Reader Ashley writes: “I’m suffering from ‘DJ’s block’. I have lost my creative edge when mixing. I mix quite a few genres as not to pigeonhole myself and like to play non-commercial tunes: urban, dance, d’n’b etc. When practising or just jamming at home I am finding this happens to me a lot. I will start mixing a few songs and then start genre-hopping to find my groove. However, where I used to mix for hours has now turned into quite literally minutes before I get fed up. I have taken breaks, week-long ones, but I then find myself behind with up-to-date music and again the creativity disappears in my sets. Any advice?”
“I have been djing for six years, part time, and this happens to me every so often. However when I have a gig or been put on the spot I seem to do fine. Any guidance will be appreciated.”
Digital DJ Tips says:
I feel for you Ashley. You’re getting better as a DJ, so the old tricks just aren’t thrilling you so much any more. This is actually a good thing! And while there are no easy answers as to how to push to the next level, there are some pieces of advice I can give you:
- Listen to your heroes – Find some mixes by those you admire on Mixcloud or wherever, and let them inspire you. Just as a guitar player will hit a plateau when learning, so do DJs – and you can break through that by listening to people who are better DJs than you and learning from them
- Play out more – Can you find yourself a regular gig? It’s telling that you say “when I have a gig or have been put on the spot, I seem to do fine”. Of course you do. That’s the mark of a good DJ! Think of it this way: If you’re a football player, how long do you think you’ll be able to play around with a ball in your backyard before you get bored, hankering after an actual game? DJing is a public sport. There’s only so much bedroom mixing anyone can do without getting bored
- Limit your materials – The problem with being a genre-hopping DJ (I know, I am one too), is that “hops” are often made to move a difficult crowd, or to develop a set played in front of a diverse audience, where you are naturally limited by what people will dance to. Thus your DJing is a battle between what you can get away with, and the big leaps you’d like to make in your set. Trouble is, at home you can play anything you want – and too much freedom can make things almost pointlessly dull. So limit yourself. Only tunes beginning with “M”. Only tunes under three minutes. Anything will do, completely arbitrary makes no difference at all – and the limiting will force you to be more creative
- Record what you do – What bores you as you’re doing it may actually sound great later. If you don’t record it, you’ll never know. Doing this also teaches you to step outside of your DJing and see your sets from the audience’s point of view, but that means that you’ll learn to do this more as you’re actually playing them. Developing a sense of what your sets really sound like can make you prouder of your DJ practising, and less likely to give up or get bored
Incidentally, don’t worry so much about keeping up with all music. It’s impossible anyway. As long as your sets have a few “known” tunes in them, you can fill you virtual crates with tunes that work for you, whatever their age. Good music doesn’t go out of date.
Have you ever suffered from “DJ’s block”? How did you deal with it and find your mojo again? We’d love to hear your experiences in the comments.