How to be a DJ?
Pick a Speciality
1Decide whether you want to be a crowd pleaser or a music specialist.
- Crowd pleasing means playing songs that would, most likely, hit the taste of the biggest number of people in any given crowd. This style of DJing is best suited to private events, such as weddings or small parties.
- A music specialist sticks to a particular genre of music, regardless of what the crowd demands. Usually, these DJs play nightclubs who have specific genre standards or they have an established following based on a certain type of music.
1Know what you need. If you plan to play for a venue that already has a DJ setup, you might only need a laptop with music mixing software. Some music mixing software may be hard to learn, but there are some people who love to use dubstep software. If you plan to play in private venues, you'll probably need to provide your own equipment. Scope out what you need and what you don't for your particular job.
2Start with the basics. A basic DJ setup includes two turntables (or two CD players), headphones, and a mixer. Later on, you can invest in speakers, a monitor, a MIDI controller, an audio interface, a mic, and various plug-ins.
3Augment your performance with software. These programs will enable you to access a library of MP3s on your hard drive to compliment your vinyl and CD selections. More often than not, these programs provide live looping and scratching capability, delays and reverbs, real-time control and video and karaoke options.
4Don't forget your home studio. Most DJs record demos, playlists and original music at home. Make sure the equipment you bring to the club compliments the equipment you use at home. For example, if you're a hip-hop DJ, you'll probably want to invest in a scratch/battle mixer at home to simulate a competition environment.
5Be economical. Don't invest in top-dollar equipment right away. Most of your money should be spent on turntables and a mixer. Forget the other stuff for now. And spend wisely. Buy your decks used and your mixer new
Learn the Craft
1Observe. Find a DJ whose style you admire and observe him or her as much as possible. Pay attention to how songs are constructed and how the crowd is managed. After you've watched them a few times, approach the DJ after the show and ask for a few tips. Most DJs will be happy to help guide you if they know you're serious.
2Learn to mix beats. Beat mixing involves maintaining a constant beat while moving from one song to another, and can be done with varying degrees of complexity. Some DJs pre-record mixes at home, while others mix beats live. Either way, the goal is keeping the music constant so that dancers can keep going without a pause.
- Know the BPM of your songs. The beats per minute (BPM) of a song will determine how smoothly or easily you can mix it with another song. You can calculate BPM by counting the beats yourself and using a stopwatch. (Some mixers will have a BPM counter on the board.)
- Learn the intros and outros. Most dance songs will have an intro, in which the music is going but the vocals are not, at the beginning of the song, and a corresponding outro at the end. Mixing usually means blending one song's intro with the outro of another. Knowing when an outro starts and an intro begins is critical to live beat mixing.
- Cue up the second song. Have your second song ready to go as your first one is winding down. Use one hand on the turntable or CD player's pitch to adjust speed (if your BPMs don't match) and put the other on the crossfader, so that the first song's volume decreases as the second song's volume increases.
- Keep it simple at first. When you're starting out, make mixing easier by sticking to two songs that are within 3 BPMs of each other. You can also use two songs that are in the same key.
3Learn about all genres of music. Often you may know of a couple hit songs in a few genres, but that is not enough. You need to be a music expert. Here's a list of genres to explore:
- Drum and Bass
There's alot more but just know all of them.
1Find a gig. Depending on how you want to advance your career, you could start playing small, private events for a low fee, or take a slow, weeknight shift at a club or bar. Ask a friend who's hosting a party if you can DJ. Be aware that if you're inexperienced, you won't make much money at first and you'll probably have to keep a second job.
2Know the crowd. Having an idea of who your crowd is before the event begins is critical to successful DJing. If you're playing a wedding, for instance, be prepared to play more slow songs than usual and try to get a grasp on the bride's musical tastes beforehand. If you're playing a nightclub, get familiar with what the club owner prefers and what his or her regulars like. The regulars keep the club afloat and, by extension, pay your fee; learn how to keep them happy.
- Be careful with requests. If you're playing a nightclub that caters to a hip-hop crowd and you have a tourist or someone unfamiliar with the scene requesting a song that doesn't fit with the genre, consider carefully before you play it. Remember, your aim is to keep the core of the audience happy and coming back.
3Use the music to manage the event. Divide different styles of songs into different sections. Play slower, quieter songs at the beginning of the party. Slowly slip into a jazzier groove, and pull out the heavier songs at the end. Above all, read the crowd and notice what they're responding to.
- Don't play mostly fast songs at a wedding. This will take away from the romantic atmosphere.
- Don't play mostly slow songs at a gathering of kids. They will get bored fast.
Develop a Following
1Build your charisma. As a DJ, you are responsible for entertaining a large group of people all by yourself. The music you play is important, but you also need to pay attention to how you act on stage. Don't just stand there hunched over your decks. That's boring. Try to be someone who attracts attention in a good way. Also, learn when to step back and let the group dynamic take over.
2Be professional. Show up to your events on-time and fully prepared. Give each gig your best effort. Have fun with the crowd, but keep your interactions professional and respectful - you never know who's watching.
3Keep a busy schedule. As you're gaining a fan base, play as many shows as necessary to get your name out there. Book yourself on a tight schedule at first to keep your interest alive and your creativity fresh.
4Develop a Web presence. If you don't have the time or money to build your own website, start an account for your DJing career on Twitter or Facebook. Promote your shows, and make time to connect with your fans and personally respond to their messages.
- Make playlists. Build playlists on iTunes or Spotify and share them with your fans. This allows them to sample your musical tastes, and lets you introduce people to new music you want to incorporate into your shows.