Aspiring DJs go through though many stages. Lets start with how to be a DJ and ‘play out’ for the first time.
Prepare Your Set
This does not mean that you plan each and every song from start to end. It simply requires you to give some thought into the type of records you want to play. The type of tempo, style, genre, old bangers and hidden records that you feel need airing. In the days of vinyl, you were physically limited to how many records that you could carry, but in the digital age, you can carry every song that you have ever owned. This can be both positive and negative.
Take time prior to your set selecting certain tracks that you want to play, but don’t plan every track. A lot can change during a DJ set, the energy can quickly change, and can very quickly require a different style of music.
The type of music you play, also depends on the type of gig you are playing at. The only way to find out the type of music they play, is to visit the club. Try going down and having a listen, watch how the crowd react, and take a look at the amount (or lack of) equipment they have. Don’t panic if you arrive to discover the music playing is different to your style, the promoter might have picked you for your different style.
If you can not visit the club for some reason, try and ask people who have, or try and grab a listen to any promotional DJ mixes. Also be aware that promotional DJ mixes can sometime sound very different to what is played in the club.
Everyone has nerves, even the professionals who have been doing it for decades. There is no easy way around nerves, but there are a few tricks. Alcohol can have a relaxing affect that makes you feel a little more in the moment and a little less self conscious. Beware, there is a fine line between slightly merry, to knocking your drink over the mixer and blowing the amps.
Pick the first few records of your set. Start with songs that you are familiar with, and long(ish) have tracks long enough so you have time to mix. Breathe deep, and just pretend you are in your own bedroom and carry on. If you are having fun, so is everyone else.
The Sound System
How records sound on your home hi-fi, to how they sound on a big sound system may come as a shock. There will be certain records that you love, that will just not sound good on a club system. That kick drum that you swear would rip the dance floor apart, may now sound like the a pillow being tickled.
When mixing two records together, while at home, it is usually best to do a smooth transition between the bass frequencies, on a bigger system that often does not work, and it is often better to do a quick transition (slamming one bass out, while the seconds tracks bass-line kicks in).
Fortunately, mistakes on a big system often get lost and forgotten (this has saved most DJs a good number of times). If a mistake is heard, at least the crowd know you are real, and not just a jukebox!
Stepping Into The Booth
The previous DJ is your friend, make good use of her/him! They have just had a complete set where they have gauged the type of crowd, as well as any problems with the DJ equipment. If you are not sure of something, ask! All DJ’s have been in a situation where they are not 100% on how some hardware works (or how to get free drinks) etc.
The DJ monitor is one of the most important factors of the booth, it allows you to hear what the crowd are hearing. If you had no DJ monitors, you would be listening to a delayed, and more reverberant sound to what the dance floor is hearing. This is not good! You want the monitors to be loud enough so you can hear them over the dance floor speakers, but not too loud as to give you hearing damage!
Monitors don’t always need to be loud, you can turn them down most of the time. Only use them every now and then to check the dance floor has got a good, clear sound.
Prior to stepping into the booth, check to see what it sounds like on the dance floor. How is the volume? EQ? Is the bass distorting? Take all this into account when you are DJing and make any necessary adjustments.
Some clubs don’t have monitors. Some club monitors break. This can be disastrous, unless you know how to carry on without them.
If this happens, use your headphone mix. This involves using the headphone feature on the mixer (if it has one). This option will allow you to listen to the track on the dance floor, as well as cue your second track, and get it beat matched before you bring it in.
Mix off the speakers. This is the least desired option, but it’s possible. Beatmatch the record as closely as possible using your headphones, and the speakers on the dance floor. This will be more difficult as there will be a noticeable delay. Now start the record and bring it slowly into the mix at a very low volume. The record may be out of sync slightly. Now just readjust the record until it is in sync with the song currently playing.
The only thing to do now is practise practise practise, and make sure you know your records back to front. Good luck!