The digital DJ age brings many amazing benefits, such as having billions of tracks that you’ll never play, a constant fight with OS and software updates, and two sync buttons for every DJ on the planet. But with all this cool stuff comes a dark downside, something that we have all done, probably continue to do, and somehow think it’s OK and maybe even a little bit cool. It’s the C-word — clipping.
We’re not judging you, but we want to help. So what follows is a handy step by step guide to eliminating those pesky red lights, thus rendering you as a DJ god worthy of the Jesus pose that you probably routinely pull off while those meters redline all night long.
The issue with clipping is the obvious and constant red LEDs being on display. So the easiest thing to do is make sure they don’t appear. This is why we recommend always carrying a roll of gaffer, duct, insulation, or gorilla tape in your DJ bag. Simply tear off small strips and place over the red LEDs on the meters. And for that extra level of professionalism, tape over the orange ones too, so that you’re always in the green. At the end of the night, remove the tape and everyone will think you’re a sound Jedi master.
For a less obvious but more destructive approach, always tape a Sharpie to colour in the necessary LEDs. A non-permanent marker can be wiped away at the end of the evening, but they do tend to bleed light through the ink a little.
In your average murky booth or sticky floored bar, nobody will ever know.
An easier and less destructive approach is to disguise the LEDs with things that you have around you. If there’s space, why not strategically place a coaster over the LEDs and stand your sponsored energy drink on it?
Another approach is to use a Postit note with fake indecipherable requests. This has a useful side effect of being able to dissuade punters from asking for real requests because of the loooong list of existing ones.
The digital age brings its own camouflage in the shape of a laptop stand. Just position it right over the meters so that the crowd can’t see them, and ideally so that you can’t either, so that you don’t have to be bothered with piffling annoyances such as stopping distortion.
For that real superstar DJ touch, strategically placed cake is the perfect disguise. Remember — if you can’t see it clipping, then it isn’t clipping.
Clubs are generally full of wasted punters who have little time or comprehension for explanations. So to put them off, devise a lengthy pseudo-science bollocks diatribe about how you always drive the mixer hard so that the club experiences the fullest spectrum of sound. Without red, the sound is dead. Or something.
If however your explanation doesn’t work, it may be wise to add that you deliberately and organically distort the sound, because it’s part of who you are and how you don’t trust shitty digital effects to deliver the same emotion. “The dance floor can tell the difference” makes the people feel special and discerning.
The biggest get-out is to play the blame game. You could say that you have to push the mixer to 11 to make up for the sub standard house system. Don’t try this if the logo on the PA is Void, Funktion One, or some other cutting edge system though because you will definitely look like the bullshitter that you are.
The last and most dangerous tactic is to find a scapegoat. Blame “the sound guy”, an especially smart tactic if there actually isn’t one. “Typical — screws it all up and disappears” followed by a shrug is a good response. This will work unless there actually is a sound guy the size of a house with a explosive temper, fuelled by energy drinks, steroids, and other less legal substances. He will definitely clip you and make you red line.
The very last resort
Alternatively, buy a book, talk to a sound guy, and learn everything there is to know about best sound practices. Christ knows there’s enough material online all about it. And then you can climb into our ivory tower and see how great the view is from up here. 😉