Entertainment in New Jersey, and being a coach and trainer, Mike is still an active mobile entertainer. He also is a regular speaker at DJ trade events and writes for many DJ publications. His DVD and CD-rom package Training Your Next Great DJ as well his book Running Your Multi-Op are at www.DJMikeWalter.com