Over To You: Is It OK To Plan My Whole Set?

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

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Planning a set
Is it ever OK to plan a whole set? If it gets you out in public for your first gig or two, and it’s not a ‘mission critical’ event, then I say: Yes, it’s absolutely fine.

Digital DJ Tips reader Ibrahim writes: “As I’m a beginner, I plan all my set in a book with a pen, or on my phone.

But I feel ashamed sometimes to open the book to look for the next track. Obviously I feel the crowd will think that I’m not a pro DJ. So what is your take on this?”

Digital DJ Tips says:

Clearly it depends on the gig – if it’s a wedding or a big club or some other gig where you’ve been paid well to do a “pro” job then it is not only foolish but also dishonest to play yourself off as a pro DJ.

But… I’m guessing you’re playing in a small bar or somewhere similar, which is of course where beginners usually cut their teeth. And my take on this is very simple. You’re a brave person, because you’re doing something that two-thirds of people who buy DJ gear never do: Play in public. And for that you deserve encouragement and respect.

Sure, an experienced DJ doesn’t make lists, or need to refer to them when playing. But playing live the first few times is really, truly nerve-wracking, and having a fall-back of a planned set to use is not a crime. Over time you’ll get more confidence and need to use props like this less and less, but they fact is you’re learning in public, which is where you’ll learn the most, quickest. And for that I’m right behind you.

Here’s a suggestion: Why not have little folders in your playlist with just four or five tunes that “go together well” in each folder? That way you can hook together mini-sets to make your performance, and you may find relying less and less on rigid sets that you’ve carefully planned.

Have you ever planned a whole set? Is it something that helped you to start when you first played in public? What advice would you offer to Ibrahim? Please leave your advice below.

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