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New York’s Dubspot DJ School- Teaching ‘Advanced Dancefloor Psychology’ (interview)





New York DJ/ music production school Dubspot offers DJ tuition courses from US$1,895, for which students receive comprehensive technical training from top level DJs who provide increasingly advanced tips as they progress.


‘Train your mind to think like a DJ: analyzing, organizing, and presenting music in context’, the course outline for Dubspot’s DJ Extensive Program declares in ‘DJ Psychology’ (Level 4 of 6).


“Learn how to read an audience and how to shape the energy flow of your DJ sets.” (Dubspot.com )


Level 5 includes additional ‘Advanced dance-floor psychology’ while level 6 (Advanced Techniques II) promises students will learn how to ‘Introduce the “wow factor” to your sets’.


Level 6 also includes lessons on ‘an introduction to using Traktor’s Remix Decks and the Traktor Kontrol F1’‘beat gridding in Traktor’ and ‘basic controllerism’ presumably tapping into the skills of DJ Program Director Sam Zornow- aka turntablist superstar Dj Shiftee.


A ‘Native Instruments specialist’ as his Dubspot biog points out, he’s also  ‘the self-proclaimed greatest sandwich maker of all time’, in addition to being

‘the 2007 and 2009 DMC Supremacy World Champion, the only US champ ever, the 2008 IDA/ITF World Vice Champion’).


So what about this ‘advanced dance-floor psychology’? Surely reading a dance-floor can only be learned from experience?


“Dancefloor psychology and being able to read the crowd certainly comes largely from experience, but it’s not a given that someone will go into a DJ situation even considering how important this is,” Shiftee points out.


“We want to get the gears turning in our students’ heads. We want them to think actively about the narrative of a night, the journey of the audience, and how different songs can fit within this story. We workshop and reinforce this type of approach throughout the program,” he continues.


“For our exact methods, I’ll guess you’ll just have to sign up,” he smiles.



As the course’s multiple Traktor references and Shiftee’s Native affiliations make clear, Dubspot’s exact methods look unlikely to focus too firmly on finessing the finer points of maximising Pioneer’s rival for top rank professional DJs; the CDJ2000-nexus.


“Traktor can still do way more: vast remix deck capabilities, way more hot cues and loops, deeper Fx options, hugely more expansive mapping options, Loop Recorder, and more. I would disagree with the premise of your question,” he declares at the suggestion the CDJ2000-nexuses can do ‘almost everything Traktor can but without needing to take a laptop to a club.’


“Still out in the real world, I have seen USB stick DJing growing tremendously, especially in more electronic leaning scenes,” he concedes.


“The ease of use factor is a big issue though, because a lot people probably get all the functionality they want from the CDJ900/2000s.”



Skrufff (Jonty Skrufff): How much has the rise of EDM affected Dubspot’s business?


Dubspot (DJ Shiftee): “I think the rise of EDM has certainly helped business.  I don’t have exact figures or anything like that, but Dubspot has grown considerably over the past few years. A lot of this is due to good business practices, an excellent staff, and building an exciting community of music lovers, but the overall rise of EDM in America definitely seems to have created more demand.”


Skrufff: The UK is going through a deep house explosion (with deep house extremely mainstream): what genres are currently most popular with your students?


Dubspot (DJ Shiftee): “Our students come in with a wide range of tastes. We have students of all different ages, backgrounds, and nationalities, and so many styles of music come through the door. Big room EDM, open format, and Hip Hop might be particularly popular with a lot of American students, while some of the Europeans, for instance, might lean more towards techno & tech house. It’s really tough to generalize in this manner though, since we see all kinds of tastes from all different backgrounds. Our general approach to teaching DJing is independent of genre.”


Skrufff: Traktor and Pioneer both now offer beat-synching functions: how much is beat matching effectively obsolete today? (How long does it typically take an average student to learn it?)


Dubspot (DJ Shiftee): “It’s true that current software offers beat syncing functions, but the ear training involved in beat matching is not obsolete. Part of developing as a DJ entails being able to hear multiple sounds at once, distinguishing what is coming from where, and then understanding what kind of manipulation is needed to make it all work.


In our main DJ program, we don’t show students SYNC until the final level, since we want our students to develop this ear training. Each student is different, but I’d say students typically start to become comfortable with beatmatching after about 8 classes.”


Skrufff: was curious to see you teach students both Pioneer AND Traktor basics; here in Europe, everybody I know uses one or the other: why both?


Dubspot (DJ Shiftee): “We teach our students turntables with vinyl, Pioneer CDJs with real CDs, Serato with both, Traktor with both, and MIDI controllers.  We do this because we want our students to get a general overview of the technology available to them AND to understand that the concepts behind DJing apply to any equipment.”


Skrufff: How do you teach musical taste? (How do you recommend people build collections- what are the best short cuts?)


Dubspot (DJ Shiftee): “We don’t teach musical taste per se, more so a general mental approach to thinking about songs like tools that can create specific audience responses in different contexts.  We thus place great emphasis on thorough music organization relating not only to genre, but also energy level, mood, particular parties, etc.


So rather than teaching taste, we are more so trying to help students be as effective as possible with their own tastes. However, I think just being in the classroom environment and hearing different music from other students/the instructors inevitably leads to students expanding their musical horizons.  (My own personal favorite way to organize music can be found here: )


Skrufff: A number of phrases jumped out at me from the DJ course synopsis: you teach ‘techniques to transition from “wowing” a crowd to making people dance’: what kind of techniques are you talking about (can you give us a few nuggets?)


Dubspot (DJ Shiftee): “There are many different ways to “wow” a crowd, and we try to give our students several examples that can work towards this end.  These might include the incorporation of new technologies (e.g. live remixing via Traktor’s Remix Decks), physical skills (e.g. honing a particularly challenging Cue Point juggling pattern), or even figuring out surprising ways to bring surprising songs into the mix. The goal here is for students to push themselves, to look deeper, and to come out of a particular routine building endeavour as a better DJ.”







Jonty Skrufff:


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