A Short History
Let’s go way back in the ‘50s where the DJs started gaining relevance as they were the people in charge of the music and they would show up at parties and play slow-paced songs. Things changed forever in 1973 when DJ Kool Herc started experimenting with different techniques, like mixing back and forth between records that are identical. The idea of creating something original from already existing music began to take form, and thus turntablism was born. In the mid-1970s, hip hop began to emerge, and it was made of four elements: DJing, MCing, graffiti, and b-boying. While hip hop was slowly being created in the US, Europe started to fully embrace dance-pop, which was otherwise known as disco. That trend continued up to 1982 when disco music died almost completely, while in mid-1980’s techno music was born in Detroit.
In the ‘90s we are introduced to the rave scene which changed the image of DJs completely and finally gave them a shot at becoming stars themselves and that gave them the opportunity to tour all over the world. Things changed even further in 1998 when Nathan Burton ditched the vinyl in favor of computers. While at the start of the new millennium, the advances in technology made it possible for new sounds to be created, thus giving the DJs more opportunities.
The respect for DJs is always on the rise, and radio DJs have become iconic to many fans out there. Especially if we’re talking about hip hop DJs that have been part of radio shows for decades now and have a massive following. Funkmaster Flex and Dj Envy are among the most famous hip hop radio personalities that you will find out there, and they are part of HOT 97 and Sirius XM Radio respectively.
While DJ Envy became famous in the early 2000s, Funkmaster Flex has been a part of Hot 97 since 1992 and is his status as a legendary DJ is undoubted.
Club DJs usually play at festivals, bars, music venues, and private events. To produce a non-stopping flow of music, they mix recordings from many sources using different techniques. While residents are the DJs that perform at a venue permanently or on a regular basis, that means that they have an agreement to perform on specific dates and in a particular event or place. Usually, these DJs perform two to three times a week.
Hip hop DJs are only a fraction of the number of DJs since famous names like Calvin Harris, Tiësto, Steve Aoki, David Guetta, and Martin Garrix among others have entirely transformed the pop scene globally. It’s quite common to see new pop stars rise into stardom thanks to features with famous DJs. We’re used to seeing the biggest summer hits belong completely to DJs and that trend it seems that it will only continue in the years to come.
How to Mix Music DJ
Some people think that DJing is quite easy because they see some low-level DJs press play on a laptop and believe that every other DJ does that. That couldn’t be any further from the truth, mixing like a professional DJ takes a lot of time and effort. For those that understand how hard it is to be a DJ, but they want to learn nonetheless, here are some things to help you start your journey.
1. Know the Types of DJs
As stated above, DJing has evolved into something quite big, and for that reason, there are many kinds of DJs.
- Turntablist – These DJs show their mastery and skills behind the decks. Crowds are impressed with the clever transitions, and impressive tricks that they can perform.
- The Club DJ – They are a completely different breed because they have a completely different audience and reputation. People that go to the clubs, usually want dance music that will hype them up, so the club DJ needs to know how to read the crowd and play the kind of music that they will want.
- The Radio DJ – DJing in the radios can vary from full music curation to only playing bits of music.
- The Mobile DJ – These DJs will perform at your wedding, and they are usually in charge of almost everything. From setting the equipment, managing the crowd, planning the show, and also making announcements.
- Producers – Many people confuse producers with DJs, while DJing means playing music that has already been recorded, a producer creates original music. However, sometimes, they are the same person, but that isn’t always the case.
2. Set Up Your Goals
If you’re doing this just for fun, then it will be an excellent hobby for you, and you can learn plenty of things with which you can impress your friends. While if you’re thinking a professional DJ then you must know it takes extreme amounts of dedication and time to reach where you want to be, and even if you do everything right, you can still fail if you don’t have any luck. All the famous DJs that we see now earning millions of dollars were lucky to get a break.
3. Learn the Software
It’s time to start learning something about software and getting a general idea of what DJing means.
The three leading platforms are:
- Traktor Pro – This is a native instruments software that supports an abundance of performance features, and it’s great for hip hop and EDM DJs. The software itself costs $99, but you can learn plenty of things by the demo that you can get for free.
- Rekordbox – The free music management software by Pioneer lets you prepare your library and then export it on a USB, or you can directly play it from your laptop.
- Serato DJ Pro – This is one of the most popular software out there, and it’s excellent for any rookies out there that want to learn more.
It’s essential to note that these aren’t the only three options out there since you can find plenty of other great software to hone your DJing skills. Virtual DJ is one of the most downloaded software on Earth, and there are plenty of good reasons for that because it’s free for home use, it is entirely backed by a vast community, and it also supports the latest tech required for DJing.
4. Basic DJ Skills
The most basic skills of DJing are EQing, phrasing, prep, mixing, and beatmatching. Below you can get a general idea as to what they are.
- EQ – Also known as equalizing is the act of cutting or boosting frequencies to blend multiple audio tracks nicely. In dance music, the majority of the audio space is consumed by the lower frequencies (bass), so it’s not preferred to mix loud kick drums one over the other because they are too loud to combine. Mixers usually have a 3-band EQ (bass, midrange, treble, or low, mid, and high). EQ is an essential tool for every serious DJ since it gives them plenty of creative freedom.
- Beatmatching – The idea behind beatmatching is to have the same tempo playing for two tracks. Tempo is the speed of the song being played, while Phase are the beats of both tracks that are playing at the same time. To adjust the tempo, you will need a pitch fader and pitch-bend button, jog wheel to adjust the phase. While nowadays this is rendered obsolete because many hardware and software DJ packages have a built-in sync functionality. There is a little debate as to if you even need to learn this skill. However, before deciding to entirely scrap it off your list, by learning how to do this, you will help tune and develop your ears.
- Phrasing – Not to confuse it with Phasing is the act of mixing tracks at points where it makes the most sense. Most of the music that you will DJ is in 4/4 time; this means that in a measure bar, there are four beats.
- Gain Control – Every DJ rig out there has the levels of volume adjustment option. Through the help of a gain knob, you can adjust the level of each channel, and it’s important to note that every channel also has a line fader.
While it’s vital to learn the theoretical side of how things work, you need to get familiar with the setup that you will need to play and create music. Buying the first setup can be a tough task for every aspiring DJ because there are so many options, and also there are so many things that you need to consider before buying one. For example, the Turntable DJ setup and all computer DJ setup are completely different, so it’s important to know what kind of DJ you’re aspiring to be so that you won’t buy unnecessary equipment. Having The Best Devices to Play Electronic Music doesn’t mean that they are also the best devices to play hip hop music on.
- Turntable DJ Setup – For this setup to be complete you will need a DJ mixer, two turntables, two cartridges, slipmats, vinyl records, RCA cable which connects the mixer to audio output. Last but not least, you will want to have some great DJ headphones, and if you think that these noise-canceling headphones need more power, you should check out these Headphone Amplifiers. Also, make sure to check these Bluetooth Turntables. The turntable DJ Setup that uses a DJ software needs all of the above equipment and a computer, as well as a DJ interface package.
- CDJ DJ Setup – You will need a DJ mixer, two CD DJ turntables, headphones, and MP3s. While the CD DJ Setup with DJ software needs a computer and a DJ interface package.
- DJ Controller Setup – You’re going to need a computer, a DJ software and a DJ controller for this one.
- All computer DJ Setup – A computer is required, as well as a DJ interface, while an audio interface is preferred but not necessarily required.
6. How to Make Electronic Music
Now that we have learned in detail what DJing is and what kind of equipment it takes let’s get into something more specific. Since all the buzz nowadays is made by electronic music in general, it’s important to start learning some of the basics that you will need in order to become a successful electronic music producer. Before you start thinking of what do you need to create a song, you have to find out about the genre of electronic music in which your music taste lies.
There are plenty of choices like house, trap, dubstep, or ambient. It’s preferred that you’re familiar with the kind of music that you want to produce, so if you’re going to create a dubstep track, listen to many dubstep artists and try to understand the process of how they make a track. While you can also create an entirely new genre, but doing that is extremely hard to do, without having any prior knowledge of the other genres.
Research specific artists that you like, but don’t limit yourself only to their music, because you can learn something new from every artist, and since electronic music is ever-evolving, it’s always nice to keep up with what’s trending right now, so that you’ll be more informed and you can always keep up with what’s happening out there.
7. Select Your DAW
Also known as the Digital Audio Workstation, this is the alpha and the omega that you will need to create new tracks. The most famous DAWs are Ableton Live, Cubase, FL Studio, and Logic Pro among others. If you don’t know which DAW to pick, then you can read the specifics online and see the advantages and disadvantages of each and then decide.
8. Buy Plugins
Plugins are a software effect or instrument that you use to edit, create, or manipulate sound. The essential plugins are samplers, mixing/mastering effects, and synthesizers. While the majority of the plugins aren’t necessary for the production of a track, they help tremendously in creating a more vibrant and unique song. Before rushing to buy every plugin out there, check to see if the DAW that you have purchased comes with any plugins.
9. Buy a Good Computer
While in the beginning, you may not require a mighty computer, because your processing may be basic but after a while, depending on the sounds and techniques that you want to produce, you will need a computer that has a pretty strong processor, plenty of RAM memory and also at least a 1TB of memory.
10. Invest in Both Essential And Non-Essential Hardware
For starters, you will need to purchase a sound system that will be able to produce great sounds, and that can either be headphones or speakers and since we’re talking about speakers, check out these great Subwoofers, Soundbars, and Wireless Boomboxes. On the other hand, microphones, audio interfaces, hardware synthesizers/processors, etc., are quite helpful for producing music but are not essential.
11. Watch Hours of Tutorials on YouTube
Learning how to use a DAW all on your own can be very hard. For that reason, the first thing that you will have to do is read all the instructions and after that, try to find tutorials on YouTube that will teach you how to use it. This way, you can learn a lot quicker than if you were to experiment all on your own. The same thing can be said about plugins since experimenting with them without having any clues whatsoever can be an overwhelming task, so there are plenty of tutorials out there that will make your life a lot easier.
While you’re trying to learn new things or even starting to produce your first song, sometimes it’s better to go for it, because even though it may suck, there are so many things that you will learn by doing rather than just watching how others do it. Don’t try to overcomplicate it in the beginning, just try to learn the basics of how a track is actually made and then continue to share it with other people, and if you’re part of forums that are made for new DJs, share it there and ask for advice and what could be further improved.
13. Don’t Lose Hope
If you’re serious about becoming a full-time DJ, it’s easy to get disheartened when you see other DJs making it and thinking that you have so much work to do to reach their level. However, it’s important to remember that it took them years, maybe even decades to get the chance to showcase their talent. Set up realistic goals, don’t aim for the stars right from the bat because when you fail initially you will feel disheartened and that can have a very negative impact on your future.
14. Think of Yourself as a Brand
When you start to produce new tracks successfully, and you think that you are generally improving, start thinking of yourself as a brand. That is quite difficult because companies will pay entire teams to have successful branding. Start by finding a couple of outlets where you can showcase your music and then pick a name that you will not be changing any time soon. The reason as to why you need to stick to that name is that this business rewards consistency, and to become successful, you have to persevere and not give up.
The next step would be to set up a page on Soundcloud, Mixcloud, Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, among other places so that people can get to listen to what you’re capable of. After you complete all of these steps, it is vital to remember that you should not see this line of work as a 9 to 5 job, because it doesn’t work like that. Since it requires a lot of creativity, it’s not something that can be forced.
Whenever you do not feel like you can produce some bangers, take a break and do other things like watching a movie, doing house chores, and don’t think about music. The thing about being a creative producer is that you will never know from where your creativity will come. There will be days where you will be producing terrific music, and you feel like you can make many tracks in one day, but on the other hand, there will also be days where you can’t even get a tune right. The secret to succeeding is not to give up when those bad days happen.
15. Don’t Force Exposure
This is also a significant step since some people fail to launch their songs because they try too much. Exposure usually takes time, and you will want to do naturally, by trying to get performance gigs whenever you can, even in the places where you don’t feel like your music will be truly appreciated. By performing at different venues, people with different tastes in music will get to hear your material, and while there will be people who won’t like it, you should keep in mind that there will also be people who will enjoy seeing a new artist trying to create their style. Now that you have the basics of how to make electronic music get out there and let the world hear your music.