Making Music with a Turntable

| February 3, 2018 | 0 Comments

by Dove Braunstein

Carson receives special guidance from Greg Murphy to hone his DJ skills.

It’s a common theme in today’s world of parenting: “We’re always running them (the kids) around to their various activities.” Gone seem to be the days that children found ways to entertain themselves, with friends, by themselves, without electronics and without their parents shuttling them to and from their individual interests.

As a mom to an active 11-year-old, I’m 100 percent guilty of this new way of doing things, but I’m not complaining. I appreciate all the different things that the world— and our beloved city— has to offer our kids. They can try almost anything, and I want my son to try everything. How else will he discover his passion? San Diego offers so much for our kids to try, but I recently discovered one of the absolute coolest things that he’s had the opportunity to learn.

But first, let’s back up. In the ‘90s, I was an electronic music loving raver, spending countless nights in my 20s dancing until the sun came up, inside packed warehouses in secret locations. These massive dance parties were our church, and the DJ was God — or at least the preacher. The entire vibe of the hours-long bacchanal was ruled by this one person, literally perched on a pedestal, working the turntables, in front of masses of bodies moving to the music he was creating— music so loud you couldn’t even hear yourself talking, let alone anyone else. Raving was not about meeting people, it was all about the music, and dancing. I’ve never lost my love of electronic music, even now, into my forties. So when I heard that my son Carson could learn to DJ, I was thrilled.

After a quick Google search, I found Mission: DJ and saw that they held a camp for kids. The owner, Greg Murphy, informed me that though he was no longer doing the camp, he now gave private lessons. Even better! I asked if I’d be able to sit in and learn a few things myself, and he said absolutely! I signed Carson up then and there.

Murphy teaches DJing out of his apartment in Pacific Beach, with his turntable setup taking center stage in his living room. His passion for his craft is instantly evident. He took a few minutes to get to know Carson (aka DJ El Niño), and then they got to work. The fundamentals of the art can be a bit overwhelming, especially for a young boy with a short attention span. Greg was able to discern when he was losing Carson with the technicalities, and it was time to move on to the hands-on (read: fun) stuff. Immediately Carson had his hands all over the turntables. Murphy encouraged him to experiment while letting him know what parts were fragile and to be respected. His relaxed attitude made us both feel comfortable while his gentle but firm guidance didn’t allow Carson to get too off-track.

By the end of the first lesson, Carson had had his first taste of scratching, mixing, beat matching… and that was just the beginning. If there was a specific song that Carson wanted to work with, if Murphy didn’t have it, he was able to find and download it quickly. Using Carson’s favorite music made it that much more fun!

“Music stimulates the brain in many ways,” Murphy commented. “Kinesthetic, auditory and visual motor skills are being exercised while learning or practicing. It’s the same with DJing. There are a lot of different things going on; there’s music theory, there are mechanics involved, and a ton of motor skills being used.”

About DJing, he says: “It’s a great hobby. Like any instrument, it allows for endless learning. And, unlike traditional instruments, if you know the right people, it’s fairly easy to turn into a career.”

Our five-session package ended far too quickly, and I look forward to more. Murphy’s encouragement, knowledge, humor and infinite patience were the exact combination of what parents hope for in a teacher, and I highly recommend him to anyone who’s looking for something new, different and super awesome for their kids. Best of all, when we were done, he emailed me a file of Carson’s final mix, one track consisting of eight songs that Carson mixed himself, which I’ve listened to countless times.

Mission: DJ offers lessons for all ages. Greg has taught children as young as seven and a couple in their 80s. Many of his school-age students have already played their own gigs. He has also taught workshops at the Museum of Making Music in Carlsbad. In addition to teaching, Murphy also spins at the Air Conditioned Lounge as well as at private events. You can find more at

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