What it Takes to Be a DJ

If you really want to start DJing, it’s going to take some time and dedication.

The first and most important thing you want to start right away is to listen. But not just for fun, you have to listen to music critically – really paying attention to the moving parts and mechanics of your favorite mixes and DJs.

Go to parties or download mixes and study up in your free time. The insight you gain will prove invaluable in advancing your skill and career.

Most DJs Are Self-Taught

Contrary to what you may believe, most DJs are probably self-taught. While you can attend a DJ school, it is an expensive option and not affordable for everyone. Most aspiring DJs will need to teach themselves the trade in order to succeed. If you know a DJ who is willing to mentor you, you have the best possible teaching method at your fingertips.

Today’s self-taught DJ has access to a wide variety of teaching resources that weren’t available five or 10 years ago. With the wide range of resources available, teaching yourself how to DJ is easier than before.

Even though the best online resources and teaching courses will cost something, they will be significantly less expensive than traditional lessons. There are also free resources available for those who want to take advantage of them. These include DJ software such as Mixxx and Atomix Virtual DJ.

Types of DJs

Just like there are different genres you could get into, there are different types of DJs you can become – Club DJ, Wedding/Mobile DJ, Festival DJ, Battle DJ, etc. Performing DJs have big names in the DJ world and a large following. “Exhibitionist” DJs also fit in this category.

Mobile DJs are those you find at weddings. This type of DJ is more of an entrepreneur than the performing DJ and has a greater chance of success. The mobile DJ needs to be able to take song requests and playlists, to speak into a microphone and to invest in high-quality sound equipment.

The radio DJ job description varies from the person responsible for announcing the weather between songs to the music curator. Although many coporate radio DJs have no control over musical selection, podcasting and online/indie radio have kept the musical role of the radio DJ alive.

Basic DJing Skills You Need to Learn

Now that you’ve decided to test the waters of DJing, you will need to learn basic DJ skills. These include EQing, volume/gain control and beatmatching.

EQing & Audio Basics

EQing, or equalizing, takes place when you are adjusting the frequencies of two different tracks to enable them to blend together. Although successful EQing is art in and of itself, remember that most of your “sound space” is occupied by the lower frequencies. This is particularly true in dance music. The standard DJ mixer has a three band EQ with bass, midrange and treble frequencies.

When performing volume control, green is considered good, red is bad and yellow is mediocre. If you are just starting out with mixing and don’t yet have the hardware to make it happen, you can control volume and gain control using software. Be sure to refer to your owner’s manual to determine where you should max out your signal. If you’re ever in doubt, it’s fine to stay in the green. Rather than distort the signal, increase the amp/PA/house sound if you need it to be louder.

Beat-Matching & Scratching

Beatmatching helps you achieve synchrony between two tracks by having them play at the same tempo and the same phase. You may wonder why you need to learn beatmatching if you have a sync button on your equipment. Having the skill to beatmatch by ear gives you a leg up in the DJ world. If you ever find yourself playing a turntable or a CDJ, you may be required to beatmatch manually. Knowing how to beatmatch will make you a better mixer.

Now, you don’t need to learn how to scratch to be a successful DJ, but you should try it regardless. It’s a great skill to have that can add some swag to your sets. Scratching is manipulating the sound of the audio you’re playing to get a rhythmic, percussion like effect you play live.

There are tons of tutorials out and it takes a lot of practice but it’s some of the coolest ish in the world. So try your hand out at it.

Music Production & Remixing

Nowadays the best DJs out there are also music producers. They know how to make a hit record, regardless of the genre they’re in. When you’re starting as a DJ you’ll end up playing a lot of music and listening to a lot of music. This will help tune your ears to how great music is made.

Once you delve into music a bit more you can start producing your own songs. And then you can incorporate them in your sets. Better yet, you can remix songs and have some of the most unique material in your DJ set ever. Do not limit your scope when you become a DJ. Music production and beat making is quickly becoming a huge part of the DJ scene.

Marketing Yourself & The Business

Promoting yourself is often the hardest aspect of becoming a successful DJ. You will need to create your own website and do some networking in order to succeed at this career. If you have connections in the DJ world, the marketing process will be easier.

The only way you will become a professional DJ is if you spend significant amounts of time on the promotion process. You should be spending more time on the marketing aspect of DJing than playing music.

The best DJs are at the top because they knew how to sell themselves. In order to make an impression, you will need to stand out from the crowd. Be sure that the type of music you specialize in is apparent from your website and your promotional materials.

Becoming a DJ is more involved than simply matching beats or scratching over songs. You must be attentive to the desires of your audience and able to respond accordingly. While it is not hard to get started, it is extraordinarily difficult to stand out from the crowd.

Practice Makes Perfect

In order to successful, you must constantly hone your skills. Although you may think that you can sit back and relax once you’ve gotten some gigs under your belt, nothing could be farther from the truth.

Continue to practice reading your audience and developing your unique voice. Remember that the context in which you play your music can make or break you. Be open to versatility to avoid the “pigeonhole” mentality. Perhaps the most important thing you can remember is that the DJ hustle never comes to an end.

In order to become a successful DJ, you must be willing to grow and learn from your experiences. DJing can be a wonderfully rewarding career if you have a vision of what you can achieve.