5 Tricks For DJing With Acapellas

A great, and easy way to spice up your set  is to incorporate acapellas. These add a lot to a set when done well and can be the difference between you and the DJ before you, who just went from song to song. Even if you do everything right as a DJ, you could be more boring than the girl requesting her song because it's her "friends birthday and she's having a really hard time at the moment because...".

The textbook response to people trying
to justify their requests.

The one bit of prerequisite knowledge for this is to understand Harmonic Mixing. I would recommend you use this software to determine the key of your tracks and if you want free acapellas, try this new up and coming website called www.voclr.it/ that provides free and legal acapellas to download. So, to the list:

1. Re-Imagine The Latest Hits

So everybody has heard songs such as Uptown Funk play a number of times in a single night. It's as if it follows you round from one dancefloor to the next. As awesome and catchy as it is, there is a limit to how many times you want to hear it. How about, as the responsible DJ, you spice it up for people. How about you take the vocals from Uptown Funk and play them over an old disco instrumental of the same key signature? You could use cue points to ensure the chorus coincides with the song's. This is a cool technique that can be done live or prepared before hand if you are limited with deck control. It allows the audience to sing along to the lyrics that they know so well while enjoying some fresh new music.

Remember this doesn't have to use a disco song. You could perhaps be inclined to touch up some hardstyle with Bruno Mars's sweet vocal chords.

Jesus is so proud of me for solving
global issues.

2. Make Your Acapella Last Over a Transition

Everyone makes good mixes, time to make them better. Have you ever been in a club and the change of the kick has been really noticeable and removed the immersion in the music? How about putting some continuity over the transition to hide that. 

If you run an anthemic chorus over the transition, people will focus more on the singing than any subtle transition changes. Of course, there is a BIG limitation. It will sound very bad, very quickly if one of the songs is out of key with the others with comparative sensations to that outlined below:

 

3. They Don't Have To Take Up Your Second Deck

Most DJs only use two decks. This means that if there is a song playing and you want to mix in the dankest acapella known to man (Barney's theme tune for those wondering), your remaining deck is taken and you can't mix out of the track unless you first remove the acapella. This is an issue, especially if you want the acapella to last over the transition. 

Well, there is an alternative, simply add the acapella to a free slot on the sample deck. Software like Serato and Traktor allow the samples to be synced with the songs and so it takes no beatmatching while your attention is towards mixing the two tracks together. 


This is one of the undeniably justifiable uses of sync. It doesn't matter what you think of it's use elsewhere, you can't criticise it here.

4. They Are Great For Scratching

As it is just vocals, it is perfect to use as a scratch track. Many notable scratch DJs will use acapellas and vocal sections to scratch and drop phrases in, try using different voices and audio qualities for different sounds when scratching. 

You could perhaps prepare a track before hand where the first verse is the acapella and then mix in the original mix of the song for the chorus so you can scratch before mixing that song in (a very good way of teasing the new song in by letting familiar snippets through).

5. They Are Great For Effects

Let's say there is a big drop but you think the build up is not to scratch (teehee), you can add to the build up with a acapella. First find one in the same key as the song playing and select a short section that you can loop. As the song builds, you can add more effects to the accapella for example increasing the reverb and the HPF to make a massive rising effect, you can add stereo delays and echoes for a wide effect that just fattens up as it goes on. One thing to watch out for is if the effects are post-fader or not. This is because you will want to cut the acapella including the echoes and reverb tail when the drop hits to ensure the tasty bass is in the spotlight. 

A different use would be to add it on top of the original mix of the song the acapella was taken from for a delay effect, simply have the acapella at a lower volume than the track and set it behind the leading vocals so it sounds like its been delayed. This is usefull if you are on a system that doesn't allow FX.

Finally if you are opposed to words such as "fuck" and other shit like that, you may want to censor a song. One way to do that is to drop the volume of the whole track for the duration of the word. Or you could play the acapella over the instrumental and kill the acapella during the swearing so the backing track continues. This is obviously a crude method as the vocals won't be as well mixed as the original track but it will sound better than complete silence when the artist swears.