Over To You: How Do I Remember To Play My Best Tunes Without Planning My Set?

Phil Morse | Read time: 2 mins
Last updated 8 November, 2017


Borrowing a trick from vinyl DJs and planning for your set is the key to getting the right balance between a fixed playlist and ‘freestyling’.

Digital DJ Tips reader Robert writes: “I have my first DJ gig coming up in about a month and I have a few tracks that I would really like to play but I don’t want to plan out my set. How do I ensure certain tracks get played while keeping the set improvised?”

Digital DJ Tips says:

We get so many questions about organising music libraries digitally, and this is a good one, because it touches on how much a set should be “planned” and how much should be spontaneous.

Firstly, I always recommend you pack a “crate” for every gig. This means having a playlist where you carefully comb through your collection, moving across songs you’d like to play on the night. You’re aiming for about double the number of tunes here than you’ll actually play. This helps you to focus and gets you thinking in advance about the set structure, the crowd and so on.

On the night, you’ll find it much easier to play from such a folder while at the same time be able to be “spontaneous” in your tune choice, especially if you practise DJing using that folder for the few weeks building up to the set – you’ll start spotting good mixes and transitions you can use. This kind of preparation is different to rigidly planning your whole set, and means you’re unlikely to miss playing any of those “must-play” tunes.

The whole concept is of course from the old vinyl days, where you could only take a box or two so had to plan carefully. I’ve linked to a series of posts we did exploring this matter in a lot of detail below, which are well worth a read.

What system do you use to make sure you don’t forget to play your best tunes? How do you plan generally before a gig? Please share your thoughts in the comments.

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