Being a DJ isn’t an easy task and it certainly isn’t for everyone but still, it is a hobby that most people enjoy doing even from the comfort of their own home with the only audience being their cat.
Nowadays, this profession has gotten looser with its definitions, and therefore more and more people can wear the badge of honor calling themselves DJs.
Even if there aren’t rules or boundaries tied to your path as a DJ, there certainly are DJ tips that you need to know and remember for the rest of your career.
Some of the most important tips you need to know as a DJ are to always be punctual, follow the energy of your crowd, be prepared with enough music to last twice the amount of stage time, learn to scratch, and know how to mix and match songs with each other in your set. Apart from those, there are countless other little details such as always bringing back up or truly understanding your EQ that will give you an edge over your competition and will ultimately make you a more wanted DJ.
In this article, I decided to list some of the tips that helped me build my career and which keep me on the right track every time I have a gig somewhere. Those are essential rules I follow – some of them learned through the experience of other fellow DJs and some learned through some bad luck.
1. Always Be Prepared
From the music you will bring to the party to your actual set, you should be prepared for anything the night will throw at you. Have enough music and mixes in order to last the entire evening with some extra tunes to play in case they want you on stage for longer. In general, try to pack twice as much music as you’d do for a single event.
The other thing you should prepare for is the venue itself. Learn what you will need to bring for this particular set in terms of gear. Some places don’t have their own audio system and you will have to use your own or lend one if you don’t have. You also need to know your crowd and know what they will be expecting of the night ahead of them.
Last but not least, sort your files (songs) into nicely organized folders and sub-folders. That way you will be able to move fast from song to song whenever a sudden change happens.
2. Learn How To Scratch
There is one thing that always wins the crowd over and that is scratching. I promise you that every time you do a proper scratch you will start getting compliments from people in the crowd. I won’t go further into detail here as I’ve dedicated a whole article on that topic.
A tip I’d like to always give when it comes to scratching is to never overdo it as it can get annoying and will surely disrupt the track you are doing it over.
3. Keep Your Eyes Open For Red Lights
Never ignore a red light on your amps and/or mixer. Letting red lights on will most likely lead to damaging your (or the club’s) equipment. Redlining your gear will also mean more distortion coming from the speakers making your set sound just bad, apart from risking a blowout.
The solution to this is to tune your equalizer, gains, and master volume down until you are in the safe green zone. As a rule of thumb, the EQ and your gain should be in a 12 o’clock position.
4. Mix In Key
Mixing in key or also called “harmonic mixing” is one of the most important DJ aspects and you should never go out live without having it mastered. In the past, DJs had to use piano keys to label their songs according to the key they were in. Nowadays, programs such as Traktor do it automatically for you. The program will also list all of your songs which are in the same key which is playing currently making it easier for you to cue it in and mix it.
Having two songs in the same key isn’t enough to mix them properly, though. A great transition also consists of mixing them in terms of their kick-drum patterns and tempo (bpm).
When you mix two tracks seamlessly and people can’t tell of the change, then you know that you have started nailing it down.
A great DJ controller or mixer will surely help you out with this task, although most DJ programs have it built it in them either way.
5. Set Up Your Booth As Soon As You Can
There is nothing more calming than knowing that all the gear in the DJ booth is working nicely and that is a very essential tip to keep in mind. Always go a little early and make sure everything is working properly.
If there is a DJ playing before you, ask the people responsible for the event whether they can spare you at least 10 minutes to double check everything. There is nothing worse than your set breaking down in front of you.
Often there is a booth technician which is there to assist you with anything. Ask him for help when for example your monitors are too loud and you don’t know where to control them from, or a smoke blower is pointed at you and you don’t want that.
In crowded clubs, you may even want to make sure that people don’t mess around with your booth a lot. For that, there is usually club security to give you a hand.
6. Film Yourself
If you have the money to spare, always film yourself or at least get a photographer to take some cool shots of you in the middle of the party. Most clubs have a photographer on standby the whole night so you might want to call in advance and ask first.
Nothing promotes you better than some well-recorded videos and some cool DJ shots. If you want to expand your social media network, then work on this tip.
7. Pay Attention To Your Crowd
I’ve covered this extensively already in numerous articles but it is something that has to be repeated a lot. Many DJs don’t go out of their bubble all night and end up playing whatever they brought in the order they wanted to.
That isn’t always to the crowd’s liking and can often affect your reputation in a negative way.
Understanding what your crowd likes and feeling its energy are the two things that separated normal DJs from professionals. See how many people are standing up to dance at a particular song, analyze the club and pay attention to the “wallflowers” of the night.
Those are the people that if you get up you have truly mastered the skill of crowd-reading.
What Do You Need To Be A DJ?
This is a very wide question that can be answered in a multitude of ways. For me, a good DJ won’t need anything more than a laptop and his favorite flash drive to make your head spin, provided that he already has a good audio system at place.
Apart from that, mixers, controllers, a good pair of headphones, some monitors, an external audio interface, and a few other things will make for a better looking DJ booth and allow for greater control over the things you are playing.
If you want to know what it takes to be a DJ with just a laptop, check out my article on the topic.
What Is The Best DJ Software?
Some of the best DJ software I’ve used have been:
- Native Instruments’ Traktor Pro,
- Ableton Live,
- Serato DJ
- Pioneer DJ Rekordbox
Those are all paid, though. If you are looking for a free DJ software that is good enough for most home parties, then try out Serato DJ Intro, Mixxx, or Virtual DJ Home.
What Skills Do You Need To Be A DJ?
Personally, I think that the best skill a natural DJ should have is an outgoing personality. Confidence is key in this profession and you should be rocking it everywhere you go. You should also be very good with timing, be punctual, and be calm under pressure.
Reading people (in the crowd) is also a welcomed trait but I find that it is developed with experience anyway.
If you have truly decided that you want to be a DJ in this day and age, then nothing and nobody can stop you. This is why I summed up all the important tips I could think for in a single article. Always go back to them when things get messy and you will have no issues whatsoever.
Just remember the most important thing about DJing – you are there to help people have fun and have fun yourself. If those two things apply to your live set, then nothing else truly matters.