This is a no-jargon overview guide to help young DJ enthusiasts make a promising career out of their passion for music.
Before we begin with this guide, ask yourself – Why do you want to be a DJ?
Is it because it looks cool? Or is it because people love it and you enjoy entertaining people?
If your answer to the first question is YES, we believe this article is of no use to you.
On the contrary, if your answer to the second question is YES, we suggest you keep reading and discover the world of music.
This article shall provide you with a high-level overview of how to start DJing when you’re a beginner.
So, get your DJing caps on and plug in your earphones, because soon you’ll be jamming with your friends. Or who knows, you may pick up the pace and start performing professionally in clubs and parties.
Nonetheless, let’s get you started without any further ado.
What is a DJ?
First things first, do you know who is a DJ or what does he do?
Probably, all you’ve seen to date is someone with big headphones flipping tracks and waving their hands in the air.
But, allow us to demystify this utterly vague perception.
As a professional, a DJ is someone who mixes and plays pre-recorded tracks to entertain an audience.
Some DJs also create new tracks and mixtapes using pre-recorded tracks. You’d have probably come across several tracks labeled as “remix” or “club mix.” Well, these are the very same ones that DJ artists create to entertain their audience.
Disclaimer: If you’re considering mixing and recreate pre-recorded tracks, make sure you pick up stock tracks. Or, otherwise, you’d need to get a license to use someone else’s work. Using someone’s work without their consent may end you in legal trouble for infringement charges, especially if you try to sell the recreated work.
That being said, the audience could be anyone from a concert crowd to a wedding invitees. Radio listeners also constitute a huge segment of the DJ audience.
Software or Hardware?
To begin with, you have two options for mixing tracks. One is you can get the software on your computer or laptop. And the second is you can get hardware mixers.
You may ask, what’s the difference?
Well, technically speaking, there’s no difference at all. Both software and hardware will let you mix tracks effortlessly.
But, consider this – you can find software online and that too for free. In contrast, you’d need to put in money to get hardware.
Our recommendation, you go with the software first, practice on it a little, and when you’re sure you’ve gained the desired skill level, you should move to the next step.
That being said, regardless of whether you decide to get hardware to practice or not, you’d still need software to pair it with. Indeed, the DJ software is where all the magic happens.
Setting up the Apparatus
Now that you have your basic equipment, it’s time to learn how to set it up.
Plug your controller (the hardware) into your computer. Fire up your DJ software, and you’re already halfway.
On your controller, you should have two outputs for audio. One is called the master output – this is what your crowd would listen to and jam.
The other one is for you to help you ensure that everything goes smoothly and there are no glitches in transitions. In simple words, the output where you plug in your headphones would let you listen to your mix before your audience can enjoy it.
And you’re all set to mix your beats now.
Beat Matching and more
Let’s get to the real stuff. All that you’ve read until now are the basics of DJ setup. But the real deal is mastering how you mix two or more songs.
To keep it simple, we’d stick to only two songs in a mix. And once you believe you’ve got the gist, you can, of course, learn more and mix more than two songs.
First of all, load up two songs on each deck of your DJ software. It does not matter which deck you choose as first or second.
You can even do this using your controller. However, the steps would depend upon the make and model of your DJ controller.
Now, the key here is matching up the BPM of your songs for a smooth transition between them.
BPM is the speed of your song, or also known as Beats Per Minute. You can see a moving graph on our software – the spikes and troughs are beats.
Your intention should match the highs (spikes) or the lows (troughs) of the beats.
Additionally, you’d need to learn how to use a crossfader. For your information, where you put your crossfader would decide which deck your audience will hear.
So, if your crossfader is toward the left deck, your audience would hear the track playing in the left deck and vice versa. Gradually moving the crossfader to the other side would fade one deck and play the other one.
So, is it all that you need to get started?
Wait. There’s more.
By now, you can, of course, set up the basic apparatus. Maybe, even mix some tracks and fade in and out of the tracks. But it’s not all that you need to know.
First of all, let us tell you that when you choose tracks for mixing, you should try to pick that have similar BPMs. It should make your task a lot easier.
However, even if you can’t find two songs with the same or similar BPM, don’t worry. As a DJ artist, mixing two songs with different BPMs is a part of your job.
Learn more about tempo matching, and you’ll be good to go with your mixing skills no matter the BPM of the songs.
So, this is all you need to get started. Find your songs, identify your audience, and start mixing. Do not forget to note the feedback you receive from your audience.