How To Become a DJ [2020 Guide For Beginners]
What do you need to become a DJ? What are the requirements, and how long is it going to take? The answers and our steps on how to become a DJ in no time.
If you have been close to a DJ or were a part of an unforgettable DJ event, then it may have passed through your mind to give it a try yourself. And what’s not to like? Music, Nightlife, Party, Drinks, or getting paid for something you love…? The truth is, being a DJ is not a total dream job that happens in a day or two. Do not expect that being a professional DJ is a paradise for everyone where you just travel around the world, always play music in front of thousands of people, and you will get shit lots of money for that.
There are plenty of things to consider before you decide to go into the music industry and DJing.
Before you decide to become a DJ, ask yourself the below:
- Are you willing to invest a respectable amount of time and money on equipment, lessons, and self-promotion?
- Do you have spare time to practice and to learn? In the end, you will work more than your 8hour daily job.
- Are you capable of daily updating your online presence?
- Are you ready to DJ in an empty club or front of a “dead” audience? Unfortunately, it will happen more times than you might think. Even the best have performed in empty places more times than they can remember.
- Are you sociable and willing to collaborate with other musicians? Collaborations can only do good for you and your career.
“Do what you love, and you will never work a day in your life.”
If you continue reading until here, congratulations, you are ready to become a DJ. First thing first, we need to take a quick look at what you will need to do.
What does a DJ do exactly?
In our days, the job of a DJ is much more than just picking and mixing tracks together. The four steps below are essential for every beginner DJ who doesn’t know where and how to begin.
- How to start DJing
- Find your DJ setup
- How to DJ, mix, and beat-match
- How to get DJ gigs
Those four easy steps are the base to get you from bedroom DJ to club and event regular.
DJ and Music Producer
Two very different things, however, we commonly see the most famous musicians to do both these jobs. When you have been listening to music for hours, picked the right songs for the crowd, learn how to mix and add effects to your sets correctly, you will feel ten times more comfortable in a recording studio than any beginner. At first, you know what makes the people dance, you see what the DJs are looking for and you have developed a musical ear that will pick the right “sounds” and transitions between songs. We won’t get more in-depth on that here, but if you want to learn more, check How to become a music producer.
I didn’t know everything when I started, but I found my way, and I managed to become a professional DJ with many live performances, a radio show, and a couple of record label cooperations. I will share with you all my opinions, knowledge, and experience I gained these years. The article is separated into four steps to giving clear step-by-step guidance on how to become a DJ.
HOW TO BECOME A DJ IN 4 STEPS – BEGINNERS GUIDE
A. HOW TO START DJING
What is the job of a DJ:
As you probably already know, a DJ, short for ‘Disc Jockey, simply selects and mixes pre-recorded music. It is not an easy task as it sounds; it takes several hours of preparation, practice, and music knowledge to make a successful performance in public.
The term “DeeJay” is short for disc jockey. “Disc” is referred to gramophone records, and “Jockey” defines a profession that mixes recorded music.
From parties and festivals to weddings and birthdays, DJs are here to play, mix, scratch, and entertain the crowd with their music selection and performance. Or mostly with music, since there are “professional DJs” who are mostly known for throwing cakes. While it is true that you do not need formal education or diplomas to become a DJ, there are many lessons and courses you can follow to upgrade your skills. In 2020, the job of a DJ is much more than that. So let’s go more in-depth and start by finding your own musical style and character.
How I suggest you start getting into DJing:
- First of all, select the genre of music you are interested in. If you haven’t found it already, then go to Beatport and check out dozens of favorite electronic music genres. Pick one, explore and listen profoundly and carefully to the tracks and playlists from various artists. Make an account and save your favorite tracks. If you can afford to buy, then I would highly recommend it. That way, you will add good quality tracks to your library, you will have extended music info(artist, composer, etc.), and most importantly, you will support the artist. An action you will appreciate more when you will become a music producer yourself.
- Next, visit various audio platforms such as Mixcloud and SoundCloud and listen to DJ sets from live performances and radio shows. Most of the mixes have an available playlist, and that will help you understand when a song end and another one starts. Then ask yourself how the DJ mixes those songs, what techniques he/she used, what filters, what BPM(BitsPerMinute) the songs are playing, and what duration had the transition of the tracks. For that, of course, you need a basic understanding of a DJ mixer, and it’s capabilities.
- Attend events and parties that advertise the music style you like. I’m sure, no matter how small your city is, there will be an event of Techno, House, Progressive, Electro, or any other at some point. That will be an excellent opportunity to start connections with people involved in the field, and who knows, maybe a future booking for you. To get you ready when the time comes, continue reading the next three steps.
B. DJ EQUIPMENT AND SETUPS FOR BEGINNERS
Standard beginner DJ Setup:
Even if you can start DJing only with your smartphone or iPad, we would not recommend it. Two CD media players or DJ turntables, a DJ mixer, and headphones. That’s all the equipment you need to become a DJ.
Now, if you have a friend or colleague with a DJ setup would be ideal for you to start practicing. If not and you decide to invest in your DJ equipment, let’s see what you will need.
- Sound sources: First of all, we need at least two audio sources, which can be cd-player, turntable, or PC with DJ controller. There are options with touch screens, USB ports, and many exciting features. Each of those options has its pros and cons, but it’s up to your preference and budget. I’m sure you are familiar with the CDJ series by Pioneer DJ, so if you want to find out more, check The Best DJ Media Player in the market.
- DJ mixer: Then, we want a mixer to connect our sound sources. The job of a mixer is to consolidate the sound of two or more sound sources and mix them before you send the final sound to our outputs(speakers, monitors, headphones). With a DJ mixer, you can control up to four different inputs, and by control, I mean control volume, frequency level(low/middle/high) of each track and effects such as reverb, delay, filter, and more. Most mixers also have a microphone input and “record out” output to record your live set. For a beginner, a big 4-channel mixer is not necessary. 2-channel mixer will do the job and get you ready for a live gig. To the mixer, you connect your pair of headphones; some mixers even offer two headphone ports for B2B sessions. That way, you will listen, beat-match, and equalize the tracks before the master output. Find out more in our article with The Best DJ Mixers for Beginners and the best professional DJ mixer.
- Outputs: The last part of our setup is the sound output (speakers-monitors). Connected to your mixer, they give us the final sound to you and the crowd. Furthermore, you listen to the monitors during you choose the next track with the help of your headphones and beat-match your final mix.
There are four different DJ setups, and you can find all at “DJ equipment for beginners“.
Cheap alternative beginner DJ setup:
DJ Controller and DJ software
DJ controllers and DJ softwares are a great and very popular choice for beginner DJs. That’s because you get an all-in-one tool instead of two sound devices and a DJ mixer.
If you want to avoid the big and expensive purchase of 2 cd-players and a DJ-mixer, a DJ controller is a budget-friendly alternative option. It connects two sound inputs and a complete mixer into the only one tool. Connected to your PC/Laptop and your DJ software (Traktor, Serato, Virtual DJ), the DJ controller simplifies the mixing process, with auto-cue, quick track selection, and track communication.
A quick walkthrough to connect your setup correctly: If you have a DJ controller connect it through USB to your computer and your DJ software, then plug-in headphones and speakers to your sound-card. In case you decide to go with a classic setup of cd-players or vinyl turntables, connect them to channels 1-2 of your mixer. Last, plug in your headphones and speakers.
Check the best DJ controllers for beginners with options starting from $100!
And the best DJ controllers for professionals for more info, details, and product reviews.
C. HOW TO DJ
That is the most fun part after you are done shopping and researching for DJ equipment. We understand that some of you prefer to watch a video rather than reading how to DJ, so you can skip the next 3-4 paragraphs and watch the video tutorial.
Depended on your turntables, you need to have your music into the required form. CD’s, USB sticks, or vinyl are your choices. Insert two tracks that you believe go well together and play the first one. Listen now, the second track through your headphones. After, it’s essential to adjust the BPM(beats per minute) on both tracks at the same level. To do that, find the pitch control, which is commonly on the right side of the turntable. Adjust the BPM on both tracks if it’s necessary. If you jerkily lower or add BPM fast on a track, you will cause deformation. Go slow and steady as long as the track sounds good in your ears.
This mixing technique is ideally used when songs have continuously beat like EDM, Deep House, Techno, Electro, Trance, Big Room, and most electronic music tracks.
Let’s say that you have a beat-match at 124BPM; now it’s time to start counting the beats. Start to count beats/kicks from-1-to-4 of the track that plays in your speakers. You can hit your foot on the floor if it helps you. Make sure your second track is starting with a kick/beat and then hit play the moment the playable track is at beat-1. Above the “play/pause” button on a player, there is the “cue” button that plays the song as long as you hold it. Hit it simultaneously with the beat of the playable track, and you will find the rhythm.
Don’t worry if the beats are not completed match. You can use the jog on the player to move the song back or forward and get it perfectly beat-matched. Try over and over again until you get it right, mix the tracks using filters and equalize them to make a smooth transition. After a little practice, you will finally get it right.
In case you go for a DJ controller, it will be more simplified. Pick the songs from your library, adjust the BPM, and the beat is automatically matched. Control the frequency level on both tracks, maybe add filters and your mixing is done.
When you master your beat-matching skills, its time to invest time and energy to learn music theory and harmonies, I’m not suggesting years of studying and learn how to compose and write giant pieces of music sheets, but the very basis of music theory.
If you want to take a look more in-depth on harmonic mixing, check how to become a professional DJ – master your skills.
D. How To Get DJ Gigs
I remember when I got my first DJ booth at the age of 16, and I couldn’t stop mixing, experimenting, and recording my sets. I was giving my mixes to everyone, hoping for any kind of feedback. It took me two years to say to myself that I’m ready to perform in front of an audience.
I suggest you do the same. I’m sure you are already so excited that you can’t wait to play. But it is also essential to record and listen to what you do. Get feedback and compare your sets to others that you will find on Mixcloud or Soundcloud. If you love music and DJing, along with the correct guidance, it won’t take you years but just a couple of months or even weeks.
How to brand yourself as a DJ:
In 2020, it is essential to brand and promote yourself as a DJ properly. Invest your first earning on a photographer for excellent quality artistic photos and a graphic designer who will create for you the ideal logo. The next step is to create accounts on social media and music platforms where you will upload your latest news, appearances, and share your work as frequently as possible. Photos of your gigs and performances or live videos with your home DJ sets are good to get’s into people’s attention. Thankfully, there are many social media and a massive amount of people out there to pursue. Facebook, Youtube, Instagram, SoundCloud, MixCloud are the most popular networks to promote yourself.
After you gain confidence in your skills and you are ready for live performances, you will have to create a press release. Add a small bio with your experience, knowledge, skills, equipment that you use, and contact information (email, website, phone, etc.). Plus, add some photos and two or three of your latest mixes (preferably online). A good press release will give you lots of bookings.
Check the top 10 best electronic music clubs in Europe, and set a target to perform one day.
If you want one day to book a DJ gig at a club, check how to become a resident DJ at a nightclub.
How do I get into DJing for money / The income of a DJ!
It is not a bad thing to start playing at local bars/clubs free of charge. Give yourself a limit of 2 or 3 events until you get people’s attention. After charge the basic fee of local DJs, and increase your pay equally to your experience and skills.
Your income as a DJ will be based on a few criteria — first, your area, and how many people you can target per event. Also, how often you perform and where, as well as how favorite your musical genre is. Let’s face it that an underground Techno DJ won’t attract the same crowd as an EDM or House party. On average, an experienced local DJ can expect to make a few hundred dollars per show.
With our guide, you will be able to become a DJ for electronic music, EDM, Hip-hop, and every other music genre out there.
The world of DJing is becoming more and more crowded as technology evolves and makes it accessible for everyone. Standing out from the crowd takes originality, hard work, and loving what you do. It is difficult to become successful because there is no clear path to take you to the top. Do not forget that the majority of DJs are self-employed; it is up to you to find work and improve daily.
My biggest tip to a beginner DJ is to collaborate with other DJs and share your knowledge, techniques, experiences, and suggestions. Along with the correct DJ equipment, you will be able to become a professional DJ.
There are now many ways to learn the technical aspects of DJing. Mostly on the internet and online courses, you will learn everything, but you will be ready after hours of practice. I firmly believe that a week of training with the right equipment and an experienced DJ to guide you can be more beneficial than any online course or seminar. Those two will teach you new technics and will get you to the next level.
On our website platform, you will also find DJ tips and useful tools to get you started. As well, recommendations for the best schools for djing, mixing and scratching; and if you are ready to take the next step and master your skills, visit How to become a professional DJ.
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