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DJ Tips And Techniques

Practice and Prepare

Practice makes for much better DJ sets than a free-form approach to the craft. Having only a vague idea of what you are going to play usually makes for a halfhearted DJ set. You’ll find that accomplished turntablists and groove-riders alike have all spent countless hours perfecting their sets. We don’t necessarily recommend pre-planning the entire set, either, but you should get to know your options before you show up to perform. Spend time to find tracks that mix well and make playlists of those tunes for future use. Make different kinds of playlists for different kinds of gigs. Finding tracks that work well together takes time, and it rarely happens spontaneously at the gig.

Be Flexible

As a professional DJ, you don’t necessarily have to take requests. You can stand by your own style and selection. However, playing more than one specific style of music is a great way to gain more opportunities for performance. There are many types of clubs and events, and different types of crowds. Try to find selections from your music collection that will work with these different groups.

Plan in Threes

This method of organizing music for DJ performance that I’ve found to work extremely well in my own experience. When planning a set, I like to find three records that mix well together at a time. Optimally these three records can all be played together at once, or they can transition into one another. Next I find another set of three. Then another. Eventually, I have a stack of records that are organized by how they mix together, and I start to organize those sets of three into a flow of slow to fast/mellow to banging. I like to have 60 tracks selected for an hour of performance. I won’t play all 60 (I usually play around 20 tracks per hour), and I won’t always play those exact mixes (spontaneity is still important in a DJ set). I have options that go in every direction, and I know that I can find my way from one type of sound to another while staying deep in the mix the whole way. Knowing this allows me to be much more experimental on-the-fly, and it always works better than if I don’t plan.

Identify Your Audience

Identify your audience before you perform. That statement doesn’t just mean to find out what they like and play it — you need to know the size of the room you’ll be playing in, the number of people who may be there, and the general musical vibe for the evening. Know your time slot and what frame of mind people will be in when you are playing. Part of being a DJ is sonic empathy: take the time to know your audience and identify what sort of sounds they might connect with to keep them engaged.

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How To become DJ

When you’re learning to DJ, you’re learning to match your own musical expressions with the desires of an audience. It isn’t just matching beats, or scratching over songs. It’s about being observant, empathic, and reactive.

Contrary to popular belief, learning to DJ is not an easy route to overnight success. This takes work, and hustle, and time. It’s not difficult to start. But it is difficult to stand out, and to be exceptional.

Club DJs

Every club has a different feel, reputation, and audience… which means they vary in what’s expected from their musical selection. Normally, the club DJ’s job is maintaining a moving dance floor. Club DJs may perform long blends (called transitions) between songs, or some other trickery to keep people’s feet moving.

When a DJ performs at a venue regularly or permanently, they’re called a resident DJ. They must know how to ramp the energy up and down, maintaining the balance between an active dance floor and a busy bar.

“Club DJs” who have built a following may also perform at bars, music venues, festivals, etc.

Mobile DJs

These DJs perform at your wedding, set the tone for your corporate event, or provide a memorable prom party.

Often the entrepreneurial type, mobile DJs have lots to keep track of. They may be solely responsible for the setup and teardown of equipment, planning the show, managing the crowd, and making any announcements.

This kind of DJ may need to be comfortable taking requests (and sometimes even entire playlists), speaking into a microphone, and investing in sound equipment.

Radio DJs

The entire concept of DJing owes it’s origins to radio.

The radio DJ’s job varies greatly, from the person who announces the weather between songs, to full-on music curation. While many corporate radio DJs have lost control over the music, the art lives on in podcast format.

Turntablists (and other “Performance” DJs)

People go to see this DJ because of their skill, reputation, and what they can do behind the decks. Their mixes are displays of raw dexterity, impressive tricks, and clever transitions.

These are exhibitionist DJs. In addition to turntablists (who focus on cutting and scratching), there are “controllerists” and other live performers who display mastery of the craft. And listening to them, without watching, is only half of the story. This DJ might be described as playing their gear “like a musical instrument