How to Improve as a DJ; 14 Tips!

Becoming a world-famous DJ is no easy task; not only do you need to practice, but you also have to learn to sell your brand, how to get booked, and more.

In this article I’m going to give you a couple tips on how to improve as a DJ.

Let’s get straight into it…

The Short Answer

You should work on your brand and try to get it out there so that people start noticing you.

Additionally, working on your skills is also essential, since learning to beatmatch correctly and knowing how to mix music no matter the circumstances will get you farther than most.

Work on creating a brand

Tell a story that reflects your sound, talent, style and who you are as a DJ by creating a brand.

In today’s saturated market it will help you to stand out and encourage event organizers to book you.

The more you get booked the more experience you acquire and with that, get better at DJing.

When getting started you’ll need to be clear on a few things such as;

  • What is your DJ name?
  • Will you use your own name, or perhaps a nickname?
  • Will you specialize in certain venues or events? 
  • Will you cater for all genres or focus on one or two?
  • How do you behave in the DJ booth?

Think about any experiences you’ve had so far playing to people too help answer these questions.

Get your brand out there

Social media will be your best friend in getting your name out into the DJ community.

Showcase the great times you and your audience have by uploading pictures and footage.

This can be done no matter what type of experiences you’ve had so far, as long as the picture shows that people are having a good time!

Think about how you can incorporate your brand into everything you do, make it memorable so people know what to expect from your set.

Not only will having a brand create more opportunities to increase your experience, but it’s essential if you wish to make a living DJing.

Start small and take your time, and before you know it you’ll have people falling over themselves to hire you.

Work consistently on your craft

DJing is a noble art that takes time to get right.

You will see significant progress by practicing your skills and techniques daily for at least one hour.

When you’re done practicing, practice some more and aim for mastery.

Study your craft from different angles, plan and prepare for your sets.

Consider including these concepts during your practice sessions:

Learn and Understand Music

Learn about the heritage and origin of the genres that you are most passionate about; understand the music that influenced its evolvement since creation.

Learn the structures of music; once understood you can begin to understand how songs connect to people emotionally.

This knowledge can assist you in creating seamless transitions between tracks without losing the crowd’s energy.

Beatmatching by ear

Beatmatching is one of the foundational pillars and the bread and butter of DJing. It is considered a basic key skill that serious DJs hope to master manually.

These days software has taken the hard work out of achieving this and other old school mixing techniques.

The beat syncing feature available to assist DJs is great; however, it doesn’t always work well, especially with more complex genres, and more importantly, it can lead to losing your natural mixing abilities.

Increase your confidence by practicing beatmatching using your ears and trusting your instincts.

Becoming skilled at it will allow you to:

  • Be prepared to play on anything; If for example your laptop decides to check out, or you’re spontaneously asked to play at a friend’s party.
  • Identify the sound differences and cues of a track that you’d miss when using software.
  • Connect more with the music and what you are doing as you’ll notice the groove of rhythms and how the beats are structured.
  • Know when a track is slipping out of sync and how to bring it back into alignment.
  • Have more fun! Pressing Sync can sometimes lead to boredom. Manual beatmatching keeps you on your toes and gives you a sense of accomplishment for putting in the hard work.

It can be learned on a pair of turntables or by turning off the sync function on your laptop and covering any displays.

The concepts are not difficult to understand, practice until it becomes second nature.

In fact, it’s a good idea to learn all techniques manually as much as possible.

Practice with the music you love, since you know these tracks inside out and know what happens where in the track, this will help with learning the concepts faster.

Try not to think too much about what you’re doing; you could even try practicing with your eyes shut and listen and feel the music for timings.

Related: I wrote a post on how to practice as a DJ, and I definitely recommend you check it out!

Look for inspiration

Look at what interesting techniques other DJs you like are doing during their sets; Their mixing styles and transitions, how are they using filters and faders? What you think works, what doesn’t and why?

Keep on top of emerging trends and technologies in the DJing community, think about how you can incorporate these ideas into your sets without comprising your authentic sound and style.

Reach out to the DJs that inspire you and ask them questions. DJs are generally very passionate about music and more than happy to talk about it.

Get others to listen to your mixes

Ask your friends and family to listen to your mixes and give feedback on what they thought was good and bad; for example, the choice of tracks or perhaps the order you played them in.

Send mixes to your DJ friends for critiquing; This will be constructive to your improvement especially if you can get feedback from seasoned DJs.

Learn from everyone’s comments and make adjustments where necessary; Having an online presence will come in handy for sharing your work and getting feedback from the general DJ community.

By joining Facebook groups or Subreddits about DJing, you’ll surely find a ton of people interested in giving you feedback.

Write things down

When thinking about your sets and ideas for mixes, write stuff down in a notebook or on your phone etc. to document the following:

  • The music you want to add to your collection.
  • Mixes you like.
  • Mixes you’ve created that you thought worked, ones that didn’t and why.
  • Techniques and tricks you’d like to try out.

Go through your notes every now and then to help keep you on track of what you need and want to do.

It will help to keep ideas fresh in your mind, and whenever one pops into your head write it down!

Work on creating a great experience

Your job is to thrill the audience through the music you play, leaving them wanting more once your set has ended.

Find ways to make your events memorable to develop a strong brand and positive reputation.

Here are some suggestions on how to achieve this:

Inject personality into your sets

Try to be different.

Your job is to entertain the crowd with music and to show them something they haven’t witnessed before, so don’t be afraid to play tracks that the audience may not have heard yet.

Present it in a way that is familiar to them or entertaining; for example, by sprinkling samples of popular tracks in between.

If you do this correctly, you’ll have the crowd wondering how they can get hold of your mixes.

Remind the people which DJ they are listening to by creating a catchy pre-recording of your DJ name, or use a sample or sound to be associated with.

Play it either at the beginning or end of a set, and lightly sprinkle through-out your mixtape; Remember to drop it sparingly as overuse, especially during live sets, may kill the vibe.

Understand your audience

The best DJs are able to pick up on how the music they’re playing is affecting the crowd.

Learning how to read and react to the crowd is an essential skill, and if a DJ is poor at this it can cost them bookings, so pay attention to the dance floor as much as possible.

How do you figure out how the crowd is feeling?

By being comfortable with your equipment and knowing roughly where everything is, allows you to balance looking up at the dance floor with looking down at your equipment.

Is the dance floor full or is it clearing right now? If clearing swiftly change the track as soon as possible.

Be flexible in making quick adjustments to what is working at the time to please the crowd.

By reading people’s faces and body language, do they look like they’re having fun, or bored? Are they dancing with enthusiasm? What type of music is getting people to dance more?

Generally, events have a group of people that start dancing first, with their up-beat energy they encourage others to do the same.

Keep an eye on how that group react to your selections and use that feedback to gauge how the rest of the crowd maybe feeling.

Control the energy and connect to your audience

A great DJ knows when to hold-back, and when to strike! Get better at DJing by learning how to control the energy by choosing the right tracks at the right time.

Set the pace with a nice even flow of music. Mix low with high energy tracks so that your crowd doesn’t burn out too quickly.

It’s better not to start off with high energy, as people find it harder to connect to the DJ if they start off too strong and fast, they prefer a build-up.

I can’t emphasize this enough, since this is where newer DJs usually screw up, especially if they are coming on at the early stages of the night; Don’t try to impress anyone with your skills, but rather play the music according to the time and how the night is folding out.

If you start with an extremely upbeat song, it may be off-putting.

It’s better to start off slow and work your way up from there.

Connect to your audience by having fun and showing them that you are appreciating the music as much as they are.

Even if they don’t remember the specifics of the music you played that night, they’d remember how much of a great DJ you were.

Give 110% whether you’re playing to a crowd of 10 or 1000.

Being consistent in your performance delivery will set you up to become a world class DJ.

Enroll in Online Courses

I believe that anyone can become an excellent DJ by learning everything on their own.

However, sometimes it just makes more sense to learn from someone who has had to jump through all the hoops so that you don’t have to.

There are loads of free videos on YouTube that add a lot of value and that can teach you most of what you need to learn. Here are the two channels I’d recommend;

Now, free content is great, and it even is enough most of the times. However, there are a couple courses out there which are designed to help you reach your goals faster.

I wrote a post about the best DJing courses out there that will be of help to you.

The ones I’d recommend the most are from DJ Courses Online since they offer great quality courses at an affordable price, especially since it’s subscription-based, which means that you can pay for a single month and do all the courses you want.

If you even want to get more bang for your buck, getting the yearly subscription will save you a total 50%.

Conclusion

It’s not that easy to become a good- and well-respected DJ, but if you keep at it then you’ll probably end up succeeding.

Follow these suggestions, enroll in an online course or learn from free resources such as YouTube and practice as much as you can!

I hope this information was useful!

Have a wonderful day and keep practicing!

Facundo

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