How To Play a Warmup Set
How To Play a Warmup Set
Playing a warm up set is the starting point for most DJs, but what exactly is a warm up set?
The job of the warm up DJ is to get the dance floor ready for the headline DJ. It’s the job of the warm up DJ to set the tone and get people in the mood for what’s to come later in the night. The ideal warmup DJ set will start slowly and build up gradually so there is a clear increase in energy over time as the venue fills up.
This tends to be the starting point for most DJs. It can be quite rare that DJs step straight into the headline slot when first starting out, even though this is what we all visualise when practising for our opportunity to shine behind the decks. Playing the warm up set is sometimes considered the hardest to master as it’s not as simple as playing the biggest tracks of the moment. We’ve put together a quick list of our top tips to help you be prepared to play the best warm up set you can.
Every good set starts with preparation but none more so than the warm up.
A useful tip can be to create folders for your music relating to energy level, you could start with folder 1 being lower energy suitable for the beginning of your set or for the warmup slot, all the way to maybe folder 4 where you could have higher energy tracks for the end of your set or the peak time.
Make sure that you’ve got a selection of tracks that suite the venue you’re going to be playing at. Do your research and visit the venue and see it in action before your set. Take into consideration what kind of event it is you’re playing at, is it a club that plays commercial music, if so then playing well known tracks will always work well but not the biggest tracks of the moment that everyone is expecting to hear at peak time. Also take into consideration the demographic, is it an older or younger crowd and try to play tracks that are going to be appealing to them. Finding great remixes of well-known songs is always a great way to keep your set mainstream but fresh at the same time.
Indulge yourself in an esoteric way.
The warm-up time slot allows you to play tracks that are perhaps interesting selections that are great for their atmosphere or listening credentials but not necessarily dance floor bangers. This way you can be more conceptual with your selection. Try dipping into the archives and contextualising older tracks alongside newer tracks and create a sonic story. It's the same with radio shows, they can often be great because they are more about listening than dancing. Think of your set as an art gallery and see what type of exhibit you can create. For more tips on building a great warm-up set check out this article by Resident Advisor.
What to expect when you arrive.
Often, when you're the warm-up DJ in a small venue like bar you might need to set up the equipment, or at least switch it all on. Make sure you know how to plug in all the gear and how to set the controls correctly. Many mistakes can be avoided by following this blog on how to avoid the most common mistakes when setting up or taking over from another DJ. Click here for the blog.
The most common mistakes are DJs not knowing how to set the main functions of the CDJ and mixer correctly including the Auto Cue, Master Tempo and Tempo controls, Quantise, Eject Lock and more. If you're taking our DJ course be sure to read your notes!
You should also check the volume of the dancefloor compared to your DJ booth. It can sound very different in the DJ booth so play your first track and walk around the dancefloor area to see that it sounds right.
Once you get playing you will want to keep the volume a little lower than it will be at peak time. If you're in a multiple-room venue you need to consider that in the early hours people are sober and want to mingle with their friends and talk a lot. if you're too loud they will simply move to another room or the smoking area. If you play at a reasonable volume for the time of night and number of people in the room you'll actually get a busier room, so don't max the volume right away. Controlling the volume and dynamics of your track selection will help you subconsciously build an energy increase over time.
Depending on the type of event you might want to play the more vocal tracks at the start of the night and the more minimal or progressive tracks towards the end of the night.
What to do if you’re playing before a big artist?
The golden rule here is to not play any of the artists songs. This may seem really obvious but this happens more often than you may think. The artist tracks are for them to play. People will have come to the venue to see that DJ/ artist perform and will be waiting for them to drop their favourite track not for the warm DJ to play them.
Give the artist space, if you’re used to playing with a controller or DVS software then try and give them space to take over. You don’t want to be attempting to unplug your equipment as they’re taking over.
With all this being said the main thing to remember when playing a warm up set is to have fun. Play tracks that you may not always get the chance to play in a venue full of people. Use it as a chance to show off your musical knowledge and share music with people that’s great and they aren’t expecting to hear.
Article by Kieran Wilson and Buster Bennett
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