This article is written for all DJs who would love to improve their DJing skills, it doesn't matter if you're a beginner or a pro, if you'd like to improve your skills then you got to be open to learning. Even all these big DJs who've been in the game for a long time are still learning, each day, they try to improve their skills, they master their craft and try to pioneer new styles too.
With these 15 actionable tips and tricks we provide, you'll be able to take your DJ talents to the next level. DJing is a very public activity and people will always expect greatness of you, so if you're just starting out you have to know that it's not gonna be easy, It's gonna take a lot of dedication and hard work for you to get to the level of 'Black Coffee, DJ Zinhle, Shimza etc.
PUT THESE TIPS IN TO ACTION and you'll be a better DJ in 2020. You’ll find it easy to play and mix different genres, easy to build up a playlist, easy to differentiate types of sound and speed. These tips will also help you to easily create a musical journey that'll take your audience on.
Here are 15 Tips to help you be a better DJ in 2020
1. Get to know your DJ hardware inside and out, so that you Don't complicate your DJ set.
Today's DJ hardwares and softwares have so many features, and all of them are designed to make you more “unique” and “creative”, but trying all of the features at once will cost you time and will distract you from what you should be doing. To avoid complicating your set you have to know your hardware, but do not start playing with all the buttons, dials and faders all at once, because like that you’ll never truly understand your mixer or decks. You have to take your time to find out what each little tool can do, Try to pick a track you can loop for 20 minutes and pick one or two controls to see what they do. Play around and see how creative you can get with just those controls in play. Once you feel you’ve mastered how to use them, move on to another pair. Start small because adding more complexity to your set means more chance you might mess it up. To avoid messing up a set on a big show, you have to know the shortfalls of your system or the shortfalls of YOU when you try to use it. This will help you identify areas you need to improve. Don't forget to always carry a backup hardware or at least one entire backup of your playlists and musical library on an external drive.
2. Learn one new trick at a time.
It is crucial to take time to perfect your work, you gotta practice, practice and practice in order for you to get to the top level of DJs. There's like thousands of DJ tricks and techniques you can learn, but youll never master the art of DJing if you jump into learning all the tricks at once. All these World Class DJs who do amazing tricks didnt just wake up knowing them all, it took them time to master their tricks and techniques. Now! you do the same, Pick one technique and practice it over and over with a couple of your favourite tracks. Do it so many times until it feels natural and easy to spot, this is how world class DJs learn and become at one with the music. They use the force!
3. Learn to mix - scratch mix, mixing different musical genres, mixing acapella tracks and instrumentals.
Mixing is not an easy task, so it might take you too long to master it. Do not give up, practice mixing until you get it right. Start with Scratch mixing, for you to be a good DJ you should be able to scratch mix. Scratching is the most coolest trick in DJing, it has always been cool and judging by the amount of digital hardwares that let's you scratch, its safe to say it is not a dying art form. Scratching will help you to learn to catch and release tracks at the right moment. To improve your DJ skills, you have to learn to mix different musical genres because sticking to one genre wont help you improve your mixing abilities. It's time you step out of your comfort zone and try mixing different styles, if you’re a house DJ try to mix Hip-Hop songs which have a BPM of 30 to set different mixing challenges.
This will not only broadens your skill set, it'll also help you understand your hardware much better. Play around with instrumental tunes that don't have vocals, mix them with a different set of vocals to create something entirely new. Check out online platforms that serve acapellas of well known tracks, there are plenty of platforms that provide free accapellas, instruments and vocal samples. Find your sample and give the people something they've never heard before.
4. Learn from other DJs.
Do not have hatred against other DJs, they are not your enemy, instead get inspired and learn from them. The DJ community is actually a very friendly, helpful and collaborative world. So go out there and meet up with other DJs, discuss your skills, engage and connect with each other.
5. Learn to beat-match without using beat-syncing softwares, learn to match keys and the best moment to mix in and out of each track.
learning to beat-match is a key skill every DJ should have. You cannot be a pro-DJ If you can’t disable syncing and perfectly beat-match two tracks. Avoid relying on the sync feature because it doesn’t always work perfectly and to rely on it you are doomed to fail. So start learning to beat-match now, insert one track and start adjusting the temp, don't look at the beat-matching display, just give it an ear and listen to the signals that your track is giving. When beat-matching, you gotta trust your instincts in order to master the art of it, through practice you'l be able to match different keys perfectly. Use the melodies, bass lines and stabs all together to create a whole new dimension to seamless mixing. You gotta learn the best moment to mix the ' in and out' of each track. Beat-matching and sample looping are very amazing tricks, but if you choose the wrong moment, you'll mess up your set and your mix will sound awful. Do not let two vocals clash, and never let melodies compete for dominance, because it can really mess up your set. Every track has a number of perfect moments, find where those moments are and start your experiment.
6. Make your own loops and your own vocal samples.
An advantage of using a professional DJ software is that it can allow you to create loops right during your set, but as a beginner, you don't wanna mess up your set trying new tricks on play so at least try to create and set your loops before your gig. Having your own loops and vocals ready-to-go can help you get super creative with just a push of a button. You could create your own piano melodies, funky stabs, or drum loops. If you know how to sing or you know someone that can, do a number of vocal samples. Add effects to your vocal samples, then loop them during your set to manipulate the outcome, creating something totally new.
7. Consider Adding a midi controller to your DJ setup.
If you want to do something unique that your DJ hardware doesn't quite do, then consider getting a midi controller. This will help you map some triggers so buttons perform actions only when other action have taken place. It will also allow you to get extra creative in a very simple and effective way. Get yourself an inexpensive Midi controller, for less than R500 on Takealot.
8. Learn to DJ with and without a laptop.
If you want to survive the industry long enough, you gotta know how to DJ without a laptop. You have to be familiar with Vinyl, which has it's own challenges that you should master in order to gain more skills. Some South African clubs have already banned laptops, forcing their DJs to get back to the original DJing style. Learn how to DJ with turntables and analog mixers, this is a great skill respected by the Industry masters.
Though, it's still important to learn to DJ with a laptop, just incase something happens to your expensive hardware setup. If you can't afford hardware setup at the moment, get yourself a laptop and practice with it.
9. Plan your playlist before you start your set, group your your tracks, and have multiple playlists ready to go at any time.
Always be prepared for your audience, do some research about the type of event you're playing at and the type of place it is at, so that you don't play inappropriate music. Try to choose the type of music that mix well together, music that compliments each other, then group them and create your playlists accordingly. Not all the music can mix up well with each other, so you gotta have a special ear to differentiate the types. Then group them in groups of 2 or 3 and label them. The most easiest way to pick tracks that are complimenting each other, is by checking how they match in structure, bass-lines or melodies. You can also check if they share the musical same key. After grouping your tracks, you’ll find it easy to build up a playlist. So create multiple playlists that you can use in your sets. Creating one playlist is risky and can mess up your set if a slight change occurs during your time of play. You'll end up playing music that isn't appropriate for that type of event, so it is much better to do playlists of different types of sounds or even different types of genres. A playlist of tracks you planned to play in the afternoon may not sound so great if you suddenly play it at midnight.
So prepare a number of sets and know them well, then take them upon your musical journey. You gotta prepare to orchestrate a different vibe.
10. Read the crowd and learn to take your audience on a musical journey by giving them your energy.
When you're on set, you are actually the master controller. The crowd follows the direction you set for them, they respond to the flows of your set, because all they want is to be taken on an amazing journey. Throughout your set, you gotta build up the ardency of soundscapes, starting from soft music to hard, slow sound to fast, or from a deep and soulful music to an uplifting hands-in-the-air music. That way you can gain a lot of love from the audience, keep the audience in and let them enjoy the ride from one song to another. Learn to drop the beat at the perfect moment, nothing beats having this skill, it's one of the biggest thrills of being a DJ. To connect deeply with your crowd, you have to show them that you're enjoying it too ; so you have to dance, smile, be happy and show them your energy. Don’t let your nerves get to you, don't let pride get to you, don't just stand there staring at the flashlights. You gotta smile and dance just to show the crowd you’re enjoying it too.
11. Make use of the EQ filters.
This is a very easy and effective trick anyone can do. You gotta play around with EQ Filters, to avoid a crowded sound. Almost every track has plenty of bass, mid range and high frequency sounds, so mixing one or more tracks on top of that will create a more crowded sound. You have to use filters that come with your mixer to take out the low, mid and high frequencies. Wondering how? Learn... so instead of fading one track in to another, try filtering one frequency out and bring another one in. The bass-line for the other track should replace the main track’s bass-line. It is very wise to fade in a new track with a reduce high frequency and low frequency in order to create a more seamless mix. Then increase them slowly as the mix builds, and then slowly remove the bass from main track. This trick is very effective, if played right it can help you keep your whole set on fire.
12. Record your DJ sets, analyse your mixes, as well as your tracks thoroughly.
Record your set while you’re playing, so that you can be able to analyze your mistakes and improve from them. You can start by analyzing which mixes worked well, and which mixes didn’t live up to your expectations. Check where your beat-matching slipped, and check which tracks maybe didn’t go together so well. Analyse thoroughly! If you check, Professional DJs will be able to tell you everything about their mixes, from Its tempo, keys, bars count, to when the bass-line drops out, as well as the best place to create a loop. This is why pro DJs sound so good and can be so creative while making it look so easy. So take your time to listen to the tunes you use, analyse their wave-forms. Then set your loops and cue points - Find other tracks that compliment well with your tunes.
13. Stay sober when you DJ and learn to be confident with skills you have.
DJs are most likely to be pressured into drinking or taking intoxication, lost up in the hedonistic party atmosphere. Which most of the times it affects their set, so if you're still starting try to stay sober at all times, stay alert and stay healthy. When you're healthy you're happy, and when you're happy you’ll be fully aware of what you need to do to entertain your crowd. Love the music you play and learn to be confident with your skills. Confidence is vitally important in DJing. If by now you know your DJ setup inside and out, know your tunes from start to finish, and you have refined what skills you do have then you are on the right path, there’s nothing to fear because you're on your way to the top. Keep mastering your craft slowly and methodically, one day you'll be amongst the world’s best DJs.
14. Master the art of Vinyl DJing.
If you can't DJ with records on turntable then you really should learn to, this is where DJing started. Modern DJ hardwares with buttons is amazingly great but DJing with vinyl is where it all started. If you master the art of Vinyl you’ll be able to DJ with any hardware. It's the most tactile experience you’ll have and is actually one of the least expensive DJ setups you can own.
15. Be consistent and professional.
These 2 aspects can help you get recognition from your crowd, from the promoter, from your agent, and also from your social media fans. People are interested in a consistent brand and professional image representation. So work on your DJing style, until you have a signature theme to your DJ sets. DJing is a very public activity, people will always expect great things from you so always be prepared and do not disappoint. Don't forget to always be professional! Be reliable so that people can trust you, always turn up on time and stay sober. Go beyond what is expected of you and provide the best in your services.
PUT THESE TIPS IN TO ACTION!
All of these tips will make you a better DJ Whether you’re just starting out or you’ve been in the business for years, these tips will make you a better DJ. Put them into ACTION and see the results.
Article by Creatives Makhado Writing Team