Learn To DJ: The Proven Method That Will Work For You

Phil Morse | Founder & Tutor
Read time: 8 mins
Last updated 13 September, 2022

So you want to learn to DJ. You want to know what it feels like to play the tunes you love in front of people who are loving everything you do. You want to get the feeling of finishing a DJ set, knowing that you’ve just done a great job and that people will be talking about it for a long time to come.

If you love music and you feel you know what makes people dance, you already have what it takes to learn to DJ. You don’t need to be musically trained, and you certainly don’t need to spend many thousands on DJ gear.

Learn to DJ with us: The Complete DJ Course

And while there are fundamental skills you’ll need to acquire if you want to do this properly, thanks to technology it is easier and quicker than ever to get to the point where you are able to play a decent-sounding DJ set – which is where the real learning begins!

The problem is knowing where and how to start to learn to DJ. Maybe you are:

  • Somebody who has “dabbled” in DJing for a while, but never really taken it seriously, or improved like you want to
  • Somebody who has only just decided you want to do this, after dreaming of it for a long time
  • Somebody who has DJed in the past but now wants to do it using “modern” DJ gear like controllers and laptop software

If so, it’s not as if this is a “whim”, or as if you’re coming at it without a clue about what DJing is, who does it, or the music that you’re passionate about – right?

In short, you know what you want to do, you are pretty sure you’ll be able to do it, and you’re ready to put a bit of time and money into making that happen… you just don’t want to waste that time figuring out all the important things for yourself.

So let me share the formula for success with you.

The Proven 5-Step Method To Learn To DJ

We’ve taught tens of thousands of people to DJ successfully since 2010 here at Digital DJ Tips, both with our own tutors and through producing DJ courses with big-name DJs like James Hype, Laidback Luke and DJ Angelo.

Before I built this school, I DJed professionally for 15 years, playing some of the best clubs in the world, including at the world’s biggest club, Privilege in Ibiza. I’ve DJed on vinyl, with CDs, on digital systems, and in clubs, bars, lounges, weddings, on the radio, livestreaming, parties, and of course just for fun on my own!

Playing a livestream set next to pool during late summer
Poolside during one of my regular Balcony Beats livestreams, streamed on YouTube, Twitch, and Mixcloud.

I’ve written extensively about DJing, both in magazines such as iDJ magazine in the UK, and through publishing a best-selling book on DJing, Rock The Dancefloor!

And I’ve spoken about DJing on some of the biggest stages in the world, including at The NAMM Show in Los Angeles, at ADE in Amsterdam, at the BPM Show in England, at Mobile Beat in Las Vegas, and at DJ Expo in Atlantic City.

What I’ve discovered throughout my life as a DJ, and through working with our students, is that most people put their efforts in completely the wrong places when they want to learn to DJ. This invariably leads to disillusionment, confusion, wasted time and money, and – often – failure.

Probably because of a feeling that modern technology makes incredibly complex DJ tricks “easy”, most beginners feel that it ought to be simple enough to buy any modern DJ gear, watch a few “10 DJ tricks in 60 seconds!” YouTube DJ videos, and copy what they see.

In short, they try to replicate the skills they see DJs performing, without realising that what they see is just the tip of the iceberg – the “visible” part of DJing. What you see when you watch these performances doesn’t actually reveal anything at all about the rest of the parts you need to learn to DJ successfully.

circular diagram highlighting the five keys areas of success, including gear, music, techniques, playing out, and promoting yourself
The five core steps to DJing success: Gear, Music, Techniques, Playing out, and Promoting Yourself.

In my book Rock The Dancefloor!, I first revealed that to learn to DJ successfully, you need to divide your efforts equally across five areas, right from the very start.

These five areas are Gear, Music, Techniques, Playing Out and Promoting Yourself. (You can click the links if you want to learn more about them, but I’ll go through all you need to know for now below.)

My figuring out that this is the right way to teach DJing transformed the results of my students, and is the basis of how we teach our students at Digital DJ Tips, which now exclusively uses this system.

Learn to DJ using our proven five-step formula: The Complete DJ Course

(We’ve even built an online “scorecard” that any DJ can take, to score where you’re currently at in your DJing in the five areas, which gives you a detailed personalised PDF based on your score with tips for improvement in all five areas. It’s called “The DJ Test”, and you can take it for yourself for free by clicking here.)

Let’s look at the five areas one-by-one, so you can understand why working on all five is so important:

1. Gear

This is the “geeky” stuff. Understanding what DJ software is and what it does, understanding how speakers, amplifiers, mixers, headphones, audio cables, power supplies, laptops, software, audio interfaces and so on work, what they do, how they fit together, and how to troubleshoot them.

DJ examines several DJ controllers behind desk in DJ studio
Once you understand the various parts that all DJ set-ups share in common, you can see past the marketing hype and ‘shiny new thing’ syndrome and be certain about what you really need.

If you don’t have a solid understanding of this, the best you can hope for is figuring out how to use a single piece of gear – the one you buy to learn on. But that won’t help you the second you want to DJ anywhere else, on any other type of gear, or take your own gear to play where the rest of the set-up is different, because you’ll be lost.

Make no mistake – as the DJ, bar owners and party organisers will be looking at YOU to get the music playing and keep it playing, so you better be up to the task.

2. Music

This is everything to do with how you find, choose, obtain, organise, and prepare the music for your DJ sets. Being a fan of music and having a big music collection are not the same as having a DJ’s understanding of music, and indeed, can actually hinder you when you want to learn to DJ.

Music collection inside DJ software
DJs need to be able to discover, choose, import, and organise their music into their software (or medium) of choice, before sharing it with an audience.

A DJ treats every single item of music as a tool. Like any craftsperson, an accomplished DJ knows that it’s not the number of tools you have, but how well you know them, how well you can use them, and how quickly you can lay your hands on them when you need them that counts.

If you want to succeed as a DJ, you’ll need to fundamentally change the way you approach building a music collection, effectively “starting again”. Only then can you get to the stage where you always know exactly what to play next, and can lay your hands on it in your collection instantly.

3. Techniques

As I mentioned earlier, most people wanting to learn to DJ usually try to start here, not realising it is only one of five steps needed to succeed. And even then, they end up trying to learn specialised techniques before learning the basics.

DJ performs techniques on a Pioneer DJ controller
Techniques are the flashy part of DJing – you’ll get there, just don’t skip over the basics!

So while it’s cool to be able to “quick mix”, scratch, use all the effects and buttons on modern DJ gear, and basically show off, the truth is that all the DJs you see doing that stuff have first mastered the basics, properly.

We’re talking time-honoured DJ techniques like counting, timing, beatmixing, understanding song structure, and so on, all of which provide an essential foundation on which to build up to performing the flashy tricks and more advanced skills.

4. Playing Out

Performing – playing out in front of other people – may be far from your mind as you begin to learn to DJ, but nonetheless it is a crucial element to master if you want to understand the art of DJing. As a DJ, you sharpen your skills on the steel of the public.

Playing a set in front of a large nightclub crowd
Gigs are where DJs learn and improve the most, and you can truly call yourself a “DJ” once you’ve played in public, whether that’s for two people or a thousand.

You will only learn about programming the music correctly, reading a crowd, managing the energy in the room, interacting with your audience, building healthy relationships with other DJs who can inspire and encourage you, and what it feels like when all of this comes together and you’re in control (hint: it feels AMAZING), when you can play out successfully.

So right from the off, everything you do needs to be working towards playing in public – even if your “public” is just your partner, your friends or a party you throw yourself.

5. Promoting Yourself

Again, as you start to learn to DJ, the idea of promoting yourself may be far from your mind. You may even tell yourself, “I only want to do this for fun, why would I care about promoting myself? I’m in it for the love of music, not to get famous!”

Sitting outside with gear using phone to engage with fans
Promotion will look different for everyone, it just comes down to what’s important to you as a DJ, and how you get your message across.

But promoting yourself isn’t about world domination, but rather simply about being clear about what you want to achieve, and how you’re going to get that message across to other people. Your DJ name, your DJ logo (you’ll want both as soon as you upload your first mixtape to share with the world), how you use Instagram, how you describe what you do to friends and family, how you choose which gigs to take and which to leave… all come down to the kind of DJ you want to be, and how you get that message across.

Promoting yourself is hugely important, because without it, all of this stays in your head – and stuff that stays in your head isn’t reality, it’s simply a dream.

The Best Way To Learn This

So those are the five steps, and when you realise this and start spending time working on all five, a wonderful thing happens: It becomes like a “multiplier” effect, where what you learn in all five areas helps you become better, faster, in ALL areas.

Now, reading the above, you’re probably thinking you’re actually already better in some of these areas than others (remember, The DJ Test will tell you for sure), and that’s both normal and fine. And despite my words, you may also feel that some of these areas are more important than others to you, and again, that’s fine.

A graphic that says discover your DJ score, set over a DJ controller, with a button that prompts viewers to take the test
How will you score? Taking the DJ test gets you a free personalised coaching report and video series packed with tips & training to help you improve in the areas you need.

But this framework is THE best way to learn to DJ, and if you want to DJ right here, right now, the way it’s done today, you need to approach your DJing in this way.

The best place to learn what you need to know about this is using my book Rock The Dancefloor!. In it, I present a beginner-friendly guide to how to do everything you need to learn to DJ: Get the gear, learn the music, acquire the skills, play gigs successfully, and get your name out there. The book has helped tens of thousands of DJs to take their first steps.

It’s available as a paperback, for your Kindle, and as an audio book.

However, if you want to get a copy now, for free, there’s a simple way for you to get it – and that is to sign up to become a member of Digital DJ Tips.

Digital DJ Tips is the DJ school I founded in 2010 which has grown to be the biggest DJ school in the world, and membership is free.

Read this next: How To Find Time To Learn DJing (Proven Method For Busy People)

When you join, you’ll get our weekly DJ briefing, called “Tuesday Tips”, which is essential reading for people learning to DJ. You’ll also get links to articles, videos, gear news, free tutorials and more to help you improve, and be invited to join our 10,000+ Facebook Group for people learning to DJ.

Graphic showcasing a globe with pins on different countries, with text that says The Global DJ Network
Come hang out with us and 10,000+ DJs from all over the world inside our private Facebook group.

And as a “thank you” for becoming our latest member, I’ll give you a copy of Rock The Dancefloor!, as an immediate PDF download.

Learning to DJ is an exciting thing to do, but knowing the right way to do it – especially in today’s world where there is so much in the way of competing DJ systems, types of gear, software, and so on – can be hard.

Discover the brand-new way to become a successful DJ: The Complete DJ Course

Let my school and my method wipe away the confusion for you, and learn to DJ with the fast, proven five-step system.

Do This Now

Make the start right now, by doing these two things:

  1. Get your free copy of “Rock The Dancefloor!” – Click here and sign up as the latest member of Digital DJ Tips
  2. Take The DJ Test – Click here to assess where you’re at in your DJing right now! You’ll get a free, personalised training plan from me at the end of it

Stop waiting – today is the day you start to learn to DJ!

Click here for your free DJ Gear and software guide