3 Ways To Get More Out Of Your DJ Practice Sessions

Bedroom DJ

When you get the chance to practise, make sure you make it pay by being smart and having a plan - it'll pay off with better mixes, more gigs, and more fun!

You look forward to that precious few hours when you can finally get powered up and do some DJ practice at home, and you're smart enough to know just how valuable regular practice can be. You're not one of those "it ought to come easy!" people, and you realise that to get good at this you need to put the hours in. Which makes it all the sadder that you, me, all of us can sometimes feel like we're getting nowhere. Like we're going round in circles, doing the same old things and not getting better. Like... there's just not much progress being made! Ever felt that way? Here's some tips as to how to break through and start getting real results from your DJ practice sessions:

1. Get the "preparation" stuff done at another time

You don't want to fall into the trap of counting listening to new music, setting loops, setting cue points and so on as part of practice, as truth is that being a good selector of music (particularly if you cover multiple genres) requires you to spend time listening to a lot of new music and figuring out what to put in the crate and how likely you are to play it and where.

But this isn't the same as practising, and actually, there's no need to let this stuff eat into your precious practice time anyway nowadays, because using a laptop (or an iPad/iPhone with Traktor DJ) you can prep your files anywhere nowadays. I find that using "personalised keywords" in the comments while doing this really helps me to quickly call up tracks during my next practice session.

You can further reduce the time needed to fill your "box" with the right tunes pre-practice session by acquiring new music with a great deal of intention. You can set goals depending on the time available, the mixes you're working on or the gigs you've got coming up. With today's tools, this stuff - whether scouring SoundCloud for that underground mix you're trying to finish, checking out a new territory on Mediabase for an out of town gig, or just setting yourself the target to find three new tunes on your bus journey home using your digital download pool's iPhone app (DJCity has a good one) - this is easy.

Listening to and then crating all this music is important to stop you hitting the start of your practice session without the required tools to make the most of it, meaning discovery and preparation then have to dig into this precious time.

2. Have a practice routine

Time behind the decks is limited, so once again, I like to start a session with some intention and a plan. I will almost always start a session with just some juggling and a little scratch pattern work to warm up, but after that, I usually go to what I've planned for the day.

Do I plan to get more familiar with my Midi controller, or try out a new mapping? Do I want to work on effects? Do I want to try out some new trap music to build on that part of my repertoire? I look at the amount of time I have available and try to set a realistic goal. Sometimes I have enough notes of transitions I wanted to try out or things of that nature, then I really try to work my way through all of them. Making a note of such things on your smartphone whenever they occur to you can really help here, because you're not groping around for inspiration as the clock ticks.

3. Have fun... but learn to get more out of your "fun"!

Writer Peter DeVries once said "“I only write when I'm inspired, and I make sure I'm inspired every morning at 9am!" It's a smart move to hold yourself to a little more scrutiny than just messing around on the decks, even if that's what you've decided to do with today's session. One way to "feel the sensation of a crowd" is to force yourself to Ustream and record your home mixing when you've decided you just want to play around. This forces you to be a little more purposeful when trying to put new songs together, while still letting you cut loose and rock out a bit.

I do this regularly, and while I know I am just "having fun", knowing there are a few people listening forces me to use at least some of that same logic I use for a crowd at an event, and I get to sharpen that skill set.


By goal setting, stripping out stuff that you don't need to do when stood in front of your gear, and using memory joggers (like "sticky notes" on smartphones, comments added to songs when listening in the week and so on), you can get the music right without encroaching on your practising. And by thinking smartly about the best way to get the most from what you feel you want to that day, you can be true to yourself (after all, this is meant to be fun), while still maximising your results, which means you'll have more fun, while getting better, faster. I wish you luck!

DJ Mister Wilson is a DJ from Los Angeles where he walks the fine line between "being an underground selector and dancefloor motivator". Find him on Mixcrate

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  1. the link for this writers mixcrate is broken

  2. Super Fun Time! says:

    Great article.
    I also make notes. I make them in a notebook ( old fashioned paper indeed ) I have the LE version of traktor so I can't make them there. But it works very well for me.
    Setting goals for your mix sessions is a good idea. I am going to do that more. Thanks for the insparation

  3. very good article. good tips I seem to gloss over, but these are very practicle. thanks again for great articles!

  4. I generally listen to music on soundcloud and mixes on soundcloud throughout my work day. And when i found something I enjoy I write that down on one of the sheets of paper on my desk. These sheets of paper are rough set outlines, so I may have a couple of them floating around on my desk at any point in time. So I write the artist and the song (and remixer if applicable), and my little comment about the sound/energy (I might say it sounds a bit old-school housey, or electroey, or some other genre(y)).

    I've found this is a great way to not only keep motivated and practicing behind the decks with new tunes, but it automatically keeps your set fresh. If you've only got to fill in an hour or two to put any new songs in some have to come out.

    Always be listening, even when you aren't listening to music.

  5. for me, I record every time that I do a session. Then, I'll listen to it and figure what do I have to work on, etc. Good Luck guys!

  6. I have recently started using Evernote, and found it a great way to organise my life and my DJing. Sometimes you would listen to a tune in the car and then go" hold on, this tune would work great with that tune". Usually I forget about it 5 seconds later, but now I just make a note on my Evernote phone app. Get home start my computer and Evernote, press sync and BAM! there is my reminder to try out the combination. Found an interesting or valuable piece of advice on Digital DJ Tips? Just use the web clipper and save it to the notebook you want like "DJ Tips: Practice Sessions"

    I have an upcoming Sunday Gig, and I am planning my set, the new music, the marketing everything from Evernote.

    Thanks for this article, I am extremely guilty of number 1

  7. I am often faced with this challenge when practicing it is like the writers block

  8. Great post. I recently developed an exercise with a few simple rules. This routine helps with creativity, risk taking/experimenting and knowing your music.

    Here's my first try. You'll find the rules and idea in the description :

  9. DJ Stu Neal says:

    I tag new songs on Shazam. Then go back and work them into my practice sessions. See my practice set-up @DJStuNeal

  10. First off, great article!

    I find it very co-incidental that you mentioned streaming your set, because I just started a weekly DJ broadcast. I find that you are 100% correct! Just knowing there are people listening, you WANT to try new things, and make the set stand out. That's how I felt. Even though I knew most listeners were my friends, it was a great way to make my "practice session" more of a live set.


  11. Man,,I'm so guilty of doing this,,,spending so much time preparing songs(ie; cue points,load markers,beat gridding etc) by the time I'm ready,,,I have no time to practice!!!! I go to the gig "cold" and end up messing up mixes because I haven't taken the time to "know" the tunes! I've gotta manage my time better. Thanks for the tips!

  12. regarding suggestion #1 - I use Traktor with an S2 and ran across DJTT mapping for prep at http://www.djtechtools.com/2012/07/29/kontrol-s2-and-kontrol-s4-track-preparation-mapping-tsi/. This util rocks - I can prep 20 new tracks in 10 minutes and have the intro, outro and basic mapping done in 30. My big question is - what to practice. I know I should be working on curating, beat-matching, I need to work on transitions, and effects. Any other suggestion for goal setting and things to put on the to do list for practice sessions.

  13. blackmedia87@gmail.com says:

    Real nice... I'm going to try that U-stream practice session. Why do I feel like a controller DJ is not legit/official? I love my controller Numark mix-track Pro, but when i see CDJ's or Vinyl Turntables...i feel like I'm on a fisher price toy or even better DJ Hero?

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