The weekend has landed, and for DJs that means gigs (and hopefully a bit of extra cash too). However, whether you’re DJing or not this weekend, why not spend some improving your skills? Our seven quick hacks are a good starting place.
7 DJ Hacks To Try
1. Soak up an unfamiliar style of music
The first thing you can do to improve your DJing is to improve your ear and the way your brain processes music. Unlike building muscle, you can’t just hit the gym for this, so what exercises can you do for a fitter music brain?
What to do: If you’re thinking of doing Sunday’s crossword or Sudoku puzzles, try this instead: listen to tunes from a music genre that you’re vaguely familiar with. Are you a “four to the floor” techno don? Try listening to some drum ‘n bass or grime to get a different perspective on the beats of the music that you spin. Are you a mainstage EDM “bro”? Listen to more understated styles like deep house or minimal to understand how longer songs can build an atmosphere and dilate time in a club.
2. Check in with your DJ software’s effects
All DJ software these days come with a ton of effects, but how many do you actually use? Further, how long does it take you to dial in that effect after having to scroll through a list of variations of the same effect (eg Rekordbox DJ has a whopping seven delay effects)?
What to do: Having too many choices leads to “paralysis by analysis” – shortlist your top three most used effects and map them to your controller or set them as the default effects when you launch your DJ app. Using effects should be instinctive when you’re at a gig so you just press a button or twist a knob, instead of squinting at your screen trying to figure out which effect to enable.
This is also a good time to intently listen and evaluate all those other esoteric effects that come bundled with your software – maybe you’re overlooking an effect or two that you can use in your next DJ set.
3. Spring clean those playlists
Let’s have a show of hands: how many of you have playlists that you haven’t used in years? I scrolled through my browser and found an ancient playlist that has absolutely no use to me anymore (it was for a 90-year-old’s birthday party… go figure).
What to do: It’s good fun and nostalgic to keep all of these lists around – after all, they’re a reminder of how your DJing and musical taste have progressed – but instead of having them inside your DJ app and on your laptop’s internal drive, it’d be better to just move them to an external hard drive that you use for archiving or backup.
The same goes for your music files – instead of having your entire music collection on your laptop’s hard drive, which makes it harder and more time consuming to look for tunes in the middle of a set, separate your DJ library from your personal music library, and then move that music library to an external drive.
4. Explore your DJ controller’s secondary features
All of us use the play, pause, and cue buttons on our controllers – these are the primary features. But how often do you use Traktor’s Freeze and Remix Decks? Or Serato’s Pitch Play and Serato Flip? Or Rekordbox DJ’s Sequencer and Sampler?
What to do: We’re only using a small fraction of what our DJ controller and software are capable of. Have a look again at your controller’s faceplate: any of the controls or control names sound unfamiliar? Dig up that manual and get reading. Same goes for your DJ app: if there’s something that sounds foreign or looks like a piece of abstract art, that’s probably a good place to start. Lean in!
5. Add a new DJ trick to your skillset
It’s easy to fall into the trap of DJing with blinkers on – after all, focusing on one style of DJing (eg scratching / turntablism, four-deck mixing) lets you improve quickly in that area. However, there’s much to be gained from cherry picking skills and tricks from other DJ disciplines.
What to do: Think you can execute a flawlessly beatmatched four-deck mix? How about throwing some sampling and loop mixing into that to really wow the crowd? You’re a DVS scratch whiz? Get your hands off of those control records and think about how you could adopt controllerism into your scratch routine via cue point juggling.
You can even take it a step further by incorporating other creative actions that go beyond DJing – how about performing with an instrument like a guitar or a piano? Or adding visuals that you control yourself during your sets? These are areas of growth that you can explore when you find yourself stagnating or getting “bored” with just mixing.
6. Go on a music journey with the masters
Weekends are the best time to read up and watch films by all the greats that have come before you, simply because you can’t play the “I’m busy with work!” card. Here’s a list of videos to stream and books to stock up on to get you inspired over the break. Get cracking:
- Porcelain: A Memoir
- Last Night A DJ Saved My Life
- Energy Flash: A Journey Through Rave Music and Dance Culture
- The Record Players: DJ Revolutionaries
- Rock The Dancefloor: The proven five-step formula for total DJing success
7. Practise, practise, practise!
You can do all of these things, but if you don’t get spinning, you’re seriously hampering your growth. Dust off those decks and clean out your controller, folks, you’ve got an entire weekend and a day to do it!
On less leisurely times throughout the year, you may want to take up what’s known as “spaced repetition”. It’s a learning technique that helps you pick up stuff faster and retain them for longer through regular training and review in increasingly longer intervals.
For example, if you’re trying to master a scratch routine, practising it regularly and spacing it out over several days helps you train muscle memory quicker and helps you remember it better too instead of cramming everything into one scratch session.
Weekends are a chance to take a breather, and the cool thing about DJing is that it doesn’t really feel like “work”. Sneak in any of these seven little tweaks, and you’ll come out on the other side of the weekend a better DJ.
What are your thoughts on the tips above? Any quick hacks or tricks that you’d like to share with our readers so they can up their DJing this weekend? Share your answers below.