DJing has evolved exponentially since its twenty first-century origins. Whilst the norm in the early days would be to select popular records and play them from beginning to end with no technical expertise needed, nowadays there are a plethora of different mediums, techniques and formats for anyone looking to become a DJ.
Where do I start? It’s a dizzying prospect for anyone taking up DJing for the first time. Here, we take a look at five essential tips for DJ beginners.
Know your tunes
This may seem like an obvious point, but it is one worth making time and again. Any successful DJ will know the tracks that they want to play inside and out. For instance, if a track that you want to play has a natural crescendo – or a ‘drop’ as it is known in the EDM world – then you should make note of when that occurs in the track. This would ensure that you can create a flowing mix that highlights the importance of this section in particular.
Similarly, a set of your preferred tunes may all have a similar tempo. Having this information to hand whilst you are in the mix is key to ensuring that your performance has coherence for the listener.
If you are streaming or performing live, knowing your tunes can make or break the quality of your performance. Don’t take the risk and let an off-beat pattern or a sound clash ruin your flow!
Practice makes perfect
As the saying goes, it takes 10,000 hours to master any skill. We can safely say that DJing is no exception.
You’ll need the right equipment and a private environment to concentrate on ensuring a smooth practice session. Whilst the pandemic has caused a decline in the amount of DJ studios available, fortunately there are still plenty that are open and operate within safe COVID guidelines.
Follow your instinct
As a DJ just starting out, you’ll soon find yourself wanting to emulate your favourite performers. This is a great way to boost your learning indeed, but what sets apart the best from the rest is a healthy dose of personality and uniqueness, as well as technical ability.
If you find yourself drawn to certain styles of music or mixing styles, absolutely go for it! Remember, there’s not a DJ in the world who will play the same music and with the same style as you. Follow your instinct, choose a great DJ name, and embrace your brand of unique – this will set you apart from your peers and ensure your ‘voice’ is heard.
Pick your kit
As mentioned in the introduction, there are so many ways to DJ in this day and age, it’s almost impossible to keep track. Physical DJs prefer records, tapes, and turntables; digital DJs prefer mp3s, WAVs and CDJs… top DJs will combine them all with enviable versatility.
Nevertheless, as a beginner DJ there are plenty of entry-level options to get started. You may find all-in-one DJ kits such as those provided by Hercules and Pioneer as an easy way to start practicing without having to buy decks, speakers, and a mixer separately. Love vinyl? Second-hand direct-drive turntables are still widely available and an ever-popular format even at elite level.
Have a browse online or in your local electronic music equipment store to get a feel for what you think you would get the most value out of and enjoy using the most.
Learn from the best
There are thousands upon thousands of DJs who arguably have mastered the craft. Back in the day, the only way to learn from the best would be to buy a ticket and see them perform live. Nowadays, with information available to you at the tap of a button, you can study the most influential DJs of any generation to pick up valuable lessons that you can implement when practicing your own techniques.
Visit YouTube and search for ‘top DJ techniques’ to while away an hour or hundred. Better still, check out guides such as How To DJ: The Ultimate Guide For Beginners if you want to delve even deeper into certain practices, methods, formats, or simply need a hand with a technical issue. There are an abundance of online forums available to you too. Most have been set up by aspiring DJs such as yourself, who would be only too willing to help newcomers with any queries towards the art of DJing.