DJing with a playlist is really nice. Everything is set up, you have used a lot of time to prepare a list and it is balanced well, it even is adjusted to a certain dramaturgic development. I personally like it and usually it is not a problem. But in real life, if you make a plan, this may not work. Lets say, you have prepared a nice candombe as the next tanda following a dramatic, but you see that people are already exhausted. What now ? Rely on your favourite candombe to revitalize people ? Or better react to the situation playing something slow ? Try to send people to the bar and get the Nuevo fans out of the corners ? This is real DJing and – guess what ? – it is your responsibility to make these decisions. So you may have just 45s to change the music and pick up songs for your next tanda.
For this, you either have to know your music very well and select four songs to form the next tanda. I would really like to be that good, but I am just an average DJ and usually not that flexible. My approach is to have a library of preselected tandas. In this case I would look into my tanda library of slow nuevo tango and pick one, maybe adjust it a bit to find a good transition. I have a library of tandas for all major orchestras and typical modern musicians. Also I have crates for mixed tangos, valses and milongas. After picking a tanda I usually have enough time to peek into it using my headphones and make sure that flavour and speed are OK. I have already talked about the importance of a set of good headphones and a dual sound interface for prelistening.
Above that, I have a library of single pieces for different flavours and if that doesn´t help, I keep lists of all my previous milongas, which I can access to pick a certain tanda if everything else fails.
For DJing on the fly, usually there is enough time to make sure, that your music is prepared well in advance (I try to be at least 2-4 pieces or one tanda in advance), so I have plenty of time to think about my decisions.
Anyway, if you load a song into your player, make sure it is the right song and tempo and flavour fit to the previous song. I am normally not DJing to keys, but it is not a bad idea to have a look at this as well. Some songs are a bit tricky, because they start with an intro and the danceable part starts late. It is generally not a good idea to play all these intros, because we want to keep the people dancing and not waiting. Again, you may memorize the problem for some songs, but you are not perfect. I prefer to let the computer do things for me. Using all the features of modern player software makes this very easy. Lets look at a sample. We want to play the beautiful song “Compadre” by Klauss (from the Jaime Wilensky compilation Tango Nuevo 2.1). This song has almost a 1 min. intro (beautiful, but not danceable).
So as a DJ, I am rude and start the song from the end of the intro. My player software (I use Traktor Pro 2.68) has features to store CUE points in the database. One of these CUE points is a load marker, which means that the song is loaded ready at the assigned position.
Also at the end of the song, a fade out marker (orange) can pe placed, which fades the song out when we are playing (occasionally) on auto cruise mode.
Generally, I do transitions between songs manually when I am in “on the fly” mode, but it is always better to be prepared. Using the features of the DJing software helps to concentrate on the dancers and the music during a milonga.
-Richard (DJ Ricardo)