How to become a better DJ

I am sure we have all asked the question, “How can I become a better DJ at some point in time?” The fact is, there can be perhaps over twenty areas in which to become a better DJ. In this blog I want to identify six key areas which I feel are most beneficial to make you stand out and master the art of DJing faster.

ilan Bluestone at Majik Studio 3 Crown

ilan Bluestone at Majik Studio 3 Crown

Be critical with music selection:

Music selection should always be your number-one focus. It’s what separates you from everyone else. Therefore, you need to find music that no one else has heard yet or knows about. Develop your music collection and tastes with a lethal selection of gems to choose from. Do this by being willing to do what others won’t do, which means spend the extra time digging up the hidden bombs that other DJs may find difficult to come across.

Explore all platforms like SoundCloud, Beatport, Trackitdown, Juno download, iTunes, and even Shazam tracks where possible. It can be a testing process at times and will require some patience but will be worth it when you find what you are looking for.

“You must be prepared to search through all the shit.” - Pete Heller, Muzik

Practise every day:

Master the art of DJing and become an expert by practising every day. If you think you lack the necessary skills and talent, make it a habit to practise for at least half an hour each day. It is far better to do this than by playing once or twice a week for a couple of hours at any given time. They say success and mastery is habitual, so by developing the habit of doing a little bit often, you will be more efficient with time and not have to think you need so many hours in a day to become a great DJ.       We all have the same amount of time; it is being effective with it that counts.

Have a mentor:

The fastest way to become a master at anything is to learn from someone who has already achieved the results in the field you wish to be successful in. This means going out and finding someone who can help you solve a particular problem, taking lessons in the areas you wish to improve on, watching tutorials, reading books, and paying for a one-on-one coach. Invest your money in as much education you can to get where you want to go. This can take years off you're learning time and actually save you money in the long-term by avoiding bad practices.

“Every master was once a disaster.” - T. Harv Eker

Watch other DJs do their thing:

Markus Schulz

Markus Schulz

Some of my best learning experiences came from watching other DJs play in nightclubs. I watched how they would play and interact with the crowd, how they selected their music, and if it would work or not work in the club. Reading a crowd is vital to DJ success, and we have to be great at it to keep a crowd happy and keep our gigs. So it can be really beneficial to go out more and watch what other DJs do.  

Playing different genres to expand your skill set:

Stretch your comfort zone and push the boundaries and grow as a DJ by trying to incorporate different genres and styles of music. As important as it is to be known for a particular style and sound, it can be just as important to be able to be flexible. There can be times onstage where you may be need to mix a track or two to adjust for the next DJ set. Always expect the unexpected onstage, try to have a bit of versatility and a plan B for each DJ set you play. This will help you handle difficult situations better.

“Don’t be a prisoner of your own style.” - Armin Van Buuren

Phrase mixing and mixing in key:

Learning how to mix properly by understanding the fundamentals of phrases and counting bars is essential to smooth, consistent mixing. It is always great to learn how songs are structured differently as phrases/transitions in tracks can be different from each other. Knowing this can help you drop in tracks better by doing unexpected transitions that can spice up a mix.

Become a master of your DJ sets by fully utilising and understanding how mixed in key works. Learn how to control the energy levels in your set with different-keyed tracks and understand how and when is the right time to boost or decrease energy levels. This comes down to understanding how the Camelot wheel works and when to apply a particular track, not only keep a track in key harmonically but to also change the momentum of your set. This is an important must-know when it comes to playing in front of a live audience.

Would love know your thoughts as to what has helped you become a better DJ in the past.