Discover the top 12 advanced DJ tips and tricks to give yourself the edge in the clubs. And find out why tip number 12 is the most important of all!
When you leave the bedroom and begin playing at venues the basic skills have been learned and hopefully mastered. Many DJ's will not strive to perform any better by learning more advanced DJ tips and tricks. They've learned their skill, they're playing to crowds, and they're now happy.
But what if you want to outshine the other DJ's you're playing alongside? What can you add to your DJ sets to make them stand out?
Or maybe you're making mistakes and need to take something away from your sets?
Whatever you need these top DJ tips and tricks will make you stand out above the rest!
Let's take a look at the ways to improve your mixes and to add a few things many DJ's don't have. We'll also point out some of the mistakes you very often hear from beginner and experienced DJ's.
Advanced DJ Tips and Tricks
1. Preparing your DJ set
As soon as you know where it is you're going to be playing you should prepare yourself. Get to know exactly what you will need for this particular set. And make it a habit to fully prepare for every set in the future.
You should know what the crowd are expecting to hear and what time slot you are playing for. Take the right music and also some fall backs just in case you get a tough crowd.
Get your music sorted into folders that make it quick and easy to find what you want to play. You could even make a playlist specifically for that gig. Get a stack of tunes that work perfectly together and you won't be guessing so much on the night.
2. Film yourself DJing
When DJing for a crowd it's important to look the part. Nobody wants to watch a boring DJ that never takes their eyes off their equipment and has a blank expression. You should interact with the crowd, dance, sing along, and smile.
Try setting up a camera in your home and filming yourself mixing. Imagine that you're playing at a venue. Put on the exact same show as you would if you had a crowd in front of you. Watch the video back to get a good idea of how you look to others.
Do you like what you see? Would you be impressed if you were a part of the crowd? If the answer is no then work out where you need to improve your performance. Then film yourself again, put on a top show, and practice until it's perfect.
3. Watch out for red lights and clipping on equipment
When I take over from another DJ to play my time slot, I'll often be greeted by red lights clipping on amps and the mixer. So many DJ's still neglect the lights, but by letting them remain in the red is risking damage to equipment.
You'll also have distortion of speakers and headphones. This makes your set sound terrible, and risks a speaker blowout. If you see this you need to turn your gains, EQ, or master volume down until you see green.
As a general rule, Gains and EQ should remain at the 12 O'clock position throughout your set. Simply by being aware of this already stands you apart from about 75% of DJ's that I've met!
4. Learn to scratch.
Something that always gets the crowd exited is hearing a DJ scratch. How often do you hear DJ's scratching in commercial clubs?
Not very often!
Whenever I throw in some scratching I'll almost always get compliments from the crowd. It's something they don't hear much, and hearing a DJ do something different is exciting.
Stand yourself apart from the others and start incorporating scratching into your sets right away. You can scratch over almost any genre of music. And even basic scratches can add a little something different.
As with anything though, don't overdo it. Too much scratching can get annoying to clubbers. Try not to scratch over any more than 4 tunes per 1 hour set. Unless you're playing hip hop, then you can probably get away with scratching all the way through.
5. Learn harmonic mixing, or mixing in key
This is something that not many DJ's pay attention to. But it's something that can totally transform the sound of your mixes.
The old method for DJ's to find out the key of a tune was to use a piano and then label each record before heading out to play.
Thankfully there is now software available to tell you what key your music is in.
Mixed in key is a great tool, and will list the key of each track in the comments section of your library.
DJ mixing software will usually have a feature that will analyze each of your tracks. It will then list the key of the track in your music library. Serato DJ and Traktor Pro 2 both feature this.
If you're using software it's still important to know your tunes well. Just because two tracks are the same key, it doesn't mean it will sound good in the mix.
Doing it by ear is more of a skill. Most DJ's will throw any track into the mix without even thinking about how the mix will sound. As long as it's beatmatched they couldn't care less. But some mixes will just not sound right.
When I mix I may not know whether the track is in the key of D or the key of G, but I can hear if the keys match. This is more important in some music genres than others, like trance for example where synths dominate the track.
If you want to take it to an even higher level, try matching sounds like kick-drums. Certain kick-drums or kick-drum patterns will not match or mix well. Others go together so well you'll struggle telling the two tracks apart.
When you can seamlessly mix two tracks and people can't even tell that the track has just changed, you'll know you've got it down!
6. Don't mess about with the faders excessively
This is more of a beginner tip, but I do hear many experienced DJ's doing it.
Messing around with the up faders and constantly pushing them up and down to the beat. And quickly cutting across to the next track whilst vocals are playing. Why would you cut off the vocal to replace it with a couple of empty sounding kick-drums?
This has got to be one of the worst things to hear when your listening to a recorded mix. Hearing it out in a club isn't much better. It's ok if it's done right and to tease the next track. But when it's done pointlessly it can sound very amateur.
If you enjoy doing this, try recording your mix to see how it sounds to others.
If you're not guilty of using this one in a bad way, it can actually be used for good too.
You can build anticipation using a quick cut across with the crossfader. You can try it with your most popular tracks to tease the crowd.
The crowd may know what the next track is from a quick tease and this can really get them going. Just make sure you don't cut vocals off. And use it to tease a recognisable part of a track that the crowd will know.
7. Learn how to use FX
Incorporating FX into your sets can be great fun. And it can add a nice little touch to your mixes. But you may need to spend the time perfecting the use of the FX. Add them where appropriate, but don't overdo it and annoy the crowd.
Too many DJs mess about with the flanger, delay, reverb, etc all the way through their set, and it can sound very unprofessional and annoying to party goers.
Some use FX to cover up poor beatmatching, others use them to transition through every mix. This can be great to get you out of trouble, but you shouldn't rely on them. It's better to perfect your beatmatching, EQing, etc.
Although the average clubber may not tell a good mix from a poor one, eventually somebody will notice.
8. Learn to play multiple genres
This is a great technique I used to improve my mixing.
Mixing just one genre of music can really hold you back and slow your progression. You may enjoy playing your one favourite genre, and that's great. But every genre has something different and will present a new challenge.
If you mix Hardtrance and have never mixed anything different, do you think you could pull of a hip-hop set at the club on Saturday night? It's doubtful.
Try to mix as many genres as possible, they may not be your favourite but your mixing and skill level will be transformed. Plus, you will be able to accept more work as your list of genres expand.
9. Learn to use your EQs appropriately
The 3 band EQ can be the most important function of a mixer that you can use during your mix. It's still so common to see, and hear DJ's mixing without even touching the EQ's.
If you mix without using the EQ you'll likely hear basslines clashing, speakers distorting, and a messy sounding mix.
This is really a beginner tip and should be learned in the bedroom. But like I said, so many DJ's neglect the EQs so it needs to be here.
We won't go any deeper into EQing here as it's a long subject. But if you need to learn more you can - Read my full article on EQ mixing here
10. Take fall back equipment and music to your gigs
Taking back-up equipment to your gigs certainly applies to mobile DJ's. But it's also worth taking back-up along if you're a club DJ. Decks do break down, not very often but it's happened to me twice. Computers crash, and USB sticks suddenly quit!
If it means you can still play it's worth taking a small controller, 2 USB sticks with all of your tracks, and a back-up headphone.
You could save the night if there is a breakdown. But if the equipment goes down and you have no back-up it could reflect badly on you. Clubbers are nasty little things when you take their music away. And you could end up with a bad name for something out of your control! Or is it?
11. Produce your own music.
Producing your own music to play in your DJ sets is another great way of giving yourself an edge. If you love DJing and music, and have a creative side, there's a chance that you'll be into production.
Production software has come a long way and is constantly improving. You won't have to shell out thousands of pounds building a studio, or even hiring one. You can make a whole track on your PC, mac, or laptop using programs like fruity loops, ableton live, and steinberg cubase.
These programs make it possible to make full tracks in just a few days. Then all you need to do is drop the track into your DJ sets. You'll be able to gauge the crowds reaction to see how well you're doing.
12. Learn how to read your crowd
Something very often neglected by DJ's is the ability to read your crowd. Because this is so important I've got a full article on the subject.
You'll learn how to get the crowd pumped up, and DJ crowd interaction. You'll also learn about the body language of the crowd. And what to do if the crowd is unreadable.
You can read the full article here > HERE
Don't neglect this vital DJ skill. It's just as important as mixing and if you master it you'll build a better following. People will also remember you easier. And they'll want to come to see you play again.
Many DJ's don't take the time to improve their skill level after that initial learning faze in the bedroom. The DJ's that take the time to keep learning will be much more successful.
Have fun using these advanced DJ tips to give you and advantage over the rest, and to improve your DJing as a whole.
If these tips are a bit advanced for you then check out my beginner tips HERE
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