DJ Tips 101 (Part 1)

January 3, 2020 By DJ Sly

As a DJ for more than 5 years, I recall when I started. I had music, and a computer (I had CD’s before but, I didn’t play professional yet.). I remember trying to understand what I was getting into, it was hard. Yes there were good DJ Schools, like Roc Stars DJ Academy and Institute of Broadcasting Careers to name a few, there were just things you could not learn in a class that you should know for a professional DJ career. I eventually got under the wings of some prominent DJ's who taught me the ropes and a lot of unwritten rules and ethics of the industry. Sadly, not everyone will be that fortunate to get such help. Or they get the help from people who have bad habits themselves an perpetuate said habits.

I write all of this to say, I’m here to help you. The purpose here is to get you thinking of some basic things you should do before even getting your first gig, or what you should practice in your first years. Here are 4 basic tips that I believe you should know at this beginner stage:

  1. Timing is everything (Time and place)

    There is a time and place for everything, that includes how you play music and what you play. While there is a cultural practice that everybody wants to “shell down”, you have to remember sometimes, people remember the DJ that does the job right.

    You should always remember to play your place. If you are the starting DJ, be the starting DJ, don’t want to play the hits play like a headline DJ. If you are the headline DJ be the headline DJ, they expect that you are bringing the energy and vibe. If you are the closing DJ be the closing DJ, don’t overly repeat music that has played all night, someone must have left out music the crowd is yearning to hear. I will discuss the “Science of a Party" in a future post.In terms of boat parties, they follow similar rules but it all happens a lot faster.

    As for the other types of DJ's (Corporate, Wedding etc), remember that your event has stages or themes. Try to talk with the organizers and plan if you can to compliment their event properly. If there is a party point in the event, find out when it will happen so you can prepare to switch the mood of the event. Usually parties after events go straight to the headline DJ vibe. You want to build the energy quickly as there is usually a time limit.

    All in all, remember what kind of event you are doing, and the time and place to play what, and how to play.

  2. Equipment Knowledge

    In this world of DJ-ing, unless you using contracts and riders or you are providing the equipment as well, you never know what equipment you are going to meet at an event. Thus it I recommend to read up on the generally used stuff in the industry. If you can’t get physical access to the equipment, read up and look at videos. Here are a list of generally used equipment:

    • DJ Tech DIF-1S and 2S
    • Pioneer CDJ 800, 850, 900, 1000 & 2000
    • Pioneer DJM-S9
    • Pioneer DJM Mixers
    • Pioneer DDJ-SZ
    • Pioneer DDJ-SX 1-3
    • Rane Sixty-Two
    • Rane SL 2-4
    • Technic 1200s

    There are many other brands and models, but I don’t like using anything that I didn’t mention. Note that with using an SL box, you can get almost any mixer, which is annoying to navigate in the first few minutes of playing music.

    AI recommend then that generally you try to get the promoter or organizer to give you the contact to their sound provider so you can find out what equipment you can expect.

    Knowing all this also helps you with making sure you have the correct drivers on your computer for the hardware.

  3. Library Love

    Before you go your first professional gig, you should really have an understanding of the music you have and what music you will need to source. It's really advised that you make sure you have a vast array of music. Not limited to the party music. Sometimes you may need:

    • Soft instrumentals, saxophone, piano or violin music
    • Christmas music
    • Having a few religious songs doesn’t hurt
    • Steel-pan instrumentals are also a nice thing to have
    • The national anthem is another very important one you should aim to have always
    • 80’s and 90’s music and so on are good for diverse crowds.

    There is so much different kinds of music you can collect and have, that you will use regularly. Especially if you don’t want to limit your event types. It's cool being a party DJ, but a versatile DJ who can do Parties, yet tone down for a corporate flow, is a better one.

    Really research the kinds of music, you play them and so on.

    As we mention DJ Library, remember to put in the care for your library. Tagging your music properly helps you find things quickly. How you sort your music helps too. There is no fixed way to do it, once you know what you have and where everything is. Also remember now and then to remove the tags from music you may have deleted. In Serato this usually appears orange.

    One can even take library maintenance further and make sure that music quality is as high as possible. Getting better qualities of a song if needed. Separating the Clean music from the raw, so you don’t end up playing the wrong version of a song in say a children’s event or corporate event.

    Lots of little things you can do to help with this. I will expand further in a future article.

  4. Sound Effects are not everything

    This is more me talking to the young DJ's, who like to constantly play the bombs and the “pull up effects” and the horns etc.

    I have three words to say to this. LESS IS MORE. Really think about it. Most times the effects just sound like noise, and I know people like to use effects to cover up mistakes. But you really have to remember less is more. People really want to hear the music, general people will not even notice if you make a simple mistake unless it's a really off-timed mix.

    Now effects can help enhance what you're playing and let people know you are playing, but you have to know how to use it. This one is more of a “feel as you go” skill, you have to merge it in your style of playing music. Hopefully you find a way to do it tastefully. Also remember time and place, if you are starting a wedding or corporate, you don’t need any most times, unless you in the party segment.

    Another thing to mention with this is you can use effects to stand out. So that people know just from an effect you are on. This is why some DJ's don’t share certain effects. They really try to keep it to themselves. The same goes for remixes, but that's another discourse. You can really take advantage with the proper usage of effects. But always remember less is more.

I really hope these few tips help you in some way or the other.You may be doing certain things and I want you to start thinking of how you can do it better. Or for you to start with better habits and break old ones, when it comes to this DJ craft.