Beds are a subtle but powerful tool in your DJ toolkit. You're usually speaking over them, so they may not come to the forefront when thinking about your show, but they serve a number of functions.
- Set the mood for the conversation.
- Act as filler audio to smooth out mistakes.
- Set the pace of conversation flow.
- Help weave your audio together.
Having a large variety of beds with many different tones, paces, styles and lengths gives you flexibility to adapt to different topics and break lengths.
Setting the Tone
Your beds set the mood of your break. This is especially true with guests in the studio. If you're talking about a fun run morale, welfare and recreation (MWR) is hosting or a barracks social, you want to have a bed underneath your talk break that is energetic, peppy and matches the tone of your content.
EXAMPLE OF A POORLY-MATCHED BED
[A slow, foreboding bed plays in the background.]"A couple of weeks ago, my wife and I were on a trip with a friend of hers coming from out of town, and you know where we went, the world-famous Amsterdam. Now I know it's got quite the reputation, but my wife and I had a one..."
It would sound a little funny to hear something like the above. This is why doing pre-break prep before each talk break with a guest is so important. This helps you know which beds to select for the topic in your next talk break.
PRO TIP: Check out Interview Techniques Part II for more info.
It's a good idea to have a mix of beds available to you. You want
- More even, relaxed beds for breaks where someone is telling a story or conveying detailed info.
- Energetic beds help drive home that you want people excited about the topic you're discussing.
- Softer, chill beds are great for guests from the library or a break about yoga class.
NOTE: Genre can also play a role. If people are listening to a classical music station, a screeching electric guitar from a hard rock music bed would be jarring.
Now for heavy topics like suicide, Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention (SHARP) or substance abuse, you usually don't want any bed at all. The silence between words and the lack of a music undertone help highlight the weight of these topics. It can also cheapen a break with a topic as heavy as these to play music underneath. No bed really matches the tone, so it's best not to play one with heavier topics.
Play around with different beds and see how they impact the mood of your on-air conversations.
Beds Are Your Backup
DJ, beds are your best friend. If you have an awkward pause where you forget what you were saying, or you swallow loudly, or maybe you made a loud noise, a bed is going to cover up most of these audio artifacts and errors. This is especially true for your guests who have far less experience behind a microphone.
EXAMPLE WITH NO BED
Yeah, so uh... [loud breath] we're expecting about 2000 people at this 5K. It's going to be, um... [smacking] pretty sweet, I think. We got uh... a bunch of... powder that we're gonna throw everywhere. People are gonna be uh, [loud exhale] you know, able to-able to get a lot of that on them, a lot of photo opportunities, and, uh... [tongue clicking] uh... I don't know, I mean I'm-a-I'm-excited for it. Just go to the gym and talk to Bob, and he can get you... signed up.
EXAMPLE WITH BED TO COVER SOUNDS
[Upbeat music plays in background.] Yeah, so uh... we're expecting about 2000 people at this 5K. It's going to be, um... pretty sweet, I think. We got uh... a bunch of powder that we're gonna throw everywhere. People are gonna be uh, you know, able to-able to get a lot of that on them, a lot of photo opportunities, and, uh... I don't know, I mean I'm-a-I'm-excited for it. Just go to the gym and talk to Bob, and he can get you... signed up.
See how much of that disappears when the bed is playing underneath?
Now, be cautious; playing a bed too loudly can drown out your mic audio. You'll have to experiment with your board setup to find the levels that work for you. Every board is different. When you load your bed, you may need to set the volume a little louder than you think sounds normal. With the layers of compression between you, and the radio and your listener's car, final audio output should sound balanced to your listeners. Play around and see how this works with your setup. Don't be afraid to ask another DJ to listen on a separate radio and give you feedback.
NOTE: When using beds, use them with a purpose and find a balance. The music should be noticeable without being distracting.
Set the Pace
It's easy to lose track of a break. Usually, this happens when a DJ or guest talks longer than the DJ budgeted for when prepping that break. Have no fear; beds are here to rescue you. When choosing beds, build a large palette. You want a variety of tones for different topics, but you also want a variety of lengths, so you can use your beds to force you to stick to specific break lengths.
If you're about to open your mic and tell your listener when they can catch the new Game of Thrones episode on AFN, but you put down a three-minute bed, you're far more likely to go on a rant about dragons than stick to the quick break you budgeted for this content. If you were to have a 30-second bed in place, you can ensure that you do not talk longer than you intended.
This is especially useful when you have a guest in the studio. Even the best guest, after you've coached and prepped them thoroughly, as we discussed in Pre-Show Guestwork, can get excited and go on a rant. If you've:
- laid down a two-minute bed,
- informed your guest that's how long this break will be,
- used hand signals to keep your guest on track
- and built yourself a buffer by ending the break into a song ramp, you built yourself up for success.
The bed acts as your break timer. Keep an eye on it as your break moves forward. When there are only 30 seconds left on the bed, give your guests the 30-second signal. Let your beds work for you.
You don't want to choose a bed that has a strong opening like this:
[Strong, rumbling sounds play in the background.] "A couple of weeks ago, my wife and I were on a trip with a friend of hers coming from..."
You want a bed transition to sound like this:
[Upbeat jazzy music plays in the background.] "A couple of weeks ago, my wife and I were on a trip with a friend of hers coming from out of town."
A good bed will augment your show but not distract from your talk break. Listen to your beds before you select them. Do they wildly change audio in the middle of the track? Did they go from instrumental to full band and back again? Does your bed sound consistent throughout? Distracting, right?
NOTE: Avoid using instrumental versions of popular music. Listeners may think you are about to play their favorite song, and it never comes on, or if you overuse it, you run the risk of a listener tuning out because you always talk over their favorite music.
PRO TIP: A bed with vocals is a song!
Choose beds you like. Even your beds are an expression of your DJ persona. Slower beds can make you speak slowly, while upbeat beds can speed you up.
NOTE: AFN pays a subscription service for music beds and audio elements. Check out Benztown Branding for a multitude of beds and other audio elements you can implement in your show.
A lot of DJs get excited when they see beds that are ramped loops of popular songs. Be careful with these because you better play the song that matches after the ramp, or you're going to make your listeners angry. It also distracts your listener from your content because they will be singing along with your bed, anticipating that song.
Once you select a bed, be sure to edit it so it's at the level you want it when you input it into AudioVAULT AVRPS. Test the bed again in AVRPS to make sure it reflects how you want it to sound on air. Having a solid base of about 20 beds of different tones and lengths will equip you for almost any situation on air. It's also good practice to replace these beds regularly so your show doesn't get stale.
NOTE: Certain music genres can date your segments. Rock and roll can tend to sound dated as music beds, while genres like house, electro, lo-fi, etc. can have longer shelf lives.
Beds may not seem like much at first, but they are a powerful tool in your DJ toolkit to make you and your guests sound your best on air.
Get creative, try new things and, most importantly, have fun. Practice makes perfect. Have a great show.