Digital DJ Tips reader Robert writes: "Was curious as I'm trying to get a better grasp of DJing. Is there a method you use when grouping songs together to play, to make sure they go together? Is there any software out there that allows for you to go through your library and say 'this would go well with this?' or maybe 'consider this one with this?' What I'm trying to create is mini five-song sets that go well together. Do you think that is a good idea?"
Digital DJ Tips says:
This cuts right to the heart of what DJing is all about. A song is playing. The dancefloor is loving it. What do you play next? The answer to this comes from experience, and having a wide musical collection you know really well. Do you go for a great mix, or a great tune, or try and find both?
We've explored before the idea of whether you should plan sets or just "let it flow", and we've concluded that having mini-mixes is fine (say two or three songs that you know go well together for some reason or other), but any more than that is a bit too planned - so you're on the right track there. Technically, for beatmixing songs need to be +/- about 4BPM, and harmonically, you can use software such as Mixed in Key or the built-in harmonic mixing systems in DJ software like Virtual DJ and Traktor to match tracks by key.
There is nowadays some software out there that tries to help you in these areas - Mixed in Key has "energy level", and Traktor DJ (for iPad) has "recommended songs" that tries to make a guess in the same way, but really, as I said at the start, the best song to play next is the one the dancefloor wants the most - and knowing that comes from experience.
That, by the way, is why at the very heart of what Digital DJ Tips does is hammering home the idea that you simply HAVE to play in front of an audience, as early as possible and as often as possible - that's where you learn to DJ, not holed up in your bedroom. It's what our hugely popular video course How To Digital DJ Fast teaches.
So, over to you. I am sure you empathise with what Robert is grappling with. Have you got any advice you can add to mine? Please share your thoughts in the comments.