Big Band Cocktail & Dinner Party

I take great pride in specializing in Big Band music, and in having one of, if not THE (yeah, who are we kidding – I’m not modest) absolute best collection of Big Band music and Popular Vocal Standards from the 20s through the 50s in the Sacramento area.

This last weekend, I had a wonderful time playing a Big Band themed birthday party at the Delta King on the river, and I’d like to share some of the playlist from that event.  This party, and the venue, both lent themselves well to exploring all of these great musical traditions from an era gone by.

Unfortunately, not all of the selections I played are even available on YouTube, which just speaks to the size and depth of my collection, but I’ve listed those that are below so you can research them yourself, and have fun learning more about these artists and their music.

Also keep in mind that not all of these will be the exact versions present in my library, and in most all cases, the material I have sounds a lot better from a  fidelity standpoint.  We do have to remember, though, that recording technology was in its infancy when these musics were flourishing, and the overall fidelity, as well as the imperfections are just a part of the charm of these selections, and really help to transport you back in time!

Please enjoy these selections, and if you or someone you know are ever looking for a Big Band-themed wedding, or other event, please give me a call.  While you’re at it, call around and let the other folks know you’d love some classic Big Band at your event, and ask them for some examples of what they’d play.  You may (or may not) be surprised to hear them all mention Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, and if you’re lucky maybe Benny Goodman or Duke Ellington for good measure.  But Big band is so much more, and has so much more to offer than just the Rat Pack & Michael Buble!

So when you’re ready, let me know!  I’d love to help you Jump, Jive & Wail your way through an awesome event and dance party!

Without further ado, let’s get started with our list!

Nat King Cole – Straighten Up And Fly Right

Duke Ellington And His Orchestra – Take The ”A” Train

Kay Starr – If I Could Be With You (One Hour Tonight)

Patti Page – Let Me Call You Sweetheart

Count Basie – Swingin’ the Blues

Frank Foster – Lust For Life

Andrews Sisters – Rum And Coca Cola

Johnny Mercer – Ac-cent-tchu-ate The Positive

Clyde McCoy – Sugar Blues

Ethel Merman – I Got Rhythm

Louis Prima – Jump, Jive, An’ Wail

The Six & Seven-Eighths String Band Of New Orleans – Clarinet Marmalade

Rosemary Clooney – Mambo Italiano

Bobby Darin – Beyond The Sea

Les Paul & Mary Ford – How High the Moon

Fats Waller – Alligator Crawl

Art Kassel & His Kassels In The Air Orch. – Bell-Bottom Trousers

Louis Armstrong and the Duke Ellington Orchestra – It Don’t Mean a Thing (if it Ain’t Got That Swing)

Betty Hutton – Doctor, Lawyer, Indian Chief

Fletcher Henderson and His Orchestra – Hotter Than ‘Ell

Les Brown & His Band of Renown – Leap Frog

Billie & De De Pierce Ft. Emile Barnes – Lonesome Road

Benny Goodman – Somebody Stole My Gal

Benny Carter – Black Bottom

Edmond Hall – It Had To Be You

Ella Fitzgerald & Louis Armstrong – A Fine Romance

Johnny Hodges – Something To Pay Your Foot To

Charlie Barnet – Cherokee

Dizzy Gillespie – Autumn Leaves

Benny Goodman – Let’s Dance

Blue Barron – Ida, Sweet as Apple Cider (The Three Blue Notes voc.)

Frank Sinatra – The Best Is Yet To Come

Ella Fitzgerald – Let’s Do It (Let’s Fall in Love)

Errol Garner – Red Sails In The Sunset

Count Basie – Tickle Toe

Benny Goodman – Down South Camp Meeting

Charly Barnet – Skyliner

Billie Holiday – Lover Come Back to Me

Glenn Miller – Begin the Beguine

Barney Bigard – Sugar

Emile Barnes & Lawrence Tocca W Billie Pierce – Shake It & Break It

Count Basie – April In Paris

Benny Goodman – Body & Soul

Benny Carter – I’m In The Mood For Swing

Buck Clayton – Way Down Yonder In New Orleans

Nat King Cole – L.O.V.E.

 

Subwoofers. To Woof, or Not to Woof?

Hint:  It’s never REALLY a question!

One of the biggest misconceptions among DJs is that you “only need” subwoofers for larger crowds or bigger rooms.

That’s just not true. At all.Sacramento Wedding DJ.  Sounds To Go DJ Service.

Music is recorded on a spectrum of frequencies. From high to low. Everyone knows this.

Every speaker cabinet has both an upper, and lower limit to the frequencies they can reproduce. The “tops,” or speakers DJs use are no different.

Without subwoofers, specifically designed to reproduce the lower frequencies in the program material, the resulting sound is weak, thin, and hollow. Of course, modern day speaker cabinets sound great, and many do a respectable job of reproducing a limited amount of low end, but they can still only go so far.

DJs who try to run modern dance music without the benefit of dedicated subwoofers are often the ones you hear so many complaints about when it comes to sound. Because their sound lacks low end extension, and has no real body, they’re forced to crank the volume a lot higher than they should have to to fill the area they are in. The result is simply LOOUUUUDD, shrieky, distorted, and still WEAK sound. In addition to sounding terrible, and causing ear fatigue for everyone around them, they’re also placing a ton of unneeded strain on their speakers and amps. When the sound starts to get distorted, they even run the risk of damaging or blowing their speakers and amps!

Having the low-end extension offered by dedicated subwoofer enclosures becomes especially critical at events outdoors, which an ever-increasing number of wedding receptions here in Northern California generally are.  The sound disperses way faster in these outdoor settings, and higher levels are generally required to cover the same amount of people in the same amount of space because of this rapid dispersion.

These outdoor receptions and events are often attended by sound restrictions or ordinances because the location is in either a residential area, an uneven, mountainous setting where sound will echo, or is out in the middle of a large, flat area, where the sound simply travels farther.  In these cases, the initial gut instinct says that having “more bass” would be undesirable.  Here again though, the truth of the matter is counter-intuitive.  We have to remember what we said before.  Providing warmer, fuller sound, concentrated right when and where you need it means you don’t have to turn up your sound system AS A WHOLE as loud as you otherwise would!

The result?  Less echo, less sound travel, fewer grumpy neighbors, no 10:55 PM visits from local law enforcement, and so on.

Ask your potential DJs how many subs they typically bring to events. If they say “none,” that their tops “don’t need them,” or that your event or room “isn’t big enough to need them,” keep looking.

Having subwoofers at your small to medium event ISN’T “overkill,” and doesn’t mean it’s going to be “too loud” or have “too much bass.”  On the contrary, it simply means warmer, fuller sound at more reasonable volume levels all night.  If your event has music, even for background, there is a TON of benefit to having a nice, full sounding sound spectrum, and no downside whatsoever.

And yes… It also means the ability to THUMP when the time is right!

For your truly professional DJ service provider, the question is never “do we need subs?” but is rather “how many do we need?”

Fun Wedding Pro Tip – Be a Part of the Action!

Understandably, you’ll want to spend time mingling, talking, and catching up with your guests in addition to dancing.

Keep in mind though that guests, and your wedding party, will tend to congregate around you during your reception.  That’s not a bad thing.  After all, it IS about YOU!

Just remember though…  If the groom spends all night at the cigar bar (or just the BAR bar), where will all the guys be?  And, wherever the bride goes, an entourage is sure to follow!

Staying in the action during your reception will keep the majority of your guests involved too! Of course that doesn’t mean you have to dance all night, but staying in the general area of the dance-floor will help make sure no one (especially you) misses all those great highlights and special moments on the floor!

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Playing “Common” Songs at Your Wedding – A Lesson From Landscaping

Every once in a while, a couple getting married might will communicate that they don’t want any “common” or “typical” “wedding songs” to be played at their wedding.

There are a few reasons a couple might say this, and for the most part, these reasons are understandable.

One of the most common reasons is that they’ve experienced first-hand, maybe even many times, an over-reliance on certain songs by less-experienced (or simply LAZY) DJs who play the same tired, predictable fare at every wedding they do.  These DJs don’t take the time or effort to learn about the preferences and tastes of their clients, and they don’t take the time, or simply don’t have the skill needed, to “read” the dance floor and program music creatively.

The result can be a rather lackluster and somewhat impersonal experience for the couple and their guests.  It can also lead to more folks in the room rolling their eyes at each new song than there are people dancing to them!

The second most common reason is that couples want to be sure they infuse their celebration with their own unique personalities.  Of course, on their big day, they want to hear certain artists and songs they know, like, and even love.  Of COURSE this should be a goal for EVERY wedding!

Sometimes, though, as they try to avoid what they see as “cliches,” or as they try to make their wedding “unique,” they inadvertently swing too far from one extreme to another.

Quite often, this results in reduced potential for enjoyment by many guests, and can be detrimental to the experience of everyone.

Before I go any further, I’d like to share a true story from quite a few years back when I worked in landscape contracting & design.  Trust me… it’ll all make sense.  :)

We did a landscape design for a couple that was pretty well off, and had a pretty impressive budget for their landscape design & installation.  As it came time in their design process to select plants, they decided they wanted to replace “a few” of the choices made by our designer in favor of some “different” selections.  They even said “I don’t want my yard to look like every other yard, and I don’t want to see those same plants that I see at every house, and on every street corner.”

We didn’t have a problem with that, and in fact we encouraged them to make some alternative selections.  When it was all said and done though, they made more than a couple or even a few selections, and replaced almost half of the original list with hard-to-find, special-order, and somewhat exotic plants.  They did TONS of research on these plants, and spent a pretty penny to get all of them.  We made suggestions along the way when we thought there might be issues with certain plants, but in the end, the final decisions were theirs.

Within about a month or so of finishing the installation, their expensive, hard-to-find, and special order plants started dying on them.  They just couldn’t take the heat and conditions in this area at that time of the year.  We replaced several of them in accordance with our warranty policy, but as more and more plants started to die, even the ones we brought in as replacements, we finally had to draw the line and let them know we wouldn’t be replacing any more plants for them free of charge.

The clients weren’t happy about this, but after we explained our reasons, they understood, and we made some replacements with some of the more common plants the designer originally included in the design.

What did we have to explain to them?

We basically said that yes… you DO tend to see a lot of common plants used in landscaping in any given area (not just ours).  Those plants are used for a reason.  They are used because they are hardy, attractive, and flourish in the conditions we live in.  Sure, we can try to get more exotic, and in some cases, we can pick alternatives that will do just fine.  But at the end of the day, we’re still going to be left with some plants that everyone is used to seeing and planting.  And that’s OKAY, because those plants WORK.

The same goes for many, many songs!  There are a lot of songs that work very well for older guests and family that tend to be at weddings.  Then, there are tons of songs that work exceptionally well across all generations young AND old alike at family-oriented events.

Not everyone is a natural-born dancer, and not everyone is necessarily comfortable dancing.  A great many people, young and old, will only dance to what they KNOW and recognize.  If our goal is to provide an atmosphere that is as conducive to as many people dancing as possible, and if we want to make the environment inviting and welcoming for them, we need to take these bits of “dance floor psychology” into consideration.

This isn’t to say, however, that we should focus on playing only, or even mostly, “those songs.”  BUT… if our goal is to provide for the enjoyment of as many guests as possible, and if we want to make the environment as inviting as we can so everyone can participate in the festivities, then our primary goal should be to strike and maintain a balance.

That balance we should strive for is the balance between the “cliche” and the “cool.”  Between the “predictable” (instead think “recognizable”) and the “unique.”

If you’re working with a professional DJ provider, they will excel at helping you find and maintain that exact balance!  Their experience and ability to read a crowd will find a natural balance with your tastes and goals, while helping everyone have the best time possible!

We just need to be mindful of the lesson learned in our plant story.  We shouldn’t be so determined to get away from one extreme, that we swing too far to the other.  We also shouldn’t lose sight of WHY certain recognizable songs are in fact common, and why they are so successful and widely used to begin with.

While we want to personalize our wedding day, putting our own unique stamp on it in every way, we also need to remember that while our wedding day is “about” us, our reception is FOR our guests.  It’s a way for us to thank everyone for being a part of our special day!

Realizing this, our shared, common goal should be striking a balance that ensures ALL of our guests feel as welcome, and included as possible.

GIVE me your “Must Play” songs.  I give you a form for them!  Give me your “DO-NOT-PLAY” songs.  I give you a form for that too!

Together, and working with these lists and parameters YOU choose, we’ll work to make sure your wedding day is as enjoyable for you and all your guests as it can possibly be.

It’s okay to “just say no” to certain songs.  It IS your day.  Just don’t be too quick to axe everything before the party even starts.

Songs are the tools your DJ uses to achieve their results. While we want to be sure that we put our own stamp on our event, and while we should set some parameters based on our tastes, we need to be sure we aren’t taking too many tools out of our DJ’s toolbox.  When we do, we run the risk of artificially limiting the enjoyment of our guests because they can’t hear some songs they enjoy, and would like to dance to.

Besides… When it comes right down to it, you’d be surprised what songs you might find YOURSELF having a GREAT TIME dancing to!  It’s really easy to write a song off as “cheesy” on a piece of paper.  But it’s WAAAAAAYYY harder to resist the energy of that same song drawing you to the dance floor when everyone else in the room is GOING CRAZY for it!  Trust me…  I see it all the time.

After all, this is what I do.  :)

How Do We Get Them To Dance?

Awesome question!

Your DJ should be able to give you different ideas on how to get your dance floor started on your wedding day.  Most importantly though, your DJ should be able to get folks participating in your dance floor without resorting to cheesy or embarrassing tactics or putting anyone on the spot.Sacramento DJ Getting People to Dance at Your Wedding!

I’ll focus on one such idea here, and it relies on a powerful but subtle trick I like to use to get your dance floor started.

Trying to get a dance floor started at a wedding can be challenging for different reasons.  One of those challenges is that no one wants to be the FIRST ONE to get out and dance!  My little trick is pretty good at overcoming that though.  :)

Let’s imagine YOUR wedding day…

All eyes are on you because you just shared your first dance together, and emotions in the room are high.  Your dance song fades, and I (yes ME, your DJ, RIGHT…?) remain silent and let nature take its course.  The whole room erupts into applause!

Then, as this applause fades out, I congratulate you both.  While you remain on the dance floor, I then invite ALL of the other couples present to JOIN YOU on the dance floor to share a slow dance with you on your wedding day!

VIOLA!  You get an INSTANT packed dance floor, and it feels completely natural to everyone involved because it’s something you wanted to share with them on your special day, and not something “the DJ” asked them to do!  That IS why they’re there after all, right – to share such moments with you!

This idea is great for several reasons:

1)  You get an INSTANT packed dance floor!  After that slow song, I go right into an upbeat dance selection, and people keep moving and start dancing the night away!

2)  It gives older friends and family, and folks who might not consider themselves “dancers” a chance to get out on the floor and share a dance with their special someone.  We’ll have more slow songs and all types of genres throughout the night, but this dance is a nice way for people to feel comfortable on the floor without feeling that all eyes are on them.

3)  It makes a GREAT photo-op for your photographer!  They get to start the night off with a fantastic shot of a PACKED dance floor with you sharing an intimate time with all who are closest to you!

There are other variations of this technique that I’d love to share with you, but this one is by far the most popular and commonly picked by my couples because of it’s effectiveness, and subtlety.

So you see, finding a great DJ is about more than finding someone to “play some music” and “make some announcements.”

It’s about finding someone who understands the psychology of your guests, and who knows how to design and manipulate the flow of your wedding from beginning to end to make sure that everyone is involved and has the best time possible at your wedding!

Sure, a DJ can get your dance floor filled without employing a creative strategy like the one above, but how long will it take them to get that first, second, and third person on the floor?  How many different songs and genres will they cycle through – each one making the whole thing more and more awkward for your guests – before they find one that will actually get someone to come to the floor?  This is the type of situation you can easily avoid by making sure your DJ has a solid plan that MAKES SENSE when you ask them this important question.

Want more cool ideas like this?  I’d love to discuss them with you!  My planning materials cover all types of different scenarios and key questions to help you and your guests get the most out of your wedding day celebration!

Set your DJ up for Success!

Often, we might not give too much thought about how or where the DJ will set up at our event, and we might not think that it even makes a real difference. If we’re having an event at a venue that typically has DJ’s perform, then the temptation is great to simply go with the suggestion of the venue when it comes to DJ placement and setup. After all, they do this all the time, right?

When you work with Sounds To Go, we will always go over DJ setup and room layout considerations with you prior-to your event, but there are some easy-to-follow tips that you can use to help ensure that your DJ is able to provide you with the best performance possible, and that you and your guests have the best experience at your event:

DO consult with your DJ prior to your event to get their input on their placement and setup area. Just as your photographer is best-suited to judge the distance, angle & lighting for your pictures, your DJ is the best person to assess their position and setup in any given space depending on the layout, and the equipment needs of your celebration.

DO find out how much room your DJ will need, especially if providing extras like dance lighting, etc.

DO avoid the temptation to just ask your venue staff or coordinator “where the DJ usually goes” and take that recommendation without second thought. In a good number of cases, even in some of the nicer venues, the staff will suggest a layout that they are simply “used to” or that is actually the most convenient for them and their staff, and this is almost never ideal for your DJ, your event as a whole, or your guest’s overall experience.

DO be sure your venue is open to variations in layout and to work with you and your DJ. This is your event, and your celebration is unique to you. We go the extra mile to customize our performance and offerings to give you a custom-experience, and your venue should be able to do the same as long as it doesn’t make it difficult to do their job effectively.

ALWAYS place your DJ as close as possible to the dance floor/area, preferably right on one side of it. You want your DJ as close as possible to the dance floor so when it comes time to “turn it up” for the dancing the volume isn’t any higher than necessary.

NEVER place tables between your DJ and the dance floor/area. Doing this can cause your DJ to have to turn up louder than necessary for dancing and music, and this can be uncomfortable for anyone sitting at these tables, and who might not be dancing – even during regular announcements.

ALWAYS make sure your DJ can see everything in the room from their station/table, and that they have room to freely enter and exit their area from one or both sides without obstruction. Your DJ should be as unobtrusive as possible in the overall landscape, but he/she should have a complete view of all entrances and exists, tables, etc. Remember, your DJ is going to be helping to facilitate things like meal service, pouring for toasts, and your Grand Entrance as well as playing music. To do these things, and to be able to locate and call certain important people forward for special events throughout the night, they must have a clear view of the entire room at all times.

NEVER place your DJ in an area other than where the dancing and the majority of events and announcements will occur throughout the course of your event. This includes places like around corners, outside main doors, outside on a patio, in another room, etc. If your venue or event layout seems to necessitate these kinds of setup scenarios, be sure to start an open dialog with your venue, your DJ, and yourself to see if any alternatives or compromises are possible that would lead to a more optimal setup scenario and a better experience for you and your guests. If no alternatives are available, be sure to talk to your DJ and understand the possible impact of these types of setup scenarios on your event.

Also be aware that additional sound equipment, speakers, and reinforcement may be needed to account for these kinds of setup scenarios, and these may incur additional charges.

With just a little bit of communication and a proactive approach to planning, you can work with your DJ, and your venue staff to help ensure that your DJ is able to provide the best possible entertainment for every part of your event.

That Wedding DJ Last Night…

Wow, just WOW!  If you’re looking for a DJ for your wedding, PLEASE, please PLEASE watch this video!

So you see, Brian’s family member *thought* he was getting a really “great deal” on the DJ, but instead, got a big disappointment!  Brian ends the video with a subtle, yet powerful reminder that we’d like to pass along as well – that VALUE is FAR more important than price when considering DJ entertainment for your big day.

We’d love to talk to you about this video and the missed opportunities, and how our proactive approach to event planning and coordination will help your event run smoothly and avoid the types of mistakes and missed opportunities that Brian witnessed at this wedding.  This wedding doesn’t have to be YOUR wedding!

Looking for wedding djs in Sacramento?  Give us a call at 916.223.4508, or contact us via our website.

 

Brian S. Redd is a very remarkable DJ, and is a very prominent and well known industry professional who is known very widely by those in the industry for his Vlogs on DJ’ing in general, DJ equipment and product reviews and more.  His YouTube channel can be found here:  http://www.youtube.com/user/briansredd

Effective Use of Transitions

Using musical transitions is key to a successfully flowing event, and we understand the roll of dynamics and mood in transitioning from one part of your event to others.  Your guests should never be jolted into dancing without a build-up of tempo, and they should never be ground to a halt without a winding-down period to ease the transition.  This is of course unless you’re doing this intentionally at the end of a dance set or the end of the night to leave your crowd wanting more and ending on a high note – which in and of itself is a great option!

Wedding Reception Transitions:

Since wedding receptions are most often chock-full of different special events requiring changes in tempo and mood, and even breaks in music altogether, the understanding of how to make these transitions smoothly becomes crucial.  Your guests should feel like they are along for the ride at your celebration – not like they are being pulled along or forced to stop abruptly throughout the night.

The following is a sample time line using this approach, our “Dance Theory” if you will, and is an example of how to design an event flow that uses music thoughtfully to transition between certain parts of your reception.  There are no rules of course, and we will always work with you to construct the event that is right for you and your guests, so the below is only a general guideline meant to give an insight into our careful use of musical transitions throughout your event.

First Dance. For the sake of our example, we’ll start the timeline here.

Transitional/Build – Build into upbeat, open dancing slowly or quickly. You decide what feels right for you and your guests.  We have different ideas about how to draw your guests to the dance floor to kick off dancing.  And no…  they don’t include cheesy “snowball” games or putting anyone on the spot.  :)  Ask us!

First Open Dance Segment – Keep to slightly older, more accessible, and familiar mid-tempo music to encourage dancing by older folks and those who might tend to leave earlier, and/or may not dance to newer or faster music.

Wind-Down – There are times, for example, when getting ready to stop music for cake cutting, etc. that you want to wind down your upbeat, open dancing.  This will provide a nice slow transition, and will eventually (by design) clear guests off the floor.  Use parent dances, anniversary dances, money/dollar dances, etc. for this effect.  For money/dollar-dances, stick to slower songs, so there is not an abrupt STOP when moving to cake cutting, and also because all your guests want to share this time with you, and not all folks (think older) will necessarily be comfortable with high-paced fast dance selections and may not come up to dance with you to faster songs.

Cake-Cutting

Tosses – Use tosses, traditionally high-energy and emotionally charged events, involving several people on the dance-floor, to segue back into open dancing.

Second Open Dance Segment – PARTAY!  This second dance set is when you would start to pump it up with the newer songs, more dance/club/top-40 music for younger generations, current radio music and the hard-rock party fav’s (AC/DC, etc.)  At this point, all that “wedding stuff” is over and its time to let go and really just spend the night dancing and hanging out with your family and friends.

Wind-Down… or Climax… YOU Decide! – Use Last Dance and Last Song of the Night (if applicable/different) to slow back down in preparation for the end of the event.  As an alternative to the wind-down, you could choose to end your celebration on a high-note with real high-energy selections right up to the end to leave everyone wanting more.  The time your guests are having when your reception ends or when they leave will likely play a large role in their lasting impressions of your celebration, so leaving them pumping and asking for more can be a good thing too!

Most Importantly:

In the end, just remember: there ARE NO RULES! There is only what works best for you, your guests, and your event!  Our expertise is geared towards helping you achieve and strike that perfect balance!

Our Dance Theory

People often ask us “How do you encourage people to dance, or try to get them dancing?”

This is a question you should always ask any service you are considering hiring for music for your event.

Our answer is simple: With music!

Our presentation style is essentially low-key when it comes to “mic-time.” We prefer to let the music do the talking, and we get everyone on the floor and dancing by playing the right music for your crowd.

How do we know what “the right music” is?  We determine this in two ways:

During our pre-event planning, we go to great lengths to find out about not only your preferences, but those of your guests as well. By providing you with “Must-Play,” “Play-if-Possible,” and “No-Play” lists, we gather all kinds of particular songs, and general guidelines about what kinds of things will be best for you AND your guests. That, and we give you a sortable and easy-to-read database of our entire music library to select songs from.

Encouraging Requests from the crowd. Subtly throughout your event, we solicit requests from your guests.  We let your guests know that this celebration is about them and what THEY want to hear – NOT about what we want to play!  Getting everyone involved in the action and giving everyone something to dance to is the best way to ensure people have the best possible experience.

We never resort to cheesy or embarrassing (for us or you!) gimmicks or routines to get people involved in dancing. You could say our approach could be summed up as “Play it, and they will come!”