Blend DJ Institute applies a back-to-basics approach to DJ instruction

Sonic thing: DJ Presto One (right) advises student Corina Sanchez on using the equipment (and her ears) at Blend DJ Institute.
Photo: Bill Hughes

When Presto One began learning the craft of DJing 20 years ago, he trained himself on one particular configuration of turntables and mixers. This proved to be a huge misstep, for when he arrived at his very first gig, he discovered a completely different arrangement of gear. He spent nearly 30 minutes learning how to use the mixer—while DJing.

“It was a nightmare for me,” he says, sitting aside four different DJ-equipment setups he uses at the new DJ school he teaches at and co-owns, Blend. “I don’t want that for my students. I want them to be able to go to the gig and say, ‘I got this.’”

What you might be saying is, we need more DJs like we need more video poker bars. Presto One’s response to that increasingly popular sentiment is that we need more skilled DJs.

Blend—part classroom, part vinyl/accessory store, part production studio—subscribes to a back-to-basics philosophy that encourages students of all expertise levels to build a foundation upon the fundamentals of traditional DJing—such as manual beatmatching and spinning vinyl—and diversify their skill set. Other topics explored in Blend’s various multi-session courses include scratching and turntablism, digital production mechanisms like Ableton Live and Logic, and gear maintenance.

A student seeking the path of least resistance may want to master Serato’s auto-syncing technology, currently the nightlife industry standard-bearer. But he’ll likely first learn how to segue from one song to another using the more traditional Technics 1200 turntables, a Rane TTM 57SL mixer ... and his own ears, which One says his peers don’t do enough. “DJing is first and foremost a sonic thing,” he says. “You use your ears to do it; you’re playing music.”

A would-be DJ who has already spent a few thousand on equipment may flinch at a $499 course (which includes one-on-one instruction and ample song downloads), and stick to YouTube tutorials. But One, himself a former video pupil, stresses the need for and benefits of human interaction, not just between student and teacher but within a local, nascent DJ community—one with plenty of clubs, yet no clubhouse.

“I just want to promote DJ culture from all angles,” One says. “We made this place so DJs could have a place to go. We want more DJs to know what they’re doing up there.”

Blend DJ Institute Tuesday-Sunday, 11 a.m.-7 p.m., $499 for six one-hour classes. 5165 S. Fort Apache Road, #175, 702-550-4492,

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