Learning how to make a DJ mix requires mastering your genre and track selection so you can make the most of advanced DJing techniques.
An ongoing process, the best DJs continue to hone these skills throughout their careers while expanding their genre selection.
In this guide, we’ve broken down everything from defining your genre and building a DJ playlist to developing the technical skills for great mixes.
How To Make A DJ Mix In 2023 (Step-By-Step)
There are several key factors DJs need to be aware of when working on improving their skills and playing the best possible DJ sets they can.
We’ve explored these factors in order of priority, covering everything from knowing your music collection to switching up your sets based on the crowd’s reaction.
Now that you know our criteria, here’s our step-by-step guide exploring how to make a good DJ mix in 2023:
Step 1: Curate Your Music Library
The success or failure of a DJ mix is largely based on the music collection you’re using, so curating a music library is essential.
Once you’ve determined what types of DJ sets you’ll be playing, you can work on building a library of music around this theme.
For instance, if you’re becoming a wedding DJ, you’ll want to build a library of popular rock and pop songs everyone knows.
On the other hand, club DJs will focus on selecting more niche and unique tracks that other DJs don’t commonly play.
You can check out the best Spotify curated playlists for inspiration on building a library of compelling and diverse tracks.
The more you dig into your chosen genres and discover exciting new producers, the better your curated library will be.
Curating great tracks for DJing is an ongoing process, and over time, you’ll amass thousands of tunes you can add to your arsenal.
Step 2: Analyze Your Playlists
Once you’ve started to build up a strong library of amazing tracks, you should spend time analyzing them before building up playlists.
A great DJ mix is one that blends each track effortlessly into the next, and to do this, you’ll need to know your music inside out.
On a technical level, this means understanding when the peaks and troughs of each track come in so you can select the best cue points.
Choosing tracks with roughly the same tempo and playing mixes within the same genre are good ways to make a DJ mix work.
You can use DJ software to track each song’s metadata and relevant information, such as beats per minute, key, and genre, to keep your sets consistent.
Strong track selection is a core component of great DJ mixing, ensuring you play songs that complement one another nicely.
It’s something everyone, from radio DJs to club DJs, dedicate plenty of time to before they mix tracks in a DJ set.
Step 3: Know Your Audience
A fantastic DJ set is one that is aimed squarely at the intended target audience, with the DJ crafting mixes they know will please the crowd.
Whether you’re learning how to DJ in clubs playing electronic music or working as a wedding DJ, you should know what your audience demands.
You might have the best mixing skills in the world, but if the crowd expects hip-hop and you’re playing techno, it won’t count for anything.
By knowing your audience, you can create mixes that showcase the best music in a given genre and hype the music as your mix evolves.
Many DJs actively seek out gigs in venues that already lean toward their preferred style and build their sets around club nights.
Before arriving at a venue, you should check out the lineup and see what other DJs are playing so you can tailor your set accordingly.
This also means understanding how long you’ll be expected to play, allowing you to arrange your DJ mix with appropriate highs and lows.
It’s an important step towards planning great DJ mixes and ensuring you play tracks that will get the dance floor pumping.
Step 4: Practice Your Mixes
Before you start mixing in front of a live crowd in a big venue, you should dedicate time to practicing your mixes beforehand.
As the saying goes, “practice makes perfect,” and this process will iron out any flaws in your DJing skills and help you hone the mix structure.
You may find that two tracks you thought worked well together aren’t delivering on their promise, and your set order needs swapping around.
At the same time, you might discover new features on your DJ equipment that can be used to enhance the sets and bring in new textures.
Throughout the process, you’ll become more familiar with your tracks’ strengths and weaknesses and your technical skills.
From here, you can download songs that might work better and fine-tune your mixes until everything sounds perfect.
Practicing your mixes before your gigs is also crucial for mastering various technical aspects of DJing, which we’ll cover in more detail next.
Step 5: Understand Key & Tempo
While learning how to beat match is a basic foundation of DJ mixing, fully understanding how tempo and key interact is a skill many DJs lack.
If you’re new to DJing, you can get the hang of basic mixing techniques by choosing tracks with the same BPM to hone your skills.
This makes it easier to mix one track into the next track and focus on using your EQ to blend low, mid, and high-frequency elements together.
While beat matching used to be trickier on vinyl turntables, most DJ controllers will give you this information when you load up a track.
Once you’re confident with your beat-matching skills, you can work on mixing tunes using matching key elements.
In Western music, musical keys fall into seven major scales, and you can use a harmonic mixing guide to select complementary tracks.
You don’t need to be an expert in music theory to mix harmoniously, and this information is provided with tracks on some record pools.
It’s also a common feature on reputable DJ gear, with most songs typically written in C, D, or G major keys.
Step 6: Master DJ Transitions
Once you can mix tracks based on beats per minute and key effortlessly, it’s time to work on mastering DJ transitions.
There are several easy DJ transitions you can begin with, including the seamless fade and cutting between tracks.
To create seamless transitions, use the EQ to blend different frequencies from the first track playing as the new track comes in.
Each DJ controller has its own sensitivity and range with EQs, so this is where practicing and mastering your equipment becomes crucial.
When mastering DJ transitions, try to identify key elements from each track that you can bring in and out of the mix.
DJ software often includes filters you can also use to affect bass, treble, and high frequencies to create a seamless blend.
The more familiar you are with the structure of the individual tracks you’re playing, the better sounding your DJ transitions will be.
Step 7: Introduce Effects
One of the most commonly recommended tips to improve your DJing skills is to introduce effects to bring additional interest to your sets.
If you’re a music producer, you’ll know just how well effects can transform tracks and enhance the overall audio quality.
Technically speaking, using the EQ when mixing is a form of effect, but many controllers and virtual DJ software have dedicated effects built in.
Some common effects used in DJ sets include using reverb to add space and atmosphere to the music, which can work well with vocals.
A delay or echo effect has the effect of creating sounds that feel as if they are reverberating off walls and creating more space.
For more obscure-sounding effects, you can use a phaser or flanger to create a modulated sound, although we recommend using these sparingly.
As you become more proficient with using effects, you can begin to daisy chain them or apply multiple effects simultaneously.
It’s a great way to make practicing mixes more fun, and experimenting with various effects will take your mixing technique to new heights.
Step 8: Mix Up Genres
One of the best ways to become a club DJ is to demonstrate your ability to play mixes with a flexible approach to genres and music styles.
DJs who are great at mixing up the genres they play are more likely to pick up gigs and other bookings across a range of venues.
For example, if you’re competent in playing downbeat music as well as pumping house sets, you can get work playing in restaurants as well as nightclubs.
Likewise, an ability to move between different genres and styles will make you a good fit for warm-up sets and taking on the headline slot.
It’s also great to mix up genres within a single set, beginning with slower tracks before building up energy levels to hard-hitting club classics.
Many great DJs showcase their knack for multiple genres within a set, for example, beginning with hip-hop before blending into jungle.
It’s an effective way to demonstrate a keen understanding of a broad range of music that sets professional DJs apart from the competition.
Listen carefully to how the best DJs perform in a live setting and pay attention to how their sets reflect their diverse musical tastes.
Step 9: Read The Crowd
Failing to read the crowd is among the most common mistakes DJs need to avoid and should be a priority when honing your skills.
While knowing your audience is crucial for creating a playlist for your DJ set, reading the crowd allows you to modify your set on the fly.
If the crowd seems to be dropping in energy levels, then you can quickly switch up the next song for something more lively.
This means being aware of different songs that work well together so you can mix quickly into something else when needed.
It also means being confident in your technical skills to switch up the transitions and effects you use to change the mood.
To do this, you should make eye contact with dancers every now and then throughout the set to gauge what vibe they’re expecting.
If they start to look bored with a track, bring in the next track earlier to switch up the mood instantly rather than waiting for the dance floor to clear.
Learning how to read the crowd is also something you can do when you’re not on the decks and dancing to sets by other DJs.
In this situation, you can be more attuned to what works and what doesn’t and make mental notes for your next live mix.
Step 10: Record & Analyze Your Sets
Putting together a pre-recorded mix and playing it back is another essential aspect of becoming a better DJ.
Just as analyzing your track selection individually helps you craft better mixes, so does reflecting on an entire mix help hone your craft.
Doing so will teach you how to make a DJ mix more effectively, avoiding playing the same tracks from one set to the next.
This will enable you to refine where you position your hot cues and give you a few different ways to mix two songs together.
Each time you practice mixing at home, hit record so you have an audio file of the set you can review at your leisure.
You can also consider sharing your DJ sets on music platforms like SoundCloud and MixCloud and gathering feedback here.
This process will help you to familiarize yourself with your entire library, crafting more innovative mixes that take the audience on a journey.
This guide exploring how to make a DJ mix has covered everything you need to know to take your sets to the next level and keep audiences entertained.
Whether you’re just starting your DJing journey or have a few gigs under your belt, the techniques outlined here are part of an ongoing process.
As you gain more experience working as a DJ, these principles will keep you on the right path to continuing success.
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