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Wednesday 10 February 2010

10 tips for (digital) DJs

Just a few tips for any budding digital DJ's. Please feel free to express your agreement, disagreement or indifference by commenting.
  1. Play music you love and trust your own taste.
  2. Mix in key. Transitions between songs then become something to look forward to and relish rather than something to get over and done with ASAP. Harmonic mixing at it's best should almost create new music between songs and extend a tracks 'shelf life' or replayability.
  3. Be your own harshest critic. Listen to your mixes over to analyse how you could improve. Appreciate what goes right and be realistic about what went wrong or didn't work.
  4. Practice new techniques that could help you improve your mixes as often as possible. Keep learning all the time and refine the efficiency of your workflows. Try not rely too heavily on the same old techniques once you have mastered them.
  5. It's better to be safe than sorry if you're live. Don't experiment too vigorously and be judicious about what to maintain and what to stop. Sometimes pride can try and interfere with your decisions.
  6. Take criticism from others and be grateful they can even be arsed.
  7. Try and listen to other DJ mixes apart from your own. Not just from your own genre/s nor just popular big name DJs.
  8. Embrace technology if it will help you achieve your audio 'vision' but don't over-complicate things. Imagine what the perfect mix would sound like to you between two tracks and work towards it's rendition incrementally.
  9. Don't bother beatmatching manually - while it might be rewarding to you it adds no value for the listener. Grid your tracks and work with a master/slave tempo so you can perform higher musical value input to the mix.
  10. Use as high a quality audio interface as you can afford. Cheap analog conversion circuitry can contaminate your output to a PA.


    1. Nice post Roc. As a vinyl DJ that has from time to time thought about making a move to vinyl, I'd say #9 is the trickiest for me. Beatmatching is obviously something I've been doing for years and gives me a connection to the music that I love so much.

      I think digital DJing can give me this too though, it's just going to take a learning period to find other techniques and stuff that require my focus on the music

    2. Absolutely spot on acid2. Beat matching is one of those things that traditional vinyl DJ's associate with the core of their art. And it was true prior to digital - a train wreck is a train wreck and ruins a set so that thinking was understandable.

      Now it can be taken care of by a machine, I see it as a low value self indulgence. That said, minor corrections in phase are still required from time to time when beat grids are not set accurately or the track tempo changes slightly during it’s course.

      If possible, I'd much rather the DJ be selecting/pre-listening the next track to make sure it is harmonic and sounds good. In my opinion, the modern digital equivalent to beat matching is harmonic mixing (correction), particularly now time stretching technology has allowed tempo to be separated from pitch.

    3. Been a fan of digital djing for a while, and made the leap at the back end of 09........Best decision ever, my mixes have become alot more creative and with a good midi controller the possibilities are endless.

    4. Steven, that's good to hear! Would be interested to listen if you have any you would like to share.

      Other comments I have had to this post mainly revolve around my apparently controversial #9 regarding beat matching. As someone that does not have a vinyl DJ'ing legacy it is probably easier for me to dismiss this task. The main point I want to get across is that I believe there are more important and valuable tasks the DJ can be performing instead of spending that precious but inevitably short preview time synchronising tempo. If the software can take care of it, it seems criminal to not let it and focus your time and effort on tasks that *require* human input (like selection and harmonic correction)

    5. That may be true, especially for a bedroom DJ recording mixes to post up on the internet, but in a club or bar especially, the audience prefers to see the dj 'perform' if you will by manually spinning and slowing down platters, scratching, and beat matching manually.

      As much as it was the staple before these new technologies, its still a much respected skill, if most of the artists (more so then any genre DnB) you play in your mixes started auto beatmatching they would loose immense amounts of respect from a decent part of their fanbase, and rightly so, after all anyone can push a button, program midi, download mixed in key and stand behind a mixer tweaking knobs.

      If you are any good beat matching takes 2-4 seconds and then some quick nudges on the fly while you are tweaking your parameters, playing with all your digital toys and setting up the mix, the performance looks 10 times better and it keeps a much respected and skilful art-form alive.

      In the professional arena, you have to be doing some VERY creative and interesting stuff to get away with not beat matching your tracks manually.