Becoming a DJ can show you the gateway to synthesize with your audience. A DJ can connect with their audience by mixing their creativity with the flow of music. A common misconception is that DJing is all about mixing tracks & beats, but it is far more diverse than that. A DJ has to react with music according to the mood of the audience.
In this era, it is not that much difficult to start learning how to be a DJ, especially when there is such a huge resource called the internet. However, it is difficult to make your own name in this now saturated profession. You must have exceptional skills to differentiate yourself from the crowd. Just knowing how to mix one song after the previous one ends is not enough to be a successful DJ. Also, if you do not have the passion for it, you cannot become one no matter the situation. But, like any other job, if you love it, it can become the best part of your life.
Now we will look at the different types of DJs & the equipment they use.
Analyze What A DJ Actually Does
In layman’s term, a DJ is a person who plays & mixes music for a general audience. However, if you aim to take up DJing as a profession, you need to know acquire more in depth about it. First of all, you need to know the types of DJs there are & choose which type you want to be. You can choose become more than one type of DJ if you want.
The Club or Bar DJ
This type of DJs has permanent jobs at local night clubs or bars. Generally, they keep the audience engaged through their music as long as possible. They do this by playing upbeat songs & using long transitions between them to keep the audience dancing to the beat. Club DJs know how to read the audience’s mood & plays songs accordingly to keep the energy up throughout the night.
The Guest DJ
Guest DJs can also be called celebrity DJs, since they are popular for their mixing skills. They have a large fan following who are eager to attend the DJ’s performances. Organizers usually invite guest DJs to their live concerts, where they add flare to the occasion through their performance & other tricks like cutting & stretching. A guest DJ is the pinnacle of what an amateur DJ hopes to achieve.
The Freelancing or Wedding DJ
The amateurs who start out as DJs fall into this category. You will need to learn to take requests from the audience & talk to the audience to keep the flow going. You will also need to buy your own audio & mixing equipments since organizers expect hired amateur DJs to bring their own equipments to the job. So, starting as a DJ requires a large onetime expense.
The Radio DJ
The concept of DJ originated from radio stations. A radio DJ’s job field is quite diverse, ranging from announcing traffic updates during breaks to selecting songs that are played back. Nowadays, people do not consider radio DJs to be traditional DJs but are instead called RJs. So, this category of DJs has become deprecated.
Why You May Be Interested to Become A DJ
Nowadays, any person with adequate money & passion can become a DJ, since the vast resources on the internet have made it very accessible. It may be easy to start, but reaching the top the stardom is another task. To make people notice you among the crowd, you will really have to push yourself to the limit.
The first step is to question yourself if you really want to become a DJ. Will you take DJing as a hobby or a profession is also a huge factor. No matter what your reasons are, they must be legitimate to achieve any success as a DJ.
If the main reason for you wanting to become a DJ is to achieve fame & money, you better search for another plan. Any other route will help you to achieve that goal far better. Becoming a DJ is not some fast & failsafe way to reach stardom. There are a lot of newcomers in this field every year & a very small number of them can be truly successful. You need to have the mentality to push through any troubles or obstacles you might face & be ready to invest a lot of time into this. And even if you work hard & keep pushing, no one can ensure that you will succeed in reaching stardom, just like in any form of art.
Thus, it would be best to assess all possibilities & outcomes before finally deciding on being a DJ, because once you start, it is hard to turn back.
How to Get Started
If you are really serious about starting DJing, then welcome aboard. First you will need to learn the basics & practice a thing or two to determine if you are capable of doing it.
First, let us talk about the software. There are both free & paid options available to cater to both kinds of users.
Mixxx is free & open source DJing software that can give you a taste of what DJing is all about. The software comes with a lot of professional features not usually found in free DJing software. The application is cross platform & natively supports Mac & Linux besides Windows. The software also supports Timecode vinyl control & is the only free DJing software that provides this feature. The community behind its development is continuously improving its support for DJ controllers & popular library formats.
Virtual DJ Home
This is the non commercial version of a commercial product named Virtual DJ. This product comes with a license that only allows home use, so it does not have much use for professional DJs. However, you can use it as learning software to learn the basics of mixing. If you are comfortable with this software, you can then purchase a license to use it commercially. It comes with all the features a DJ may need, including looping, sampling, syncing etc.
Traktor Pro 2
You have to pay to get this one but it comes with a fully functional demo so you don’t need to buy one blindly. This is one of the best software for effects, syncing and quantization in my opinion. I think making an investment to buy this one will prove to be very useful for you in the long run. This company also provides their own hardware that goes really well with Traktor. When you upgrade the software, you will get Timecode support. Some third party controllers also use the lite edition of Traktor Pro 2. So if you plan on buying some hardware in the future, it is a good plan to start with Traktor Scratch Pro first.
Other than the ones mentioned above, there are many other options available in the market such as Serato DJ, Numark Cuo, PCDJ etc. But the Serato and Traktor have sort of become the industry standard, as in all the best DJs are using them. You can choose one the feel most comfortable with as a beginner and start playing with it. Nowadays it has become a lot easier since there are many free resources available online. You can look up the videos on YouTube to learn the basics of the popular software.
Keep in mind though that if you want to look like a proper DJ while doing your thing, you are going to want to do scratches while playing. That means you will need to buy a turntable. That will require you to even bigger investment.
Start with the Basics
Do not plan on becoming a pro the first day. You will need to start with the basics such as beatmatching, mixing, phrasing etc. Once you learn the basics, you will be able to pick up the small but crucial things which will help you in becoming extraordinary.
This is the art when the DJ mixes two tracks together so that they mix in seamlessly. Almost all music you hear is in the 4/4 time no matter what the genre is. The 4/4 times translates to having four beats in a bar and having a beat at every quarter note.
But only a minor number of songs also have the 6/8 time. This translates to six beats in a bar. The one beat comes at the eighth note. Since you are only starting, practice while counting to four since this is what you will be playing most of the time.
This is the skill where you plat two tracks at the same time but in the same tempo. With the emergence of technology, this skill has almost become obsolete. All the best DJ software packages you get in the market these days have built in sync functionality. It means there is no need to learn this skill manually anymore.
But that doesn’t mean that you should slack and still not learn this. This skill will make you become more capable to beat mix a lot of songs. You will learn how to adjust the phase of your song properly while using the DJ software. It will make you a better DJ even if you decide to go not digital. And most of all, this skill will help you a lot to tune in and develop your listening skill. This will help you in understanding exactly when your tracks drift out of time and phase, for instance.
You can also call this Equalizing. This is the art of boosting or dropping down some frequencies so that two tracks can blend in together. In a basic DJ mixer there will be three EQs, low, mid and high. It can also be as bass, midrange and treble. Some mixers come with four different bands as well. You can use the EQing skill to show your creativity. It can also be used as a tool for enhancement. But also keep in mind that a bad set will not improve with equalizing no matter what. Professional DJs use this skill to combine two or more signals. They also use it to polish a well made mixture to rock the audience.
A basic DJ mixer and software will come with some type of gain or volume control. Since you are still a beginner, you can control this skill on your software. For example, Traktor Pro has an auto gain feature that lets you do it without any pain. In the matching meters it will be shown as green, red and yellow. Green means good, red means not good and yellow means really bad. But keep in mind that many manufacturers tweak with their mixers to keep the customer happy with themselves. Generally the first timers put everything in red so the brand compensates for that by adjusting their mixer.
A DJ software comes with a own production so it might seem pretty confusing at first. The best way to stop feeling so overwhelmed by it is to read the manual first. If you are in doubt, you can stay in the green line. For more volume, you can use the PA or Amp end.
Once you know all the basics and get comfortable with them, you can start recording. But don’t just record for the sake of it. Give it a good listen and try to figure out how it is lacking and also try to come up with a solution for it. Every time you play inside your comfort zone, try to imagine that you are playing for an audience instead.
It might seem like a lot of work at first but it will only get better with time. Give yourself some slack if you are feeling frustrated. Nobody becomes a pro at their first try. Keep on trying and once you learn the basics, you will be developing your skills.