So were you lucky enough to get a DJ controller or digital DJ set-up for Christmas? If it is your first digital DJ gear, and you’re a beginner digital DJ, then congratulations! These are really exciting times for you. But there are also pitfalls that you need to be aware of to save you wasting time and getting frustrated as you take your first steps in DJing.
So to make sure your digital DJing hobby or career gets off on the right foot, today we’re publishing a list of nine things we strongly recommend you should get started on right away. If you sort this stuff out now, you’ll learn more quickly and have lots more fun. Welcome to Digital DJ Tips, let’s get going…
- Explore the resources on this site – We’ve got more quality beginner-focused DJ training articles here than anywhere else online, which admittedly can make the place a bit overwhelming! You can start by reading the three articles linked to at the end of this post, but better, you should become a member. It’s free, and – just like we’ve done for 55,000 other DJs – we’ll guide you week-by-week by email through the best of our content, in an ordered and logical fashion. You can sign up here – do it now
- Set your DJ area up correctly – Have your controller about the height of a kitchen work surface if you’re going to stand, or a desk if you’re going to sit. An ironing board makes a great makeshift DJ stand! Or, use the box your controller came in to get it to the right height. Your back will thank you. And whatever speakers you’re using, make sure they’re near to your controller and pointing at you. Good audio makes learning to mix so much easier
- Make sure you’ve got the latest drivers, firmware and software – The stuff on the CD in your DJ controller’s box may be months old. Visit the support website for your controller and check to see if there are more up to date versions of audio drivers, controller firmware and DJ software. This will help to ensure your system runs smoothly
- Ready the set-up instructions carefully and do everything they say – Even the easiest-to-use DJ controllers need a modicum of setting up, and if you miss out stages, your controller won’t work properly. Pay particular attention to the “audio routing” or “audio set-up” sections – one of the biggest beginner errors is failing to take this step, which is essential if your headphones are going to work properly (ie carry a different track to the one playing on your speakers, when needed)
- Optimise your laptop for digital DJing – Most laptops will work just fine with most DJ software and hardware, if you follow a few simple rules. Make sure you’ve got 20% hard disk space free, turn off WiFi, Bluetooth and all unnecessary programs and apps, use outlet electricity, and turn off screensavers and notifications.
- Start with an empty folder or playlist for your DJ music, and add to it with care – Don’t just use all your music as your “DJ collection”. Choose the songs you want to DJ with carefully, and however you organise your tunes (folders, iTunes, directly in your DJ software…), keep those tunes separate. This allows you to get to know the music you want to DJ with properly (an essential for mixing), and also to ensure the quality of it (stick to 256 or 320 AAC/MP3 files as a minimum, and avoid illegal rips and downloads if you care at all about sound quality, or indeed the wider DJ culture you’re now a part of)
- Commit to practising little and often – Like playing the guitar, or getting good at a sport, or cooking, new DJs make progress quickest when they practise regularly for short periods, rather than every now and then for a long time. So commit to as many practice sessions a week as feels right to you, and stick to it – you’ll see results quickest that way
- Learn how to record everything you do – Listening to recordings of your practising, however messy or unorganised/unplanned it is, is the single best way to get better. It puts you in the shoes of an “audience”. So learn how to record your sets, and play those recordings in your car, on the bus, at work, at the gym… you get the idea
- Get some kind of coaching – Learning from someone else is so much more fun and easier than trying to do it on your own, and it can turn years into weeks as far as the amount of progress you can expect to make is concerned. If you don’t know any pro DJs who can train you, our hugely popular How To Digital DJ Fast video coaching course is a structured DJ program for absolute beginners designed to get you ready to play a real DJ gig in just four weeks. If you’re serious about making that step quickly, you should definitely take a look at it
Your new hobby can change your life, just as it’s changed mine and those of thousands of our readers. It can turn into a life-long love of music and of performing that music. You should be very excited about it! And as long as you stay humble, keep learning, respect the roots of what you’re doing, and always enjoy yourself (and if you don’t, work out why and put it right), you have just as much chance as anyone else of getting to where you want to be with it. We wish you a lot of luck, and are always ready to help in our forums, on Facebook / Google+ / Twitter, or via our support desk.
And as I said right at the beginning, don’t forget to join Digital DJ Tips – we look after our members well, as any of the 55,000 we already have would I’m sure tell you. Welcome!
Are you just starting out as a digital DJ? Are you an old-timer with some advice to add to our nine points to help beginners on their way? Either way, please share your thoughts in the comments.