You don’t have to pay for DJ drops unless you don’t have the time or desire to record and edit them. Here’s how to do-it-yourself at home!
The purpose of a drop is to let the audience know what DJ they are listening to, and to add style to the mix. You often hear them on the radio in between songs when a booming voice or a celebrity announces what station it is. A DJ drop is oftentimes a recording of someone speaking, but it can also be a random sample such as a siren or gunshot.
Step 1: Obtain the Audio
First you need a sound to sample. Put some thought into how you want to incorporate different bits of audio into your set. Most drops do not last longer than a few seconds so the hardest part is going to be finding the perfect sound.
Make sure you adapt the drop to your particular technique. An explosion may sound cool during electro remixes of hip hop but it would freak out someone listening to chill downtempo. Also avoid irritating noises that cause strain to human ears.
Record yourself or a friend – The obvious choice would be to use some of that production equipment and software to record someone saying the drop. Practice saying it over and over until you get the perfect nuance for your sample.
Hire a voice actor – If you want something that you could not possibly recreate yourself, such as the foreign accent of a native speaker, or a professional radio announcer with decades of experience, there are plenty of services online that over to record DJ drops for as little as $5 to $10 — although an experienced voice over actor costs considerably more.
Use a smartphone app – Of course there is an app for DJ drops. For iOS there is DJ Drops by Charles Jabaley and DJ Trap-A-Holics’ Trap-A-App Soundboard with DJ Drops. On Android try Dance House DJ Drops & FX App.
Make it on a computer – You can use your computers Text-to-Speech feature to record futuristic DJ drops that sound like a robot talking.You will find this under ‘System Preferences’ > ‘Speech’ on Mac, or ‘Control Panel’ > ‘Speech’ on PC.
Get a free download – The internet is awash with resources for audio samples. We can’t tell you to rip it off YouTube but check out the free sounds offered by Music Radar or Synthtopia. The Internet Archive is a great source of Creative Commons multimedia, and has a lot of vintage footage that can be re-used.
Step 2: Add Special Effects
Use special effects (SFX) to add definition to your vocals or sample. Listen carefully to the professional drops that broadcasters use. Generally when a radio producer makes a drop they use the proper combination of effects to make it sound more exciting. A club DJ has to use good audio for drops or they would be incomprehensible over the music.
While the right combination of SFX helps enormously, to many piled on top of each other will cause it to sound muddy and unpleasant. Read more about muddiness, or audio that has become distorted from too much rendering.
Chorus – Imitates the slight variations in pitch and timing that occur when groups of people sing in harmony. This creates a fuller sound and add’s movement.
Compression – Dynamic range compression evens out the sound wave by making quiet sounds louder and loud sounds more quiet. Generally radio producers compress DJ drops every time because it sounds professional and clean.
Delay/Echo – The delay effect is reminiscent of an echo, which is why many people call it that. It is a type of fade where the audio signal is delayed and then played back on a loop several times as it gets progressively quieter.
Flanger – Made by processing two identical signals together to produce constructive and destructive interference. It sounds somewhat like those vintage novelty toy sticks that make a groaning noise when you turn them upside down.
Pitch – Refers to the key of the music or other audio. By adjusting pitch one can edit voices to sound high like a chipmunk or low like Barry White.
Reverb – Makes it sound like you recorded the track inside a certain space, such as a cave, cathedral or shack. This is based on an acoustic phenomenon relating to the persistence of sound after it has been released. Normally when people speak the sound waves bounce around and get absorbed by objects in the room.
Step 3: Drop It Like It’s Hot
Once your DJ drops are finalized and ready to go you have to wait until that perfect moment and then get low! There are a few different ways to work DJ drops into your performance.
Add a cue point – Use DJing software such as Serato or TRAKTOR to set a cue point, and then play like you would a regular song. To do this use a third (or fourth) multiplayer (or turntable) just for DJ drops to avoid interrupting the music.
Use a sampler pad – If your DJ controller has a sampler function you can program DJ drops and assign them to each button. You may want to invest in a standalone unit such as the Abelton Push or the Novation Launchpad.
Scratch over it – Assuming you’ve got mad “skillz” you could perform a live remix of your DJ drop by cutting it up and looping it.
Make a mixtape – The DJ drop brands your mixtape as a form of individual expression rather than just another podcast. Use DJ drops to liven up lulls in the track, or to highlight certain places in the mix. Be creative and unique about it.
In closing a good DJ drop adds color and character to your set. On the other hand remember not to overplay it in a way that irritates people because they may leave or press ‘next.’ Don’t be that annoying disc jockey who won’t stop triggering audio samples instead of playing the music. Do consider editing your own DJ drops.