Known for her balance between low grinding electronic beats, heavy rap and future beat music, Lauren “Kittens” Abedini has been paving her own way and bringing others with her. She has earned the respect of industry veterans from A-Trak to Usher, and has played some of the largest gigs in the world including Coachella and EDC. In her aim to create a more inclusive environment, she started a series of non-profit DJ workshops for women called PWR to build a safe space for female-identifying students to learn a new skill.
Guitar Center Lessons invited Kittens to share some of the DJ techniques she teaches in her workshops. She starts at the beginning — covering the gear you need to learn how to DJ and the basics of matching beats — and goes all the way through to creative looping concepts and the use of special effects to make your mixes unique. In the video below, she gives us some insight into her background and perspectives on becoming a DJ.
Using Hardware in Your Setup
“We are going to go over your basic DJ setup. This is to break down what all these flashing buttons and knobs do, and very important [to know about] before you actually attempt to DJ.” Kittens takes us through all the parts of a basic digital DJ setup including CDJs, a mixer, and headphones — as well as the critical role each plays in performing for an audience.
Using Serato in Your Setup
“Software helps us in keeping our music organized. You can have the songs in your music library and it will tell you what the BPM is, and what the key is. You can set cue points and pre-program loops — while having all of the songs you want ready to go at your fingertips.” Serato is Kittens’s software of choice, and she demonstrates how the program works in connection with her music library and hardware.
Beats, Bars, & Dropping on the One
“The basics of DJing are really simple — having two songs and mixing them together and creating a flow. As you advance, you can get creative with it. But when it’s all stripped away, it’s really just blending one song into another in a way that's pleasing to our ears. That's why we have all this stuff — to make it sound cool and keep it interesting.” Being able to hear your way through a song is one of the most fundamental skills needed to be a successful DJ. In this video, Kittens demonstrates how to find the beat, feel the measures, and drop on the one.
“The bars are the words, the phrase is the sentence, and DJing is a conversation.” Understanding phrasing is important, and it will allow you to create clean transitions at points in the songs where it makes sense. Being able to hear and mix tracks when a chorus is ending or a beat is dropping, as opposed to overlapping songs mid-phrase, will give your set logic and structure. Here, Kittens talks about how to feel the phrasing, and tasteful ways to use that knowledge to mix between tracks.
EQ, FX, and Creating a Good Mix
“We're going to review some basics about EQ and special effects that you can use to elevate your mix and manipulate the music.” Kittens relates this to dance. “The lows are things you hear lower in your body — kick drums, bass lines, bass synths — it’s usually what you're dancing to. The mids are going to mostly control vocals, guitars, pianos — things that are the main melodic bits of a song. Your highs are going to control things like claps, snaps anything that you hear kind of up here. You can hear these sounds in your body, you feel them.” She uses this concept as a foundation for teaching some ways to use EQ and FX to create artful mixes.
Creative Looping in Your DJ Set
“One cool thing you can do when DJing is looping. This is something that can help you when you're in a bind or that you can do to add a bit of drama and creativity to your mixing.” You can select a piece of the song and loop it in a multitude of ways — from overlapping beats to creating a dramatic build. “A great way to start is by finding a part in your song that’s your favorite, whether it’s a vocal, a word you like, or an instrument. Take that loop and make it its own thing — imagine you're making that loop its own song.” Kittens closes out her lessons series with us by showing several looping techniques that can help make your set shine.
Guitar Center Lessons
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Keep up with Kittens on Instagram.