If you’ve stumbled across this article, chances are you’re already interested in the magic that is blending tunes continuously into one enthralling DJ set. The DJ is sort of like a magician, perhaps because of their ability to summon a crowd and set the energy of the room with what is essentially a continuous stream of sound waves and feel-good vibrations.
Sounds intimidating? Fear not! There are so many paths to explore as you prepare the start of your DJ journey, whether as a radio presenter at your local radio station or holding down club residencies across your city (and beyond!) – or whether you’re a vinyl purist looking for a bar residency outlet or wanting to bring cross-genre energy to your CDJs or controller.
It might feel daunting to think about it, but we’ll iron out the basics for you so that you’re in good stead to become a professional DJ. Read ahead for some helpful tips and let us know which ones you’re looking forward to practising.
Get familiar with the setup
The best way to get started is to surround yourself in music environments. Whether that’s getting involved with your mate’s local club night or interning at a music specialist radio station, it’s important to be around music often.
The skills you can learn in these settings are innumerable – you’re able to pick up the techniques of other DJs, you have the opportunity to ask them questions, and you don’t have to invest in an elaborate setup if it’s not financially viable.
A setup like this with Pioneer CDJs will be standard in most clubs but beyond the reach of most beginner DJs.
Plus you get to learn about a variety of music equipment from DJ mixers and booth monitors to CDJs and turntables which will eventually in the long run help you to decide what gear to buy for yourself.
In the same vein, do some research and see if you have practice studios close to you. Practice, practice, practice!
Build & organise your collection
Now, DJing is a compounded hobby – it builds upon itself after many months and years of experience and practice. Sometimes it can be challenging to get into something when you know of collectors who have thousands of records and endless playlists synced on their DJ software, but I can assure you that this takes many years of compounded listening and collecting (and finances!).
Start small. You don’t have to start your collection right away, but become familiar with what sounds you’re drawn to by crate digging. Conventionally, crate digging looks like going into a record shop and spending time (I mean a lot of time) looking through the elaborate catalogue of genres listing from A to Z and Z back to A.
Record shops are great because they also have a record player where you can listen through any records that take your fancy. A true testament that vinyl does get judged by its cover!
Alternatively, you can keep things new school and do some virtual crate digging - streaming platforms like Spotify offer some curated playlists for inspiration, but do go a little deeper. Bandcamp offers an abundance of discographies from independent artists and labels, with optimised genre searchability. Plus you’re also able to follow musicians, making it easy to keep up with them every time they drop a new release to add to your collection.
Additionally, Juno, SoundCloud and YouTube all offer something different, especially if you’re into the more electronic, left-field sounds.
Also, your favourite radio DJs and shows will undoubtedly be premiering new tracks on a regular basis so listening to your favourite selectors will help you find your taste.
Once you’re accustomed to browsing your high street and/or online, you’ll develop one of the most important skills a DJ can have which is to have your finger on the pulse - knowing how genres are evolving in live time and developing your music sensibility to make your sets truly stand out from the rest and help you read the crowd.
Lastly, organising this process is invaluable. Organising from the start will help later down the line (trust me I know!), how you organise your music playlists on rekordbox or Serato can definitely make it easier to locate your tracks for easy navigation during b2bs with other DJs or technical transitions.
Take some time in whatever DJ software you use to organise your playlists and folders
Hardrives, USBs, 45s – every DJ compiles their music differently. Some DJs choose to organise their music by instrumentals and vocals and others by genres and BPM ranges. Finding out what works for you will take some trial and error, so explore and have fun with it.
Getting good is a collective thing
The point that really needs to be emphasised, above anything else in this article, is that DJing is a collective thing. It’s great to get good in the comfort of your room but it’s much better to have a community of friends and fans to revel and enjoy your beats and blends.
Whether you see your community being predominantly online in an ever-increasing livestreaming age, or whether you’re looking to shell it down at every venue you play, DJing is most exciting when you know others will receive your euphorious offerings. And you’ll be thankful for it down the line – helping you to feel confident and get comfortable playing in front of a crowd.
Plus being around fellow DJs will help you find your community, in return exposing you to other styles of DJing, beat matching, mixing songs and importantly – fulfilment. Learn from others and rely on their expertise to inspire and energise your craft. Plus – it’s always good fun going b2b with your fellow DJ friends!
How long does it take to get good? That can depend on how much work you put in and what you class as ‘good’. Essentially, it’s all about putting yourself out there and giving it a go. Hopefully, these tips provide some inspiration into beginning your journey – who knows, you could be selling out gigs years down the line!
Want to start learning how to DJ? Check out our beginners DJ course with the ‘bassline queen’ Flava D, where you’ll learn exactly what you need to know to get behind the decks for the first time.