Over To You: How To Mix A Multi-Genre Party Set

Phil Morse | Founder & Tutor
Read time: 2 mins
Last updated 4 April, 2018


Playing a playlisted commercial birthday party may be some DJs’ idea of hell – but if you do it right, it can be a great way of getting experience, especially when you’re starting out.

Digital DJ Tips reader Robert writes: “I have a 21st birthday coming up, it is early in a club. It will only be the birthday person’s guests early, then general public later. I am only playing for the party section earlier. They’ve given me a tunes list that is 112 songs long, and is everything from AC/DC’s “You Shook Me All Night Long” to B52’s “Love Shack” to “Happy” by Pharell Williams to “Stand By Me” by Prince Royce. What is the suggestion for making this work? My guess is by genre, then BPM, the see what the dancefloor is doing?”

Digital DJ Tips says:

To some DJ’s this is a nightmare gig, to others it’s the kind of gig that’s not only fine, but great fun. Being handed a playlist is something may would hate, but at the same time, you’re playing a party where people want to have fun, it’s in a real club, and who knows where it may lead? My advice is always to take gigs like this just for the practice if nothing else.

OK, before we move on to the mixing, a word about those 112 tunes. They’re giving you an idea, but you’re the DJ, and people may want stuff that’s similar but not on that list. Take a handful of tunes that YOU think would work, that the person hasn’t listed. This is your chance to learn a bit about pleasing a mainstream party crowd. Don’t be scared about doing this: Otherwise, they might as well put all the tunes on a CD and play that. There’s always a bit of give and take; not only in song order, but in song choice. Don’t be worried about “mixing it up” a bit. You’re not taking liberties; you’re doing them a favour (ask any wedding DJ who’s been “handed a list”…)

Secondly, then, your question: How to mix it. My advice? Don’t even bother. It’s not that kind of gig. It’s all about the programming – what order you choose to play the tunes in dictates and dominates. The closest you need to get to mixing is counting – dropping the new songs on the “1” beat (the first beat of a musical phrase”), and just getting rid of the outgoing song either immediately, or fast. Doing this “on the fade” is absolutely fine.

This lets you jump around the BPMs and genres with ease, and nobody will care one iota – as long as you get that “programming” bit right. It’s basically mobile DJ territory, and to do it right is a huge skill in itself. Good news is that if you don’t try to do anything fancy and spend all your time watching the dancefloor and looking through the 150 or so tunes you’ve got (assuming you’ve added 40 or so of your own…) to find a great one to play next, you won’t go far wrong.

(By the way, if all my talk of “1” beats and phrases is confusing, it’s not hard to learn, but too much to go into here; for an explanation and also six simple mixes that’ll work in pretty much any DJing situation, check out our How To Digital DJ Fast course.)

I wish you a lot of luck!

Do you play party sets like this, or have you done? What did you learn when you were handed a tune list and told to get on with it? If you’ve got any advice to share with Robert, please do so in the comments.

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