And I thought I was so over this!
In 2004, as a fresh faced naïve 20-year-old, I love music but had absolutely no musical ability (at that time I wasn’t to know that I’d become the bass guitar savant that I am today….). I obsessed over music, both listening and buying up all the latest Hip Hop albums rollin’ out in that glorious era of R&B/Hip Hop. I wanted so badly to be involved in the music scene, but without a musical bone in my body I couldn’t be apart of the creative process. Then it dawned on me that I could be a part of it, if I was the one playing the banging tracks- so I enrolled myself into DJ school here in good ol’ Sydney-town!
In that year (2004), I completed the DJ course; bought myself Newmark CD DJ turntables (paid it off in 12 monthly instalments- at the time it was the most expensive purchase I’ve ever made); bought enough CDs to fill 7 small CD cases (those ones which held 20 discs), and another 7 large CD folders (which held 60 or more discs); and even DJ at 3 house parties! But after that crazy year, after being unable to find a paid outlet for my passion and life moving on- the DJ turntables were left unplayed, gathering dust at my parent’s place in a bar nook which I’d transformed into a DJ booth. And that was that, that amazing year of scratching and pumping out banging tracks was relegated to a chapter of life which was now in the past.
Fast forward to the present day, I’d finished my latest Masterclass and was looking for the next class to geek out on. And I was scrolling through each class one at a time, coming across all the familiar household names and then I came across Questlove- a name which I did not know but when I allowed my computer screen reader to read the entire title and heard the words “and DJing”, my eyebrows rose immediately. DJing! Now that was a hobby/past-time I hadn’t thought about for the past 10 years! So, for old time’s sake, I started the class.
Turns out that Questlove was the drummer in the Hip Hop group ‘The Roots’, I knew the Roots, I had two of their albums. And from the get-go, Quest told his students that he only played the drums and other various ventures, just so that he could finance his real passion, which was DJing. And watching him at his craft, you can really tell that DJing is his first love!
What I’ve found about Masterclass instructors is this, they’re not just dudes who play the guitar, or play a ukulele, or compose music occasionally. But these guys and gals, they are obsessed, like OBSESSED! People who live, breathe, and sleep their craft! And Questlove is exactly that. The lengths he goes to, to curate the ultimate playlist, his knowledge of the nuances of his favourite songs, the hours he spends training up his muscle memory for scratching, frankly it was both impressive and a bit disturbing at the same time. Haaha.
And what I’ve also noticed about Masterclass is this. Sure, you can learn from the best, they can divulge their tips and tricks, things they have learnt over years and years of being professionals in their art. And sure, we can take a thing or two away from these multi-hour classes, but would we ever become a fraction of the artist that they are? 100% not. I mean it, 100% not! I am confident, in 10 years’ time we will not meet a world famous artis, and when asked how they started (or mastered) their craft, I’m confident that they’re not going to say that it started-off with watching a Masterclass class. Because these instructors are next level, they are people who have literally given their lives to their craft, practicing, and experimenting every day, hours a day, and only if you can invest that much of your time into it, and not grow tired of it? Then, you might have a slight chance in becoming like them. And did I mention that these people probably have traits/talents they were born with, honed from a very young age? Not something that most of us could ever develop in our 30s.
But 5 lessons into Quest’s classes, I had to slow down the pace. As I wanted to savour and make his lessons last. I stopped listening until I was able to get to my parent’s place, to retrieve my old Newmark turntables from their place. My parents were good enough to keep them covered up under a protective sheet, but when I got them back home to our apartment, they were still covered in a thick layer of dust. And unfortunately, after I had everything hooked up, CDs placed in both trays, unfortunately the passage of time weren’t kind to my turntables. After pressing every button, trying to get some sort of sound out of them- re-wiring and re-wiring them and flicking on and off every imaginable switch. Alas, I had to call it, confirmed time of death was 18:38 Eastern Standard Time. No! The right deck was so dead that I couldn’t even coax it to open so I could retrieve the disc which I had placed in it. D’oh!
But as I came to terms that my first ever big-ticket item was soon to be pulled apart for its components after we drop it off at the next council tech collection, I sombrely continued with Quest’s lessons. There were much sighing and slumped shoulders. But Quest’s passion for music and spinning was so contagious, that instead of burying the past, I decided to go all in! First I just wanted to see how much CD turntables were these days, were they dirt cheap because technology had advanced so far in the prevailing 18 years? But a simple Google searched showed that not only had technology advanced, but there was a whole new generation of DJ turntables! Now known as DJ Controllers, basically hardware which resembles old-school turntables (but miniaturized), but now they merely controlled the functionality of a DJ software. Which did fill in the gaps when Quest was talking about Serato DJ in one of his lessons (hadn’t completely understood this part of the course because I can’t see).
So, it turns out that most DJs these days were using a DJ software program, streaming music from compatible music streaming services, and were doing all the cool things on decks like scratching, looping, mashing-up songs all in real-time, thanks to the advances in technology! So back in the day, the old barriers to the profession (needing a vinyl collection, or in my case hundreds and hundreds of CDs), those barriers were gone now, and modern DJs only needed a laptop, an internet hot-spot, and a DJ controller which can be small enough to fit in a back-pack! Pretty crazy hey!?
I still remember the days when I had to lug around a large suitcase sized hard case which my turntables travelled in, weighing easily over 15Kgs. And I travelled with 2 duffle bags filled with all my 14 CD cases, and that was already way more compact than the old school Vinyl DJs. But a modern-day DJ, they could literally fit everything into a back-pack. And now I want to be a part of that! Web-searches has shown that the DJ Software djay Pro by Algoriddim is blind friendly; and the DJ controller by Reloop (specifically the Mixon 4) was tactile enough with enough physical buttons so I could use it without sight. So, my wife tells me to chill-out, wait a couple of months to see if this is just a fad that I’ll get over. However, if this desire to be scratching it up again persists, then I’m going all in! Crazy to think for less than $1100, you can have all the music and hardware needed to be a DJ, a huge contrast to the thousands and thousands which I spent back in the year 2004, to appease that first obsession with DJing.
So, watch this space, in May I might have a new Product recommendation for you! Gushing over the Reloop Mixon 4. Or there could be complete radio silence, if that’s the case, it means that I got over it. Haaha.
In conclusion, I don’t hold out any hope that I’ll ever be a DJ like Quest (let alone ever move from being a bedroom DJ to a proper gig DJ). But what Quest’s lessons have achieved for me is this, it took me back, back to my formative years and it reminded me of a real special time in my life. And frankly, being transported back like that, it was priceless! And what Masterclass does do for you, is it creates a spark, a little push in the direction which makes you believe for even a second “Hey? I can do that!” And if that inspires a dream in you, then Masterclass has served its purpose!
To learn from Questlove himself, click HERE to start his Masterclass- music curation and DJing.