The Beginner DJ Blog
The New Guide to DJ Basics
Over the years, there has been a great amount of interest driven to learning how to DJ because more and more people are attending festivals, clubs, and the price of the DJ software and equipment has been dropping due to higher demands and the shift toward Midi controllers.
I wanted to take some of your time to gather up all of the great resources, guides, and inject a good amount of tips throughout this post about the developments of the DJ basics over the years. Here on BeginnerDJ, things are a bit scattered because it’s a blog so some information is hard to find and would greatly benefit from being in one place, wouldn’t you agree?
From here on out, you’ll be exploring the new guide to DJ basics, here we go:
The Core Fundamentals
I would consider the “core” fundamentals of DJing these:
- Picking out the right gear for your style of play
- Learning to beat match
- Learning how to properly mix music
- How to find quality music tracks
Of these, you have to start somewhere and that’s with the equipment (and possibly software depending on your style of play). There are many options at this level but the most important start is to set a budget for your gear so you don’t end up spending more than you can afford. Likewise, you should consider where DJing is going over the next few years because although you can transport your mixing skills from equipment to equipment – it’s still pretty important that you have an understanding of “industry” gear that you’re going to find at clubs and festivals if you’re not providing your own gear.
Following suit, you’d be buying the DJ equipment – if you’re just getting started than I would recommend some basic pieces of gear without going all out and spending so much that you regret the purchase. For this reason, these days, I would highly recommend purchasing DJ midi and micro controllers because they offer the biggest bang for your buck, give you a lot of flexibility, and they are super mobile. Of course, if you’re going for the classic gear than a quality pair of Technics (for vinyl) or Pioneer CDJ’s (CD’s) are pretty much everywhere in clubs still.
There is also an option of DJ software that should be addressed because this is quickly becoming the standard regardless if you’re using physical equipment or not. The rise of Traktor, Serato, and Virtual DJ (the cheaper option) has seen a huge shift in how DJ’s play. Although you may sport for some CDJ’s, you still may end up playing through software because you have full access to digital music, there’s a lot of flexibility in your controls, and you can do a lot of live mixing.
The second part of all of this comes down to learning the fundamentals of beatmaching. Learning to beat match is where you’re matching up the beats from two (or more) tracks so you can mix them together. Pretty simple when you hear it but it’s a skill that many DJ’s take ages to master. For starters, I would recommend taking two of the same tracks and pay close attention to the ‘kicks’ – you’ll want to match up these ‘beats’ which will allow for that smooth transition over to the next. However, not all music genres are like this so there is a lot of play here especially if you’re going into the breakbeat or dub categories of music. To be honest, this is where you should spend a lot of your time in the beginning because this is the one skill you’ll be using throughout the rest of your DJing.
Following that, you’re getting into mixing which isn’t as complicated as it sounds but does require a certain knowledge of reading the crowd, understanding your tracks, and experimentation. You could just keep mixing two tracks back and forth but that gets boring fast – instead, your goal is to mix tracks that complement each other so there is a general “feel” of the set as it progresses. You’ll generally start off and build up to the zenith of your mix where there’s ton of energy and then gently guide people back down to Earth (and so you can let the next DJ get ready to mix their set in).
Note: Although it’s frowned upon, I would say practicing through building structured sets would give you a really great understanding of how you can play with the mixing format and really get a great grip on what’s possible when you’re playing with music and creating different levels of hype in your mix.
After all of this, or actually – before, I’d say that having a good ear for tracks is almost just as important for a DJ as beat matching and mixing. The reason I say this is that even if the beat matching is a bit ‘meh’, people generally don’t care if the music is amazing. Your task, as a DJ, is to find new and old music that’s going to really pull people onto the dance floor. You can dig through archives, use online sites, ask friends, or attend clubs to hear what people are into these days – in some parts, you’re a journalist trying to get the ‘scoop’ on good music.
As far as the “core” fundamentals go, it comes down to practicing. You can easily pick up your gear, find music, and get used to beatmatching for your mixes within a month but it doesn’t mean you’ll be all that good which is why you really need to make this as if you’re going to school – there’s homework here – you should be practicing every chance you can.
About the Author - Muxx
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