Whether you are a club DJ, radio DJ or Mobile DJ, one thing is certain: If you want to be good, you have to have a smooth sound. While styles vary, depending on what type of DJ work you do, a natural DJ voice is always the foundation of a great DJ.
Hip hop DJs sound different from a typical wedding DJ. The difference is mostly in the choice of words, the amount of slang used and the style of articulation. A club jock may slur more and rely on hip terms, while a wedding DJ is probably playing it straight. However, a good DJ is a good DJ no matter what the format or venue. You will never hear a top DJ with a bad sounding voice. Unique? Yes. Bad? No.
So what is good? Many times DJs, especially weekend mobile DJs, are under the false assumption that they have a good voice. They may have been told by their friends and family that they have a good “DJ voice.” Many of these poor souls trudge along, annoying every patron of every gig that they manage to get with their “pukey DJ voice.” In defining a good DJ voice, the word “smooth” is often used. But this doesn’t go quite far enough in describing what “good” is. We first have to dig into what is bad.
One of the most common negative sounds is a nasal sound. The nasal sound is usually described as “whiney.” It’s very unpleasant; piercing, thin. DJs with a nasal sound often don’t know that they have it. These are often the guys who are gig-less and can’t figure out why.
A nasal voice is created when too much of the air that is expelled during speech is coming through the nose. Usually the only sounds that should come through the nose are the consonants “N” and “M.” The rest comes through the mouth. Some exceptions apply, but generally this holds true.
Conversely, when no sounds come through the nose the person is said to have a “de-nasal” sound quality. A de-nasal sound is one where Ns and Ms sound like Ds and Bs. For example the pronunciation of the word “dumb” using a de-nasal delivery would sound like you are saying “dub.”
A “gravel” voice is just as you would imagine. It sounds like someone who has gunk in their throat. Gravel voice people usually are “sucking down” their voice to get it to sound deeper. They are not speaking with their “optimum pitch.” I don’t know why, but someone who is sucking their voice down lower than it should be reminds me of a guy with a comb-over hairstyle. Both are in denial of what they don’t have and are deluding themselves.
Unfortunately they aren’t deluding the audience, who can spot the phoniness a mile away. A “brassy” voice sounds harsh. It’s too sharp. Think of Fran Dresher and you’ve got it. It is almost the opposite of what you would call a smooth DJ voice. There is another voice called the “glottal fry” which is how Henry Kissinger talks and to some extent, Bill Clinton. It is sometimes called “frog-like.” This type of voice not only sounds bad, but will ruin your voice quickly.
The best way to figure out what you sound like is to record yourself reading or speaking; then listening back and giving yourself an honest critique. This is sometimes difficult to do because it’s hard to be objective about yourself. If you can find a good voice teacher and take even one lesson from him or her, you will go a long way to finding out about you “DJ voice.” Just be careful with voice teachers that only teach singing. I’ve actually heard some horrible misuse of the voice by college voice professors!
It’s hard to explain everything without a demonstration, but I’m hoping you get the idea. Remember, if you want to be a good, or even great, DJ, you’re not going to get there with a weird or annoying “DJ voice,” no matter what style of DJ you are. Get the DJ voice thing under control and watch your bookings and cash flow increase.