How Can I Improve My DJing?
How Can I Improve My DJing?
When you learn how to DJ you might at some point feel like you've plateaued. There is a certain learning curve that all new DJs experience when learning how to DJ. At first, the learning is fast and furious and you acquire new skills every time you hit the decks. After a while, you learn how to hone these new found skills and quickly see improvements on every session. Once you get more proficient, you'll notice that the speed of learning drastically slows down and in sometimes can halt all together. So, how do you keep improving your Djing from this point?
What if you don't want to plateau and want to keep improving?
There are many techniques that you can incorporate into your DJ practice to help you extend your learning gains and improve your DJ skills. During our years training the best new DJs on our DJ courses we have collected a huge amount of teaching experience.
We know all the paths to success and how our DJ students can navigate them, overcome hurdles and constantly improve their DJing. Here in this blog we give you some of the best strategies and ideas to help you overcome the learning plateau and become the DJ you can be!
We teach total beginners and seasons pros alike. Thousands of DJs, big and small, have passed through our DJ courses. We've even created some of the most advanced and challenging DJ courses available on the planet!
Our Elite DJ Course (available in London and Birmingham) is the most exceptional DJ course suitable for advanced DJs who want to improve their DJing and add live elements to the mix.
If you're looking for a challenge and want to improve your DJ skills this is the best way.
Click here for more information on the Elite DJ Course, access to amazing DJ gigs opportunities and the Elite DJ Trophy.
Top Tips For Improving Your DJing
Here's our definitive list of ways you can improve your DJ skills if you feel like you have plateaued or your learning has stalled. We've compiled this list using our years of experience teaching amazing DJs at our various academies.
1. Mindset & Goals
Congratulations, you've already made the first step! By reading this very blog you're already in the right mindset. Mindset is the first mayor hurdle when it comes to improving your DJ skills. You've got to WANT to improve and have the desire to put in the time and research. Well done on passing the first hurdle! Now you're in the right zone you'll want to keep your enthusiasm for improving those DJ skills and act upon it.
Make sure that you create a list of goals you want to complete this year. Write down daily, weekly, monthly and yearly goals. Keep you list updated and look at it everyday. As you complete a goal tick it off the list and marvel at much you've improved your skills and how far you've come!
Create daily, weekly, monthly and yearly goals
Now you're in the right mindset and you have some goals to work toward you need to schedule your DJ practice. Make sure that you have a dedicated day or time when you practice your DJ skills and stick to it! Make sure you become an avid user of a calendar and organise your life so that your DJ practice is not just an after thought. Make it a priority! One of the best ways to get things done is do them as soon as you wake up while you're full of energy.
Try becoming a morning person, get up early and complete your to-do list before everyone else has even had their morning coffee. You'll feel accomplished and it will set you up for a productive day. Make sure you schedule some time to exercise as well to keep the blood and oxygen flowing to the creative parts of your brain.
One of the biggest and most overlooked skills of a DJ is research. Musical knowledge is a huge part of DJ culture and often totally ignored by newcomers to the scene. Practical skills aside, the art of song selection is fundamental! We recommend that you include research as a DJ skill you can improve.
You probably already have a liking for certain genres but that should not stop you learning about other genres. Make sure you have a well rounded knowledge of music in general. A great place to start is with this list of electronic music genres compiled by LSA.
In addition to researching about this history of DJing and the history of modern music you should also research your local scene. After all, you'll need to figure out where you can eventually perform and how to find DJ gigs.
Create a Database & Contact Book
Start by searching for venues in your local area and make your own database. Call the venue and politely ask who is responsible for booking DJs at their venue or events. Now create a database with all the results and update is regularly. You may find that the venue doesn't actually run the events. Instead they might leave this to a different promoter.
I would recommend you make two databases, one for venues and one for promoters. I even have a third database for other professionals I know in the industry like DJ photographers, videographers, designers and people who work for record labels. Make your own black book of important contacts that will come in useful when you start promoting yourself.
Before you hit the decks trying to improve your practical DJ skills make sure you prepare your sets correctly and organise your music library. No matter which DJ software program you use make sure you learn how to complete the following tasks. If you'd like help with set preparation you can book a one-to-one lesson online with one of our expert DJ tutors. Click here to contact us and arrange a lesson.
- Learn how to organise and back up your collection
- Learn how to manage and edit your meta-data
- Learn how to beat-grid your tracks
- Learn how to use the alphanumeric or classic key notation
- Learn how to correctly add memory cues, hot cues, loops and markers
- Learn how to export your music successfully
- Learn how to export your settings
Remember, a big part of DJing is also just knowing the software and technology you're working with. Read all the manuals and learn every single button and option on both the software, decks and mixer. It's also recommended using a range of DJ technology so you can learn how to use the different setups that you might find in a real club, both old and new.
Many of our students will book studio time at our academy to learn on different models. It's highly recommended!
One of the skills every DJ needs to learn is how to beatmatch accurately. Nowadays, DJ technology has made it easier to beatmatch by allowing DJs to use sync, use phase meters and visual aids. It's much easier to beatmatch on digital players than it is on turntables with vinyl records. As a modern DJ you should know all the different ways to beatmatch so you're ready for any situation.
- Sync - Learn how to use beat sync, how it works using the 'Master' player and how it uses the beat-grid information. Make sure you have a full understanding of the technology and where it can be useful. Don't forget that sync will allow you to complete transitions not possible with human beatmatching.
- Phase Meters - Learn how to use the phase meters on your DJ software or digital DJ decks. Remember, phase meters only give you accurate information if the beat-grids are correct.
- BPM - Learn how to set the BPM accurately and all about the different tempo ranges.
- Jog Wheels - Learn how to use a jog wheel correctly to line up the beatmatch.
- Pitch-Shifting - Learn the true art of beatmatching. Pitch-shifting is a beatmatching technique that allows the DJ to determine the BPM and synchronise the beatmatch with no screen or help from a computer whatsoever. This is how vinyl DJs beatmatch but it's also an essential skill for advanced digital DJs. DJs who can accurately pitch-shift are in the top tier of DJs.
DJs should also realise that beatmatching is not always necessary in order transition between tracks. In some cases you don't need to beatmatch or overlap the two songs.
One of the best beat-matching exercises for beginners or novice DJs is to match the BPM of two songs and then press play. Make sure both tracks are in the mix and then spin the job wheel. Now that the beatmatch is lost try and get it back by listening and not looking at the screen. Cover the screen for this exercise. You can then see how close you were by looking at the screen. Make sure that your tracks are perfectly beat-gridded for this exercise to work.
A slightly more advanced version is to set the BPM differently, say 120BPM on track A and 123BPM on track B. Then try and use the jog wheel to keep the two tracks in sync as they drift apart. This is a great exercise to help you cope with tracks where the tempo varies slightly, as they would with live bands.
The advanced exercise is to learn how to pitch-shift.
How smooth is your mix? Many new DJs will struggle to create a smooth mix. The art of mixing is to transition from track A to track B while balancing both the volume level and the frequencies in the mix. Granted, you don't need to smoothly transition for every track but its still essential for a DJ to be able to do this sometimes.
You should learn how to use gain, compression (if you have one on your mixer) EQ types (if you have them) and EQs in general. You'll also want to master the use of the filter to help you obtain the perfect blend.
The best way to self-test your blending accuracy is to record yourself. You should regularly be recording your mixing and then analysing them for accuracy. Make recording your mix and listening back a habit. Be constructively critical about your mix and see where improvement can be made. Often new DJs will find they need to be slower when using volume controls and EQs.
7. Mix Timing
Do you know the correct time to do your mix? This obviously varies on a track-by-track basis but we often find that beginners make the same mistakes. Avoid these common mix-timing mistakes.
- Always use good musical phrasing
- Avoid overlapping lead vocals
- Avoid mixing in the middle of the tracks or in breakdowns unless you have a clear plan about how to control the mix
- Avoid mixing two heavy basslines on top of each other unless you are using EQ to avoid a muddy sound
- Avoiding mixing two dominant melodies on top of each other if they are covering the same frequency range
- Avoid leaving it to the last minute and dragging out the end of a track making it boring
- Avoid transitioning two quickly on a club edit designed to be layered
- Avoid mixing a radio edit for too long
Instead, you should experiment by selecting two songs and seeing how many ways you can mix them together from different positions in the track. There are dozens of options, see how many you can think up! Many DJs will also use cue points as markers to help them identify good mixing positions.
Do you know how to amp the energy during a DJ set with the FX? Make sure you know how to use every common DJ effect at the right time with the right tracks. You should learn how every button on the various effects units work on the most common range of mixers.
It takes a lot of mixing and experimenting to learn which effect to use at specific points in your mix but learning this will really improve your DJ performance. Just like with learning how to get the perfect mix, recording your sets is critical here.
Make sure you record as many of your practice sessions as possible so you can judge as would a listener which effects are improving the mix and which are just detracting away from it.
Effects also play a part in the overall physical performance. As DJs we are also performers on a stage and part of the job is to create a spectacle. I love to use the FX and tools at my disposal to move my body and communicate my love of music. The more energetic my body the more the crowd reacts positively to the DJ set.
Using effects will help you achieve this simply because you have something to do after the main mix is complete. Remember to think like a true performer and learn how to translate your love of music into your physical movements and DJ dance moves!
10. New Technology
Once of the best ways to further your DJ skills and constantly improve is to make use of new DJ technology. DJs who don't utilise new technology often stagnate and get replaced by new DJs. There are constant innovations within DJing and music production that provide new niches for DJs to colonise.
Many of the leading DJs of the world got to where they are by spearheading a new technological innovation. Find a new tech trend and ride the wave to the top! Look out for these things:
- New DJ software technology innovations
- New DJ hardware innovations
- New lighting innovations
- New ideas to do with staging and performance
- Augmented reality and virtual reality
- New sounds and sonic trends
- New instruments and integrations
If you can find a new technology that hasn't been fully explored by other artists make sure you dive deep! Become a pioneer of a new sound or new tech and you might find a shortcut to fame and notoriety. A path less trodden is often leads to new treasures.
If you really want to see progress one of the best ways is to introduce some kind of accountability partner into your practice. Learning how to DJ on our DJ course is clearly the most obvious solution to improve your DJ skills. One-to-one training will allow you to improve at an accelerated pace!
We hope you enjoyed this blog on ways to improve your DJ skills! Click here for more DJ and productions blogs.