party music

Nothing sets the tone for a celebration like the music guests hear when they walk in the door. Tap into your inner DJ with these six tips.

Pick the right music for the occasion. From birthday parties to baby showers, there’s an appropriate genre for every event. For cocktail and dinner parties, keep it classy with jazz or swing (think Billie Holiday or Frank Sinatra). For birthday and bachelor/ette parties — or any party celebrating someone in particular — consider the guest of honor’s taste in music. For casual outdoor events such as barbecues, family reunions, and pool parties, keep the atmosphere upbeat with a mix of current and classic hits. Holidays are perhaps the easiest occasions to DJ: Just Google the holiday plus “playlist” to find songs.

Go DIY. Gone are the days when you’d pop in a CD, let the 12 tracks play, rinse, and repeat. Music streaming sites make it possible to play almost any song from any device whenever you want (though remember, you may need to pay a small fee to block ads and/or subscribe). It’s easy to create a party playlist on your computer, iPod, or MP3 player — just make sure you have speakers that can handle party-level volume.

But splurge for certain occasions. Weddings, milestone anniversaries, and big birthdays (think 21st and 60th) merit live entertainment. Options include a DJ, live band (cover, mariachi, jazz, or big), violinist, pianist, or harp player. If you are on a budget, look for student musicians through college music departments.

Get your guests in on the action. Rent a jukebox for a fun way to get everyone involved in curating the music at your event. Not only do these coin-operated machines lend a focal point to the party, but they’re sure to draw a crowd wanting to play their favorite jams. Or rent a karaoke machine so everyone can take a turn crooning tunes.

Designate a dance floor. Whether it’s a house party or formal function, a defined dance floor is essential to encourage guests to get down. There are many different sizes and types of dance floors you can rent (from 8′ x 12′ hardwood to 24′ x 28′ black and white checkered floors), but if your budget is limited, simply clear room on your patio or in your living room to bust a move. People are much more likely to dance if there’s a space set up for it. Hang a disco ball if you really want everyone to let loose.

Don’t forget: Music is fun… until the cops show up. If you’re renting a space for a party, time limits are clearly established in the contract, so there’s no question about when to announce the last song. If the party’s at your place, look into noise curfews for your neighborhood; a general rule of thumb is to lower the volume after 10 PM. It’s also a good idea to show neighbors the respect of letting them know you’re having a party, especially if there will be band. Even better: Just invite them over.