How to Become a Passionate DJ: A Complete Guide

How to become a DJ

Do you want to become a superstar DJ? Or perhaps to establish a brand that will make fans rave just by hearing your name? Are you DJing just for fun?  Well, there are more than 100 reasons people want to become a DJ. But as everyone is a DJ in the DJ world, you have to work hard, love your craft and stand out among the crowd. So how do you start? Learn the basics.  As for whatever reason you want to become a DJ, the road is not an easy path to fame, make money and/or achieve success. Check out the following and learn more.

Learn What DJs Do

Just like in any other business, you should determine what kind of DJ you want to become. And since you’re reading this guide, we’re assuming you’re interested to pursue a career in one of the DJ types highlighted in the next section.

DJ Categories

Club DJ

It refers to a DJ opening for international acts and working in the nightclub.   One also hosts parties at different venues typically to provide the guests with music that lets them dance to specific music genres.

Mobile DJ

A mobile DJ produces soundtracks for corporate parties, private events and school dances.   He/she may also take requests from attendees.

Radio DJ

One works in a radio station as a programming staff, a host or a mixer. However, radio DJing is competitive. It is the reason many DJs work in satellite radio or host a podcast. Some radio DJs also play for live sets while others are announcers talking in between songs.

The origins of DJing can be credited to the radio. Corporate DJs, however, now lost control over what songs to play, but they can regain control on podcasts and online radios.

Turntablist

turntablist

Also called a controllerist, a turntablist is a scratch DJ that performs live remixes using equipment such as headphones, mixer and turntables along with special effects and samples.  If you want to become one, you need to master the skills of hand and wrist motion, which may take years of practice. This type of DJs also produces video routines showing their moves and later entering those videos in DJ tournaments, such as the Red Bull Thre3style.

Determine Your Goals. It’s Not a Fast and Easy Path

Literally endless possibilities and opportunities are waiting for successful DJs. But not one of them reached their dreams without a goal. If you’re not going to set measureable, realistic goals, then sorry but you’re doing it wrong.

Remember: DRIVE WITHOUT DIRECTION IS POINTLESS. So here, set your short- and long-term goals, and be ready to make adjustments as you advance or progress. Add new ones from time to time; it’s free.

NOTE on Goal Setting: Follow through.

Some aspiring DJs are excellent at setting goals, but not when doing the very important – follow through. Remember: Progress requires real effort and hard work. Otherwise, do not whine or complain about not having enough gigs and social media following.

If you want to master the craft, do the grind. Work and learn (even in the hard way). After all, the only difficulty you’ll face in developing your craft is YOUR MINDSET.

Try Free DJ Software

DJ software

To have a better idea on what a DJ does and help you with your goals, test your feet with free DJ software. While there are a number to try out there, let us just highlight a few of the dJ software here.

Audacity:  You can become a virtual DJ with this popular recorder mixer, and audio player and editor. It supports MacOS, Linux and Windows operating systems.

Virtual DJ Home: Free and functional, the DJ software supports different types of decks and features sampling, loops, key lock and sync.  To use advanced features, such as the timecode control and video output, use the paid product.

Mixxx:  It is another free DJ software with rich features and supportive of different platforms, including a LINUX.  It also supports timecode control.

UltraMixer-Free-Edition:  Its free edition is available for Windows and Mac OS operating systems and lets you create live mixes. Controls are well laid out and easy to use, ideal for beginners.

Learn Basic DJ Skills

The following is a list of the basic skills to practice (and master) to become a DJ.  Let’s just briefly discuss for an idea.

Beatmatching

Its purpose is to play two tracks at the same speed at which a song is playing (tempo) along with its phase. This means the track beats are harmoniously playing in time with one another. If you want to become a turntablist, you must do beat mixing manually.  Learning the skill, you will develop your listening ability, which is crucial as a DJ.

Phrasing

It simply means mixing the tracks together at certain points, but the overall result must sound good.  Don’t stress too much on this. Just remember that most songs are in 4/4 time, meaning four beats are in a bar or measure, and then a quarter note gets only a beat. The main thing here is learning how to count to “4.”

Volume adjustments/gaining control

volume adjustment

Different adjustment levels are in a DJ rig. Take note of that. You can always adjust the signal level through monitoring the meter. Each channel has a gain knob and a line fader that is what lets you adjust the level of signal supplied to the main output.   This main output also has its volume controller. The crossfader, on the other hand, lets you fade between channels.

You can control these things in software if you don’t have hardware yet.

Note on watching meters: Green, good; red, bad; and yellow, pushing it.

Learn Equalizing

Dropping or boosting frequencies, it is what EQing (equalizing) does. It lets you blend two tracks and make them sound in tune with one another. Basically, you should not mix two loud kick drums, or else, you’ll create noise, not music.  A 3-band equalizer (low, mid and high is typically used. Also, a higher end 4-band low, low mid, mid-high, and high can be used.

Just remember EQing won’t work miracles like fixing a bad mix. But its purpose is to combine at least two audio signals or to polish a mixture to play.

Get Hardware    

DJ hardware            

After learning of the basic skills needed to become a DJ, it’s time to invest in hardware. Mouse and keyboard will work but limiting, so you might as well invest in specific hardware like the following,

All-one controller route: Modern ones already come with all the things you need for an entire   set. A few inclusions are audio interface (built-in sound card) and CDJ-style jog wheels, but not all models include the second one.

Modular Controller Route: If you have specific needs for your performance (and you have personal taste on that), get this hardware. It can be pieced together from smaller controllers, such as Xone: K2 and Kontrol X1.

CDJs/CD turntables + Mixer Route: CDJs are fairly limited. In order to make it work better, invest on hardware like Pioneer CDJ-2000nexus and also a high-end mixer. Many CDJs are what professional club DJs use because they’re great for scratching and supportive of USB drives.

Vinyl + Mixer Route:  It is a rewarding route to consider – and fun to watch too. However, vinyl is hard and often the least portable choice.  Finally, music is also expensive using the route.

Timecode/HID and Hybrid Setups: Do you want the best of all worlds? The basic idea is using a special type of vinyl containing specific audio signal. This signal is what the software will pick up to manipulate the digital files. In this type of set up, you can also make use of modular controllers for more functionality. However, this hybrid setup can be annoying to set up in the club environment even if it has a small footprint. 

How to Set Up DJ Equipment

Different DJ setups require different ways of setting up equipment.

The most tactile form of DJing is the turntable setup that requires two cartridges or needles, two turntables, slip-mats, headphones, RCA cable and vinyl records.

Record your own mix

With the basic idea of mixing, record a mix and analyze it. If trying to mix externally with a standalone mixer, you might want to use a recording device or route the sound back into a computer to record. Recording, you can experiment and find out what works and sounds good.

If recording an internal mix, use your DJ software. Later, test the recording and then check the waveforms and final audio to see if you hit the levels right. 6

Build your following

Developing a brand for your target market is needed, so make sure your offerings are in tune with your market’s needs. 7

But before you could have a market demand, you need a following! Yes, that’s right.   Not having a market might mean lack of gigs. So there – you should build a following.  A few tips include collecting emails (and responding to those), offering something free (playing music free), responding to social media comments, offering free event entry with complimentary drinks and being authentic!

More tips:  If you have recorded a mix the first time, you might want to get feedback from both the people you know and you don’t know.  Reach out, contact them and tell them that you value their thoughts. And for whatever your DJing purpose is, you can also create short videos (mashups or mixes) to gain following.

Constructing a support base and showing your worth to your audience, you will be well on your way to meeting your goals. But to do it, you need to establish an online presence with the tips highlighted above. Nevertheless, focus on BUILDING REAL RELATIONSHIPS, NOT FOLLOWERS OR FANS.

Pursue Your First Gigs

pursue your gigs

Once you have learned of the basics mentioned earlier, you can start pursuing your first gigs. There are many ways to do that, including increasing your community visibility and participating in online marketing groups.

Other tips for first gigs include word of mouth marketing. Build the trust between you and your clients and fans to get gigs from their referrals.  You must also be friends with promoters and club owner, have a website and social media presence to engage fans and keep them updated, and, look for common DJ venues in your community, such as schools, fashion shows, sporting events, house parties, retail stores and bars.

Hone Your Skills and Evolve

You’ve learned the basic skills and probably booked a few gigs.  Now, can you just kick back and let the gig offers and invitations come in? NO.

What you need is to learn working the floor and leveling up your skills.  Remember, there is more than just knowing how to do music mixes and transitions.  You need to research your crowd, focus on your music, and stand out with your unique style.

After all, everyone can DJ, but not everyone can stand out, reach superstardom and establish a brand that lingers in the minds of their audience. So, work on your unique taste, find out what your audience loves, and play great music!

Final Thoughts

Learning DJing is easy, but making a consistent income flow out of it isn’t.  It is not to say that you cannot make a stable living out of it. In fact, you can. It is possible. Just remember to exert effort, focus, develop your style and be realistic. Fame and fortune do not come overnight. You get the point.   Finally, do not stop honing your skills and discovering other things that set you apart from the rest.