Arts & Entertainment, Music

Gathering Music: Organizing and Pruning


Lesson time 11:18 min

Deepen your music appreciation by learning how Questlove listens to and absorbs music.

Students give MasterClass an average rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars

Topics include: Connecting With Music • Categorizing Your Playlist • Pruning Your Tracks


[MUSIC PLAYING] - I think of that first rule that I tell people, which is, in order to be an effective DJ you have to fall in love with music. And it has to be a relationship and a commitment. Every song that you play, you should know five songs that blend in perfectly with that song. Your commitment to your craft will determine how far you go into this game of DJing. I tend to talk and speak to and instruct people that are serious about the craft. You know, there's a lot of people that you see-- they watch a movie and they see the guy jumping up and, you know, the light show and all that stuff and they press buttons and there's a big giant check. There's a lot of DJs making seven figures right now. That's cool and all, but that's becoming a business. Which is fine. I'm about business too. But for me, music is something spiritual and it does something to me. And it's not going to happen instantaneous. This is not something that's going to be just add water and voila, you have a magic DJ set. The Jay-Z and Beyonce party I did, I pretty much wrestled with five songs a week. I got hired in November the year before. And every day for an hour I sat and scoured the earth for the perfect transition of just three songs. And even that was hard. So by the time I got to a whole year later, in February of 2020, I had the perfect 180 song set. So I'm committed to almost a forensic CSI level. But that's how serious I am about my craft. And, you know, when you have a passion you get serious about and it shows. [MUSIC PLAYING] So, as you see here, on my playlist I have different types of categories. You know, the Jimmy Fallon Christmas party, my friend's wedding. You know, the dinner, the after party, that sort of thing. I DJ for Heidi Klum all the time for her Halloween parties. If I hear a song, then I'm instantly thinking, OK, this is good for a wedding song. This is good for the after work party. This is good for a dinner song. Like, there's, like, nine or 10 categories that these songs can go into. So what I usually do is I have a master-- I mean, I even have lists within my lists. So I have a category called The Killers. And inside The Killers that's-- there's even subcategories in The Killers. So if I'm ever in a situation where I'm just desperate for something-- because sometimes the experiments won't work-- then I can go to my Killers and those are songs that I designate will work no matter what. So that buys me time. And, you know, I don't have to go to it often but it's always there, so. You know, under True Love, that's kind of, like, songs that I really like. And I only get to play, like, songs I really like-- I'll get asked to do, like, Sunday brunch, you know, some restaurant that I really like that's cool. You know, all these gigs, they aren't-- I don't do just 100% high powered, high, big check gigs. I like doing those hole-in-the-wall bars and that sort of thing. So my true love is just stuff that I think is cool. That's...

About the Instructor

Ahmir Thompson—better known as Questlove—is an iconic DJ, the drummer for The Roots, and the “coolest man on late-night,” but his first love is collecting and mixing music. Now the Grammy winner is sharing his passion with you. Explore DJ techniques, expand your musical vocabulary, and learn how to glide from genre to genre—including hip-hop, neo-soul, jazz, R&B, and more—to curate your own perfect playlist.

Featured Masterclass Instructor


The iconic DJ and Roots drummer Questlove teaches you how to be a better DJ, deepen your love of music, and make a perfect playlist.

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