Say Whaaat?... Did That DJ Just Use The Sync Button?
That Syncing Feeling
Yep, love it or loathe it, the controversial sync button is here to stay. If you've started to DJ in recent years, you'll no doubt be familiar with this innovative mixing aid. Long gone are the days when you reached into your record box, pulled out that precious piece of circular black plastic and spent what seemed like an aeon tweaking the pitch control on your turntable, trying to get the BPM just right.
The Vexations Of Vinyl
If you nailed it and got it spot on, you'd pray that the vinyl didn't drift (or the needle jump) at that crucial moment of mixing your two favourite house music tracks. Get it wrong and you could expect looks of disdain from the crowd as you delivered a car crash mix straight into their ears.
Manna From Heaven
Nowadays, of course, you simply cue up that MP3, press the magic button and hey presto, it's all done and dusted. Time to go grab a drink, send a text or have a quick chat with friends while you wait for the current track to run its course so that you can seamlessly mix in the next tune like a pro.
It's kind of a Marmite thing and there seems to be a definite divide of opinion as to whether this relatively recent development in technology is the work of the Devil or a DJ's Guardian Angel. Sure, we've all seen those Youtube videos of the DJ winging it up on the stage with no headphones, and twiddling buttons without the power cable even being plugged into the mixer. Aside from these obvious deceptive tactics, is the sync button really a thing of beauty or an ugly duckling?
The Pros Of The Saintly Sync Button
Now, you're no Frankie Knuckles, Lil' Louie or Pete Tong; we get it. Whilst guys like this learned the dark art of mixing using only vinyl and a canny ear for a good mix, the sync button makes mixing accessible to all of you out there that are never likely to play the last house music track at the closing party in Ibiza. You too can mix it up with the big boys from the comfort of your own living room or bedroom on any one of the internet's almost infinite house music radio stations that exist today.
Even if you've never mixed a single piece of vinyl in your life, it doesn't matter anymore - times have changed and things have moved on. Mixing is now accessible to all of those who yearn to be a top DJ, but will most likely never get that big break. You don't have to be a mixing Mozart anymore; with a bit of practice, you can play to friends and family all over the world without having to cut your teeth on expensive and (almost, but not quite) archaic technology from yesteryear.
Of course, there are other, more practical benefits too. You don't need to live in a 3 storey mansion with reinforced floors just to accommodate your record collection and you don't need to be wealthier than Richard Branson just to buy all your favourite house music tunes in the first place. MP3s and modern mixers can combine all of this to conveniently fit on a small desk. Add to this the development of DJ mixing software coupled with the convenience of the sync button, and you have a low-cost way to flawlessly bring your favourite house music tunes to a global audience.
The Cons Of That Sinister Sync Malarky
OK, so now we've lauded the advancement of the modern age and the convenience of using the sync button with almost evangelical fanaticism, surely, but surely, there's no room left for any cons, are there?
Yeah of course, sure there are...
Many old skool DJs aren't impressed that these apparent advancements have made life easier for the average Joe. They present a compelling argument that stuff like this is killing the art of mixing, and perhaps they have a point. Many resent the likes of Paris Hilton breezing into clubs and charging gazillions to play a brief set. Could the new kids on the block like Paris really have cut it back in the day? Maybe... but quite possibly not.
Whilst the convenience of mixing house music tunes with a monitor, software and a sync button at your fingertips undoubtedly makes life easier, there's no doubt that these aids detract from some of the key skills that made the 'Old Guards' of vinyl the living legends they are today. It's a bit like putting Formula 1 drivers in driverless cars and seeing who goes fastest.
Back in 'them there good ol' days', the DJ wasn't the star attraction, their tune selection and ability to mix vinyl seamlessly was. Today, develop a stage act, dance around a bit, throw your hands in the air occasionally and press a few buttons at the right time and you're the star of the show. Finish your set, put your Chihuahua back in your handbag and head off to the next high profile dance music club to pocket more loot.
Conclusion... Well, Kind Of...
Whilst neither of the above pros and cons are necessarily the 'right' version of how things really are, we hope we've been provocative enough to stir up your views on the subject. Let us know what you think...
At Househeads Radio, we don't really care who's right and who's wrong. We have old-timers that spin the occasional vinyl set but also enjoy the convenience that modern software, mixers AND sync buttons afford. We also have newer blood that have never even mixed a piece of vinyl in their life. It really doesn't matter; as long as the tunes are good, the DJs are friendly and the chatroom is alive with banter, we don't give a monkey's if you use the sync button or not.
If you aspire to be a DJ, get in touch with us and send us a demo. You don't need to be a DJ superstar and you can play on Househeads Online Radio Station during the week for free.