Dubspot – "10 Tips for DJs"

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August 3, 2011 by DJ Elroy


Like most of these “Tips for DJs” articles it’s pretty common-sense stuff. But it never ceases to amaze me how many people just don’t know (or simply ignore) some of the most basic DJ etiquette.

 1. Thorough preparation is very valuable, especially with the constant barrage of new music DJs must face on a daily basis. I generally won’t play a track in a live set until I’ve: Beat Gridded it, Run it through Mixed In Key, Marked every key section of the song with Cue Points, Set strategic loops on cool parts and vocal phrases, Written appropriate notes in the comments field of my browser, and Organized it into all the appropriate playlists. This way even if a song is brand new, I can play it as if I’ve known it for years. – DJ Shiftee

Thorough preperation for music is key. Back in the days of CDs (and vinyl) I used to love flying by the seat of my pants, playing  to the mood of the dancefloor. But I’d always know my music inside and out — when the breakdowns were, where do mix in and out, etc. It takes a bit more prep work with digital, but it’s well worth it to make a smoother mix. And it’s not just music; make sure you have back-ups of everything, extra cords, plugs, and headphones. A flaslight, a roll of tape, and other “DJ survival kit” goodies are worth getting together.

2. If you are a warm up DJ don’t play banging stuff.  Warm up the crowd properly.  Nothing will get you not invited back worse than coming on to an empty room and playing every banging hit track.  It won’t work and you will piss off the promoter and the people playing afterward.  Feel it out and warm up to a peak.  The party will go well and people will want to book you again. – Matt Shadetek

This has been covered so many times in so many places. But people still don’t understand what it means to be a warm-up DJ.

3. Check out the latest evolution of DJ Technology with Traktor’s new Sample Decks. While it’s possible to drop your own loops and one shots into Traktor’s sample decks and play them in perfect sync with what your DJing, I find it most intriguing that you can actually create your OWN samples, grabbing the favorite parts of all of your tracks and building your own library of samples made out of tracks that you own. – DJ Endo

Being original will get you noticed. You need to have something that will set yourself apart from the competition. Mixing two tracks just won’t cut it anymore.

4. There are 2 kinds of DJ’s – Ones who take requests and ones who don’t. Be the latter.  Also: Practice without headphones and you can master beat matching. – Raz Mesiani / Badawi

My response to this: Maybe. If you’re an underground club DJ then no, requests shouldn’t be something you normally do. If you’re a more commercial DJ (hip-hop or Top 40 or a mobile jock) then requests are fine.

5. If the DJ booth is visible to the crowd, you are performing whether you like it or not.  Visibly acting like you are enjoying/engaged with what youare doing goes a long way.  Energy is contagious. – DJ Shiftee

DJing isn’t just about the music anymore, it’s about the performance. Not much more I can add to this. “Energy is contagious” is 100% spot on.

6. Always be prepared. Even if the spot claims to guarantee turntables, CDJs, controllers, slip mats, needles, and or built in interfaces… BRING YOUR OWN! You don’t want to be unpleasantly surprised at the venue. Also – always bring a line in cable. If everything is just plain wrong at the gig but you still have to play something… that line in will plug to your laptop, ipod or phone. That will be your gig saver. – Mike Rivera / OneMic

Another iffy answer. If it’s a one-off event or a mobile gig then you’ll always want to bring spare gear to fall back on. If it’s a resident gig or if you’re familiar with the club and know they have what you need, don’t worry about bringing decks or a mixer or anything (especially since a lot of places don’t want DJs to plug in all their own gear in anyway) but things like phones, adapters, etc. are essential.

7. When blending tracks together, lower/cut the bass on one of the tracks to create room for the other track. If you cut the bass on the track you’re blending into, the vocals & other mid-range sounds will still be audible (but you’ll be hearing them with the old baseline!). if there’s vocals on the old track, consider lowering the mids to save sonic space for the new vocals. Alternately – if you cut the bass on the track you’re leaving, it creates a smoother transition to the new track because the heaviest elements of the old song will be gone drawing attention & emphasis to the new track. – Sean Clements

If you don’t know this, you shouldn’t be playing out. Period.

8. Develop a knowledge of tempo, especially if you play music within a wide range of genres. If you’re a digital DJ, make sure all your music is tagged with the accurate BPM. Even when you’re just doing recreational listening, make sure the BPM column in your iTunes (or other music library program) is visible, and make a mental note of the BPM of the song as you’re hearing it. You can go through each song and manually add the BPM, or use a program like Mixed in Key to analyze batches of music identifying BPM and key of songs (for harmonic mixing). If you’re using vinyl, use mailing labels or masking tape to make notes about BPM and breaks on the album sleeves of songs. – Martin Perna

Another DJing 101 tip. I never spent much time worrying about BPM and all that fun stuff, but I was always able to beatmatch by ear. Most of my stuff fit into a +/- 10 BPM anyway, so it wasn’t a big deal. But mash-ups, multi-tracking and mixing different genres takes a bit more planning…

9. Know your tunes. Develop your musical memory by playing tunes over and over, until you can sing them in your head. If you can hum the tune when you look at the album cover, it’s yours. – JP Solis

Again, if you’re not already doing this you shouldn’t be playing out.

10. When you are performing live and find yourself confused in a mix – turn your headphones and monitor down to re-gain control of your ears (and the mix.) Your ears fatigue from high volume levels and you need to give them a break to perform well. Often when DJs feel “lost” in the mix it’s a matter of the headphones or monitor (or both) being too loud. Make a habit of turning down your headphones and monitor between mixes to give your ears a chance to bounce back and work properly. – Michael Walsh

Very important and rarely heeded advice, especially by newer jocks. Long-term hearing damage is a serious problem for all musicians. And short-term overload can affect your performance.

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