As a DJ, your music collection sits at the core of everything you do. It’s the blood running through your creative veins. But it does beg the question, how big should your music library be?
This thought goes deeper.
How many songs does a DJ need in their library? How do you choose them? How much time should be spent building it? How many tracks should be in a set? What about choosing a genre?
These are all valid questions that DJs often ponder, and with good reason. There is no definitive answer to any of them, but we will try to provide some guidance to help you make the best choices for your music collection and performance.
How many songs should a DJ have?
Generally, you should aim for around 100 tracks in your main DJ library.
These will be ‘five-star’ tracks – tracks you’ll know like the back of your hand. Tracks you can go to at any time and learn to blend with all kinds of other songs, genres, and ideas.
This library will act as the foundation of your sets and provide a solid base from which you can branch out and experiment with other songs, tracks, and genres.
Of course, 100 tracks are just a guideline – some DJs might need more, while others might be able to get away with less. Some DJ Producers will only mix tracks that they create.
It all depends on your musical taste, how comfortable you mix different genres, and how much time you’re willing to spend building your collection.
However, if you’re just starting out as a beginner DJ, you may want to aim for between 20 and 50 tracks, taking time to learn these tracks before expanding.
How does a DJ choose their songs?
The best way to choose your songs is to start with the ones you know and love.
These are the tracks that you’ll be able to play with confidence and hopefully get people moving. Once you have a good selection of these, you can start branching out into new territory.
If you’re unsure where to start, take a look at your music collection and list your favourite tracks. Then, start looking for songs that have a similar feel or energy. These will be the tracks that you’re most comfortable mixing and will help you create a unique sound.
If you’re looking for a straightforward approach, choose a song you love, head over to Spotify, right-click your track, and use the Song Radio feature to find similar songs that match the vibe you’re creating. YouTube recommendations and the automatic ‘Mix Playlist’ feature also work well.
How much time should a DJ spend building their library?
It’s entirely up to you. If you’re just starting out, then you may want to spend a few hours each week adding new tracks to your collection. As you become more comfortable with DJing, you’ll probably find that you have more time to dedicate to building your library.
In my own experience, I spent a bit of time building and reorganising my library every single day. Back in the day, when vinyl and CDs were the main formats, it was easy to have a solid collection because you had the physical tracks, but now that everything has a digital focus, it’s easy to get carried away and end up having a very messy library.
To keep things simple, I use a dedicated hard drive that has my entire collection. As I’m out in the car, heading to work, or relaxing at home, I’ll listen out for new music that catches my attention, and if it fits, I’ll swap it out for a track I don’t feel compliments my existing library.
However, remember that your library is never ‘finished.’
There will always be new tracks to discover and old favourites to revisit. The key is to find a balance that works for you and to keep adding new music as you go.
How many tracks should be in a DJ set?
As a rule of thumb, a DJ set will play each track for an average of two minutes, so a 60-minute set potentially would consist of around 15 to 25 tracks, depending on how quickly you’re mixing music.
Also this can, of course, vary dramatically depending on your style, but it’s a good starting point.
Personally, I like to have around 20 tracks in mind for my sets, giving me an idea of what I want to create.
However, I usually switch out the tracks as I mix, and there have been endless situations where I’ve abandoned my list entirely and made the set up as I went along.
Anyway, the 20 tracks give me enough variety to play with and mean I’m never stuck for something to play and act as a solid starting point.
If you’re using the recommended 100 tracks in your core library, you should be able to produce 3-4 solid sets you use as your foundation set.
Then when you’re performing live, you can adjust on the fly.
It can never be understated how important it is to be flexible with your sets.
You and your audiences will never feel satisfied if you’re just churning out a pre-practice set for the 1,000th time. When you’re experimenting in real-time, and you’re nailing it, riding the wave as it were, this energy will resonate with the room, and it’s this approach that defines you as a DJ and will create nights you and your audience will never forget.
How do you choose the right genre for a DJ set?
The best way to choose the right genre is to consider your audience.
Who are you playing for, and what kind of music are they into? If you’re not sure, then take a look at the venue or event you’re playing at and see if there’s any information about the kind of music they’re into.
Then mix the music you’re into with the crowd’s expectations and find a middle ground. If you’re not a fan of the genre, you’ll want to steer away from events, even if they’re paid gigs. You’ll just get bored and unmotivated, and this will be reflected in the experience you create.
Of course, you can always ask the promoter or event organiser for advice, but at the end of the day, it’s up to you to ensure you’re playing the right music.
When building your library, it’s good to have some overlap with your genres. If you’re mixing house, for example, then dabble with techno, minimal techno, drum and bass, and so on. This will give you a good pool of tracks to work with and means you’re never stuck for something to play.
There’s also nothing wrong with having a dedicated library for each genre you mix, but I find that it’s good to have some flexibility.
Tips for Choosing Tracks for a DJ Library
- Start with a few songs you love and are passionate about, and build your library from here.
- When you’re out and about listening to music in your day-to-day life, if you hear a track that you think would fit well with your existing collection, add it in. As time goes on, you’ll get a feel for the kind of tracks that work well together and those that don’t.
- Don’t forget you can always ask other DJs for advice and recommendations.
- Don’t be afraid to try something new. If you’re not sure about a track, give it a go. You may be surprised by how well it works.
- The most important thing is to have fun and to experiment. The more you play around with your tracks, the better you’ll get at knowing which ones work well together.