If you’re new to DJ’ing and want to get yourself ahead of the game straight out of the gates, these 10 DJ tips for beginners will get you heading in the right direction quickly.
In no particular order, my top DJ tips for beginners are:
Select the Right DJ Equipment for You
What type of DJ do you want to be?
Club DJ? Scratch DJ? Mobile DJ?
And what genre of music are you most interested in playing?
Hip Hop? Trance? Drum & Bass? House? Disco?
You’ll definitely want to answer these questions before going out and buying any DJ kit because your decisions will determine the equipment that you’re going to need.
If you simply rush out and start buying, chances are you’ll end up with a whole load of DJ equipment that isn’t right for your needs.
And DJ kit isn’t cheap, so don’t do it!
When I started to DJ I learnt with vinyl and way back then, you knew that if you wanted to become a club DJ you had to get yourself a pair of Technics 1200’s or 1210’s, no question.
Because they were, and still are, the best vinyl turntables available, and they were what any club worth playing at would have as part of it’s standard kit.
A concert pianist expects a Steinway, a vinyl DJ expects Technics, simple as!
And things are not too much different these digital days.
Now, clubs now tend to offer standard kit of two Pioneer CDJ 2000-NXS2 players, and a Pioneer DJM-900NXS2 mixer.
But this stuff does not come cheap.
If you can afford it, go for it!
…get yourself some CDJ’s whose quality and functionality is as closely matched to that of the of the Pioneers as possible, and make sure they’ve got playback from USB and SD cards.
There’s a few different roads you can go down with scratching.
1. If your getting into turntablism you’ll want a set of vinyl turntables (and it will have to be Technics 1200’s 0r 1210’s for the precision control you’re going to need) and a digital vinyl system.
You’ll also want a quality mixer with adjustable faders…quite expensive.
And a pair of very slippy slipmats…very cheap.
2. If you’re looking to scratch without vinyl…
…you’ll need to get your hands on either;
a controller built with bigger jog wheels and fully adjustable faders like the Pioneer DDJ-1000,
a set of players with good quality jog wheels plus a good mixer with an adjustable crossfader.
The increasingly popular and obvious choice for mobile DJ’s is to go for straightforward DJ controllers.
Controllers are simply one unit comprising two decks and a mixer that control playback from an external digital music file.
You can plug your controller into a laptop, or if you want to travel even lighter, a USB stick.
Whichever way you go with this, one quick heads-up:
If you’re going to need a laptop computer with your chosen DJ setup, I’ve not found any that get anywhere near close to a MacBook for compatibility with available DJ software.
Learn to Beatmatch
I’m not just saying this because I learnt way back in a time when the ‘sync’ function didn’t exist.
This really is one of my top DJ tips for beginners!
For all but a very rare few, learning to beatmatch by ear will take a load of hours of practice. But once you can do it, you can do it forever.
Learning to beatmatch will improve your knowledge of the structure of music…
…and it will develop and tune your hearing, making you a much better DJ.
That aside, if you’re planning on DJ’ing outside of the four walls of your own bedroom, you must learn to to do this to save potential future embarrassment.
One day/night you will find yourself DJ’ing out and the standard DJ kit that the venue uses is going to play-up. They’ll then want to plug you in to their back-up kit.
And guess what, that old kit does not have a sync function.
You’re going to have to pack up and leave that club shame-faced and never to return.
If that little picture of woe doesn’t fill you with dread then I don’t know what will.
Learn to beatmatch by ear, it’s a great skill to have and a lot of fun to do.
Stick to One Music Genre
Number three of my DJ Tips For Beginners is a simple one.
When you’re starting out, just go with one genre of music.
Trying to learn how to beatmatch and mix across different musical genre’s will get super confusing and could possibly put you off DJ’ing all together.
Save mixing across genres until you’ve got some skills and confidence.
Buy the Best Headphones You Can Afford
Not the pair that look the coolest.
And the cheapest will have sound quality to match the price tag and will likely see you replacing them in no time at all.
Cheap headphones are extremely prone to having cable problems, and the last thing you want when you’re half-way through a mix is one of your headphone cups cutting in and out each time you move and aggravate a dodgy cable.
Personally I’ve used Sennheiser’s ever since I started DJ’ing. As I write this I have my pair sat next to me and I reckon they’re ten years old now without a glitch…and they’ve been hammered!
I know when you’re getting your first DJ setup together it’s easy to see headphones as somewhere you can possibly save a bit of money, but I promise you it’s a false economy in the long-run.
The next of my top 10 DJ tips for beginners…
Get to Know Your Equipment
You wouldn’t believe how many DJ’s there are out there who only know their way around about half of their kit.
To be fair, with the rise of digital, the amount of tech going on these days in the standard DJ kit is pretty mind-blowing.
And so it’s easy to see why so many ignore some of it.
But that doesn’t mean you should too.
There are some awesome features now coming as standard on a lot of DJ equipment.
Take ‘Slip Mode’ for example.
This little gift will hold a track playing in the background, and beatmatched to the track you are playing, enabling you to hot cue, scratch and loop.
Granted, when your starting out DJ’ing you’re probably not that likely to be doing much of this stuff, but if you don’t familiarise yourself with the full capability of your kit from the start, you probably never will.
Record Your DJ Mixes
This is one of my absolute top DJ tips for beginners.
Start doing this as soon as your beatmatching is getting close to decent.
Don’t start dishing your recordings out to friends and sending them off to club managers just yet though.
Recording mixes for the benefit of your own ears only is a tried and tested way to improve on the quality of your mixing skills.
It’s easy to forget about the odd dodgy mix when practising and sometimes you hardly even notice them.
But sitting down and playing it all back later, you’ll sometimes be staggered by just how rough it sounded from the other side of the decks.
A few out of time beats or some poor EQ’ing can seem like it goes on for ever when your listening back to your own mix.
But don’t get disheartened, most other people won’t listen to it with as critical an ear as you will.
Just see this as a great habit to get in to and a way to to identify areas where some extra practice is needed.
Invest in Quality Earplugs
Yeah I know…YAWN.
Yeah you may laugh at this big dose of sensibleness now.
But do you really want tinnitus as a life long companion.
Answer: No Andrew, I really don’t thanks.
Correct, it’s miserable.
Thankfully I don’t have it, but a good friend does and it drives him nuts.
I’m not saying you ned to use them al the time, but when you get to the stage where you’re playing for a few hours on a booming sound system, you will want to dial down the volume now and again.
These days there are some great earplugs available that don’t simply muffle the sound but actually reduce all frequencies equally, so you’re still hearing your mixes exactly how they should be…just a lot quieter.
Graduate from the Bedroom
Someday in your DJ’ing journey, you’re going to decide that it’s no longer fair to spare the world from your genius mixes.
You are finally going to get out there and showcase your DJ skills.
Seriously, a DJ needs to play out.
“People think my career started when I sent that tape to Renaissance. I’d actually been working hard for seven years before I got to that point. I was putting on parties and booking DJ’s around me to get my name on the flyer. I knew I had to do it for myself. I knew no-one was going to come knocking on my door. I knew it was up to me”.John Digweed
If you stay stuck in your bedroom, you’ll never feel the joy of having a dancefloor in the palm of your hand.
So go out there and get gigs.
Wherever and whenever.
Consider no gig to be beneath you when you’re starting out.
You’ll learn more in a few hours playing your cousins 21st birthday party than you will in a year twiddling away to the four walls of your bedroom.
This really is one of my very top DJ tips for beginners – if someone, anyone, needs a DJ, make sure it’s you!
Sure, if you’re normal, you’re going to feel pretty nervous the first time you play out. The first time I DJ’d out I had to use both hands to get the needle on the record I was shaking so much.
And you’ll probably get a bit nervous every time you DJ at a new venue.
Once you’re three or four records in, the nerves will be fading and you’ll be starting to wonder why you didn’t get out and do this sooner.
Be a Bit Different
DJ agencies are not short of mix tapes from people trying to be Martin Garrix. And they all end up in the same place.
Don’t be a DJ impressionist like so many others.
Simply playing the records you love, mixing them with other records you love is the first step in developing your own sound.
Whilst it may be simple, it’s also critical.
Start copying from day one and you’ll find it an increasingly hard habit to kick.
Just be yourself is definitely a great tip for new DJ’s.
The last, but definitely not least, of my DJ tips for beginners…
Learn to Read a Crowd
Great DJ’s treat a dancefloor like it is one being, and they know exactly how to get inside a it’s collective mind.
Learn this skill…
…and care about your dancefloor.
“I think it’s really important that the crowd thinks there’s someone up there who’s looking after them. I always try to create a little wave, a journey”.Sven Vath
Not only when you’re DJ’ing but also just when you’re in a club, or anywhere else with a DJ and a dancefloor.
Start noticing how some people are sucking energy out of the floor while others are bringing it.
The energisers are obviously the people you want to pull in.
Start noticing how different venues and dancefloors have different personalities. Some dancefloors are full of people who want to look good above all else, and some are full of people who are out for good times above all else.
We all want to play to a floor full of people who love music and love dancing, but sometimes we find ourselves playing to a less interested bunch.
A great DJ knows how to gently warm up a less interested crowd, without them really noticing how they’re being seduced onto the dancefloor.
DJ Tips for Beginners – Rounding it Up!
Hopefully you’ve got a few useful DJ tips out of this article. If so, why not take a minute to read another of the DJ guides on this site.
Enjoy learning how to DJ, it should always be fun.
If you have aspirations to be out there playing big venues in the future, keep that quote further above by John Digweed firmly in mind, because no one is going to come looking for you. You’re going to have to get out there and hustle.
Learn the basic DJ’ing skills well and then build more advanced skills on that firm foundation.
But most of all…
Love your music and practice, practice…relentlessly!
Got Something to Add?
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Jump in to the comments below and share your best DJ tips for beginners!