In this guide, we will answer the questions of how to become a DJ. Few things give more life to our soul than music does. Stirring, invigorating, and rejuvenating, your choice of music can change the entire mood of your day.
As a DJ, you hold the keys to this wonderful world of emotions. You become the maestro controlling the feelings coursing through the veins of your audience. With you are the keys to the mood of your audience, making them sway mildly or gyrate wildly. If you are looking to become a DJ, you will be learning to express yourself through music, while also matching the desires of your audience. That is why we love what we do as DJs.
The incredible feeling of power that gives you an indescribable high as you watch the crowd react to the tunes you release. And then you feel it too. As you lead your audience on this varied and exciting journey, you journey with them, experiencing the highs and the lows and sharing the same emotions with a whole bunch of persons.
How difficult is this? Not as difficult as some would like to make it seem, that’s for sure. Thanks to the available tools today, you can begin to hone your skills as a DJ right from the comforts of your room, learning to match beats and scratch over songs. But many are able to do just that.
As a professional DJ, you want to stand out from the crowd, you want to be known for your own unique sound and style. And this is where the hard work starts. DJing goes beyond simply matching beats and mixing songs. It involves all of your people skills (observe, feel, and react).
This guide has been put together for the passionate DJ who wants to stand out in their craft. It takes an in depth look into the critical techniques used by the world’s best DJs. You would learn how to set up your equipment for optimum results; we would also be delving into the specifics of certain top level DJ skills, as well as how you can gain total control of your audience by studying and understanding them.
Section 1| Who Is A DJ?
Before learning to master craft of a DJ, it is important that we first of all take the time to get a clear understanding of who a DJ is. With so many myths surrounding the craft and those involved in it, this is an important consideration.
To put it simply, a DJ plays already existing records for a live audience. Yes, the primary role of a DJ is simply playing recorded music for others. The role of the DJ does not necessarily involve the making of music. The DJ uses available equipment to play recorded music for an audience, either turning in one track after another, or mixing a couple of tracks to produce something unique.
It is important to note, though, that the understanding of the duties of a DJ might have evolved somehow over time as we will soon find out. For now, suffice to say that DJs are not musicians. First, let’s consider briefly how DJs came to be and a key question many ask when looking to become DJs – how old is too old?
What Led to The Name DJ?
Although the position of the first DJ in history is credited to Ray Newby, a college student who was only 16 when he began playing recorded tracks from his transmitter back in 1909, the name “disc jockey” was coined in the 1930’s. This rather unique name was initially coined by American commentator Walter Winchell in 1835.
Originally associated with gramophone records, the “Disc” in Disc Jockey pays tribute to that association, making reference to the disc records used. The “Jockey”, on the other hand, refers to someone who manipulates something in a skillful manner – in this case that something refers to the disc. Combining both words, it becomes clear that the DJ is one who masterfully handles a disc used in playing recorded music.
Does Age Matter in Becoming a DJ?
The last section makes it clear that the very first DJ on record was a scrawny 16 year old college student from California. So, it is fair to say that there is no barrier to entry when it comes to the lower end of the age ladder. In fact, most successful DJs began learning their craft, even running a few “baby” shows, in their much younger days. Putting it simply, the earlier you start, the better.
However, controversy begins to creep in when considering the higher end of the age ladder. How old is too old to begin to practice as a DJ? How old is too old to remain in practice? From this end, the answer is quite clear yet again. There is no age limit to DJing, no matter what anyone wishes to make you believe.
DJing, as with most things involving passion and desire, has no bottom age limit. It is never too late to start. Although some have started honing their craft very early in life, there are a number of DJs who have found success despite leaving it late. The example of DJ Claude Vonstroke comes to mind. By the time this DJ alter ego was created, he was already past the age of 30, and into the years generally regarded as adulthood – the point after which you are already past it.
Rather than being on his way out, Claude was just getting started. And despite heading north of 40 in 2012, Claude could consider himself at his peak, appearing as the top attraction at numerous EDM festivals. At an age where others might begin to seek a “more respectable” career, Claude was busy making his name in the DJ world.
How old can you possibly be? Whether you are 13 or 60, the world of DJing is a broad one awaiting your entry. With the right passion, technique, and commitment, you can make it as a pro DJ regardless of your age. It does take some time to go from an amateur DJ with a few side gigs to a household name in your city, but with the right technique and the right amount of promotion, you can ride the wave of music all the way up.
Section 2| What Do DJs Do?
If you have closely observed the DJ world, you might have noticed certain differences in the roles of DJs. This will likely have led you to question the exact role of a DJ. What do they do? Why does it sometimes feel like there are differences to their roles and expectations? This section covers just that.
What is The Primary Role of a DJ?
Early in this discussion, we noted that the primary duty of a DJ is the playing of pre-recorded music. This means that anyone who plays music for a live audience is considered a DJ, regardless of how basic that sounds. A DJ only had to decide the order in which songs were played. However, the fact that you’ve located this article and made it this far in your reading indicates that you do not desire to simply play recorded music. After all, anyone can do that.
One thing to note though, as you work towards becoming a DJ superstar is that the unspoken role of a DJ is entertainment. No one hires a DJ to come bore them with songs they do not like to hear, or songs that take away their joy. Regardless of your environment and audience, your role as a DJ involves playing music for your audience to provide entertainment and cheer them up.
If you are interested in doing more than ‘just’ music playing from a playlist, then the most appropriate question would be: what do different DJs do? The key to understanding the role of a DJ lies in understanding the differences in roles of different types of disc jockeys.
The Different Types of DJs
Successful DJing is about you on the one hand and your audience on the other. It takes the two of you to ensure that your gig goes as planned. It is no surprise then, that DJs for all intents and purposes play different tunes, in different styles, and to different volumes depending on their audience. Thus, the audience you cater for essentially determines what kind of DJ you are.
Although there are 6 major DJ categorizations, this is not to say that they are all completely independent of one another. Given the central theme (role) of DJing, any one DJ can cross the divide between the different categorizations for many different reasons. First, consider each category:
The Club/Bar DJ
The role of the club or bar DJ is best captured in the following words: ‘DJs are meant to keep people on their feet’. DJs at nightclubs or bars play songs for others to dance to, limiting their playlist to only that type of music that make persons really want to move. The specifics of what is played, however, will depend on the atmosphere and reputation of the club in which they perform. The DJ must be able to maintain the balance between a busy bar and an active dance floor, by wavering the energy levels in the room. Club DJs use song blends, transitions, and other trickery to achieve this aim.
The Radio DJ
The radio DJ is a classic DJ whose duties involve sitting in a booth and picking out a playlist. The radio DJ may have to announce each song or talk between songs, so a good radio voice is important. Also important is clear knowledge of the most popular hits, new releases, and old favorites that please the crowd. The radio DJ might have to host a show, depending on the station.
Turntablists are specialist at using turntables to perform what we have come to know as scratch and control. These DJs remix pre-recorded music live in performance by using a mixer and headphone, and throwing in some special effects and samples. Turntablists perfect their scratch routines over years of delicate hand movement, combining “controllerist” functions with other delicate performance tricks.
The Wedding DJ
Imagine attending a wedding reception where the playlist is terrible in composition or arrangement or both. The performance of the MC and the newlyweds might be undermined by such terrible DJing. Yes, the wedding DJ has an important role to play on one of the happiest days of the lives of the couple. With new couples tying the knot every other week, good wedding DJs rarely run out of gigs.
The Corporate DJ
Corporate DJing can sometimes be a difficult task for DJs more attuned to club or bar DJing. This disc jockey is expected to set the mood and tone of corporate parties and events that do not require gyration and loud bangers. You will work closely with the event planner to set the tone of the calm atmosphere you are required to work in – and maintain.
The Mobile DJ
The mobile DJ is a unique blend of some of the DJ roles discussed above. Many up and coming DJs assume the role of a mobile DJ as they work on making a name for themselves. The mobile DJ travels far and wide to perform at weddings, corporate events, prom parties, and private events. The mobile DJ must be polite and approachable as they will be receiving song requests, making announcements, and sometimes be engaged in conversation with attendees.
A case to be made for the music producer
There is a running debate on whether producers should be classified as DJs. Producers may produce song for themselves, work with someone else to create an album, or make remixes of other artiste’s tracks. While it is true that producers make new music, moving away from the classic DJ role of playing music, the modern hybrid functionalities of DJs have possibly wiped out the line between producing and playing. So, although the producer doesn’t find themselves on this list, it is not entirely out of place to find the producer listed as a type of DJ.
Making a Choice: Why Become a DJ?
When you think of becoming a DJ what comes to mind? What excites you the most about becoming a DJ? Is it the thrill of rousing persons to their feet on the dancefloor? The more serene pleasure of being a part of beautiful wedding ceremonies? The boom of summer festivals? Or simply the need to express yourself through music? Whatever the case, becoming a DJ allows you become the star of any party.
You will be tasked with keeping the crowd calm or giddy (depending on your role), and you must be able to enjoy yourself while at it. Your ability to answer the question “why do I want to become a DJ?” will go a long way to ensuring the success of your DJing career. Thus, it is important that you choose a DJ career that matches your personality. If you are one for a more laid back musical setting, then you might find more joy – and success – as a corporate DJ than you would as a nightclub DJ.
If your sole motivation for becoming a DJ is to enjoy superstardom and the riches and fame that accompanies it, you will be missing the point. DJing is meant for individuals with passion, conviction, and the willingness to put in the effort. Only then can you stand out from the crowd, and make a name for yourself. Even then, superstardom isn’t ever a guarantee.
Unsure just where you belong? Take the test below to see which kind of DJ you are and which career path best suits you.
Take a Test to Determine What Type of DJ You Are
Section 3| How to Become A DJ: Learning the Basics
If you have successfully identified your reason for wanting to become a DJ, congratulations! You have just scaled the first step. Identifying the reason for wanting into the craft helps build your passion and commitment. DJing is not always sunshine and roses, so building your passion and commitment is very important. But that is only one side of the divide.
On the other side of the divide lies the technical side of DJing. This is where you begin to consider the technique and artistry behind DJing, techniques that elevate you from just another dude following a playlist to a true master of the modern craft of DJing. Ready to wet your feet? There are a number of basic skills to consider when learning to become a DJ including, mixing, beatmatching, harmonic mixing, equalizing, and the use of keys. These will be covered briefly.
DJ Mixing: Smooth Transitions Make Perfect Mixes
Have you ever wondered just how smoothly a playlist transitions from one track to the next when a DJ gets to work? You might have noticed that there are no changes in tempo, no gaps whatsoever to break the flow, with the DJ managing to maintain the flow even as the song changes.
The art of mixing is closely tied with the art of DJing. Of course, you can always play one music on the playlist after the last, rolling it out just as it would be done on the radio. Turns out, DJ doesn’t want that to happen. It comes as no news that song intros and outros are usually low tempo, slowly bringing the listener into the groove, and slowly ushering them out.
As the dancefloor fills up midway through a song (when the song hits its core high), you want it maintained. Leaving the song to fade out by itself may cause those on the dancefloor to realize just how tired they are and remember how much they need a drink. By blending the core of one track into another again, and again, and again, you leave these wonderful partygoers or clubbers on the dancefloor the whole time.
Think of this as a bit of a dancefloor psychology needed to keep your audience just where they have to be – on their feet. With that out of the way, it is now time to consider what exactly is mixing and how can you become a pro at it?
The Semantics of Mixing
Much like every other part of DJing, mixing is mostly performed live on stage, in front of an audience. Although it is also possible that a DJ performs a mix and records it in the studio, the need to play something different each time you hit the stage means that this is hardly ideal for a DJ. Consider mixing a skill that involves combining two or more tracks into a single one.
Mixing allows the DJ create a flowing sequence of musical tracks that appear as one unending, uninterrupted track. While one song is still in play, the DJ identifies another song that maintains the same tempo at its core, and adjust the track’s tempo to match the currently playing tune. This is done using a technique known as pitch control.
By the time the first record approaches its conclusion, the DJ begins to run the second record so that both beats align as perfectly as possible. Ultimately, the volume of the second track is increased until it takes over the airwaves, leaving the audience with a renewed high. In considering the semantics of mixing, there are a few questions that must be answered.
How Do You Mix Two Tracks?
There are varying methods of mixing to be used depending on the kind of music being played. Hip-hop DJs are renowned for their use of scratching, turntablism, and cutting techniques to produce mixes. Conversely, dance music DJs go for smooth mixes that blend into themselves.
How Do You Identify Tracks To Be Mixed?
This is where playing pre-recorded mixes for a dancefloor can get very tricky. Although you may have a vague idea of which songs fit perfectly for a mix, you only make the decision on the dancefloor. The ideal tracks are chosen in response to the dancefloor activity. If you observe that the dancefloor is beginning to dry off, that would be a nice time to introduce a song with a higher tempo that can get the dancefloor buzzing again. As the DJ gets to understand his audience, it becomes easier to take them just where you want them to go.
How Do I Identify The Ideal Mix Point?
The answer to this question is a little more technical than the above two, and it will be discussed further below. It is important to note that mixing is a flexible skill, allowing you decide just when the right time is. But for that to work properly, it is important that you know and understand the structure of the songs at your disposal. Identifying the ideal mix point is key to making transitions smooth and nearly unnoticeable.
Important Rule Of Mixing
To become successful at knowing just when and how to mix your tracks, there are two very important rules that must be followed. You want to keep these rules close to your chest until they become a sort of mantra. They are:
- Get to know your music
Almost every question that arises while mixing two songs is answered by the above two rules. You must get to know your music so well that you gain complete mastery over it. Although you do not have to memorize each song, doing that wouldn’t be a bad idea. Basically, all you require is a clear knowledge of the structure, format and flow of each track.
When you listen to the tracks play what do you hear? As you train your ears to hear beyond the overlaying music, you begin to identify the sonic properties of each song, hearing the combining melodies and harmonies. Only then will you be able to truly tell what sounds great together. Now, rinse and repeat.
Beatmatching: Keeping Tunes In Sync
One of the fundamental keys to successfully mixing two songs or more is beatmatching. To put it clearly, it is almost impossible to mix any songs without first mastering how to beatcmatch. Beatmatching as a skill involves two major characteristics of a song – tempo and phase.
Beatmatching is a process whereby the DJ matches the tempo and phase of two different songs such that they begin to play in sync. Tempo adequately refers to the speed of the song, where phase refers to a situation where the beats from both songs are playing in time.
You can consider the beats from two songs like two vehicles on the road. In that case, the tempo of the vehicles is the speed, say 50 MPH, while phasing involves aligning both vehicles together. Beatmatching, thus, involves keeping the track currently in play and the next track to be played in sync by matching them for tempo and phase. The primary tool required for this skill is the ear.
What happens when two tracks fall out of sync? The blended mix you try to create as a DJ is messed up and broken. Rather than sit pretty on to each other, it begins to sound like a broken record, an utter wreckage that destroys your mix in a flash.
Is Beatmatching The Same As Mixing?
No, beatmatching is not mixing. Where mixing requires a good deal of creativity to identify which track goes next, when best to introduce it, and how long to make a transition from one to the next, beatmatching is more of a technical skill to be learned. Consider beatmatching to be knowing how to move (walk, run, etc.) in order to play football. It is an essential skill, but it can always be taught.
Learning to walk as a child is a lengthy process that takes weeks and even months. Subsequently, it comes effortlessly to an individual. However, should this rudimentary skill be lacking, it becomes impossible to play football. This is beatmatching. Every beginner DJ must learn to match beats by ear. This might be a lengthy process that takes a few weeks or months to perfect, and it may challenge your motivation and desire to become a DJ.
But anyone can master beatmatching – from your geeky neighbor, to your linebacker of a brother, all the way to your aging granny – if the right effort is put in. As technology continues to change the DJing landscape, the question of just how important beatmatching is has come to the fore once again.
New Technology Eases The Task
Originally, beatmatching is accomplished when a pitch fader is used to adjust the tempo. Phasing is then achieved with the aid of a pitch bend button, a jog wheel, or by manual manipulation of a record. However, as technology continues to advance, most DJ software and hardware equipment are now fitted with a sync functionality.
This has made some question the use of the skill – a major cause of contention in the DJ circles. While you might want to downplay the need for this skill, it still holds a major importance. After all, despite the presence of vehicles that aid movement in today’s world, there is no denying the importance of learning to walk.
Beatmatching develops your ears for music. It helps you know what you are listening for, and makes you a more confident DJ. Furthermore, learning to match beats manually is an integral part of becoming a more rounded DJ. Turntablists, for instance, are still stuck with manual beat matching. Even if this might not be your primary field, it remains an important skill that can come in handy in due time.
Phrasing: Better Match For a Better Mix
Learning to beatmatch is central to your success as a DJ, but that is only the first step in a number of requisite mixing skills. Your target when mixing is to produce blends and transitions that are smooth and natural. And mastering and making use of track structures while mixing is integral to this. This is where phrase matching comes into play.
If you have played a musical instrument in the past, phrases should not sound alien. A phrase stands as one of the basic components of a track of 4 or 8 bars. Each part of a track contains more than 2 phrases, with each phrase(s) following the next right from the very first beat. When mixing, it is important that the “parts” of your tracks are perfectly aligned to make for a natural transition.
The trick with phrase matching is to align the track’s 8-bar phrases. The new track should be started right on the first beat of the outgoing track’s 8-bar phrase. This way, the outgoing track’s 8-bar phrases will sync properly with those of the incoming track.
It is okay if this sounds a little complicated, but you can get the hang of it if only you try. Yes, it is difficult to give much consideration to track B while track A is still very much in play. But with practice and yet more practice, you can train your ears to catch the phrases so that you are better able to align the phrase of the outgoing track with that of the incoming track, making for a smoother more natural blend.
The Art Of Equalizing
The two skills discussed above, when mastered, should help you produce better transitions and smoother blends. But the art of EQing takes your DJing skills from amateur to pro, making your mixed blends more smooth and subtle.
Equalizing involves adjusting frequencies by boosting and cutting them. Music frequencies normally come in the low, mid, and high categories, with each element of a track firmly belonging to one of these frequency ranges. So, every vocal or kick drum can be associated with a particular frequency range. The art of equalizing allows you alter the frequency of any of those elements.
Bass is a low frequency element that is easily found in dance music. Due to the large audio space consumed by this element, it can cause a muddled mess of audible friction if bass elements from two different tracks are combined. An equalizer is a volume control mechanism that allows you control only particular frequencies.
Bass frequencies are usually in the low range (20-250 Hz), with Midrange in the mids (250-3,000 Hz), and trebles in the highs (3,000-20,000 Hz). Because we hear low frequencies quietly, bass sounds are exaggerated to improve their effect. When EQing, you will mostly have to deal with altering the low or high frequency elements of the songs you combine in order to prevent potentially conflicting elements from messing up your mix.
You would find knobs on your board representing each of the frequency ranges – low, mid, and high. Most EQs operate in an almost flat manner, with the bulk of your attention on the low and high frequency knobs. The mid-level knobs mostly have an effect on the vocals which will hardly be in play while mixing the outros and intros of a song. The effect is something much better than you can possibly obtain with any filter as you have much greater control over the frequencies of your tracks.
Crossfading: The Lazy DJ’s Rescuer
When transitioning from one song to the next, you want the first song to seamlessly fade out as the second song begins to take center stage. A crossfader is an important tool, a slider that helps you achieve a nice fade by varying the volumes of the two audio channels. You will find the crossfader in the center of the mixer.
Performing a crossfade is a rather simple technique. Position the slider to the right to bring the song on the right deck to the fore, or position the slider to the left to make the song on the left deck prominent. The more one-sided the crossfading slider is, the more prominent the song on that deck will become. Keeping the slider in the middle allows both sons to enjoy near equal prominence until you decide to promote one over the other.
Consider the crossfader as a sort of auto-equalizer. While it does not perform the exact same role as EQ does, it comes quite close. In this sense, it is an easier tool for the lazy DJ. As you master the art of DJing, you can begin to combine proper use of the crossfade slider with the masterful use of the equalizing knobs.
Harmonic Mixing: Bringing Musicality into Your Set
Mastering the art of beatmatching, phrasing, and EQing is very important if you are to go pro as a DJ. But there is one last step that can take your DJ game to a whole new level. The difference between DJing and musical performance seemed so wide and so clear for a long time, but that is al beginning to change.
Thanks to advancements in technology and the pursuit of perfection by many DJs, the gap has been bridged between playing and performance. And harmonic mixing stands tall as a pioneer in this field. DJs who have mastered the intricate techniques of harmonic mixing work the dancefloor so uniquely, so masterfully, with tunes that do not necessarily originate from the tracks they play.
Harmonic mixing as a technique helps you figure out the next track to play right as the crowd swoons and sways to an already playing track. Thanks to harmonic mixing, you will be able to select a track that perfectly complements the one that is playing, enabling your mix to sound musically smooth. Interestingly, with the knowledge of beatmatching already acquired, mastering harmonic mixing is a breeze.
Elements and Characteristics Of Harmonic Mixing
Much like beatmatching, harmonic mixing is a useful transition technique in mixing. It helps ensure that your songs don’t clash in transition. More than that, however, harmonic mixing also allows for a dash of your own creativity, elevating your music above “simple” mixes. Harmonic mixing improves your DJ sets and perfects your sounds. But it is not a compulsory skill (only necessary) to be learned to become a good DJ.
Harmonic mixing is a product of three major steps (elements):
- Deciphering the keys of your tracks
- Labeling music files by their keys to aid your search on set
- Identifying keys that sound good together (you do not have to play the same keys all night)
Confused? You don’t have to be. Although rudimentary knowledge of music theory can come in handy while learning to mix harmonically – you will be dealing with keys, scales and notes, it is not compulsory. But it makes your work easier. An important note to bear in mind is that every song you play comes out in a particular key.
Harmonic mixing helps you avoid what is known musically as dissonance while mixing; a situation where the musical notes of two songs you try mixing sound disharmonious. By learning to identify the keys of each song in play and delicately deal with the different note clusters, you will be better able to mix songs so smoothly that no one would tell they are from different tracks. Your transitions will be smoother (regardless of how long) and will feel more natural.
Understanding Music Keys
Our foray into harmonic mixing has brought us into constant contact with keys. It is about time we discussed these important musical elements. What are keys? A key is a set of compatible notes on which you build a melody. Each set is constructed using a minor or major scale from the key’s main notes. Where minor scales sound low and a tad sad, major keys sound asserting and bright.
A piano board gives you the clearest visual representation of keys. You will notice that the board is organized in repeated groups of five black plus seven white keys. Each of these groups form an octave. The white keys found in an octave correspond to the musical notes C, D, E, F, G, A, B; with every B followed by the C of the next octave.
The notes of the black keys are referenced through their corresponding white neighbors. For instance, the note between D and E is referred to as D-sharp (D#) or E-flat (E♭). All of these are simply semantics, though, with both names largely interchangeable. With a total of 12 notes in each octave, and each of them having 2 keys each (minors and majors), there are 24 total keys in each octave.
Identifying The Key Of A Song
The traditional method of identifying keys in a song is by listening. True, there are smart software that help you find the keys without having to do any work (remember, keys finding is important in harmonic mixing), but learning to find the keys by ear alone makes your work much better. To learn to find keys by ear, you will need to have a piano (a piano simulator will do too) or a synth. For a newbie, it is advised that you install the Rapid Evolution software to make key finding by ear much easier.
On the other hand, you could make use of any available smart software for auto key finding. One notable software to make waves in the DJing community is the Mixed In Key track detector. Rapid Evolution mentioned above is also a good fit, but you will find the features of Mixed In Key just perfect for your needs.
Section 4| How To Become A DJ 2: Going Pro
With the primary skills involved in DJing now out of the way, it is time to go pro. Of course, as a beginner DJ your laptop can be equipped with every tool you require for DJing in your home. As you advance, though, you will need more than just your laptop, so it is important that you familiarize yourself with every important tool you will come across in your DJ experience.
Get To Know Your DJ Hardware
There are several DJ hardware setups you can consider when drifting away from the singular use of your laptop. Some of them include:
The all-in-one DJ Controller:
If you are searching for a singular hardware specifically designed to give you total control over your music, the modern all-in-one DJ controllers are a perfect fit (although you will still be needing your laptop). These controllers can be found anywhere from $100 to $3,000, and might be small modular DJ controllers or more robust controllers.
Most nightclubs, arenas, and music festivals are equipped with CDJs, generally considered the industry hardware standard. Modern CDJs need not make use of CDs as songs can be played directly from a plugged in USB stick. CDJs are usually fairly expensive to setup compared to all in one controllers, but you do not have to worry about using a laptop with one.
Want to get a feel of the early DJ days? Vinyl setups are the way to go. With a certain touch of class to them, and an “original” feel to scratch DJing, it is no surprise that vinyl record mixers continue to remain relevant in the industry. This tool is only for the experienced head, though, with records more difficult to mix. It is also the most expensive DJ controller tool on the market
Exploring DJ Software
The world of DJing has been made considerably much easier with the increasing availability of virtual software everywhere on the internet. While some of these tools are free, some of them are paid; and while certain tools are all-in-one virtual controller software packages, others are designed to perform very specific roles.
There are a host of other DJ controller software out there. It is worth noting that some of these require certain hardware to enhance their performance, while some can be controlled strictly using your PC mouse. Some of them also require other software platforms installed to aid their smooth running, while others are beautiful standalone apps. It is important that you consider your options carefully before making a choice. To give you a something of a head start, the top three DJ controller software are discussed below:
Native Instruments Traktor:
Native Instruments have made a name for themselves atop the DJ software pile out there. The Traktor Pro provides a good deal of flexibility, reliability, and intuitiveness. The Traktor Pro can be controlled using a mouse or using any compatible DJ controller hardware. One of a number of similar systems, the Traktor Pro provides useful DJ controller functionalities.
Serato Scratch DJ:
For those who have come to be enthralled by the vinyl system, the Serato software setup provides an out into the world of digital DJing. A reliable digital vinyl DJ system, it is a complete vinyl controller software that has been constantly upgraded to meet industry best standards.
Yet another software to gain a massive followership, the Albeton Live was not originally intended as a DJ software. Thanks to its tons of built-in instruments, masterful effects, an intuitive learning system, and an easy to use interface, it has since become a major digital DJ tool.
Building the Ideal DJ Laptop
The evolution of DJing has come so far that it becomes difficult to believe it all started out with two turntables and mixer (even in this was an advancement from its original state). If you are to be a well-rounded DJ, there is no doubt that you must learn to use as many DJ tools and methods as possible, both old and new school.
If you are new to DJing, it is important that you start small and then get into more complex procedures over time. At this stage, it is important to note that the ideal DJ laptop is the MacBook. Fast, sleek, and durable, the only major drawback with MacBooks is their cost. On the other hand, you can go for a Windows 7 laptop if you have a lower budget. What do you look out for when purchasing a laptop for DJing? Consider some minimum feature requirements:
- 4GHz processor speed (2.2GHz is fair if running on a Core i7)
- Dual-core Intel Core i5
- 4GB random access memory (RAM) size
- Hardware – Solid State Drive (SSD) is the preferred hard drive type
Other Equipment Needed When Building Your DJ Laptop
- Custom earplugs
Section 5| Mood Control in Djing
One of the most important parts of DJing (assuming you do not want to remain a bedroom DJ for life) is mood control, otherwise known as energy control. As you change from one funky song to another song with more bang, you are demanding a change in the reaction of your listeners. Basically, your move from one song to another can easily change the mood and atmosphere in the room, so it is important that you learn the intricacies involved in masterful energy control.
Understanding The Rhythm Of A Song
The rhythm of a song refers to its general flow and pattern of progression. It is a combination of the effect of the beats and the tempo of the song. But it eclipses both combined factors. The rhythm of a song is packed with highs and lows, kind of like peaks and valleys. At the peaks, you are directing the crowd to get more excited and release more energy, while you give them a chance to catch their breath at the valleys. Using this technique masterfully will keep your audience energized for the better part of your performance.
Creating The Perfect Flow
Want to keep your listeners dancing to your beats all night long? The key lies in the flow. Learning to beatmatch is one thing, but it does not necessarily maintain the flow of the song. To keep the song flowing smoothly and naturally even during transitions, it is important that you revisit your phrase-matching skills. To paraphrase, quality phrasing is required if you are to create the perfect flow.
Learning To Read Your Crowd
Your principal role as a DJ is that of an entertainer. You have been hired to bring entertainment to the persons who will watch you perform. This is the number one rule of DJing. Although it is very important that you enjoy yourself while at it, it is equally important that you remember that you are not here for you but for your audience.
What happens when you begin to entertain only yourself? You clear the room! Rather than keep the dancers on their feet and on the dancefloor, you send them packing, leaving the dancefloor to only the staff of the nightclub or bar where you perform. No, you must not play only what the crowd wants to hear. Heck, even the crowd are sometimes not sure what they want to hear!
However, if you are at a bar where you are fielding requests, and the requests seem to follow a particular pattern, then it might be time to reconsider your approach for the night. Remember we mentioned at the introduction that live sets are much better than pre-recorded ones? This is where it comes in handy. Note that the vibe in the same club will not always be the same each day. As you tell what the crowd wants, it is important that you begin to incorporate this into your plan for the night.
If you have just started out for the night, watching the crowd will help inform you of the mood for the night. Play around with your sets and watch their reaction. Early sets do not get much dances but they teach you a lot about the crowd if you are observant. Watch out for nodding heads, feet tapping, relaxed smiles, and dancing girls. If these are absent in your early sets, then it is time to switch things up a notch. Do this until you find what works best for the crowd.
What if you are running a later set after an opening DJ? Do not fail to turn up early. Watch and observe what moves the crowd (or doesn’t!) and learn from these. If the opening DJ has warmed the crowd into a frenzy, do not make a drastic change when you begin, regardless of what you might have planned for the night. While making changes, watch the crowd’s reaction to see if the change gets them even more excited. Once again, keep in mind that your primary aim for being here is to entertain your audience.
Section6| Building Your Brand
Why Build A Brand?
Talent on the mic, a beautiful sound, consistency, professionalism, and a loads of dedication… what more is there to DJing? When you drop a banging mix that has everyone within earshot swooning, it is easy to feel accomplished. But if you want to really pursue a career as a DJ, you need more than just the talent. You need a brand.
Every established DJ is known for a unique, distinctive sound that sets them apart from the rest – besides the more obvious talent and technical skills. This is why they can carve a niche for themselves in an already crowded DJ industry. When you think of any of your favorite DJs, you immediately associate them with a sound that you love to hear. If you are to set yourself apart, building a brand is an important step. And building a brand is only possible with a unique personalized sound.
Selecting The Perfect DJ Name
So you’ve gradually developed your own style and sound, and your all new DJ brand is all set to storm the world. Congratulations! There is still a crucial step to be had though. Before putting yourself out there, you must decide on a name that projects your image. Your name – just like your logo which follows after – is an integral part of your brand as it differentiates you from the rest.
How do you select the ideal name? You can always go with your real name and that wouldn’t be a problem, so long as your name is cool and funky. If your name doesn’t sound that cool, you could alter it to get a smoother variety – perhaps combining initials or moving around some letters. If you’ve got a cool nickname by which your friends address you, then you might have no need to even search.
Whichever name you adopt, make sure that it is memorable, easy to pronounce, and easy to spell. This way it sticks better with the market. If you have one eye on taking your brand online – like you should – then you want to check if that name is free for a domain.
Creating And Curating A Unique Image
A lot of things go into the image you present to the public. Always keep in mind that as an aspiring DJ, you are making the moves to become a public personality. Everything from the music you play to the sound of your voice, the way you dress, your social media personality, and website all form a part of the image you are curating. Your image will determine not only how you are perceived, but also where you are welcomed.
Deciding Your Target Market
You might wonder why this did not come in some place where marketing is discussed. For one thing, branding is marketing. Your brand is what you sell to people. An important question when creating your brand, then, is the question of who you want to sell to. Yes, the world can be your stage, but if you truly want to cut it in DJ circles, you must identify your desired market. After all, different clubs and festivals are known to accommodate peculiar sounds and music cultures.
Even when you find yourself in a big city like New York, or in the party city of Las Vegas, you still need to identify which of the markets you are pursuing. Are you targeting gigs or residency in a club? Do you want to be a wedding DJ? A mobile DJ? Identifying your preferred market will help sort out some of the earlier addressed issues in brand creation.
Tools That Shape Up Your Brand
If you have decided on your name, sound and market, you have done a good job in setting up your brand. But there is one more step. Consider some very important tools that help shape up your brand:
- Logo: Your logo should be catchy, creative, and professional.
- Business Card: Armed with your logo, your business card should be prepared. It is the message you leave with promoters, fans, club owners, and any who could land you new gigs.
- Promotional Pictures: Your pictures are a representation of your style and personality.
Growing Your Online Reach
Now you have your image all figured out, it is time to build your support base. As the world goes more and more digital, many business owners have found that the bulk of their support base can be found in the online space. If you really wish to take advantage of the interconnectivity that the online world provides, it is very important that you grow your online reach by creating an online presence for your brand. There are a number of ways you can achieve this aim.
Creating an Online Presence
In order to tap into the unlimited powers of the internet for promotional purposes, a solid online presence is required. How do you go about this? Certainly, running a website or blog, and using your social pages for promotion is ideal. However, you do not just want them sitting there; you want an active online community. You need the internet to realize what it is you are doing.
To that effect, one of the easiest ways to introduce yourself online and establish a community of followers is to show them what it is you offer. One way to display what you offer is to find a website that hosts mixes and share your work with the public community there. MixCloud and Hear This At are two communities where you can comfortably and safely host your work.
Before diving into the online world, though, take a step back and get familiar with what’s trending in the music and technology circles. Hypebot and Mashable are two websites that can help you explore the latest online trends in music and technology. Capitalizing on these trends is sure to get you a larger following much faster.
Take Advantage Of Social Media
The social media has ensured that the world has become one big global community. You can now meet up with new friends and get new contacts without leaving your home. How can you use this to your advantage?
From one-on-one communications to group interactions, social media has transformed the way we communicate with others. To fully harness this tool, you should be able to identify and join the right communities and circles. One of the easiest ways to improve your following on social media is through communication – aka posting and sharing content.
If you must post (posting regularly is non-negotiable!), always remember that your posts must be worth sharing. Much as this tool can be incredibly powerful when you share the right message, the wrong message can quickly bring down your brand. Listen to what your existing follower base wants, and pay attention to those who are not yet part of your base who may need something a little bit different to join in.
The only way you can find out what works for your base (existing and potential) is through interaction. Chat with them, hear them out, and act accordingly – so long as it doesn’t compromise your brand. There are multiple social media platforms which you can exploit today:
Facebook Page: Your Facebook page is completely different from your personal Facebook profile where you add friends. Your page is strictly meant for your business, and is a place where you can build up your fan base with posts concerning your performances, new mixes, remixes, video clips, and upcoming events. After every gig, take the time to obtain and post crowd shots; this will inspire your fans to do the same on their pages. A Facebook page gives you the added benefit of showing up on Google search.
Twitter: Twitter has quickly become a vast community of interconnectivity. With over 600 million searches conducted each day on this micro-blogging platform by users, it is an excellent tool for promotion. If you have been concerned about tapping into the vast potential of mobile advertising, twitter will do just fine. Take time to curate your twitter business bio, including your logo, brand name, and website (if available). Twitter lets you post videos, photos, and music streams, enabling you to freely promote your content. And with hashtags ruling the day, your post can reach more persons than you imagine.
YouTube: Much like the video sharing websites mentioned above, YouTube is a visual marketing tool that provides you with an effective channel to reach the younger market. Use your YouTube channel to post clips from your gigs, turn your mixes into videos and post them, and share some how-to DJ content. The more your views, the more revenue you can generate from YouTube itself as a partner; and the more likely you are to land more gigs.
Email Marketing For New Brands
The use of emails for marketing is a cheap but important way to keep in contact with your fan base. Do you have upcoming gigs? Have you created new mixes or mashups? Is there an important post you want every member of your community to see?
Everyone can view their latest mails on their mobile, with push notification ensuring it doesn’t go unnoticed. Sending emails is a great way to reach everyone. Be sure to only send mails to those who have subscribed for it, otherwise it would be viewed as annoying spam. Keep your tone lighthearted and a tad humorous even as you drop the facts.
There are many software that take the work out of email promotion by automating your news blast process. This way, email marketing doesn’t have to take so much of your time. Thankfully, these software have come a long way and you can now keep your messages personalized even as you send them in a blast.
The Do’s And Don’ts Of Social Media Promotion
Here are some tips to keep in mind when promoting yourself on social media:
- Constantly post content to keep your followers engaged
- Never go silent. Post content, share, tweet, and interact with followers as they discuss your actions
- Avoid the temptation to spam your timeline, it does you no good
- Interact with your community, giving credence to the good work done by others in your field as they produce their mixes
- Switch it up always; videos, artwork, write ups that tell your story, etc.
The Journey Continues…
The journey to becoming a pro DJ never really comes to an end. The more you practice your craft, the better at it you become. The more you put yourself out there – regardless of how fast your brand might be growing – the more chances you have of reaching more persons. What is more, there are plenty of skills to be learned! Watch out for the top DJs and the skills, tricks, and techniques they use to stand out; watch out for new tricks and skills that begin to trend; and never stop learning.