Mastering a range of DJ tips and tricks requires patience and practice, with each new skill complementing your music library and enhancing your unique style.
We’ve put together ten foundational tips that every DJ should know, from defining your preferred genre to using your mixer’s features to their full potential.
Read on, and we’ll break down these essential DJ tips for DJing step by step, giving you the tools you need to start playing the best possible sets.
Top 10 DJ Tips And Tricks To Improve Your DJ Skills
There are many ways you can improve your sets and maximize the potential of your DJ equipment.
We’ve put together a range of DJ tips for beginners and more proficient DJs, covering the basic foundations and techniques used by professional DJs.
Here are our top recommendations for the most important DJ tips and tricks you need to know to improve your DJ skills.
10. Choose Your Music Genre
Every DJ has their own distinct taste in music, and many professionals are known for playing a particular genre that reflects their style.
While most people are open to popular music genres, sticking to a favorite genre while you learn the ropes is advisable if you’re new to DJing.
By focusing on the genre of music you enjoy the most, you have several advantages that will help you to master the craft far quicker than if you played with as many genres as you like.
Most genres follow certain underlying principles, from the average beats per minute (BPM) the tracks run at to kick drum patterns and melodic structure.
Combined with familiarity with your preferred genre of choice, this means you’ll start with a good understanding of the tempo, breakdowns, and drops that you’ll use when mixing.
Once you’ve mastered beat matching and harmonic mixing on your DJ mixing software, you can start introducing multiple genres to your DJ sets.
9. Build Your Set Playlist
Putting together a comprehensive music library might sound tedious, but a good categorization system for your playlist is one of the most essential DJ tips.
You can download music online from various sources, and if you sign up for a DJ record pool, you can use these to access a vast archive of tracks instantly.
Your music collection will grow over time, so knowing how to find the track you’re looking for quickly and easily ensures you have full command of your music during DJ sets.
Whether you organize by genre or BPM, we recommend creating a system of categorization on your DJ software that works best for you.
Once you’ve sorted all your tracks, start working on putting together playlists and arranging the tracks in an order you feel would best work the crowd.
If you enjoy multiple genres, create playlists for each of these genres, for example, a playlist for EDM and another showcasing your favorite hip-hop music.
Organizing your music library by BPM can be particularly useful if you intend to mix music from different genres.
8. Master Your Mixer’s EQ
A foundational component of all DJ equipment is the mixer, and mastering the mixer’s EQ is an essential DJ skill everyone should accomplish.
The mixer’s EQ allows DJs to manipulate the high, middle, and low frequencies, creating smooth transitions from one track to the next.
For example, when a professional DJ mixes two tracks together, they won’t allow the bass and kick drums from both to overlap, as this will push the volume and creates clipping.
Failure to keep an eye on red light clipping is one of the most common DJ mistakes beginners make and will lead to distortion and an overall unpleasant mix.
One of the most important DJ mixing tips for beginners is mastering the EQ on your DJ gear so that you no longer hear basslines clashing as you introduce the next track.
Once you’ve achieved this, have fun with your DJ sets by switching basslines and performing prolonged EQ blends playing tracks together for an extended time.
7. Learn To Mix Harmonically
Harmonic mixing, also known as mixing in key, is one of the top DJ tips many DJs overlook, and you don’t need to be an expert on music theory to use this technique.
Mixing harmonically means understanding the key of the track you’re playing, then matching the next track with the same key so that melodies and vocals align.
While old-school vinyl DJs might have used a piano to identify the key, modern DJ setups allow DJs to use software and tools to identify the key.
This includes the mixed-in key tools that analyze your tracks and pick out the key, as well as the tempo and other information, such as cues that help a DJ play more consistent sets.
If you have a good ear for melodies and can pick out the track’s key without software, you can practice mixing harmonically on the fly.
With many DJs focusing primarily on matching beats, learning this technique is another excellent way to separate yourself from the competition and stand out with your sets.
6. Practice Working With FX
Using DJ effects is another tried and trusted method for bringing more interest and texture to a set and defining your style.
There are various effects to choose from, each of which creates its own distinct atmosphere and can be used at different points in a mix.
If you’re unfamiliar with effects, start by reading through our ultimate beginner’s guide to DJ sound effects to grasp what’s on offer.
The primary effects you’ll need to know include filter, phase/flange, reverb, and echo, each of which can be used in various ways.
For example, you can use filters instead of the EQ to fade different frequency ranges in and out of the mix, which is another valuable tool for merging basslines and avoiding red light clipping.
Mastering various filters on your controllers takes time and patience, but once you’ve done so, it’ll transform a good mix into a great one.
5. Create Your Own Loops & Samples
Whereas effects allow DJs to alter the sound of existing tracks, loops, and samples, providing additional elements that can be dropped in at any given point.
Some DJ controllers allow you to queue up and loop segments of tracks ready to drop into a set, but you can take this to the next level by creating your own loops.
You can put together loops of varying lengths and styles, ranging from loops that emphasize kick drums to catchy loops that feature snippets of your favorite vocals.
If you want to cut out all the rhythm, acapella loops can help bring additional texture and melody when overlayed with rhythm-dominant tracks.
Likewise, you can create your own samples and sound effects, whether you’re sampling your own vocals or adding effects of anything from sirens to impressive synthesizer swells.
Creating loops and samples is a good way to ease yourself into more comprehensive music production, creating new music of your own or remixing your favorite songs.
If you don’t have the time to produce your own loops and samples or lack the confidence to progress to this stage, plenty of websites offer free samples and loop packs you can use.
4. Learn How To Scratch
If you want to take your sets to the next level, one of the DJ techniques you learn is scratching, a more challenging aspect of Djing that requires patience and dedication.
While some genres utilize scratching more than others, it’s nevertheless a great skill to know for enhancing transitions and getting the crowd more animated.
If you’re playing genres such as house, techno, or EDM, you’ll want to use scratching more sparingly to avoid detracting from the music too much.
However, hip-hop and drum and bass music open up the opportunity to learn how to scratch, and many of the best scratch DJs work in these genres.
Techniques such as the baby scratch, flare scratch, and crab scratch are just a few of the many DJ scratch tips you can learn, each adding a different dynamic to a set.
Scratching at the highest level is an art form that takes considerable time to accomplish, so don’t expect to be as good as experts like Cut Chemist or DJ Shadow in just a few days.
3. Master Reading The Crowd
Once your DJ career starts to pick up steam, you’ll be able to take opportunities to play in front of a crowd.
Whether you’re working as a mobile DJ, a wedding DJ, or a club DJ, you’ll have an audience you can pay attention to, which will help you further improve your sets.
The most successful DJs play tracks anticipating how the crowd will react, building up the music, and introducing impressive breakdowns at the right moment.
Most dance tracks are structured with peaks and troughs, and a good DJ understands the cue points that will maximize the track’s impact on the sound system.
Pay attention to the body language of the crowd, and if you have a microphone hooked up to your DJ controller, you can use this to interact with the crowd and get them pumped up.
Whether speaking directly to the crowd or introducing a new track you think will ramp up the set, this interaction is a hallmark of great club DJs.
If you’re unsure how to get DJ gigs so you can play in front of a dance floor, you can look into playing a DJ set for free and collaborating with other DJs to put on events.
2. Record Your DJ Sets
To become a better DJ, you’ll need to record your sets to review and analyze how well your mixes are working.
New DJs can use recorded mixes to review any mistakes they are making as they work through learning some of the basics.
For more advanced DJs who don’t have to worry about correct beat matching and other techniques, these recordings can help them work through better combinations of tracks.
It’s easy to record the audio signal from your set with a basic laptop or computer setup, but including video will give you much more information to work with.
Find out how to live stream your DJ set, and you can analyze more than just your mixes, gathering additional feedback from your audience.
This also allows you to look at your physical performance behind the decks, including your body language, gestures, and the overall energy and interaction you bring to the table.
Don’t let your recorded mix go to waste; if you’re happy with the result, upload it to SoundCloud and share it on your website and social media pages to increase your online engagement.
1. Develop Your Signature DJ Move
Just as coming up with a catchy and memorable DJ name is an important aspect of building your brand, so too is a signature DJ move a great way to establish your unique style.
A signature move can be anything from a particular technique you’ve crafted using the EQ and effects to how you perform physically around your DJ equipment.
Iconic techno DJ and producer Jeff Mills developed his signature move during the 1990s, spinning three tracks at once for extended mixes and effortlessly blending between the music.
More recent examples of signature DJ moves include DJ Marky, who scratches on a sideways or upside-down vinyl turntable, and Andy C, who double drops basslines from multiple tracks.
You can also take a look at some of the best DJ websites to see how other DJs use a signature move to set themselves apart from the competition.
Once you’ve established your signature move, try it out the next time you’re performing at a gig to see how the crowd reacts.
So there you have it, our guide exploring all the DJ tips and tricks you need to know to unleash the full potential of your DJ mixer and sound like a pro.
While some of these techniques take time and patience to master, once you’ve covered the basics, you can deliver performances on par with the world’s best DJs.
You can combine these techniques to create even more dynamic sets, so don’t be afraid to be inventive in how you mix them.
Access ZIPDJ’s enormous library of tracks, samples, and edits to use while learning these DJ tips and tricks by signing up to ZIPDJs record pool today.