DJ mixes are like an employee’s resume for a job interview; they show experience, your style, sound, genre and give you an insight into who you are as a DJ. They have to be great to get the attention and keep the attention of people to rack up the plays, likes, gain fans and to get DJ gigs. In this blog, I will suggest ways that can help you create great DJ mixes. This is the way I do my mixes and has worked for me over the last 9 years of DJing, so I think this will benefit you.
1. Great music
80 percent of a great DJ mix comes down to the music. And I am sure most of you will agree with this one. However, what defines great music? Because everybody’s perception about music will be different no matter what type of genre or sub-genre you represent as a DJ. Great music for both parties, meaning, you the DJ and your target audience is having your opinions aligned with each other so both the DJ is happy and your audience/fans are happy with the music included in your DJ mix.
I have always structured my DJ mixes in a 50/50 like manner, 50 percent music I love, and 50 percent music I believe my target audience would love to hear, based on some current and past trends of what is hot in the music industry. Laidback Luke does the same, as he states in this article here.
Not that I am including 50 percent music I don't enjoy just for my audience. I love all music that goes into my DJ mixes, but if I am not 100 percent happy with 12 out of 12 tracks that go into a mix, I will not put it together until I am satisfied. The important thing to have in mind is to keep yourself and your audience satisfied you have to research what is out there, and take note as to how you can be different from your competition.
What makes a great DJ mix stand out and what makes you different as a DJ is your ability to be creative. This means your ability to experiment with different sub-genres and styles for you to create your own. How you can make a DJ mix differently than your competitors comes down to a few things.
You will always have a significant point of differentiation if you can produce your own music and include it in your DJ mixes. Nobody will ever sound like you do when it comes to music production.
Creating mash ups
A great way to put your spin on your favourite music is by merging two songs together to make it your own. Mash ups are a massive way to spark the attention of your audience and gain popularity instantaneously.
Be creative with mixing
So many songs are mixed from outro to intro and vice versa. Take the best elements out of your favourite tracks and try mixing after a breakdown into the drop or start of another track, not just the intro. I used to study a lot of Armin Van Buuren's A State Of Trance compilations and then applied some of his mixes techniques by using the same songs he used to mix in his album. Then, I would emulate how he mixed the two songs together to get the same result on my end. This is the best way to learn an accelerated profession mixing technique, how to reverse engineer a mix.
Then, when you combine your favourite tracks together, you will learn how you can mix in different ways that others are not doing. This always gives the element of surprise when you mix music.
Access music others don't have
Differentiation comes down to different music, and if you have music that others don't have, like finding those hidden gems, it will make all the difference. The biggest obstacle in the music industry we face at the moment is all music is very similar, and there is so much of it. If you can be different and not be like everyone else when it comes to being a stereotype genre, you can gain attention. How? Experiment with 2 to 3 sub-genres in your DJ mix, push the boundaries as much as possible, especially if you don't make your own music. If you're a DJ that does not produce, your mix will depend on this to make it unique.
3. Start your DJ mix strong
With the rise of social media comes the rise of more popup notifications, new apps and everything else to keep you distracted from doing productive work. Attention spans when it comes to music get shorter and shorter as time goes on. What I have noticed is unless your first track or two is not a belter, one of your best tracks played at the start of your mix, your audience will tune out and not want to proceed further. I have also been very aware that my most played DJ mixes were the ones that had some my best music at the beginning.
I found many of my followers and fans listening to my music over 10 times in some instances and a lot of them were repeated listeners. The take away from this is play two of your best tracks in a row at the very start of your DJ mix, as it will keep listeners engaged.
“Everything is energy”
4. Keep DJ mixes evolving
What makes a great DJ mix is understanding and applying the energy of your tracks at the right time. A mix should always progress and evolve to create anticipation, build up and then an element of surprise, or the wow factor. To create a professional mix, you need to understand how mixed in key works (harmonic mixing) makes all the difference when you combine brilliant tracks that all work in harmony with one another. Energy is everything, and you will be shocked at the difference it will make when you fully understand just how to use the camelot wheel and how to apply it for the first time. Some of you may have a developed ear and may not need to use Mixed In Key all the time, but it all comes down to how well you know your music and your level of experience.
A DJ mix should usually ramp up with energy. In most cases, if you start off strong, bring it down a notch in energy to build it back up toward the end. It should not go up and down in energy more than once in the entire mix.
5. Add the element of surprise
Have you ever listened to those DJ mixes and thought where is it all going? Where is the punch line or “it’s getting boring now”; I have thought this often.
What I have learnt is that it pays to keep the listener engaged by adding the element of surprise to the mix. So, around the middle of your mix, have a song that stands out that comes up unexpectedly from nowhere. As you build it up, throw in a track or two that will catch the listener off guard and give it that wow factor. Playing 3 to 4 songs in a row progressively can get a little mundane and listeners can lose interest. So, it pays to keep it in mind to add something extra special in the middle to spice things up.
6. Finish strong
There is nothing worse than putting all that effort into a DJ mix when nobody listens to the whole thing; in fact, it’s an insult. There has to be a reward for the listener and a reason for them to listen to the entire mix. The grand idea is to really leave the best until last (in my opinion), or else what is the point of it all? It's like playing a live DJ set… nobody wants the audience to leave before the end of a DJs set, so why should a mix be any different? And that is another good reference to go by, pretend that the mix is a live performance as it forces you to approach what you put together in a different way. This means the resulting mix can be more suited for a particular nightclub you may wish to approach if you want a DJ gig.
It is a good way to think because it prepares you for the real deal and shows why you would be best suited for that nightclub. It can also be a great practice to study what other DJs are doing in your field and how you can top them. Usually, DJ gigs are the main aim for most DJs, unless you have no intention of playing live. So, take note you should finish on a high. Your audience always has fresh in their mind the last track you play, so make it the best one.
I would love to know your thoughts on this subject. How do you structure your DJ mixes?
And what has worked for you in the past?
Feel free to leave your comment below