Your Questions: “Help, I’m Struggling With DJ’s Block!”

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Pro your questions
Last updated 6 April, 2018

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Stuck In A Rut
In today’s article, our reader wants advice on how he can break out of a DJing rut that he’s going through. Pic: DJ Tarkan

Digital DJ Tips reader Tony writes: “I’ve hit what I would call a DJ’s block: I’m still mixing and trying to sort out gigs, but it just feels like every mixtape I record isn’t good enough. I’m starting to be very picky with my mixes, like I’m pointing out flaws to myself that I normally wouldn’t, and because of that I haven’t uploaded any new tracks.

“I’m unsure as to what’s the best way to get out of this funk, or even if it’s possible. It’s not like I don’t want to do this anymore, but right now I don’t feel like I’m making any progress in my DJing, and I really would like to get unstuck. Your thoughts?”

Digital DJ Tips Says:

Ah, DJ’s block. I hate it when that happens! Fret not, Tony – it happens to the best of us.

There are many possible reasons why you’re feeling this way, but perhaps the main one is that you are simply evolving as a DJ. This can be very confusing, because growing as a DJ means that there are many things changing simultaneously: your taste continues to refine, your technique gets better, and your standards (hopefully) soar higher.

It’s tricky because all of these things are happening under your nose. The little accidents that you used to think were fine are now glaring mistakes that you wouldn’t be caught dead executing on a recorded mixtape. Perhaps those slightly-off key blends that you thought were just a bit “rough” now sound like 33 fingernails scratching a grammar school blackboard. You get the picture.

What’s important to realise here is that you aren’t “stuck” forever – you’re simply dissatisfied with your current technical skills because of your ever-increasing standards. Every DJ goes through this phase: the good ones rise up to meet the challenge and improve, but the great ones persevere enough to break through, and emerge with a new skill set, greater patience, and improved self-confidence.

My advice would be to acknowledge that you don’t feel like your mixes are good enough, and at the same time try to dig deep and find out the whys: Why isn’t this mixtape working? Why do I feel like it isn’t up to snuff? Why am I being picky about this? Once you’ve found out why you’re feeling this way towards your mixing, you can proceed to figure out what you need to do to mend the situation. Would learning how to mix in key solve some of your issues? Do you need to learn other ways to sort create more cohesive playlists? Or perhaps you need to learn more about polishing the mixtape to get it ready for broadcast? Find out the whys, plan what you need to do, and then execute.

You’ll also want to consciously play out more, and get varied gigs. Your DJing is sharpened on the steel of the public. Gigs will give you ideas, feedback, and inspiration – it will keep you moving forward, so don’t stop performing.

Finally, I would highly recommend that you frame this as a positive event in your DJ career (ie you’re not stagnating), instead of a negative one that would ultimately ruin your confidence and enjoyment of the art form. I know too many former DJs who hung their headphones because they felt like they weren’t getting anywhere, when all they needed was to push themselves a little further to get to where they wanted to be.

Have you encountered DJ’s block in your career? How did you manage to power through it? Any advice you’d want to give our reader? Share your tips with us below.

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