Props A to Z By: Sean McCabe

April 8, 2008 by Mobile Beat Staff Writer

This month’s column will prescribe and describe many different party props, in order to help you become “The Ultimate Interactive DJ/MC”. Let me start by saying that I purchase many of my props from Celebration Event Supplies, Inc., located at 2400 S. Weccacoe Ave., Philadelphia, PA 19148-4298. Contact Manager Beth Fox toll free at 1-888-864-3992 for a free catalog. I also purchase through several other national companies, along with just about anywhere else where I can find that special prop that will stand out at a party–Toys R Us, thrift stores, consignment shops, nearly new stores, etc.
The first step in designing an interactive program incorporating the use of props involves selecting appropriate props suitable for the types of engagements at which you will be performing. Don’t go crazy and purchase everything in the book! Some props will work, others will not. It is up to you to experiment and find out which props will be received the best considering your demographics, logistics and budget. Start simple with the basics.The following are suggestions for the beginning interactive DJ who is considering an initial prop purchase:

YMCA Hats: To avoid being redundant, I will not list each one–you know the hats! However, I will advise that you do not limit yourself to the standard hats. Anything goes! These hats can be used for songs other than YMCA as well.
Assorted Hats: Gangster hats for swing music and Michael Jackson songs, streamer hats for disco, sombreros for Tequila, top hats for Broadway hits, straw hats for Island music, various signature caps including engineer caps for The Train and Conga lines, psychedelic hats for 60’s songs and any other fun hats you can think of… hats, hats, hats!
Assorted Wigs: Wigs can be expensive, but I find them very useful, if not essential at nearly all interactive events. Try to have at least one, but preferably more (for your guests) of the following: afro, dreadlocks, clown, rock & roll long blonde and black, Barbie long blonde, Tina Turner red, old man/woman grey, along with any other wigs that fit your theme (oriental, pony tails, ZZ Top beards, punk rocker, spiky, bald wigs, streamer wigs, etc.).
Big Foam Hands: The uses for big foam hands are many–the dreaded Macarena, Hands Up, Jock Jam, Raise The Roof, Shout, We Will Rock You, just to name a few.
Inflatables: Guitars, saxophones, microphones, keyboards, shoes, baseball bats, drums, beach balls, and on and on. Whenever you have an inflatable in your hands, you are being more visual than standing there empty-handed. The more you can provide the audience, the more interactive your show becomes.
Plastic Instruments: Toy guitars, saxophones, keyboards, drum sticks, maracas, shakers, tambourines, klackers and any other fun toy instruments you can find at your local toy store or favorite novelty company.
Glasses: Big glasses, small glasses, Blues Brothers, Men In Black, spring-loaded blood shot eyes, Groucho Marx, x-ray vision, etc.
Hula Hoops: No explanation needed here–try to be creative with your contests though… hula hoop on one leg, with both hands above head, with more than one hoop at a time, while walking, etc.
Limbo Pole: For outdoor, “beachy” events, I recommend using real bamboo. For indoor, corporate events, use bright and flashy (metallic or mirrored). For generic parties, be creative–use 3/4″ dowels or broom sticks, painted or striped with sparkles, felt, cloth, etc.
Leis: Plastic leis and flower leis are relatively inexpensive props that brighten up any party. They can also be distributed in different colors to denote teams and/or individual contestants for interactive activities.

The following are suggestions for the intermediate interactive DJ who is considering subsequent prop purchases:

Glow Kits: Glow items include and are not limited to the following: necklaces, bracelets, earrings, glasses, badges, light ropes, light sticks, etc. At nighttime events, glow items can lighten and brighten the darkest crowds.
Various Games: Twister, free-standing basketball hoops from toy stores, Velcro-ball darts, different nerf games including volleyball and football toss and catch, golf tournament (plastic golf clubs and balls), tricycle races (for kids), jeopardy, Trivial Pursuit…
Conga Sleeves: These flashy sleeves give that festive look to the interactive DJ/MC during Conga lines, specialty dances like the Dollar Wine Dance and Caribbean/Island/Latin type interactive events.
Assorted Masks: Different masks can include the Mardi Gras type, animal masks, presidents, scary masks, goofy masks… whatever!
Bead Necklaces: Hand these relatively inexpensive favors out during a New Orleans set for that Mardi Gras feel.
Grass Hula Skirts: For that Caribbean or Hawaiian Hula Dance, grass skirts make the skit–especially when you put them on the guys!
Kazoos: They can be annoying, but it’s pretty funny having a room full of people “kazooing” to their favorite song.

The following are suggestions for the advanced interactive DJ who is considering subsequent prop purchases:

Costumes: If you have an unlimited budget, order directly from a theatrical company or an entertainment company that specializes in costumes. If you are on a budget like most people, be resourceful. Visit thrift stores, consignment shops, nearly new stores, etc. and find the deals. I have located polyester jackets and pants for my disco sets by the dozens in thrift stores–often as cheap as $5.00 each! I have also found sequined shirts and dresses, pocket books and purses, funny hats and wigs, etc., all at ridiculously low prices. Design fun routines around costumes (and vice-versa). Dress up to a song or two during your show. Take this concept one step further, and dress up one or more of your guests. You will never know if you are taking things too far unless you try!
Serious Toys: “Buck-up” and buy some really fun toys from your local toy store. Examples include the bazooka-type nerf guns. Set up some targets, and let your guests “blast away”. Seek out or custom-design some fun interactive games–ones that most other DJs are not playing. Examples include special helmets with long posts at the top, and plastic rings. Teams of two try to throw and catch the rings on the “helmet posts”. Be creative!
Real Party Props: I bring a real Fender Stratocaster guitar to some events. I actually plug it in and play it! I play excerpts of songs in an interactive “Name That Tune” format. It really does make an impression in you bring real wooden drumsticks, a real horn, a real guitar, etc. You can actually find real instruments at give-away prices in pawnshops, and other outlet shops.
Digital Sampler: This may not sound like a prop, but it is an interactive tool that can work wonders. A digital sampler records audio phrases, which can in turn be played back at the touch of a button at faster or slower speeds, and higher or lower pitches. Sample a few old TV theme songs, famous people, sound effects, jingles, etc. and check out the guest’s reactions when they hear these samples during your show!

The following are some guidelines governing the effective selection, purchase, organization and implementation of party props:

One thing that is required of the active DJs at The Largest Entertainment Company in the World here in Orlando is the use of quality props. As a rule, the brighter, newer and shinier looking the better. If you buy a plastic guitar prop, don’t buy the 6″, flat red guitar. If you buy a plastic saxophone prop, don’t buy the 6″, flat blue sax. Buy a big, shiny gold plastic instrument. If the prop you are using is supposed to look old, build it, or buy it new with that “old look”. The point I’m trying to make is refrain from using cheap, worn-out props. You want to make a good impression on your clients. They will know if you are using junk, instead of quality props. The DJ that jams to You Shook Me All Night Long with a big, shiny guitar (or better yet, a real guitar) wearing a long, black rock & roll wig will make a much better impression than the guy who jams to the same song with just a little “Dollar Store” guitar. Go the extra mile, not just in your prop selection, but in your performance as well.
Whenever possible, purchase your props by the case. Volume purchases yield substantial savings. It is always better to have extra props in storage. Don’t worry, you will use them!
Organize your props prior to your performances. Store them in neat boxes or crates. Presentation is crucial. You don’t want to bring your props to a gig in cardboard boxes, and leave them strewn across the stage. Categorize your props for quick and easy access, and return them to their respective locations after their use.
Differentiate between personal-use props and guest-use props. My personal props tend to be more expensive and flashy than the props I hand out to guests. I sometimes let guests use my personal props, but instruct them to return these props to either side of the stage after that skit. If the client has purchased a party favors package, I encourage guests to come up and get their very own, take-home props. I also actively hand my give-away props out from table to table, person to person.
Do not limit your use of props to yourself. Remember that being interactive is all about the guests, not you! Whenever you can put a funny outfit on a guest, give them a “token” to take home with them, and involve them in your show through the use of a party prop, you are taking another step toward being not just another DJ, but rather “The Ultimate Interactive DJ”.

Mobile Beat Staff Writer (371 Posts)

This is the general editors account for Mobile Beat Magazine and Website. Who reads Mobile Beat online and in print and attends Mobile Beat events? DJs, VJs and KJs to start with, especially those who own and operate mobile entertainment services. They provide music, video, lighting and a myriad other entertainment choices for corporate events, wedding receptions, dances and innumerable other gatherings.

Filed Under: Mobile DJ Performance Tips