Disk jockeys (DJs) look cool playing music at an open event, club, or school dance. They are in charge of the music and the mood. And you’re not the only one who wants to lay a hand on those sophisticated-looking pieces of equipment that they use.
Being a DJ is a gig you can do on weekends like playing at your best friend’s wedding or a full-time career joining the ranks of the world’s top 100 DJs.
DJing is a learning curve; it’s an interplay of art and science in mixing tracks for your audience’s pleasure. This guide will introduce you to what it takes to enter the realm of disc jockeying, the essential skills and tools, including why DJs wear their headphones that way.
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Develop the Basic Skill Set.
Generally speaking, disk jockeys play mixes of music that has been prerecorded by others. This role thus entails skills that are technical and require constant practice.
There is a myriad of DJ language out there, and before you get lost, start with the fundamentals:
- Mixing: transitioning of tracks.
- Beat matching: matching the tempo of two tracks. This tempo or speed is measured by BPM, or beats per minute.
- Phrasing: aligning two tracks based on their musical structure, particularly, beats and bar per phrase, such that the start or end is seamless. This technique is alternatively called stage matching and is not to be confused with phasing.
- Equalizing: controlling the frequencies (i.e., bass, mid, and treble).
It’s easy to visualize and practice these concepts better with DJ equipment and platform.
Determine Your Kind of DJ
The skills above are essential for DJs in general. As you become more skilled and find your groove, you can focus on which area you want to specialize in:
- Club DJ keeps the energy up for people to dance, move, and party.
- Mobile DJ performs at weddings, proms, corporate events, and other venues.
- Turntablist, also known as a performer, wows people with his or her skills and tricks in DJing, like scratching.
- Radio DJ works at the broadcast booth or, in modern times, podcasts.
You may have heard of bedroom DJs, who do it for fun, or disc jockeys who produce their songs. However, DJs and producers are not interchangeable, with the subject a topic of heated debates.
Is it for the money, love of music, prestige, or all of the above? Think of these things when you are ready to take a specific path of DJhood.
Choose Your Platform
DJs keep up with the digital times with software that lets them do the job with laptops and flash drives, instead of CDs and records.
Here are the main attributes that your DJ software should possess:
- Provides a virtual setup that traditionally includes two decks (turntables) and a mixer.
- Gives information on tracks (e.g., beats, bar, tempo for mixing and editing).
- Manages the library of music files.
- Supports latest technologies for DJ controllers and other devices.
- Fits your budget as you will need to buy additional gear or expand your system. If cost is a significant factor, you can look into platforms that are free for personal use or come with a trial version.
Notwithstanding its usability and portability, the DJ software does not eliminate the need for hardware like controllers that provide the real feels of DJing.
Set Up Your DJ’s Booth.
Behind the image of a modern-day disk jockey is a plethora of DJ equipment that rounds up the experience. As a beginner, do you buy all the gear at once? Not necessarily as you can build and expand as your needs dictate.
Aside from the laptop, you will need these:
- DJ controllers are hooked up to laptops with the software. You have plenty of choices for your controller based on your budget and the layout. What you will be mainly looking at are features and functionalities that allow you to learn and practice DJing skills. These critical aspects include a built-in sound card for the audio interface, plug-and-play support, and necessary buttons. Controllers come with their software, which is different from the DJ software/platform.
- DJ mixers are part of the basic setup. Whether you go for a “starter” gear or one that looks more complicated, this equipment should meet the requirements: (1) two channels for turntables, (2) quality faders, (3) high-resolution sound card, (4) controls like equalizer and volume, and (5) inputs for headphone, speakers, and other audio sources.
- Speakers are ideal for live performances, and your choice largely depends on the venues where you are or will be playing.
- Headphones let you look the part of a DJ. Aesthetics aside, they enable you to hear the music and help in the shifts and transitions.
You have more to learn as you go. Here’s to a successful musical journey!