Creating music requires a lot of ability, but playing it well requires skill. Being a great DJ is not just about showing up with your tracks and your equipment; there’s a lot more to it than that.
You need passion for what you do, passion for the sound you create and the impact it has on your crowd. You need to be proactive. Working with a pre-set playlist is not good enough; you need to interact with the dance floor, controlling it and responding to its ebb and flow.
You need to be master of your technology, adapting it to bring about the great effects you seek. In this field, you need to be cutting edge and stay at the forefront of technological advances.
But you also need a skill set in musicality; and, like all skill sets, you need to be committed to learning and practicing these skills. You need to seek perfection in what you do.
Knowing the key of a song is important. Mixing together discordant sounds will have your audience leaving in droves! Understanding why certain sound combinations work together will lead to success. If you don’t understand much in terms of musical theory, you can try singing two songs back to back to see if they will sound good together.
Another skill that will prove important is the ability to combine tempos. This is a skill that may not often come to mind immediately. When DJ’ing, you can’t just play a fast song and then switch to a slow song. In general, the tempos from song to song should stay within about five beats per minute of each other. Learning this skill also comes back to crowd control, leading your crowd in the direction you want them to go. There is nothing worse than a DJ who can’t mix songs together smoothly to keep you groovin’ and dancin’.
The rhythm, including the feeling and the technical aspects, will determine the way people dance at the event you are dj’ing. Movement links to rhythm, so you will need to have an inner feel for when your audience wants to slow down, to speed up, or to go absolutely wild! Rhythm is something as simple as a drum beat or a bass line. Are the two beats similar? There’s probably an easy way to mix them together.
Music changes in volume, power, and urgency. You will need to grasp the way these dynamics work and how they will impact your performance. This is especially true with styles of EDM. This type of DJ’ing is all about the break down and the build and the beat drop!
The recording artist created the sound they wanted for their composition, but it might not be the sound you need at that point in your gig. Grasping the psychology of sound will get your audience on their feet for the best time they can have – whether it’s bouncing manically or hugging lovingly. You want to always be taking your audience on a journey of peaks and valleys… like a great roller coaster ride.
Of course, on top of these skills, you will need to have a great personality, love your work, and understand your audience. The most successful DJs juggle all of these excellently and have the musicality to understand what they are playing and how to manipulate the music for their own purposes. Like a great actor, or tennis star, they practice to get their performance ready for the big match.
If you develop musical awareness, advance the skills we mentioned, and hone them to perfection, your gigs will be a roaring success and your reputation will be solid as a rock.