Your Questions: How Do I Tell Another DJ His Mixing Sucks?

Christian Yates
Read time: 2 mins
Last updated 23 March, 2018

How would Dubfire go about telling Richie Hawtin that he wasn’t properly phrase matching, and how would Richie react?

Digital DJ Tips Platinum Group member Paul Cowling asks: “I have an odd dilemma. A couple of weeks ago, I spun B2B (back to back) with a friend for the first of many planned gigs as a duo. As I stood next to him while he was mixing, it became clear to me that he wasn’t mixing properly.

“He drops his tunes on the first beat of a bar, but not the first beat of an eight-bar phrase, so that means he’s not ‘in phrase’. If the beats are not in sync, he hits cue and tries again on another random first beat and repeats this until they are in sync, never once bending the pitch with the jog wheels. Rarely is he phrase matching.

“He’s been DJing longer than I have (four years versus my two years), and was likely taught incorrectly by another DJ. How do I tell him he’s been doing it wrong all this time, without offending him or coming off as superior?”

Digital DJ Tips Says:

Really good question, Paul. It can be difficult to tell someone that they are doing something wrong when they have been doing it for five minutes, never mind four years! I think you have to ask yourself: “How would I react if he said something to me about my technique?” In these kinds of circumstances, it is extremely difficult to convey your message without bruising someone’s ego.

I had a similar experience when playing B2B with my partner at the time constantly redlining the mixer. Before I joined him behind the decks, I was dancing and told him that the sound on the dancefloor was distorted. Of course, he nodded and turned the gain down but then on his next track he fell back into his habit. I had a word with him after we finished our set, but he was adamant that everything was fine: “No one complained,” he said. He was a much more experienced DJ than me and in this case, I failed to teach an old dog a new trick. However, a few months later, he lost his residency in a bar after he blew one of their speakers. I haven’t seen him since, but sometimes it takes something so extreme for people to consider change.

In your case, I think that you certainly must tell him the error of his ways and I would suggest inviting him round for a casual mix at your place. Maybe enthusiastically show off a “new” trick that you picked up recently and show him how much tighter your mixes are as a result. Ask him to have a go repeating the mix that you have just shown him with the same tracks. He will soon understand that something isn’t right when he can’t get it to sound as good as your effort. If he is really serious about DJing, it is unlikely that he will be offended by this, despite his greater experience.

It would be great to hear back from you how you went about telling your partner and how he reacted.

Have you ever had someone criticise your technique when DJing? Have you ever told someone else that they were mixing incorrectly? How would you handle such a situation? Share your experiences and tips in the comments below…

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