If you love the club scene, and are passionate about music, then becoming a DJ could seem like a perfect fit. Before you start buying gear, you first need to figure out what you need for a DJ setup, and where to start.
I’ll go over the basic skills you’ll need, top gear and equipment, and the type of techniques you’ll use at a gig, that can help to set you apart from the competition.
Becoming a DJ, where to start: If you’re determined to start DJing as a hobby or as a profession, the first step is doing your research in regard to the type of music you want to play, and even the type of DJing style you’re interested in. The music genre and your DJing style will both play a role in the type of DJing equipment you’ll need to buy. The next step is looking into the gear you’ll need, whether it’s a couple of turntables and a mixer with portable speakers, or a laptop and DJ controller. Both options have their own pros and cons and can have a major impact on your DJing style and sound.
Starting out as a DJ can be intimidating in the beginning, especially considering how much competition there is out there, but with the right DJing setup, top of the line equipment, and a little practice, you’ll be out there mixing and spinning at a gig in no time.
How to Start Out as a DJ
DJing involves finding a way to mix a collection of songs together, based on key moments. It’s a learned skill and can definitely take practice. You must have a good ear for music and the ability to make the type of smooth transitions from one song to the next without any noticeable interruptions.
But in reality, if you’re interested in how to begin DJing, the only way you can make a name for yourself in the industry is if you’re a true music lover and have a passion for sharing your mixes with others.
Choosing Your DJing Style
In the beginning, you need to find your own style. Check out different genres of music to learn what sounds you drawn to. DJing is a highly competitive field. Don’t try to emulate the sound of major players in the game. Instead, focus on your own unique style.
Don’t expect to become a pro overnight. DJing may seem easy, but it takes plenty of practice and skill to land a club gig. To get your name out there make mixtapes.
Your New DJ Setup
A DJ is only as good as his or her gear. If you want to invest in your first setup, there are some options you should consider before you buy. But before you start dropping hundreds of dollars on expensive equipment, you should determine your needs first, as well as your budget and how much money you’re willing to invest.
If you want to DJ as a way to supplement your cash, then you can probably get away with a mediocre setup. But if becoming a pro full-time DJ is your goal, then you’ll need to invest more in your equipment for gear that will last and offer a smoother sound.
As an example, if you want to DJ parties on the weekend, then a laptop and the a DJ controller will do just fine. But if you’re passionate and want to take your new DJ career seriously, then you’re going to need a more serious setup.
Getting Started: What You Need to be a DJ
So, what does a DJ need to get started? There’s really no right answer to this question. You can easily find top DJs who own the dance floor using just a controller and their laptop. In the end, the most important aspect of DJing is going to be your personal style, sequencing, and, of course, the music.
Some DJs feel that vinyl offers a rawer, yet warmer sound compared to digital tracks, but ultimately, whether you go with a DJ controller and laptop or a couple of turntables is all up to you, the music your love of spinning, and your skill level.
The Digital DJ
If you already have a laptop, then you’ll need to choose a mixing software program. These programs allow you to upload new tracks and expertly mix them for smooth sequencing and transitions. With a laptop and mixer or DJ controller setup you won’t have to worry about hauling crates of records, your turntables, and other mixing gear. Instead, you’ll have a smaller setup and a vast digital music library that allows you to access thousands of tracks.
However, you will need to invest in a basic audio interface, which is what converts the digital audio, sending it to the mixer.
What Does an Audio Interface Do?
An audio interface will feature a couple of outputs and inputs that you’ll use to send digital audio to a club’s sound system. As the music passes through the audio interface it’s converted from a digital signal to an analog signal. Most audio interfaces will come with a headphone jack, which you can take advantage of if you want to preview a track before transitioning it into your set.
If you’re DJing with your laptop then you may not feel like you have as much control over a track as you need, which can be frustrating. Basic tasks such as beat matching or crossfading will need to be done with the keyboard, however, doing so is much easier if you have knobs and faders. The newbie DJ packages on the market will often include a DJ controller which can trigger loops, effects, music, and many other important functions.
However, many old school DJs avoid using controllers, claiming doing so doesn’t offer the same type of true mixes that a couple of turntables can. However, times are changing quickly. The new generation of DJs prefer using controllers over turntables, and many claim that the mixes and sound they offer is superior to old school mixing setups.
Keep in mind, if you buy a controller, you may also need to purchase a set of speakers if you’re working at home on your set and playing around with master output and pre-cueing. You can use pre-cueing to hear what you’re about to play for a crowd. Most controllers will come with an RCA output. Unfortunately, there’s a chance that this type of output may not be the right output for some portable speakers you buy, so this is definitely something you’ll want to check out before you buy.
Fortunately, these days you’ll find that there are many unique controllers styles to choose from that range from large and in charge all-in-one decks, to small, compact units that are highly portable and easy to transport, such as the Reloop Mixon 4 High Performance DJ Controller.
Should I Use Turntables?
If you’re more focused on mastering beat matching then you may want to start off your DJ career using an old school turntable setup. A turntable offers the type of tactile feeling that cannot be replicated with a laptop and DJ controller. However, using turntables can be a huge hassle if you have to haul several crates of gear and records from gig to gig. Additionally, this type of setup can limit your selection if you don’t have the type of vinyl on hand that you need.
If you do decide to go the turntable route, then you’ll need to also purchase the best DJ mixer. This is what the turntables will connect to and it gives the DJ total control over the effects, EQ and volume.
DJ Quality Headphones
Last of all, for the old school turntable setup, you’ll need to purchase a pair of DJ quality headphones. These will be used to mix between tracks and cue up tracks. Unlike headphones that are designed for the consumer or studio quality headphones, the DJ headphones are meant to replicate the treble and low-end frequencies that you would hear in a club. The headphone’s closed-ear design is meant to isolate sounds, making it easier for the DJ to hear in a noisy environment.
Is a CDJ Setup Worth it?
There was a point in which CDs became the medium of choice, knocking out vinyl for a time. Back in the day, when CDs were dominating the market, they became the most popular option in a club setting. By using a USB stick or CDs, the DJ is able to easily mix and cue up tracks with the use of a jog wheel.
They will also have access to a large LCD display screen that features information regarding tempo, cue points, frequencies, and much more. These days, in some scenes, CDJs are still more popular than turntables among the pros.
This is because, for some, they offer the perfect mix between quick access to digital files and tactile control. While CDJs are more expensive than a DJ controller, for the serious DJ, they will be worth the investment.
How Much Money Will I Need to Spend on DJ Gear?
Unfortunately, DJing can be an expensive hobby, so you’ll need to be prepared to drop some serious cash. In order to practice your new skill and make your own music, you’ll need to buy your own gear. This can include a couple of turntables and mixers, a DJ controller and laptop, DJ headphones, mixing software, and portable speakers.
Ultimately, the cost of your setup can depend more so on whether you’re planning on making a career out of DJing, or if it’s something you want to do just on the weekends. But, in the beginning, you can expect to drop at least a couple thousand dollars.
Which DJ Controller is Beginner Friendly?
There are dozens of leading models to choose from these days, considering DJing has become so popular as both a hobby and as a career choice. I recommend the Pioneer DJ DDJ-RZX DJ Controller. This model is both beginner-friendly and it’s a great choice if you’re working with a tight budget.
What Does a DJ Do?
DJing is so much more than hitting shuffle on a playlist. In fact, the professional DJ will practice their spinning and scratching techniques, will attempt to create their own unique track edits and sets, and will practice transitioning from one song to the next.
Thanks to advances in technology, DJing like a pro has never been easier, however, the serious DJ still has to put in the work to make their sets unique in order to stand out from the competition. Amateur DJs will often play at clubs and parties, or host other events. While the professional DJ can have a regular gig at major clubs, casinos, or even open at major music events.
But considering how competitive this industry is, making a living solely as a DJ can be difficult and almost impossible for the beginner with less than a few years of experience. To get more info, read my article here on how to DJ at a club.
Becoming a DJ where to start: Now you know you need to first determine the type of music you want to mix, edit, and use in your sets before you even purchase any equipment.
But once you’ve done your research and chosen your style of music, created a set list, and looked into the type of venues you could possibly play at, the next step, and another important one is buying DJ equipment. This will again depend on your personal DJing style, whether you’re a digital DJ or you have an old school flare.
Fortunately, there are many high-quality, beginner-friendly, and reasonably priced DJ controllers, mixers, and headphones to choose from, that can add plenty of value to your set and take your DJing skills to the next level.