DJ mixes are important. They show off what you can do as a DJ. They validate your hobby. They are a document of the music you love, for you and others. They can even help you to get gigs. So why is is that DJs have so much trouble with them? Making them, being happy with them, being proud of them?
Watch the show
We had an episode of our weekly Tuesday Tips Live show dedicated to this topic, and you can watch the replay of it here:
Of course we don’t actually record on cassettes any more, preferring to record and share our mixes digitally. But it’s the same thing essentially.
Indeed, we’ve been teaching how to make pro-sounding DJ mixes for seven years here at Digital DJ Tips, to thousands of DJs – and in this post, I’ll list the seven biggest errors we see DJs making over and over again. Avoid these, and you’ll be well on your way to making DJ mixes you can be proud to share.
7 Common DJ Mixtape Mistakes
1. Not planning the music
When we DJ in public, it is very different from DJing for a mixtape. It’s like the difference between talking, and writing. You’d never write something important without planing, revising, correcting and re-reading it, right? So why do some DJs find the idea of properly planning their mixtapes so foreign?
Every second spent in planning is a minute saved later on when it comes to recording and polishing your mix – so put that time in and prepare properly before hitting record!
2. Not correcting the volumes between tracks
You can tell amateur mixtapes, because as the tracks come in and out, the overall volume moves up and down. Some tracks too quiet, some too loud, some transitions louder still. Once you’ve planned your mix, this is the biggest single thing to work on to get a pro sound.
Tip: Listen to your mix on small speakers, headphones, in the car… you’ll soon hear the transitions that need work.
3. Not “mastering” the mix
For our purposes, let’s use mastering to mean “getting it nice and loud”. If you have got your volumes right (see point two above), you ought to be able to do this by using a function in wave editor software (such as the free and open source app Audacity) called “normalising”, which raises the level of the whole mix, so that the loudest part is as loud as possible without actually distorting.
Pro tip: Use a limiter, too, which will help you get the overall mix even louder (we show you the right way to do this in our Pro Mixtape Formula course. Click here to learn more about the course.)
4. Settling for second best
You set out with the best intentions, but after the gruelling slog of finally getting a recording you’re half happy with, even though you can hear errors and things you’d like to do again, you just haven’t the heart to go back and do a better version. “This will have to do”, you tell yourself.
But do this, and you fail the “ten year test”. If you listen back to your mix in ten years, do you think you’ll be proud of it? If not, you should keep working on it.
5. Not getting good artwork made
A mix needs a good title and good artwork to stand out. You’ve gone to all the trouble of making it sound amazing, so why wouldn’t you get some nice cover art for it too, that you can use when you share on socials, your website, mix streaming services and so on?
Unless you are actually a designer, don’t do it yourself! We are blind to how bad our home-made efforts at mix covers, logos and any other design tasks are. For a few dollars at fiverr.com you can get something far better made.
6. Not fully leveraging the mix
So you’ve got this far, and put all that work in – the last thing you want to do now is leave your mix “sat on the shelf”. So not only should you be promoting it to your friends and followers, but also rinsing it for all it’s worth.
Consider editing it in to a shorter “transitions mix” for promoters, a radio show version with idents and voiceovers to tout around to internet radio stations, and even a YouTube version (all you need is the still of your artwork to turn it in to a “video”.)
7. Not making mixes at all!
Most DJs don’t make mixes as often as they’d want to. It’s the fear of messing up, the anger of having to start all over again, mainly. But as I said at the beginning:
“DJ mixes are important. They show off what you can do as a DJ. They validate your hobby. They are a document of the music you love, for you and others. They can even help you to get gigs.”
If you’re serious about your DJing, you need to make DJ mixes. So no excuses – start planning your next mix now!
Want to get this right? Then do this next…
Our Pro Mixtape Formula course teaches the failsafe way to make perfect mixtapes every time, and to never need to go back to the start when you make errors. Click here to learn more.