All of us have bad DJ mistakes from time to time. No DJ plays a perfect set every time they play. So while when mistakes happen and while they can be discouraging (especially for beginners), they are also one of the best learning opportunities you can have as a DJ. So instead of getting down on yourself about a mistake you might have made in a mix, let’s look at three ways you can use mistakes to make yourself an even better DJ.
1. Take note of your mistakes
When something does go wrong in your mix, the most important thing to do is to take note of what exactly happened.
The best thing to do is have a recording of your mix so you can go back and listen to it – although this isn’t always possible. If you’re anything like me, you aren’t recording every time you play out live in front of a crowd.
So what I do is quickly take out my phone and jot down a note of what happened. If I miss a transition, I write down the two songs I was transitioning between and a short note of how I was trying to transition them. If something unexpected happened while using effects, I write down the effect I was using, what I was trying to accomplish, and again, what actually happened.
It’s very easy to tell yourself, “Oh I’ll just remember what happened after my set.” But by the end of your set, it’s more likely you will no longer remember all of the details, which are so important if you really want to figure out what went wrong, and make sure it doesn’t happen again.
2. Dissect what went wrong
After you’ve noted what went wrong, the next step is to break down exactly what happened, step-by-step. Take the time to really think about all the details of what led up to the mistake, and how your execution ended up not giving you the results you were looking for.
After something like this happens, I spend a good amount of time during my next practice session doing just this. First I’ll look at my notes and see exactly what I did. Then I’ll attempt the technique again on my home set-up, trying to recreate the situation as best as possible (this is where the recording or notes come in handy). Then once I have an understanding of what I was trying to accomplish, I’ll work through a solution one step at a time until I find a solution.
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If I missed a transition, I’ll try bringing in the songs at different points until I get the phrasing correct. If I’ve mixed out of a song too quickly using the faders, I’ll practice different timings until it sounds right. If the effects I used didn’t give me the expected result, I’ll work through how I can properly use them to get the result I was looking for.
3. Practise the solution live
Once you’ve worked out a proper solution, the most important step is to practise it live. Being intentional about testing out what you’ve worked on at home the next time you play live is essential.
Not only is it the one true way to see if your solution actually works, more importantly it will help build your confidence in your skills as a DJ. When playing live it is so important to be confident in what you are doing, and not to hesitate when executing any technique. Once you get a technique down and you know what you worked on at home actually works live, you’ll gain the confidence to try other things and expand your skill set as a DJ even further.
It’s so important not to get down on yourself when you make mistakes. Mistakes should lead to you figuring out what went wrong, and how to improve. Going through this process should mean that you’ll find yourself able to perform the “problem” techniques more easily next time – leaving you free to try ever-more ambitious things.
But guess what? Some of those ever-more ambitious techniques won’t quite work out either! So it’s totally important to remember that ultimately, mistakes and improving go hand in hand. Again, it’s not the mistakes, but how you deal with and grow from them that really counts.
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