DJ Jazzy Jeff sat down with us during the filming of our DJ Jazzy Jeff’s How To DJ Right course, and shared with us a great list of 12 things DJing has taught him over the years.
Think of these as guidelines, as wisdom, as lessons or rules even, that he’s found to always be true, and that he uses to guide his DJing life. You could do a lot worse than take some of these on board for your own DJing!
Here are the first six, the next six are in this article.
1. Get to know your music
Jeff: “Your music is the key to everything that you want to do. You need to know your songs, play your songs, even when you’re just cleaning your house, so you memorise the structure of them.
“The better you know your music, the more it will help you when it comes to DJing. Knowledge of your music is the most important thing.”
2. Transitions are everything
Jeff: “The basis of being a DJ is seamlessly going from one thing to another. How can you move from one to another without people even knowing that you’ve done it?
“Being able to do that helps people keep going, because it doesn’t force them to think about anything other than the music. It doesn’t make them wonder, ‘Why did that come in so abruptly?'”
Read this next: DJ Jazzy Jeff’s 3 Tips For DJing With Stems
3. Listen to your bodyclock
Jeff: “We all have an internal rhythm, we all tap our feet, we all tap on the desk, we all have an internal bodyclock.
“Get to know your bodyclock, trust your bodyclock. Sometimes, before you even attempt to do anything, do it in your head – if it sounds good in your head, then figure out how to do it in real life.”
4. DJing is the meal – scratching is the seasoning
Jeff: “There are some DJs who don’t scratch at all, there are some DJs who scratch a lot, there are some DJs who only scratch!
“But when you’re playing for people to dance, understand that the music and the structure and all the rest of that is the meal, scratching is the salt, pepper, paprika, garlic.
“Sometimes you use a little bit, sometimes you use a little bit more – but using just seasoning, that’s never good!”
Watch Jeff in action in this 10-minute showcase
Jeff recorded this for us as part of our coverage of the Pioneer DJ DDJ-REV7 controller. As well as being a great little mix, it’s ample proof that you can DJ well on all types of DJ gear.
5. It’s not about you, it’s about them
Jeff: “As a DJ, you’re a servant of the people. Your job is to make people happy with the music that you play. Your job is not to make yourself happy first. You have to be a servant of the people.
“As long as you can do your job and make them happy, then you can fill in all of the gaps that will make you happy. Understand what the mission is: It’s about making the people in front of you have a good time.”
6. Make sure the audience knows what you’re doing
Jeff: “I’ve seen DJs in DJ battles do routines off of records that no-one knows. If the people don’t know it then they don’t actually know what you’re doing.
“It’s one of the main reasons that most of the routines people have ever seen me do are off of records that are recognisable, because then you understand how I am manipulating them.
“But that also applies to DJing in general – it’s OK to play records that people don’t know, but you have to make sure you at least give them something that they can recognise.”
Want More Jeff?
Meanwhile, if you want DJ Jazzy Jeff to teach you how to DJ, check out our DJ Jazzy Jeff’s How To DJ Right course.