DJ tricks of the trade

So after one year of being self taught DJ I bought a reduced DJing online course, TBH I’ve learned nothing new of the how to, however I have massively learned and gained knowledge, that is the knowledge of the basic principles and worth every dollar I paid, so that got me thinking, does anyone on this web page do a tricks of the trade? I have searched and there is a few videos, one that is now private and a couple more which are really good, it would be nice if we had a thread where people could upload a video of something they have learned, helping others. Now I say this as a complete novice and someone who is willing to learn. This page has some of the best knowledge in the industry and a community that seems grounded. So is there a need and want?

1 Like

All i can offer you is the things i was told as a wet behind the ears 18yr old back in 1999.

Firstly ill say, dont get bogged down in gear and tech and assuming that having the latest and greatest is going to make you a better DJ, sure the more expensive stuff might have some quality of life features over say a £200 controller, but in reality you can rock a party just as well with either if you have all the other things in place.

My mate worked with a lad who did a bit of house and hip hop mixing and he said to us that its all about the ‘4 to the floor’… That got me straight into beat counting which i then expanded into phrase mixing (32 beat phrases) after meeting another lad who mixed techno and taught me the art of smooth blending by using 32 beat phrases to increase the chances of a smooth mix. Use loops to avoid clashes in melodies etc, or to mix out of a track early if you feel it needs to, but also don’t be scared of letting a 9 minute track breathe, people still enjoy it regardless of what modern short attention span cultures are implying.

After that i was pretty much away and most of my other learning came from watching DJs like Erick Morillo, Masters at Work, Jon Carter, Derrick Carter and Roger Sanchez, or listening to their mixes and working out how they were laying Acapellas etc over the music.

One tip i personally give to people is around adjusting the music mid mix, always listen to your mix and then adjust the track that is going to have the least impact. This isn’t quite as relevant now we have master tempo but in the old days of vinyl etc if you adjusted the track with a melody or vocal it would warp the sound, so the key is to always adjust the track with the least going on.

Im leaving the most important part to last, and that is music. Make sure you have an identity in your music, a style, but dont go to far and get pigeon holed into being boring. Steer away from just buying the latest popular tracks at the top of the charts and have a good root through playlists on the various download sites, i often pick a genre on say Traxsource then listen to the whole top 100 of that genre, and then the ‘last 30 days’ releases. I use keyboard shortcuts on my computer to quickly tab through the tracks and skip along the preview, this allows me to get through hundreds of tracks in little time, adding any i like to a wish list so i can then double check them before confirming to buy. Ill then use the artist or remixer of a track i like to delve further into their tracks or similar ones to seek out even more.

Also don’t be frightened to mix up your style, i have no qualms about throwing a breakbeat track into a house set, or even slowing it down and dropping some hip hop or speed up to some DnB etc, if it works it works.

Not sure if this helps anyone or not but its how i got through my journey, i can’t offer any tips on getting DJ gigs because the reality is ive been pretty much blagging it for 23yrs, ive never sent a single mix tape out, never approached anyone for a gig, ive literally just been wangling gigs from knowing other DJs, which i suppose could translate to immersing yourself in the scene.

Edit: sorry forgot to add TLDR.

9 Likes

Having been DJing since the late 70s, I would say that a DJ is simply someone who plays prerecorded music for the entertainment of others.

It doesn’t matter whether you play vinyl, CDs or digital files. You don’t have to mix everything. You don’t have to use effects over the music. You don’t have to scratch. You don’t have to only play one genre.

There’s no need for RGB waveforms (or any waveforms at all). There’s no need for three band EQ or VU meters on every channel. There’s no need to have the BPM and key of every track displayed. There’s no need to set hot cues in all your tracks. There’s no need to count beats or bars.

DJs who’ve only started in recent years may have only ever seen waveforms, BPMs, keys, loops, cues etc so they see those things as DJing essentials.

However, it’s the music that matters - not whether your equipment has X Y or Z feature.

If you truly love music and enjoy playing it, then no tricks are required.

9 Likes

“DJs going crazy about this one simple trick”

If there is any trick, it’s to curb your ego and remember you do this because you really love music and dig it when other people want to party and dance to it.

Don’t do it for clicks, likes, dates, or to annoy shopping mall security guards with mediocre “DJ antics”. Disappointment will follow.

4 Likes

When you said it’s about music I knew you meant what you were saying.

1 Like

Respect and the reason why everyone on here is a music junkie. Love it

Your post reminds me of a meme I was sent last year lol where there was a funeral with twenty DJ’s in attendance, the priest asked if anyone had something to say? One of the dj’s said I do! “ I’ve got a new set releasing this Friday if anyone is interested “ lol

1 Like

This is an average Saturday night round ours :slight_smile:

Anyway not hijacking the thread, just showing how important that music message is.

4 Likes

Not sure if it’s a trick as such, but my best tip would be to find out what kind of DJ you want to be, and then stay authentic to that.

I generally try to DJ in the way I would enjoy the most if I was on the other side of the booth. For instance I find it super annoying when DJs use a ton of fx, speak on the mic, and only play super short parts of each song - so I refrain from doing that myself. I personally prefer when DJs let the music speak, and put effort into the craft of track selection and smooth transitions - so that’s what I try to achieve myself when DJ’ing.

Don’t be pressured by the way other DJs are doing things - be authentic to the way you like to do things.

If we all did things the exact same way, it would be pretty darn boring :blush:

So to boil things down, the tip would probably be something like “be the DJ you would want to experience yourself” :blush:

5 Likes

Find the down beat, then drops/chorus and breakdowns. Use your 32 beat jump to line em up and knock em down! Use the key info and loop to make smooth transitions. Play what you like.

1 Like

N.B. not every track is arranged in 8 bar (32 beat) sections.

1 Like

Right, so when you realize your off adjust your beat jump size and jump back or forward accordingly. I jump back from whatever spot I want to cut out the old track and cut in the new. Most all of dance music is going to be in 32/16 beat sections but not all.

1 Like

I play alot of original disco/funk etc, a lot of these tracks are 8+ mins long which I dont always want, so in the desktop software I pre-make Active Loops halfway through most of the long tracks, if I find a track isn’t working as well as usual, when it gets to that Active Loop and sticks, I’ll use it as a place to mix out. Otherwise, push the loop off just as it gets to it, and off it continues with the rest of the track for more funkiness :man_dancing:

A massive amount of older disco tracks break down to a funky drum/bass solo near the middle too, its ideal for making mix-out Active Loops.

I have loops set near the beginning of most older disco tracks too, as the tempo can vary alot as its drums are usually played live, so i’m mixing in from a looped section that won’t be changing tempo much.

It also means I can mix a track in later as I know I’m bringing it in just before a bassline or other element starts when I release the loop, so I can be much more free/dynamic with my sets being able to change track choice at the last minute!

4 Likes

Setting cue points and using beat jump are really useful and something I’ve come to love compared to the vinyl days.

Using beat jump to prep marker points in tracks can be handy, especially if you’re mixing through sections without any beats or that have an odd drop point.

Also, don’t let small mistakes bother you if you are playing to a crowd. Most of the time no one will notice the little things unless they dj themselves.

3 Likes

Not much of a trick maybe, but … Take it easy! :smile:

Nothing is wrong with a set that starts easygoing. Let the kick drum kick for some time and feel the vibe … no need to rush … suspense is magic! :sparkles::sparkles::sparkles:

2 Likes

PK, We’re from the same era as I had my first regular paying gig at a disco on Long Island in 1977. I still play classic and new house music but have evolved into the electric genres (Progressive House, Melodic Techno, Indie Dance, etc.) However, I only somewhat agree with you. Yes, you do not have to do all those things but then again, you’ll just sound like everyone else. To stand out from the crowd, and get the great gigs and what kept me in the game back in the day (and to this day) was to find those rare remixes or remix ourselves. We had to make our remixes with a really good dual deck cassette recorder or a reel to reel and a razor blade LOL. Waveforms are essential just as looking at a 12" single to see where the break was, VU meters have always been important (see blown speakers). BPM’s were way more important then as too much pitch made the record sound off. Your comment of no tricks required… well, they’re not really tricks, but an art and a skill to create a unique experience for the crowd or dancefloor where they hear something familiar AND unique at the same time. Without these new technologies and tools at my fingertips, I may as well be a boring human Spotify playlist.

PS: My favorite comment is, “Where did you get this remix?” when I can reply, “I just created it live, on the fly”

As far as the OP question: Only advice I can give is, know your music (that’s where all the knowledge lies) and play and create what you love… for the love of it. Oh, and take care of your ears!

3 Likes