How To Play Back To Back DJ Sets (3 B2B Tips For Beginners)

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Last updated 5 March, 2020

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It is becoming a regular thing to see DJ duos and DJ groups playing “B2B” (back-to-back DJ sets) – which means playing on the same set-up, or sometimes multiple set-ups, at the same time.

While DJing on your own has its own challenges and rewards, DJing with another person can provide a new level of creativity to the way you approach your DJ sets.

Learning to DJ a back-to-back set takes some practice and there are some things you will want to keep in mind to help you have a better B2B set. So in this article and video, we will go through why you would want to try DJing a B2B set, and some tips to help you pull it off successfully.

What is a back-to-back DJ set?

So just to elaborate a little more a back-to-back DJ set, or B2B set, is when two or more DJs play at the same time. Sometimes this means each DJ picking one or two songs each and going back and forth throughout the set. Other times DJs may do sets of 20 or 30 minutes before switching back and forth.

Back-to-back DJ sets are fun because the crowd gets a taste of each DJs’ style in one set, creating a vibe that could be totally different than if each DJ were to play alone.

Why you should try a B2B set

They can give you new ideas

Playing a back-to-back set allows you to hear another DJ’s take on your set. Because you two are playing together there are plenty of opportunities where you pick the song that is getting transitioned out of and the next DJ picks the song after that. Hearing where another DJ would take a transition can be completely different from where you might take it. Hearing a fresh perspective can open up your mind to new mixes you would haven’t thought of.

They sharpen your skills (ears and selection)

Back-to-back sets are not going to be easy for beginners. They will test your DJ skills the entirety of the set. They will test your on-the-fly song selection. They will test how well you can manually beatmix. Back-to-back sets have a way of getting you to work on every aspect of your DJing.

I like to think of back-to-back sets as a way to practise under pressure. Since you are live in front of an audience you do not have the option of just stopping and starting all over. You are forced to give your best performance under even more stress than a normal DJ set. Repeatedly getting this type of high-pressure practice behind the decks can make you a better DJ faster.

Unplanned back-to-back sets are like a  DJ “pop quiz”

While many back-to-back sets are often planned way ahead of the actual gig, I have been invited to go back-to-back with another DJ spontaneously. This usually happens when there are multiple DJs playing in one night and you and another DJ have built shared chemistry listening to each other’s sets.

Since there is little to no preparation and this kind of set usually happens spontaneously as a result of fun energy during the night, you as a DJ are left with only your skills. When these types of sets happen it really can help you realise where you are skill-wise with your DJing and what you may or may not need to work on.

So now we’ve looked at what they are and why it’s worth gicving them ago, let’s look at how to play B2B sets.

3 tips for having a successful back to back DJ set

1. Practise beforehand

While this may not be possible in every back-to-back situation, if you have the chance to practise together, you should take it. No two DJs will have the same chemistry, so it is important to figure out how you and the other DJs you’re going to play with are going to handle it.

Take some time to understand the kind of track selection you both have in mind for the gig, as well as the kind of pacing you both have. Some DJs like to mix in and out of songs faster than others, and having an understanding of each others’ pace can make for a better set.

2. Have a plan

While unplanned back-to-back sets do happen, it is always better if the DJs involved have an understanding of where they would like the set to go. Is there a theme for the night? Are all of the DJs familiar with each others’ libraries? Are all of the DJs familiar with each others’ playing styles?

The answers to these questions can lead to better back-to-back sets. The more in tune with one another you are the better cohesiveness the set will have. Even if it’s a quick five to ten-minute conversation before, or even during, the set, that may be all you need to give the set a more defined direction.

3. Leave room for the unexpected

Just like any other DJ set, no matter how much you plan, there is a good chance it will not going 100% according to plan. The spontaneity is also a big part of the beauty of a back-to-back set, and to try and remove that element completely is like taking away some of the magic.

Be prepared for some unexpected turns, and embrace them. From my personal experience, these sudden unexpected shifts in the music can lead to some of the most memorable parts of the set.

Read this next: Do You Enjoy Playing Back-To-Back DJ Sets?

Finally…

Doing back-to-back sets with other DJs has taught me so much. I’ve become a better DJ in terms of song selection, timing, and technique. I apply the things I’ve learned from playing back-to-back sets to every set that I DJ. I believe it’s something that every DJ should try at least a few times, so please go ahead and do so – I’m sure you will have some great takeaways from the experience.

• Want to learn more about how to learn to DJ and play great DJ sets? Take a look at our Complete DJ Course.

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