How To Become a DJ in 4 easy steps
To be a DJ is not a total dream job. But becoming a DJ is a journey every professional yearn. From the first steps of picking the right equipment to final bookings and live gigs.
I believe if you like music, have been close to a DJ or were a part of an unforgettable DJ party, then it has may pass through your head 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 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.
Before you enter the world of DJing ask yourself the below
There are plenty of things to consider and ask yourself before you decide to go into the music industry and DJing.
- Are you willing to invest a respectable amount of money on equipment, lessons, and self-promotion?
- Do you have spare time for practicing and learning? 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 in front of a “dead” audience? Unfortunately, it will happen more times than you might think. Even the best have performed to “dead” crowds 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.
- Understand the fundamentals
- Find your DJ equipment
- Start mixing and practicing
- Get booked at an event
Those 4 easy steps are the base to become a professional DJ.
DJ and Music Producer
Two very different things, however, we commonly see the most popular 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 properly mix and add effects to your sets, you will feel 10 times more comfortable in a recording studio than any beginner. At first, you know what makes the people dance, you know 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 deeper 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. l will share with you all my opinions, knowledge and experience I gained these years. The article is separated in 4 steps in order to give a clear step-by-step guidance on how to become a DJ.
HOW TO BECOME A DJ IN 4 STEPS
What is the job of a DJ
As you probably already know a DJ, short for ‘Disc Jockey, simply selects and mix pre-recorded music. It is not an easy task as it sounds, it takes several hours of preparation, practice and music knowledge to be ready to perform in public.
From parties and festivals to weddings and birthdays, DJ’s 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 2018, the job of a DJ is much more than that. So let’s go deeper and start by finding your own musical style and character.
How I suggest you start
- 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 famous electronic music genres. Pick one, explore and listen deeply and detailed 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 mix 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 is your city there will be an event of Techno, House, Progressive, Electro or any other at some point. This will be a great opportunity to start connections with people involved on the field, and who knows maybe a future booking for you. To get you ready when the time comes, continue reading the next 3 steps.
B. DJ EQUIPMENT
Even if you can start DJing only with your smartphone or iPad, we would definitely not recommend it.
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 2 sound sources, which can be cd-player, turntable or PC with DJ controller. There are options with touch screens, USB ports, and many interesting 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 2018.
- 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 have also 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. Into a mixer, you connect your pair of headphones. Some mixers even offer 2 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 in 2018.
- 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.
DJ CONTROLLER instead of two separate sound sources and a DJ mixer
There is another option 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 option. It connects two sound inputs and a complete mixer into one and only 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. Check the best DJ controllers for a fair price.
There are a few options for your DJ setup and we talk about it detailed in the article “Dj equipment for beginners“.
C. HOW TO DJ
This is the most fun part after you go shopping.
A quick walkthrough first to connect your setup correctly. If you have a DJ controller connect it through USB to your computer and your DAW, 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.
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 a 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 House, 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 which 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 the case, you will go for a DJ controller this job is 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.
D. GET BOOKED
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 important 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.
Next step is to create accounts on social media and audio platforms where you will upload, post and share your work as frequently as possible. Photos of your gigs and performances or even “practicing” djing at home are good to get’s into peoples attention. Thankfully, there are many social media and a huge amount of people out there to pursue.
After you gain the 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. A good press release will give you lots of booking. When I was in London for a short period of time I got plenty of gigs with just a very good “portfolio” and nearly zero connections.
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 DJ’s, and increase your fee equally to your experience and skills.
Your income as a DJ will be based on a few criteria. First your area and how many populations there is, how often you perform and where, as well as, how popular 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.
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 definitely 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 on a daily basis.
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 strongly believe that a week of practice 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 as recommendations for the best schools for djing, mixing and scratching.
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