Negosentro.com | A Complete Beginner’s Guide to Getting Started with Your DJ Career | A lot of people dream of becoming a DJ, but getting a foot in the door requires more than just talent. It also takes preparation and hard work. This article will offer a comprehensive introduction to what it takes to get started with a DJ career.
Step One: Choosing Equipment
Gone are the days when a DJ’s only option was to purchase turntables and learn how to mix by hand. Today, plenty of professional DJs use digital setups, so the first step is to decide whether to go analog or digital. Either way, DJs of all experience levels can find the equipment they need at hollywooddj.com.
Traditional DJ setups use turntables to play vinyl records. Using this kind of analog setup allows new DJs to learn traditional skills, which can be immensely satisfying, but it requires a substantial investment. DJs must purchase a sizable collection of records, which must then be stored safely and transported to and from gigs.
More modern DJs than ever are opting for digital setups instead of going analog. These setups use specialized DJ software to perform many of the tasks that traditional DJs must perform by hand, allowing those new to the DJ scene to learn much faster. Digital setups often feature BPM counters, as well, which makes it easier to beat-match and transition between songs.
Buying the Basics
Don’t buy everything required to play out before even learning how to use the equipment. Instead, start with a bare-bones DJ setup that has either two turntables or two CD players, a two-channel mixer, decent headphones and speakers, and, if going digital, mixing software.
Mixing software typically allows users to access MP3 libraries stored on their computers’ hard drives. It features real-time control, live looping and scratching, delays, and reverberations that mimic traditional techniques.
There are plenty of software options out there, so try to balance the quality of software with budget concerns. DJs starting from scratch should try to allocate more of their budgets to turntables and a mixer and upgrade software and hardware as they learn and progress.
Home Studios vs Gigging Equipment
Every new DJ needs a decent home studio, so start by creating a setup to record demos and create playlists at home. Aspiring hip-hop DJs often include a scratch/battle mixer in their home studios so they can practice for competitions, as well. Once they start producing, DJs will appreciate having a decent home studio that’s easy to use.
Try to choose equipment for gigs that is similar to the home setup. Venues that already have DJ setups may allow digital DJs to use their in-house equipment, which means they’ll only need to bring along a laptop with their mixing software. Playing private venues requires bringing equipment.
Building a Music Collection
Needless to say, DJs need to build substantial music collections. Those who are just getting started can work with what they already have, but expect to invest heavily in vinyl records, CDs, or digital downloads.
It’s never a good idea to purchase low-quality MP3s. Instead, spend the money on high-quality recordings. Most DJs focus on one or a few genres, but it’s a good idea to build a collection that spans many popular genres.
Multi-genre DJs have more options when it comes to booking gigs. There’s no need to become an expert in every genre, but try to at least get to know the classics, the deep cuts, and current favorites.
One of the most important aspects of working the music as a DJ is mixing songs. This requires an understanding of the beats per minute (BPM). Knowing the BPM of a song will help any DJ figure out how to mix it with another song.
DJ software typically calculates BPM for its users, while traditional DJs must get a feel for BPM without the help of technology. Novice DJs often find that it’s easiest to mix two songs that have the same BPM. However, songs can also be sped up or slowed down if they are only a few BPM off. Just keep in mind that substantial alterations to the song’s BPM will also change its pitch, so pitch warping may be required to compensate for it.
Learning the Songs
Just about all dance songs have intros and outros. These instrumental portions are the parts that DJs mix to transition from one song to the next, so it’s essential to learn when they start. Have the second song cued up before the first song’s outro starts, then use fading to transition from one to the other by progressively lower the volume of the first while raising the volume of the second.
Developing an intimate familiarity with each song also allows DJs to figure out when they should be scratching. Different types of scratches work best at different pitch levels and in different parts of each song. Learning when and how to scratch requires practice, patience, and intuition, so make sure to practice at home before even starting to book gigs.
Start Out Simple
The best tip for aspiring DJs is to start simple. Choose two songs to mix that are in the same key and have the same or a very similar BPM. Get basic transitions down before experimenting with looping, scratching, and adding effects.
Mastering the art of smooth transitions is one of the most important skills any DJ can learn. Once DJs start to book gigs and play out in clubs, seamless mixing allows the crowd to keep dancing without interruption.
Keep in mind that mixing isn’t just about matching the BPM. DJs typically have to adjust the volume, as well, and they need to time their transitions right to avoid mixing over vocals. Only transition from one song to the next during intros or outros, especially while getting started.
Add Some Complexity
Every mixer is different, so get to know the effects one at a time. Some mixers are more automated, while others require a more do-it-yourself approach. There’s more than one way to achieve each effect, so don’t be afraid to experiment at home.
Keep in mind that learning how to DJ effectively takes a good deal of time and effort. While digital setups are easy enough to learn, no amount of technology will compensate for a lack of intuition and developing intuition takes practice.
DJs who are just starting their careers often find it hard to get a foot in the door at clubs, so they can’t be overly picky. Generalist DJs who can play a wider variety of genres have an easier time finding gigs. Ideally, it’s best to find a recurring gig that will help build a following, but that might require making some sacrifices in terms of genre and style.
Know the Crowd
All good DJs work to develop an understanding of who they’ll be playing for before their events. When playing club shows, get familiar with who else plays there to develop a feel for the crowd in advance. It’s best to visit the venue beforehand, since most clubs have regulars who will be likely to show up for the gig.
Taking requests is fine, but be smart about it. If someone from out of town requests a song that’s completely out of keeping with the rest of the set, take a moment to evaluate how the club’s regulars will feel about it. They’re the ones that pay the owner’s bills and the DJ’s fees, so it’s important to keep them happy.
Knowing the crowd is important for private gigs, as well. Wedding gigs, for example, typically require some research. Ask whoever is responsible for planning the entertainment about the bride’s tastes and make sure to play plenty of slow songs. The key to getting more gigs is making sure the clients are happy.
The Importance of Marketing
DJs who are just starting out need to be on top of marketing. They should print out business cards, create press kits, create an internet presence, and make sure to focus on networking whenever possible. Make playlists on iTunes or Spotify and use them as a way to interact with fans, introduce them to new music, and give them a taste of what they’ll hear at a show.
Promote heavily for every show by posting on Facebook, Twitter, and other social media sites and putting up fliers. Most novice DJs take whatever they are offered when they first get started, even if they don’t pay well, since that gets their name out there and keeps people interested. Treat the new career as a 24/7 job and take what’s available to build a reputation.
The Bottom Line
Learning how to DJ, acquiring decent equipment, and building a small following are just the first steps toward creating a successful career as a DJ, but they’re essential. Prepare to invest time and money into this new career and prepare for it to take a while to catch on. The key is to balance growing as a performer with learning how to network and tap into local markets. Over time, these challenges will become easier as new DJs’ careers take off.