Whether you are a vehement electronic music lover, or you are just fond of the idea to dive into the nightclub life in the main disco hero’s shoes, the reason you are reading this material is 100% clear: you are just dying to become a DJ.
The mission of any DJ is like God’s mission (that eternal song Faithless did a decade ago is so damn pictorial: God is a DJ) to control the crowd in a tricky way allowing him to also put a lot of entertainment, love, passion and desire to dance all night long in this control.
But if leading the crowd to the after party in a melodic way isn’t your personal idea what a DJ is and you want to be far more different DJ (and talented at some point, too) than David Guetta, then the technical side of the practical tutorial as to how to become a DJ is more important for you.
I’m here to give you some awesome starting tips how to DJ. But before I start, I need to say it out loud: remember, DJing is like one of those ancient crafts that require from you hard work, long-time commitment, a lot of experience and never stop wanting to become better and better.
So, without further ado, let’s dive right in! In the video below, DJ TLM shares some of the best and most practical tips on how to become a DJ, particularly when you need to start from scratch.
Of course, there are so many paid courses available online that urge you to spend XXX amount of dollars, but honestly, I don’t encourage you to invest in something like that at all. So, what should you do then instead? Well, look on YouTube first. Yeap, that’s right! There are numerous high-quality videos on the platform already that have covered a multitude of topics regarding DJing.
You can find a lot of great tips and DJ tutorials and watch them anytime. Plus, that’s a great way to start gathering information on any topic, especially when you are not sure what to look for in the first place. Another option is to attend a DJ school or hire someone who already has experience as a DJ to help you out with the basics of mixing music and performing live in the club.
Build a Basic DJ Setup
Once you gathered all the information you need, it’s time to spend some money and purchase your first DJ console. How to select the right hardware controller? This might be the top question rising in your musical mind right now.
There are several things and factors that might make your decision as to buying this gadget. Of course, the very first thing you need to consider is your budget and here’s where I’d like to recommend you not to buy the most expensive one in the beginning.
Even some of the entry-level models like the Numark DJToGo or Pioneer DJ DDJ-WeGO4 will do the job just fine. The main point here is to practice your mixing skills and learn the ins and outs of the DJ software you opted for.
From personal experience, I can tell you that nothing compares with the live performance in front of hundreds of raving fens. Nevertheless, practicing in a home environment can help you tremendously in building your mixing skills while improving your overall DJ skill set all at the same time.
Introduction to Beat Matching
“In the beginning there was music…” And at the beginning of any how-to class as to how to DJ, there’s always some beat matching. Consider beat matching as the core of the technical part in DJing. It isn’t the creative side of playing music as the creativeness is mostly something we cannot learn, we keep it inside our souls or minds (whatever your music religion calls it) waiting to be unlocked.
On the contrary – beat matching is the easiest skill in DJing anybody can learn (yes, even your grandma no matter how absurd it sounds) but without it, you are not going to be able to become a DJ. What is beat matching anyway? It is the technique that lets the two tracks blend in a “natural” way or without those train wreck sounds that make us believe the person who stands on the DJ deck isn’t very talented at all.
In other words, beat matching is the technical start of DJing where you need to “realize” and do it “by ear” when to play the next song which is going to fuse with the current one without killing the same tempo both of the tracks need to own. In addition to that, you need to play the two tracks at the same phase which means that the beats from both of the songs should sound at once and in a good way.
The next thing you need to become totally aware of is the advanced DJ technique many of the modern DJs use. In short, the harmonic mixing represents a revolutionary style in mixing different and several tracks join together into a really awesome set.
If you want a proof that this technique is indeed not only helpful for you as a newbie in the sphere, but also very innovative, I would say that Dubfire and Pete Tong use it almost in all of their sets. Harmonic mixing lets you keep the entire set in a specific mood without making all songs sound the same way. On the other side, the technique works in a simple way where you mostly need to be aware of the general keys in all songs you are going to include in your DJ set.
The trick is to make the keys of all those songs compatible with each other. This is why usually a DJ starts his set with a plan as to the keys of the songs. Yet, as a newbie, you can use some help from professional DJ software – like Mixed in Key – that completes a whole scan of all tracks fast and ends with all keys aligned for you.
Song Mixing Techniques
Mixing songs into a glorious and exciting way is everything you need to fast and creatively learn to do if you really want to become a good DJ. However, it’s hard to name to all those song mixing techniques out there as their number is definitely big one.
What we should do, instead, especially when considering the fact that you are a freshman in DJing, is to provide you a set of early-bird tips. Here are some really easy to be understood and applied song mixing techniques you should know in advance and as a start of your DJ initiative:
- In many cases, less is more and simplicity is the perfection
In other words, in difference to the classical opinion according to which the more layers and FX you add, the better you will sound, I prefer to advise you to stay away from the painful flood of songs at once. Instead, add fewer elements, vocals or event number of songs in your first DJ set.
Try to sense yourself how you sound and where you are making both: the big breakthroughs and the biggest faults in your set. Making a DJ set when you are a newbie is like decorating a Christmas tree – the fewer colors and shapes you add, the better the entire conception looks like.
And by the way, less is more is an idea that even pros in DJ world apply – like Deadmau5, who’s typical for its simple music layering. And yet, we do adore him, don’t we?
- Clashing frequencies is what you need to avoid on mandatory
In other words, try to always mix the songs in a way their frequency spectrums are at the same range. If you play vocals, for instance, not considering this idea will lead to interception of the “texts” in your music set.
- Your set might sound fine at one device, but awfully bad in an another
This is why when mixing songs you need to on mandatory test your DJ set on various devices. Today, it’s an easy task as the number of different devices out there is as big as the number of song mixing techniques I can point you out and still, each of them will matter a lot.
- Cutting frequencies in your songs will “clear” the bad sounds
If boosting the frequencies at a high level you are going to make your sound quite unpleasant. In the end, the result is going to be quieter and with some serious damaging effects. Do not apply this piece of advice only in those cases, when you are making any drum samples, though.
- You can increase the dynamics by using compressions
This is a very good tip in those cases when you want to revive a sound that has been already put as an over-compressed signal. Also, it’s a good tactic when you want to add some serious snaps into a dull drum sound.
Available Free Software Options
Hands up for the newest digital technologies that can be put into force into your brand new hobby or a mission to complete – becoming a DJ! When there are so many software products out there, it would be a sin not to test any of them when making your first attempts in playing music and creating stunning DJ sets.
Don’t worry – such an approach isn’t going to put you into an amateur’s shoes as even big stars like David Squillace admits to have been using them. Ok, I would like to list you some of them and since you are new here, I prefer to name you only the best DJ software products that are for free.
What makes this software so amazing is the fact that it’s ok for use at home when practicing and trying to add some sound effects in your set, as well as for live sessions. There’s even a vinyl control here which might be your most desired DJ style to embrace if you prefer Carl Cox more than stars like David Guetta.
Thanks to this software you are provided with a really convenient access to both: your mixing equipment, as well as your recording. You can record your own tracks with this one, but you are also able to mix the best songs you believe are currently on the top of the electronic music charts.
Last, but not least, comes Cross DJ which mixes the set of the best DJ effects every with the ability to mix your own music. In addition to these, you are offered with some options for advanced newbies in DJ sphere such as HD integration, quantize, MIDI control, some samplers, a snap, key detection and many more.
Building your first DJ Setup and Music Library
I’ve quoted Faithless a bit above and this is where I’m going to do the same – Music matters, they say, and it does matter when it comes to the perfect DJ set. Because sometimes, no matter how skilful you are, if your DJ music library is poor or simply sucks no one will appreciate your abilities!
This is why building your first DJ set also matters that much. The easiest thing I can do for you in order to help you is simply to list you the most popular resources for DJs when it comes to rich and modern-sounding music library:
- Dj mailing lists
- DJ Record pools
- Track lists
- Different music forums and blogs
- Crossfader music pack which is a place for 100% free DJ music tracks
- Various music streaming services
Attention: interacting with other DJs is the best thing you can do in order to offer mutual aid to each other, including when it comes for your music library.
Some Practicing Tips and Tricks
Our first guide as to how to become a DJ is going to end with one simple list of the top practicing tips and hints popular DJs from all over the world love providing to the newbies:
- Jamz Supernova – “Just get started” or what she means is that the beginning is always the hardest thing and once you pass it, you are going to become more and more confident in what you do and play.
- Mike Huckaby suggests every DJ should always pick up several people from the crowd. These people are supposed to be your guides. They will react on what you do whether it’s bad or good and you need to react with them, as well.
- Adam Freeland reminds that keeping your volume at a reasonable rate is a must. Otherwise, you are going to make just some loud, but not music.
- Cazzette says that trying a completely new or an old, but gold and sometimes, even inadequate song would be the best trick to save your party from disaster.
- Alesso says that those moments party people call “kicks” – the most exciting ones within the night – shouldn’t be only one or two and in the end. These moments must be spread chronologically and along the whole DJ set.
- Nicky Romero has one very special secret he has disclosed when being asked as to the perfect NYE party – hard beat comes amazingly well with emotional music from past.
Ultimately, being a DJ today sounds too easy, which is why the list of DJ names is so big. However – how many of these names you are aware of? And what DJ do you want to be – the one from the unknown list or as famous as those I have quoted in the article.
When learning the basics keep your head open-minded and never forget that the progress is always accompanied by lots of practice and willingness. If becoming a DJ is one of your biggest dreams and you think that now is the right time to get it rolling, you have just come to the right place.
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