There are a lot of skills to get to grips with when it comes to learning DJing and it may be overwhelming. A younger version of me wishes there was a list of skills to learn instead of figuring them all out myself.
- Ability to Count
- Understanding of Music Structure
- Network with People
- Technical Skills
- Perform Under Pressure
- Market Yourself as a DJ
- Know Your Equipment Inside Out
- Ability to be a Great Tune Selector
In my opinion you can get to a very decent level of DJing if and when you acquire the below basic skills I’ve listed out. The assumption below is that you’re looking to become a DJ that is starting to be a working DJ, not just a hobbyist DJ, so I’ve added in a few ‘soft’ skills too. Get stuck into learning the below skills
You can also CLICK HERE for my DJ Progression Checklist which gives you a full comprehensive list of skills to learn from day 1 of DJing right through to advanced DJing.
1. Ability to Count
Sounds basic, but it’s true.
All you need to know is how to count, but specifically count the number of beats within a bar and you will be able to figure out how to DJ.
Beats and bars amount to phrases, which combined together form sections of songs.
A basic rule of thumb is that there are usually 8 beats per bar, 4 bars to a phrase.
If you’ve got a keen ear, you should be able to understand when a song’s phrase is coming to the end. Usually a reverse cymbal, drum roll or drum fill indicates this.
Start with this. Play your track in your DJ software from the very first beat, count 4 bars of 8 beats.
Each bar count on your fingers to help you.
This will be your first count of a phrase. Nice one! Also, did you notice any cymbals or drum fill sounds on the last 4 or 2 beats at the end of the phrase?
2. Understanding of Music Structure
Music structure is a really great area of music to understand, especially as a DJ.
Once you have built up a collection of music you will be able to understand the differences in structure of all of your music tracks.
Then from there, you’ll be able to figure out which tracks work well together in the mix, but more importantly which sections of songs work well together.
Read this article to know more about phrases and music song structure for DJing then check out my article here.
It really helps in DJing to have a natural rhythm. Most people in the world have rhythm, especially from things like dancing from a young age, being a musician or simply being a lover of a sorts of music.
Rhythm helps you with counting your beats and bars, it’s as simple as that.
I’d also like to point out that rhythm is linked to a vibe of music track, and when reading the crowd this is really important to have. Reading the crowd and playing tracks to keep them dancing is an important aspect in DJing to have.
Listen music on your headphones or DJ equipment. Click your fingers along to the beat for 4 bars of 8. On the last 4 beats on the fourth bar of 8, try double clicking.
This will help you click in time to the beat and also note down in your mind when the end of a phrase is too.
4. Networking with People
Taking your DJing out of your home and onto the radio, or in bars and clubs requires some networking and ability to getting to know people.
Having the confidence to speak to people is a necessary skill to help you achieve making new contacts.
Whether you’re contacting people online or in person, networking is all the same. Offering your support to certain people will likely help you on your way with networking and building relationships.
Research online contacts that work in the music industry; whether it be record labels you like and want to DJ for, other DJs that are successful in your genre.
Contact as many people as possible and see if you can draw upon some sort of relationship through offering your support.
Note: in the long term you might be able to leverage your relationship to help you gain music gigs in the long term.
Being creative is super essential for DJs.
Starting with DJing itself, being able to creatively mix together music together is the basis for an amazing DJ.
There are quite a few professional and well known DJs out there that have their own creative stamp on mixing, e.g. Andy C, DJ EZ and James Hype. Whether it be using two tracks to drop on the bassline and the same time, or cut tracks in and out with the use of the reverb FX.
Putting your own creative flair into your DJ sets can make you stand out.
Other creativeness that arrives from being a DJ can sometimes be outside of just DJing skills, but rather from design of your brand, logo, website, back ground graphics from a green screen in your live streaming sets. There’s plenty of areas that creativeness will support your DJing.
When you’re practicing your DJ sets, try thinking up some creative uses of mixing music together e.g. using auto-loop or using the reverb FX to blend or cut music tracks together.
6. Technical Skills
Technical skills are something of a necessity with DJing.
Understanding your DJ equipment is key and knowing how to setup DJ equipment is also important.
Not just hardware but software knowledge is a necessary too. DJ software can be sometimes an interesting journey when setting up. I’ve found this in the past with setting my Digital Vinyl System.
DJing live can present some tricky technical issues sometimes, and knowing how to resolve those, under pressure and confidently, is such an important skill. This does come over time with experience though.
Get to know your DJ software and DJ equipment inside out. Make sure you do some research more about your software / hardware.
Research too online about the common issues that you might find with particular DJ gear.
7. Perform Under Pressure
Performing under “pressure” is a great skill for DJs to have.
As an aspiring DJ I’m sure that you’ll be striving to DJ in front of larger and larger audiences, whether it be in person or live online via a streaming platform.
I’m a big believer in practicing under pressure, and the more that you do this will allow you to become more naturalised to the feeling of DJing under some sort of pressure.
Set up a live DJ stream, tell all your friends and family, work colleagues too the time you’re DJing. DJ on a regular basis also.
8. Market Yourself as a DJ
If you’re pushing to become a DJ part time or full time then you’re going to have knowledge of marketing.
Marketing simply is knowing your target audience as a DJ and then figuring out to connect with your audience.
There may be different social platforms or websites out there, or maybe even events that can help you reach your audience.
Research your target audience and figure out what resonates with them.
Start by coming up with a name, brand, and DJ logo.
Create a website and put out all of your DJ sets on there whether it be live video or just simply audio.
Communicate or advertise with your specific target audience and test out the best methods that work for you. You could simply start by building up a following on social media to get your brand name out there or you might want to build up a list of potential customers.
9. Know Your Equipment Inside Out
Practice on your equipment so much that you know 100% how it works, as in how to set it up, what all the buttons do etc.
From my experience, especially from having various DJing equipment, this is a skill that you build up every time you upgrade or buy a new DJ equipment.
It’s important because you will be super confident when DJing in any environment.
I couldn’t think of a task for this skill, it’s pretty self explanatory 😊
10. Ability to Be A Great Tune Selector
Best of all….
The ability to be a great tune selector is key.
I stand by the fact that being a great tune selector is still a greater skill than mixing itself. Some parties I’ve been to the DJ wasn’t really that great technically but the tune selection was just brilliant.
I’m not saying don’t learn how to beat match or how to use DJ equipment. Just get to grips with what tracks mix well together, how you can transition between different energy and vibes in your DJ set, and finally how to get the crowd dancing their socks off.
Listen back to your own DJ sets, or listen to other DJ sets online. Make a note of the tracks that go particularly well together. Make another mental note of why you think that. This will help you better understand why particular tracks go well together and allow you to become a better DJ selector.
How can I improve my DJ skills?
Improve DJ skills by DJing with other DJs more experienced with you. Also practice under pressure by DJing live on a streaming platform such as Mixcloud. Recording live DJ sets adds extra pressure to perform and improve DJ skills too.