Have you ever considered learning how to DJ? Where on earth do you start?! Having provided my mentor and teaching skills to a few people now I thought I would share a some insights to learning how to DJ. I’m definitely not saying my approach to DJing or learning how to DJ is the best way out there, but having provided many a successful party and having my ‘mentees’ go on to secure weekly residencies I must be doing something ok – and so must they!
Firstly, there is so much more to consider than simply being able to mix/blend a few tracks together. You need to be in charge of your brand and image. If you want to be providing discos at clubs and bars you’ll need to be able to have the time to learn your skill to mix and blend tracks seamlessly! You’ll also need to know about the absolute latest tracks, and those which are going to become big tunes in the weeks/months/years following. You’ll also need broad shoulders. These bars and clubs are hard to break into when you first start out. No-one knows what you’re capable of. There are more bedroom DJ’s than ever thanks to the digital age. This also means venues are contacted more often than ever with the promise of a new and upcoming DJ who is more than capable to fill the floor.
The reality is there are more and more people thinking they can go and DJ a club but actually don’t have the knowledge, equipment or capacity to do such a thing. One thing for sure is that you no matter where you’re DJing you need to know what you’re doing. If you turn up at a club and their music policy is grime but you’ve got a mind full of commercial house you’re not fit for the job. I’m sure I don’t need to be an experienced DJ to say this is a way to fail! As soon as you know what your genre is you’ll be on to a winner before you’ve even pressed play.
The other thing to consider is, if you’re a party animal are you ready to become a DJ?! You need to be in venues providing the party and working to ensure the party goers are having the night of their lives. At any event and venue there are points where you’re trying to start the party. This is the most testing part of being a DJ. Lots of people are ready to party but they’re not actually partying. What do you do? Throw on every banger you can think of hoping it will drag them to the dancefloor? Keep it a little more low key so when you put the bangers on eventually people will love it? Change from song to song in hope on of them will get people dancing? The answer is there is no right answer! It all depends on the atmosphere, what’s happening at that point of the event. It may well be some good old fashioned communication on the microphone may encourage a full dance floor. But then this may also completely discourage any dancing! A group of teens probably wouldn’t appreciate being shouted at on the microphone, but the playing of some good, current tunes would.
I have helped people who have their own equipment to learn from. People with no equipment or music. People with their own bookings but looking to improve their technique. I always believe you are constantly learning. I enjoy going with other DJ’s to see how they run their show. There may be things they do which I wouldn’t, but equally there may be things I may improve from. Likewise, DJ’s come and see what I’m up to to see how I do things. It’s all about sharing the knowledge!
When people ask what do you need to be able to DJ the answer is simple. A feel for the beat of the music, song knowledge and confidence. Without a feel for the beat you won’t understand when you can mix or blend some tracks together, you’ll need the song knowledge to know what songs are going to work in the set. Whether its bangers most people will know or the tunes to use as a transition from one genre to the next. Without confidence you won’t be able to stand in front of a group of people whether it’s a group of 10, or a crowd of 1,000. You’ll be on show no matter what the event is. Of course it is only natural for your confidence to grow as you become more and more experienced as a DJ.
To learn to DJ it is always a good idea to see how you get on off your own back. Don’t pay too much attention to youtube or other people and try to replicate it – you don’t know what items these people have to make their sounds! If you try it out for yourself by having a few of your own tracks which you love and know inside out you’ll know pretty quickly if DJing is for you.
The basic rules to DJ: 1) Listen for beat of the track. If you’re not sure about this I’ll try and explain here how I used to explain to people wanting to learn the piano: It’s like listening for a ticking clock but you can’t hear the tick. When you clap along to the song you’re clapping along with the beat. If you can do this with ease and not too much thinking you’re doing great! 2) Write the numbers 1 – 8 on a piece of paper. The use your finger or a pen to point to the beats as the song is playing. Beat 1 is the ‘strong’ beat at the start of the group of 8. Again, this is a very sweeping generalisation of music and the number of beats it has! It’s worth noting the best way to do this is to listen to the melody of the track and not the vocal. For example Calvin Harris is a great one to drop vocals on beat 3 not 1 at the start of the track. By listening to the melody rather than the vocal it makes listening a lot easier. A few of my previous people learning have said they can’t help but count along 1,2,3,4 in the car to the radio. It’s true. Once you start you won’t be able to stop for a while (if ever)! This is good though, as practise certainly makes perfect! 3) Match beat 1 of one song you are playing with beat 1 of the second song you’re playing. The best places to do this are on non vocal parts of tracks if possible for at least one of the tracks. If you’re getting on ok with this part then you have the absolute basics to be able to DJ – yay!
I only accept a maximum of 2 people to mentor/teach at a time. And it’s a free service I offer. Those I mentor are also welcome to come to my bookings to see what happens at each event. It’s different at every event, even if it’s the same venue. You’ll get to learn how to approach situations, people and how I chose to DJ. I’m very lucky in that I love my job and it’s not really a job for me. If you like what yo’ve seen and would like to see about learning please do get in touch! Take a listen to my mixcloud here.
A good video for the basics of DJing is on youtube here
If you’re looking for a great DJ to start your party please see more reasons to book me here