Counting Beats With DJ Clutch

Wynn Master Class Series has experts take you to school.

DJ David Clutch has a tell.

Every time he touches a turntable, you can see it in his eyes. He wants to rip into the decks like it’s Saturday night and there’s a full house in front of him.

But it’s neither Saturday nor night. It’s Thursday afternoon at Surrender Nightclub inside Encore Las Vegas and Clutch is headlining the first “Spin With a Star DJ” session in Wynn Las Vegas’ Master Class series—ongoing workshops that pair participants with experts from the resort’s portfolio.

Want to learn how to make the perfect drink? Sign up for a session with property mixologist Damian Cross.

Want to look your best on camera? Stylist Claude Baruk will show you how to get red- carpet ready.

Even Chef David Walzog is lined up to teach a grilling course in June.

Today, it’s “DJ School” with the resident DJ demonstrating—among other things—how his equipment works, how he mastered the art of beat matching, and how he learned to read the crowd.

It’s so much harder than it looks.

How Do You Get To Surrender Nightclub?

“It took me a year just to know how to own the mixer,” Clutch says, “And I spent five years practicing in my bedroom before I ever played in front of [people].”

This is a two-hour session. None of us expect to leave here a resident DJ, but in conversations with other students it’s clear the payoff comes from making a connection with people who share a similar interest.

There’s the nightlife couple learning the differences between house, deep house, future house and other music genres.

There’s the Wynn guest who just bought his own equipment and wants a lesson from a pro.

There’s even the budding local DJ Desstop, who has a gig at a nearby hookah lounge and is looking for a mentor among the city’s established artists.

The workshop begins with a crash course on using the tools of the trade—Pioneer CDJ multiplayers, mixing board and laptop—before Clutch breaks for a Q&A. He clearly loves what he does, and he’s humble when talking about his experiences opening for Zedd, David Guetta, Diplo, and other Wynn headliners.

One person asks if there are certain songs he can and can’t play in the opening act.

Rule No. 1, Clutch responds: “You don’t want to play the headliner’s music.”

That seems obvious, but the DJ has seen it happen. Some headliners are also very particular about music genres, although Clutch offers up Diplo as one who’s pretty chill about the opening act.

“If I know [Diplo] is playing, I know I can get away with playing a lot of hip-hop, a lot of house music and a lot of trap music,” he says.

Taking a Turn Onstage

After taking a few more questions, Clutch can tell we’re anxious to get our hands on the decks. This is what we signed up for.

Included in the class is a pair of Sol Republic Master Tracks headphones and a USB drive so all of us can record our mix. Some need more help than others.

Clutch has queued up some familiar tracks to practice beat matching and transitions. Anyone who’s spent any time in a club has heard Showtek’s “Booyah” and SNBRN’s “California.” Even if you don’t know them by name, you know the beats.

“Count the eight’s,” Clutch says, explaining how to make the transition from one track to the next when the beat drops.
He counts it down from eight, but my inexperienced fingers botch the crossfade, leaving a split second of dead air between the tracks.
Even in an empty club, it’s a little embarrassing.
“I always say just keep practicing,” he tells me. “One day you’ll get it, one day you’ll say ‘I finally understand how this works perfectly.’
“And a lot of times, everyone will be hammered and they’ll think you did it on purpose.”

Wynn’s Master Class Series continues with Mixology 2.0 on June 9 and Grilling With a Master on June 15.