10 Actually Helpful Tips For The New Beginner DJs!

This list features our valuable tips for every DJ starting out their journey, based on our thorough research of online DJ community forums, question & answer sites, DJing subreddits and social media posts. Topics covered here are mentioned repeatedly throughout various social media channels and are often brought up when beginners are announcing their early errors. Read this article and save your time by expanding your knowledge!

Here comes the list of 10 most commonly mentioned beginner DJ tips. Read on!

  1. Build a solid track library
  2. Don’t let the low frequencies clash during transitions
  3. Learn to beatmatch by ear
  4. Don’t overuse audio FX
  5. Properly manage your music library
  6. Never let the vocals clash during a transition
  7. Listen to and watch a lot of DJ performances and mixes
  8. Practice performing for a real audience
  9. Record your mixes
  10. Learn to mix in key / harmonic mixing

1. Build a solid track library

Track selection is everything, and you can’t really select good tracks during your performance if you don’t have a solid library to choose from.

There are many fun and reliable ways of expanding your music library including visiting music discovery websites, browsing user playlists on streaming services, curated playlists of your local radio stations or just listening to recent mixes of your favorite DJs.

It doesn’t matter which way you’ll choose, what matters is you need to build a vast track library that includes different genres and musical styles so that you will be able to respond to the needs of every audience you’ll be presented with.

The more tracks you will gather and the more genres and styles you will have at hand the better you will be able to prepare both for your upcoming gigs and experimental bedroom mixes.

Remember that your track library should contain both popular songs taken from top-10/top-50 popularity rankings and less known “filler” tracks from many genres and tempo ranges.

Aside form the sheer number of music in your library you need to keep in mind that you shouldn’t just blindly add tracks to your playlists. To be able to make use of your song library in the wild you need to know each one of the songs that the library contains and you should divide your song library into playlists (by genre, tempo, feel or time period).

You should definitely research the topics of record pools, DJ software streaming services integration and online record stores. As always remember that all the music you are using for commercial purposes (and so gigs and live performances) should be acquired in a legal way. That means that you should not resort to shady mp3 download sites.

2. Don’t let the low frequencies clash during transitions

While learning how to mix two or more songs together you will learn (or you hopefully already did learn) to use the equalizer built in your DJ controller or mixer. While doing any kind of audio transition at high volume levels it is extremely important not to let the low frequencies clash together creating a rumbling mess in the speakers.

While doing a lengthy transition mind that two song elements that are bass/sub-bass driven (kick drums, bass synths) should not be playing together.

You can prevent low frequencies from clashing during a transition by turning down the lows with the EQ knob on the new track mixer channel and then during the transition gradually cut down the lows on the old track and simultaneously bring the lows back on the new one.

The low clashing effect is even worse in a club environment where the usually small room and loud PA system combining together make the clashing lows a really unpleasant experience for anyone present at the venue.

Photo by: Yan Krukov

3. Learn to beatmatch by ear

While in some situations it might be beneficial to use the sync function over traditional beatmatching (see our article about the sync function dillema) you should definitely learn how to beatmatch your tracks by ear early on.

The main reasons for this are:

  • The sync function is not always perfect and it works only with pre-analyzed tracks with properly placed beat-grids
  • When you’ll be playing tracks that vary in tempo you often will have to set up custom beat-grids by hand – otherwise the sync function again will not work
  • There will be times you will be using equipment that doesn’t let you automatically sync two or more tracks together (in many live situations you might not be using your own gear)
  • Some older CDJ setups (and even new CDJ-2000NXS without using the HID mode and without linking the players) and also all of the traditional vinyl setups do not let you sync the tracks automatically.
  • In some cases using sync will prevent you from engaging in more sophisticated mixing techniques

You should learn how to beatmatch by ear as soon as possible, this will make you much more confident while performing live and after some practice will let you mix your tracks much more efficiently that when only resorting to the sync functionality.

Check out our extensive article about the SYNC function here! – The Sync Function – Bad For Your DJ Skills? (will open in a new tab)

4. Don’t overuse audio FX

Many times when you hear your favorite song while in a club, on a wedding or at a party seconds after it’s started it’s butchered by the DJ by adding one loop roll after another and on top of that using a flanger, phaser or a beatcrusher every 15 seconds.

It’s a common mistake that many beginners do make. When presented with the magnificent FX sections of new mixers and DJ controllers it’s sometimes really hard not to abuse that convenient tool present on every modern device.

Always keep in mind that in many situations where people just want to listen to their favorite music and have a good time. In those situations when you mess with the playback too much it can be really unnerving for the audience. It’s especially important not to mess around with popular songs and well known radio hits while you’re not doing a strictly technical performance.

  • The situations in which you need to be careful about overusing sound FX while mixing: house parties, weddings, proms, clubs that prefer mostly non-electronic tracks.
  • Where you can let your creativity loose: (of course still while using common sense) DJing competitions, technical mixes, short mix demos, mashups

There are many kinds of DJ mixes when you can go crazy both with the FX section, time based effects and samples. For example performance mixes at IDA DJ World Championship – those mixes are meant to be fast paced technical performances and their sole purpose is for the DJ to show off their mixing technique.

5. Properly manage your music library

One of the non obvious challenges that many beginner DJs face is managing and sorting your growing track library.

Of course most probably your DJ software lets you sort your tracks by song name, BPM, key and so on but using only the native software sorting won’t be sufficient when your library contains for example a few thousand tracks.

There are many criteria according to which you can sort your library into containers/playlists or crates. Here are some of them with playlist name examples.

Here are a few tips on how to sort your tracks and manage your mixing playlists:

  • Song genre (most obvious one and easily a most useful classification, ex. Trap, Drum&Bass, Hard Dance, Rock, Techno…)
  • Song vibe/feel/mood (ex. Sad/Slow, Groovy, Happy/Cheerful, Uplifting…)
  • Songs purpose (ex. Party Starters, Slow Dance, Break Time, Filler Tracks…)
  • Gig-specific playlists (made with a certain upcoming gig in mind, ex. Coachella 2016, 80’s Night, Jack’s House Party – Monday and so on…)
  • Venue specific playlists (same as above assuming you perform at different music venues already)
  • All custom labels that make sense to you (although it’s a bit weird to mention that simple thing, custom labels that categorize tracks in a way you alone can benefit from are often a good way to organize your vast music library, ex. “Bangers”, “Friday Night”, “Nice n’ Simple” and so on…)

Those are just some of container labeling ideas that we are using, you might utilize them or come up with your own playlist naming conventions that will make your live song selection process much quicker and more efficient.

Quite obviously the playlists or containers you make do not have to feature tracks exclusively: for example it’s alright to have a single track both in Fast Dance Tunes playlist and in the Indie Rock one.

If you’re interested in more tips about efficient music library management check out our extensive article on playlist making tips and tricks!

How To Organize Your Tracks/Songs – DJ Playlists Guide

Music library management and organization are one of the most important digital DJ skills.

6. Never let the vocals clash during a transition

This is a pretty simple and straightforward one. Never let two vocal tracks play together.

This simple rule applies not only to the parts of the tracks you’re playing but also to using the microphone while a vocal driven tracks is playing.

While many DJ mistakes are unnoticeable or hardly noticeable by the general audience the vocal clashing is the one that definitely is perceived by everyone as a lack of professionalism of the DJ. The good thing is that it is also really easy to avoid. Mind your track phrasing, know your song library and you will be fine!

7. Listen to and watch a lot of DJ performances and mixes

You might or you probably already do learn a lot from various video tutorials from YouTube that showcase all the different DJ techniques and mixing and beatmatching basics. That’s a vast sea of resources that will be really helpful during your DJing journey.

The second best thing to this is to watch other DJs do their jobs, fail and succeed, perform live and at home doing all kinds of creative mixes. There is probably nothing just as inspiring and creativity-provoking as watching and analyzing DJ mixes consisting of the music that you enjoy listening to. Go ahead and explore!

8. Practice performing for a real audience

After you learn the basics and you feel comfortable enough in front of your controller you should start thinking about the main purpose of a DJ and frankly the most fun thing that you can do as a DJ and that is – performing live.

You don’t have to think big at first. Try and perform for your closest friends, then maybe at a small house party. Consider live streaming your mixes or even recording them and sharing on your social media. Those are all important steps that get you closer to playing for a larger group of people at your first official professional live gig!

Do not worry too much about your mistakes at first. While you personally while seeing your gear in front of yourself stress about all the little details the people usually just want good music and don’t really care about most of your mistakes.

Believe in your solid song-selection skills and do not be discouraged by technical mishaps. Practice makes perfect and playing live is always, I repeat ALWAYS much harder than mixing just for yourself.

Being a bedroom hobbyist DJ isn’t necessarily bad for you, but by mixing only for yourself you miss out on all the fun you could derive from playing for a real audience and on all the joy you could give to that audience with your performance!

Photo by: Mwabonje

9. Record your mixes (seriously)

It might seem like a drag to record your every single performance however you really should record at least some of your bedroom mixes and certainly all of your live performances.

Your recorded mixes should be later used for performance evaluation – it’s best to listen to them in spare time – for example in the car or during workout. While listening to your mixes and perceiving them passively you are able to spot many mistakes that you haven’t originally noticed.

Beyond mistake spotting, listening to your own mixes aids you in acquiring new mix ideas and enables you to think about the things that you could have done differently. Above that it’s also a pretty fun and unique way to listen to your favorite music.

Remember that those recordings don’t have to be perfect in any way. They are meant to serve you as a tool to better understand your errors and put yourself in the shoes of the listener – hear your live mix from the perspective of your audience.

This tip might not seem as much at first but try it once and you will be pleasantly surprised.

10. Learn to mix in key / harmonic mixing

When you start to feel confident in your mixing technique and you feel at ease with basic transitions you might want to get into harmonic mixing.

Although it might sound complicated all that harmonic mixing is is choosing your next track based not only on BPM, track vibe and the audience but also with keeping the track’s musical key in mind.

Most of modern DJ software will show you the key of the analyzed track either in the Camelot system or classic major-minor system. You can then use harmonic mixing rules to aid you with the track selection process. Tracks mixed in key will in general mix together really good. It’s well worth it to learn harmonic mixing basics!

There are lots of great guides on harmonic mixing out there. One of the best we’ve found we have linked below, be sure to check them out if you want to advance and learn something new!

Main photo by: Ayana Wyse

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