List of Common DJ Mistakes

List of Common DJ Mistakes

It's normal for DJs to make mistakes. DJ sets are live events and therefore there are many things that can go wrong. You can do your best to avoid these common mistakes but remember that every DJ makes mistakes and live music performances inherently don't need to be perfect! Don't sweat it if you make a mistake while DJing, it's all part of the fun. Remember it's just a disco, not brain surgery!

Mistakes will happen!

Mistakes will happen when you DJ. Even huge DJs make mistakes but what can separate a beginner from a seasoned pro is how they deal with it once its happened. Our best advice for dealing with mistakes while DJing is to work on your poker face. That means that if you make a mistake recognise it, deal with it and remain calm. Or even better, laugh at it! Get the audience on your side with a smile and a laugh, recover and keep the party going. Whatever you do don't look like it's the end of the world, don't look stressed and don't give off a bad vibe to the audience, just take it on the chin, laugh and move on.

How to recover from most mistakes...

A quick recovery from these common DJ mistakes is vital. Learn these common DJ mistakes and the solution using this list. Practice how to avoid these mistakes and also practice how to cope with them once they happen. You will learn all of these skills in our DJ courses in Manchester, Birmingham or at London Sound Academy. We also recommend that you practice with friends in the studio. If you'd like to hire a DJ studio get in touch.

1. Unplugging the wrong USB

This is one of the most common newbie mistakes when using Pioneer CDJs. Many DJs will use the link function so that they can link their playlist across two or more CDJs. That means that the track playing on any given CDJ might not necessarily be coming from the USB plugged into that deck. Sometimes DJs will unplug the wrong USB my mistake. On older CDJs this will simply stop the music dead. On newer CDJs it will result in an emergency loop or on the 3000s it will continue to load as much as the track that had time to load into the buffer. Either way this is a mess so it's best to avoid this problem but properly understanding how the USB link system works. Something we go over in detail in our DJ course.

How to avoid and recover from this mistake

If this happens to you and the music stops dead quickly play any track that is still loaded, perhaps from the other CDJ. Then very quickly load your USB and your track and start mixing right away. Don't hesitate. While doing this keep a calm demeanour and openly laugh at your own mistake, this will get the audience on your side! Own the mistake, don't be scared of it, learn and more on! Don't let this happen again in future, learn how to do this the right way by either learning how to read the info on the players or as a fail-safe by briefly pressing the USB eject before pulling out. if the volume drops it is a warning. If the volume drops do not take out that USB, it's playing aloud. Take out the USB where the volume does not drop when you briefly press the eject button. If you are struggling with this and any other mistake you really need to come to our studio and learn the right way with one-to-one guidance! Luckily, when you graduate our DJ course and gig with us, we will be there to help guide you!

When it's your turn to eject the USB!

2. Loading the track on the wrong deck

Quite often we witness DJs accidentally loading a track on the playing deck. If you don't have the Eject Lock armed this means that the track will load and replace the song playing. The music will stop in the process.

How to avoid and recover from this mistake

This is an easy mistake to avoid. Firstly be more vigilant and look at the mixer and the decks to figure out which deck is playing aloud for the audience. Don't load tracks on that deck but on the other available deck(s). Secondly, have the Eject Lock on so that if you attempt to load a track into a playing deck it won't let you. This setting is in the Utility Menu on the CDJ. You can also set this up in My Settings in Rekordbox. Thirdly, if this happens to you anyway you can recover by having a loaded hot cue ready to drop. This will allow you to get the music playing again from the middle of a track rather than the boring start of a track. Again, make sure you own the mistake with a smile and have a little laugh at yourself so that the audience are on your side, you're only human!

3. Stopping play with the cue button

Sometimes the simplest mistakes are the worst! Someone or something might be distracting you and you might accidentally press cue on the playing deck. This would stop the music dead! Mega embarrassing but there is an easy fix.

How to avoid and recover from this mistake

Even if you're not a regular hot-cue user make sure that you have at least one hot cue in every track. You can set these on Rekordbox before exporting your playlist to the USB. It's best to set the hot-cue on a drop, or something with an instant kick, something fun and energetic. This way, if you accidentally press cue and stop the music (which will also return you to the cue point you started from btw) then you can simply hit the hot-cue and return to the mix. The audience might even think it was done on purpose. Easy when you know how!

4. Not realising the FX or filter is on

Managed to get over the initial hurdles of taking over from the previous DJ? Well, there's a few more to jump. One of the most common mistakes made when taking over from another DJ is forgetting to reset any filters or FX they were using. This also just happens within your DJ set sometimes if you forget to reset something back to neutral. A classic mistake is forgetting the filter is on before doing a big bass swap, or perhaps just even forgetting to put the bass back in when you wanted to. This will often ruin the most dramatic moment in a mix.

How to avoid and recover from this mistake

Being vigilant is the best defence against these kinds of errors. When taking over from another DJ check the mixer and reset all the functions that might cause a problem. You should also keep your mixer tidy at the end of every mix. Reset the EQs, filters and FX after each mix. Keep an eye on your mixer to avoid these mistakes. If they happen you should style it out. For example, if you forget to put the bass back in on the phrase, wait another four or eight bars to correct it. It would suggest also putting some hands in the air, holding a poker face and then using some FX to style it out. This way you're just teasing the audience longer than planned. Don't make the mistake of making your facial expression give the game away that you made a mistake and don't try and correct it out of phrase.

5. Not realising the Crossfader is on

Another thing to look out for when switching between DJs and also in general is checking on your crossfader. If you don't use the crossfader you should disable it. Many DJs make the mistake of firstly no realising its on in the first place. When it's on you might struggle to hear your track if the crossfader is in the wrong position. This can cause confusion. Another mistake DJs can make is not realising it's on and also further to one side than the other. If you put the crossfader exactly in the middle you won't have a problem, it's as if it were turned off. However, if it's ever so slightly further to one side this will dramatically affect the volume of one channel. if you notice one channel is considerably louder than the other this may be the case. Check your crossfader!

How to avoid and recover from this mistake

Make sure the crossfader goes back to the middle and then turn it off. On a Pioneer mixer put the switches to THRU to turn off on all channels.

6. Not checking you have signal on both left and right

Another common problem that may occur in a DJ booth is that sometimes cables break, are faulty or simply not plugged in correctly. If one of the audio cables is incorrect then sound not come out at all or might only come out of one channel, left or right.

How to avoid and recover from this mistake

Make sure you check the levels on the Master Channel. This will show you if the signal is in fact coming out of the left and right channels equally. If one is missing then check the audio cables are firmly plugged in. If the problem persists it might be a faulty cable or mixer channel. You could try swapping to another channel in the mixer or swapping the cable. It's good for DJs to always take some RCA cables with them to their gigs.

7. Hitting the limiter and not realising

Many clubs and bars in residential neighbourhoods will have limiters. A limited is a device that limits the volume output of a sound system to a level often set by the licensing authority or the local council. Many untrained DJs won't know they even exist! They will turn the volume up and up and strangely the volume will go down! It's quite a conundrum if you're a newbie DJ.

How to avoid and recover from this mistake

If you notice that the volume does not increase when you are turning up the gain or the master then you have probably already gone over the limit of the system. In this case turning it up further won't help, in fact it will make matters worse. When you turn up the gain past the limit set by the limiter it won't increase the volume, it will just distort. Sometimes it is difficult to tell if there is a limiter but you might notice it when you play a breakdown. In the breakdown of a track there is less bass and thus less volume, the limited will then respond by letting the volume rise, however, when the drop happens the limited will react to the exceeded volume, cut in and drop the volume again. Thus, your breakdowns are oddly louder than your drops. It should be the opposite right!? If this is the case the only thing you can do is turn down the gain and the master volume until the limiter resets. In this case turning it down will actually give you more volume. You'll then just have to try and establish the limiters level by trial and error. Some venues will give you DB meter which will show you how loud it is and tell you how loud you are allowed to go, but not all.

8. Not realising quantise isn't on when doing a loop

Another classic mistake is when a DJ tries to do a loop, often when running out of time in a mix, but in the rush they forget quantise is not on. This means that their loop will likely be incorrect due to human error. If there are two tracks in the mix the loop will slip and the beatmatch will be lost.

How to avoid and recover from this mistake

Make sure that you have beat-gridded every track on Rekordbox and that you are using Quantise. As long as your beat-grids are correct your loops will be perfect.

9. Not being able to cue your track

Unable to cue your track correctly? Sometimes you'll turn up to a venue and the music is playing continuously and the cue button which is normally lit up orange has no LED light. This means your decks are set to auto-play or continuous play. In this case you might struggle to cue your tracks because they keep playing as soon as you load them.

How to avoid and recover from this mistake

To avoid this issue turn on the Auto Cue function. it's a button normally to the left of the screen. You have to hold this button for two seconds to toggle it on and off. It will appear on the screen when armed.

10. Trying to beatmatch with the phase meters

Many new DJs rely heavily on the screens to help them beat-match but the problem is the screens are often wrong! The lines or boxes on the screen that help you beat-match are called phase-meters. They rely on accurate beat-grid information so if you've not beat-gridded your tracks what you see on the screen will be wrong. DJs will often make the mistake of using them too beatmatch instead of their own ears, thus falling into a trap when the grids are wrong. Some DJs haven't even trained their ears enough to notice it's wrong!

How to avoid and recover from this mistake

Don't use them. Don't use the phase meters, use your ears and your headphones to check the beat-match. learn how to beat-match by ear on our DJ courses. You should also learn how to beat-match without even the BPM to truly master the craft. If you want a safety net make sure you beat-grid each and every track in your playlist in detail. Zoom in when beat-gridding on Rekordbox.

11. Not having headphones or a headphone jack

So many new DJs don't realise that you need to take your own headphones AND the larger 1/4 inch headphone jack to your DJ gigs. They might show up with no headphones and then have no way of properly beatmatching. What a disaster! Further more, you need to make sure they are professional DJ headphones so that you can truly hear the beat-match within challenging acoustic environments.

How to avoid and recover from this mistake

Always take your DJ headphones to the the gig with a 1/4 inch jack, and perhaps some spares! It's always good to have a well stocked DJ bag with headphones, spare headphones, spare cables, spare USBs. Don't forget also that clubs will need photo ID, even for the performers!

12. Not having two USBs

This is a big one! Many DJs will know that Pioneer CDJs have a link function so that you can play from one USB linked over multiple players. Won't you don't realise when you're starting out is that is often fails. Normally because the ethernet cable is faulty, the port that connects it is faulty or someone just accidentally knocks it during playback. All of these things can mean that the players don't link at all or disconnect while you are playing. This can prevent you from DJing all together or stop the music play back mid-set.

How to avoid and recover from this mistake

Take multiple USBs with you as a back-up a minimum of two but I would take even more! Protecting your reputation as a professional is worth the extra effort of having some Plan B's in place.

13. Not having the right music

All DJs should be able to read the crowd and select music that will rock the dancefloor. This means having a large number of playlists at your disposal during your set. Many DJs will also be expected to respond to requests from the audience. If you don't havr the right music on hand you might clear the dancefloor and it could ruin the night not just for yourself but all the other DJs after you too!

How to avoid and recover from this mistake

Do your research on the venue and the night you are playing for. See what the demographic is and what kind of music they will be expecting. Plan playlist accordingly but also have back up playlists in case your original plan hits the buffers. Read the crowd, look up and make sure they are dancing with full energy. If they look lacklustre then switch the music before you kill the buzz. Be ready to mix different styles and practice playing for the crowd. It's a lot more fun when you have them on your side! Make sure you also know how to use the Search functions on the players to quickly locate tracks within our library.

14. You ran out of time

This is dumb one but it does happen! Sometimes you just get distracted and you simply run out of time and the music stops. Really poor performance! Sometimes this happens if you're taking over from the previous DJ and you just didn't realise their track is coming to an end. Sometimes this happens when you're just distracted. The music will stop dead, dancing will stop and everyone will look at you!

How to avoid and recover from this mistake

Make sure you keep an eye on the playing deck to see how much time there is left. Make sure that the time mode is set to REMAIN. Pay attention to the jog wheel LEDs if they start flashing you have 30 seconds or less left. The best solution is to make a loop to buy you more time but make sure quantise is on ready. Then you need to mix your next track in pronto! If you did make the mistake though, remain calm, keep a poker face and drop a killer hot cue!

15. Can't mix into the previous DJs music

The DJ before you might play a music genre that you just simply don't know how to mix. They might even throw you a curveball on their final track, something you just can't easily mix out from. Try and mix something you're not used to can result in a car crash mix. Been there before? Read on for the solution.

How to avoid and recover from this mistake

Realise that sometimes you don't need to mix into the previous DJs track. You can simply transition in numerous ways, and easy one being the echo-fade-out. Just transition out of their track and then drop in your own killer intro track. Learn all the ways of transitioning a mix that don't require beatmatching. It's great for all DJs to be able to mix radio edits and also club edits so they can deal with any situation.

16. Screwing up a beatmatch

Nobody is perfect, even big DJs make errors and screwing up a beat-match happens to every DJ. If this happens try and lessen the damage because your audience don't want to hear it!

How to avoid and recover from this mistake

Firstly, all DJs should learn how to beat-match by ear without all the new fangled technology that helps you cheat. Ultimately all that technology could fail you and you'll be left with having to do it by ear sometimes anyway. Far better to learn the skill. It's also much quicker to beatmatch by ear than looking at a screen! Much better to look at your audience and have fun while your ears do the work, not your eyes! Learn how to beatmatch properly on our DJ course.

However, if it happens there are some ways you can style it out. The main thing is to realise that you shouldn't me a martyr to it. Don't stand there for five minutes trying to fix it while everyone is having to listen to it. Perhaps it would lessen the damage if you did something like brought the fader down, fixed it on the headphones and then correctly brought it in, or perhaps just back spin out the old track. You can also use sync to fix a beat-match instantaneously, as long as your beat-grids are correct and you've checked them all before exporting.

17. Not looking up

So many new DJs forget that DJIng in also a performance. The crowd feed off the energy that you give them, its reciprocal, the more you give them the more they give you and then if you play it right you generate a feedback loop that sends the energy into the stratosphere! However, if you forget this and constantly look down at the decks it won't be long until you clear the dancefloor.

How to avoid and recover from this mistake

This one should be fairly obvious, LOOK UP! Make eye contact, smile, be energetic, feel the passion and show your passion for the music! The crowd will love it if you direct them, throw your hands up, dance, move like maniac, they will thank you for it!

18. Getting Nervous and making mistakes

Don't sweat it. Like I said earlier DJing is not brain surgery, nobodies life is in danger if you make a mistake. It's a disco for drunk people at the end of the day so just enjoy it, remember it's just one big house party! Join in the fun and just play great music. Your nerves will melt away if you if you know trade and your equipment so learn how to DJ properly and check out our DJ courses in LondonManchester and Birmingham.

Want to know more about DJ mistakes? Click here for 'The Biggest DJ Mistakes to Avoid' from London Sound Academy



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