Song Selection for Successful DJ Sets | Beatmatch Guru

Song Selection for Successful DJ Sets

You may be asking “How do DJs decide what songs to play?“, then you’re in the right place.

If you’re curious to improve your songs selection or even struggling to get going with your DJ mixes, then there are some thought provoking ways that may inspire you.

Whether you’re an aspiring club DJ or hobby DJ, mixing one genre or open format, there’s at least one tip for you in this list to inspire you to be a better selector.

Listen to other DJ sets for ideas

One of the best ways that I’ve found to benefit my House DJ mixes is by listening to other DJ sets, e.g. on Mixmag I really love Bondax’s set. See below.

There are a few tracks in their set that blend really nicely together which I sometimes draw upon in my DJ mixes when playing live.

Let’s say you DJ House music for example, find DJs that you like within that style e.g. on YouTube or Mixcloud. Listen to the mixes, and listen out for the tracks that really catch your attention. Figure out which music tracks will work well in your sets.

Usually there are tracklistings in the descriptions of most DJ mixes online, if not in the comments also.

Make a list of your top music tracks in your notes, shazaam the track or instantly add to your Spotify playlist ready to download or stream in your DJ software.

Finding DJs in sub-genres of your style can also help too. This has helped me diversify the flow and energy of my DJ sets, and I’m sure it will help you sets too. For example, Drum & Bass music I predominantly used to favour Liquid D&B, but started to listen to a variety of dancefloor style D&B and Neurofunk to help change up my DJ mixes.

Read the crowd (continue or change the vibe)

If you’re a DJ playing live in a bar or a club, then at least try to read the crowd. This is going to be a great skill you will build up over time so don’t beat yourself up.

You may find yourself DJing for 4 to 5 hours in some venues. And this is why reading the audience’s vibe is quite helpful for you as a DJ.

The initial stages of DJing a small club night might be quite chilled and free flowing, not many people dancing at all, just getting their drink on and socialising.

As the night progresses, people are getting a feel for the music and starting to get into it, a few people are dancing etc.

After a while, people will be having it large on the dancefloor allowing you to hike up the music energy and properly start reading the crowd. This is when you’ll be able to gauge your audiences reaction to certain songs and start stringing together similar songs that keeps the crowd dancing the night away.

Take requests and build your music collection

Taking requests can be super annoying for some DJs.

Being open minded here is key, especially if someone asks for a song that works in your DJ sets. If not now, then maybe in the future.

Simple advice here, music requests from your audience can generate some great ideas, learn from them and build your music collection from it.

Consider compatible beat rhythms and patterns

Music is built on rhythms and patterns, not all have the same patterns however there are some that work really well together.

In my Drum & Bass DJ mixes, I usually draw upon tracks that have similar patterns and sounds, for example percussion / bongo drums.

I really like stringing together tracks that have similar vibes, beat patterns and energy. I’d highly recommend this to help you song select better in your DJ mixes.

For example, Subfocus – Timewarp has a 4×4 beat pattern which isn’t that common in Drum & Bass music. So I naturally connect the dots and start finding / selecting D&B track that are compatible with this beat style either 4×4 beat pattern or half time drum step type beat.

Switch up the Energy in your mixes (Surprise the crowd)

If you’re struggling with your DJ mixes, then it’s sometimes a good idea to drop in a completely different energy of track to switch it up abit.

From a technical mixing point of view, don’t even beat match for a long mix, simply drop and switch over to a new track on the breakdown or bass line.

Sometimes a simple switch can really help boost the mood of your DJ mixes. Even if you bring down the energy that’s still a good thing as sometimes too high energy can be draining for the audience.

Themed DJ mixes / live sets

Song selection becomes a lot easier if your DJ set in a club is themed, or you decide to simply theme your DJ mix to share online.

For example a 90s Hip Hop mix is going to work really well and help focus your mind on the specific bangers from that era of Hip Hop.

Other examples of this include:

  • Liquid Drum & Bass mix
  • Chilled Ibiza mix
  • 80s Pop music
  • Artist or label dedicated mix

Is your audience tired?

Wedding DJs and mobile DJs might benefit from hearing this. If you’re selecting music tracks that are a wall of high energy Rock music tracks then that might be working well for you. The people are dancing and having a great time, amazing!

What you might find sometimes, if you don’t switch up the style of music to say some slower 80s pop music or sing along ballads, them your audience might get tired. Then you’ll have an empty dancefloor.

Background music or dance time?

Selecting tracks can be a simple as knowing if the music tracks are for background music at a venue or whether you’re aim is to get people on that dancefloor.

If i’s a mixture of both, for example DJing in a bar, the beginning of the night is background, then evolves to dancefloor bangers.

Try to reserve some of your bangers later on in the night, don’t play them too early.

Of course, if you feel that play a song or two twice then that’s cool, some venues such as bars see a lot of churn in the people drinking in their bar. As in, a lot of people come and go to different bars, so won’t know you’ve played a track twice or not.

Research the club night before hand and craft a dedicated playlist

Attending a club in which you’re going to DJ at is really helpful.

Check out the vibe and the audience type, this will really help give you songs that you can select at various times throughout the night.

Tailor the music style for the time of your Club DJ Set

A link to the point above is that different times throughout a DJ set, you’ll see a change in audience. As I’ve mentioned, people come and go from a venue meaning that your music selections are likely going to need to reflect that change.

Picking more upbeat tracks, or mellow vibes will be determined from the time in which you’re DJing at a club night. People get tired, audience changes etc so you need to reflect what suits these sorts of variables.

Over prepare your Music collection

Building out a massive collection of music allowing you to draw upon any sort of genre will put you in a position to keep everyone happy. Song requests will inevitably happen, especially if you’re DJing a wedding, corporate event or bar night.

Having a big song collection will help you be a successful DJ professionally and make a great name for yourself. People may even start recommending you their friends and family, which may lead to more DJ gigis.

People resonate with songs that they like, so play what they want. Having a large collection of music will supplement this.

Find compatible tracks that mix amazingly together

Practice DJing different music at home, and start finding tracks that go well together.

Add the tracks you identify that go well together, whack them into a playlist or folder on your DJ software / laptop and have them ready to draw upon.

Think of these playlists of compatible music tracks as weapons in your arsenal that you can draw upon anytime.

Related Questions

How do I organise my DJ playlist?

When organising your DJ playlists consider attributes such as harmonic key, tempo, energy and style or sub-genres. This will help to determine the flow of your DJ playlists.

Dan Dracott

I'm Dan Dracott from Beatmatch Guru. I love DJing and have done since I was 15 years old. I want to share my knowledge and love of DJing to help you guys get better at DJing.

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