There are many people who are seriously considering starting their DJ career, or simply as a hobby. Even more would probably simply like to know what exactly do DJs do. All of them are presumably having trouble to find a transparent source that would explain DJing in a simple and effective manner. This guide is aimed to do exactly that.
Anyone who has spent some time studying it has came to conclusion that DJing is not easy at all. In order to master this profession a lot of hard work and talent need to be put together. Not only that, to succeed one has frequently rely on good fortune as well. If you are an aspiring DJ, finding motivation to struggle through hard beginning is commonly the hardest part. Hopefully, this guide will persuade you to hold on.
So,… what do DJs do?
There are many types of DJs. Playing music is what they all have in common. Sounds easy, right? Everyone plays music on a daily basis. You just have to hit the play button. Unfortunately, DJing isn’t as easy as it might seem. DJing, to put it simply, means taking a collection of songs that prima facie fit together by several qualities and find a way to mix them together and further enhance their qualities.
There are multiple types of DJs. Usually, when one talks about DJing, first thing that comes into our mind is club DJing. The club DJ is, therefore, a typical representative of this profession. Whether a resident DJ or club DJ that is moving between different venues, all club DJs have to be able to maintain moving the dancefloor and ramp up the energy.
The mobile DJ, for instance, perform at different events like prom parties, corporate events, or weddings. They are usually more interactive and take requests from the audience. Speaking into a microphone and making announcements is also a task they normally have to do. So as radio DJs, who represent another type of DJs. There are other types of DJs, such as performers who show their skills on turntables or producers who actually play their music at festivals.
To work as a DJ is, therefore, far from having an one-dimensional job. You can focus on being a certain type of DJ, depending on what excites you. Do you like performing in clubs and making people move their feet, or linking an event and entertaining participants? A good DJ should be able to do both and much more.
What equipment do DJs use?
DJ equipment has changed dramatically over the last few years. There were times DJs performed solely with two turntables and a mixer. Once MP3s and CDs arrived, most DJs switched to newer digital formats due to easier mobility, greater reliability and extensive options to control and manipulate music.
Nowadays, a typical DJ setup includes most of the following DJ equipment:
- DJ controller: DJ controllers is basically a microprocessor that provides you a control surface with jog wheels, buttons, knobs, pads or faders, which all give you hands-on control over software settings and functions. Displays or LED screens indicate many parameters, such as audio levels or system status. In addition, audio interface is used to transmit signal to external equipment like laptop, PA systems, and many more. There are several factors that need to be taken into account when choosing the right DJ controller, most notably DJ software you are planning to use.
- DJ software: there are three major software options that majority of DJs use. Note that DJ controller and DJ software usually have to be chosen as a package. Although there are some software-versatile controllers, they normally don’t provide such functionality as software-specific controllers that were designed with certain software in mind. To conclude, three big software platforms that most DJs use are Serato, Traktor and Ableton Live.
- DJ mixer: although most DJs do their mixing on software-based controllers, which have taken most mixer-like capabilities, some still prefer using the real thing. Similarly as DJ controllers, DJ mixers allow you to control and manipulate multiple audio signals and make seamless transitions from one song to another.
- Other: a computer, mobile device, DJ media player, or even turntables are being used to play audio as well. In addition, audio interface directs your audio to software and external hardware. In order to be able to hear your mixes better and add your final touch, solid DJ headphones and speaker system is required as well.
What basic skills should you have as a DJ?
- Beatmatching: the whole purpose of beatmatching is matching the tempo of an upcoming track to that of the currently playing track. Although many DJ hardware and software packages come with built-in sync functionality that make this skill obsolete, knowing how to beatmatch manually comes handy when using equipment without such feature. Most importantly, beatmatching helps you to train your ear to know what to listen for.
- Equalizing: EQing is the process of cutting or boosting frequencies in order that multiple audio tracks blend nicely. As majority of audio consists of lower frequencies, mixing two loud kick drums might be problematic since they are too loud to combine. If used properly, EQ can be a useful tool as well as a means of creative expression.
- Scratching: scratching is a technique, usually connected with turntables and moving of a vinyl record back and forth in order to create percussive or rhythmic sounds. Nevertheless, a modern DJ controller allows you to perform most types of scratch that sound pretty convincing.
- Other: there are many additional skills one has to master in order to call himself a real DJ. Phrasing for instance simply means to mix different tracks together at points in the songs that make sense and sound good. In addition, there are several levels of volume adjustment. Gain knob, line fader, and crossfader are just few of controls that allow you to adjust volume level through different platforms.
As previously shown, DJing is a complex process that cannot be explained solely through text. The easiest way to learn how to DJ is to simply purchase all the equipment needed and start experimenting. If you love what you are doing and are persistent enough, you will pick up the basics sooner or later. From that point on, only sky is the limit for you.