How to become a DJ – Everything you need to know

Learning how to become a DJ

There are not many careers that appear to be glamorous while being fun and easy at the same time. Those who love music easily find themselves gravitating towards the DJ career and lifestyle because they believe that it will be a fun job and one that will provide popularity and a great income. The truth is that DJing can actually be quite challenging and takes a great deal of effort and skill to launch a full-time DJ career. While it can be a challenge to get started in your DJ career, it is not impossible and it certainly can be done. This guide will provide you with all the information that you need to begin your DJ career and do it well. From the different types of DJing to learning how to become a producer or radio DJ, you will find all that you need to know in this handy guide. By the end, you will have a clear path forward and be able to begin working towards DJ stardom.

The different types of DJs

There are many types of DJ’s and before you get started in jotting down your career goals and determining your path forward, you will need to choose a direction. Do you want to be a radio DJ, club DJ, wedding and event DJ, or a performer? Maybe you don’t want to be a DJ at all and you want to be a music producer. There are pros and cons to any DJ genre that you choose and we will examine each of these roles a little closer before moving on to the basic skills that are necessary to be a good DJ.

  • Club DJ.

    A Club DJ is a job that requires staying up late at night and performing at a nightclub or bar regularly. Depending on where you live, clubs will vary based on size, popularity, clientele, and environment. Being a resident Club DJ in a large city such as Las Vegas or a popular spring break destination such as Cancun can be a dream come true for a Club DJ. The goal of the Club DJ is to keep the crowd ramped up and on the dancefloor throughout the night.

  • Radio DJ.

    A radio DJ can be a mellow job if you are only sharing the weather or hosting a small show during an off peak time. However, there are ways that radio DJing can be fun especially if you have the ability to curate the playlist. While most of the radio playlists are predetermined, there are still ways to be creative. Radio DJs may also host their own podcasts or satellite radio shows where they can exert more creative freedom in what they play.

  • Wedding and event DJ.

    If you have the skills to be a great DJ, entertainer, and entrepreneur, the wedding or event DJ gig is a great career to look into. This type of DJing is personal and can make an intimate impact on the lives of others in ways that can be immediately seen.

  • Music Producer.

    A producer creates and records music for DJ’s to then play to an audience. You may think that you have an interest in DJing if you want to create techno songs, for example, however you may actually be more interested in producing and creating music instead of playing it for a crowd.

There are many types of DJ genres to choose from and the good thing is that it is nearly impossible to get bored with this type of a career. If you determine that club DJing is not for you, you can always try your hand at something else such as DJing at a wedding or on the radio.

Learn the basic skills

Once you have made the decision that you want to DJ and you know what type of DJ you want to be, you can then begin to learn the skills that are required to do the job. It is important to learn how to use your equipment properly. It may take some time to get used to things such as your DJ mixer when you first start out but with consistent practice, you will begin to understand the intricate nuances of the equipment and what works and what does not. In addition, EQing, controlling volume, understanding phrasing and beatmatching are all important to your success.

  • EQing.

    This technique allows you to blend tracks together by either increasing or decreasing frequencies within the song. Look for the 3-band EQ on your mixer. The 3 bands stand for low, mid, and high, also known as bass, midrange, and treble. EQing is a tool to help you infuse sounds that go together well.

  • Volume Control.

    This is important when you are using your DJ mixer as you will want to learn which knobs will have a gain or a trim that will allow you to adjust the channel signal. You will need to become familiar with the channels and their line faders as well as the crossfader. These controls will allow you to fade in and out between channels.

  • Phrasing.

    This is where the DJ mixes tracks together at points within the song that make the most musical sense to do so. The take away here is that you need to learn how to count the music as you will be able to mix tracks together when you can count the beat of the song and match it up with another.

  • Beatmatching.

    This skill has become obsolete for the most part due to the advancements in technology. When you invest in a major brand name’s DJ software package you will be able to make use of the “sync” function. While you can get away with not learning how to beatmatch due to technology, learning this skill will make you a better DJ overall.

Practice recording mixes

To become a great DJ, you will first need to get used to your equipment. One of the best ways to learn is to record yourself. This will allow you to play back your session and hear where you made some mistakes so that you can correct it in the future. Before you can begin to record, you will need to invest in some additional equipment such as a DJ controller or DJ headphones. Most new DJ’s prefer to use an all-in-one controller as it they include everything that you need in one device. Other controller’s will need additional equipment such as a soundcard or an amplifier.

In addition to being able to critique yourself by playing back your mixes, you can also begin to create an online brand for yourself by posting your mixes on Soundcloud, Mixcloud, or YouTube. As time goes on you will gain a loyal following and have the ability to work on connecting with others through your mixes while you learn the ropes of the DJ career.

Lastly, by recording your mixes you can share them with friends and family who can also choose to share them with others. With the digital age and social media being the most popular outlets to converse with friends and family, you can take advantage of this by sharing your mixes through a variety of channels.

Learn more advanced skills

When you become comfortable with your equipment and you have mastered recording mixes, you can then begin to pick up advanced techniques such as using effects in your tracks, learning how to transition in a subtle manner, or scratching. Scratching is a crowd favorite and something that people find to be fascinating. Learning how to scratch is a technique that does take some time to learn but it can really set you apart from other mainstream DJ’s.

How to become a DJ using a laptop

It is not impossible to learn how to become a DJ by using a laptop however it is advised that at a minimum, you invest in a good set of DJ speakers to take with you to gigs. Being a DJ with a laptop is quite accessible and something that many choose to do as it is easy to transport and provides for great flexibility. Many DJ’s store their music on their computer library or on a cloud service and therefore are comfortable accessing these files during a gig from a piece of technology they use regularly.

How to become a DJ producer

One of the first steps to becoming a DJ or a music producer is to brand yourself. Choosing a name and a personality should take some thought as it is highly unlikely that you will have the opportunity to change it after you have started your career. When you have established a name for yourself, set up an account on SoundCloud, MixCloud, YouTube, and social media channels so that you can start to immediately attract attention and garner a following.

Now that you have created a persona, you can begin to learn the ins and outs of producing music. Use a DJ software program that you find to be user friendly as well as sophisticated. Ableton Live, FL Studio, Pro Tools, and Cubase are popular choices and great software to play around with as you get comfortable with the equipment.

One of the best ways to learn how to produce is to allow yourself to have complete freedom of expression and allow your brain to take you places that you may not go if you were to read the instruction manual and follow it word for word. You may feel frustrated at times but the more you work with the software, the better at producing you will become.

Once you have a feel for the controls, work on creating a full song or even a mix. Once you do so, be sure to upload it to your SoundCloud, MixCloud, and other social accounts so that you can gain constructive criticism or positive feedback from friends and family. Allowing yourself to be vulnerable by sharing your work is part of the game and will only make you a better producer or DJ in the long run.

How to become an edm DJ

Contrary to popular belief, becoming an electronic dance music, or EDM DJ takes more talent than just being proficient on some DJ turntables. In fact, superstar DJ Zedd gives a great deal of credit to partnering with other artists to his rise to fame. By partnering with others artists, you can truly gain a name for yourself fast. Most often DJ’s will partner with popular artists to produce their song. This means that they will take the song and enhance it or add effects to it to make it more upbeat or to give it a unique edge that it wouldn’t have otherwise. When you become an EDM DJ you are truly becoming proficient at producing music from matching the right vocals to the right song and making a beat sound good. Taking tips from Zedd can prove to be beneficial and therefore we will end on one final bit of advice. Be sure to diversify your abilities and be open to working in a variety of different genres as more opportunities will come your way than if you chose to stay within one niche.

How to become a club DJ

Other than knowing how to use your equipment to produce a great playlist, you also need to have the ability to read a crowd. Reading a crowd will help you choose the right songs to keep people on the dancefloor for an extended period of time. When you notice the crowd dwindling, a good DJ will be able to switch up the set and entice people to come back out on the dancefloor.

A great way to gain notoriety in your local area is to enter DJing contests. This can be unnerving but it is a great way to demonstrate your skills to others in the DJ community and build a strong reputation for yourself. When you are a club DJ, you need to market yourself on social media platforms and generate a following so that you can help to fill the club. The better you get at this, the bigger the clubs you will be invited to play.

Another great way to gain popularity is to be involved in the DJ community. Even if you are not performing one night, going out and being a face on the scene is a good move and help you stay relevant.

How to be a radio DJ

When we discuss the career of being a DJ, very rarely does the topic of higher education come up. In most DJing roles, education is not required however, being a radio DJ has evolved to requiring at least an undergraduate degree. While a degree is not necessarily required, it is more likely that you will be able to land a job if you have at least a 4 year postsecondary degree under your belt. Many choose to major in communications or journalism and will do internships during the summer months to gain academic credit as well as on the job experience.

After interning or working at a low level job at a radio station, you can begin to work your way up to the DJ role. Being a radio DJ is much more than being a personality that is broadcasted over the soundwaves for all to hear. Being a DJ means endorsing companies, playing games with contestants, breaking news and sharing weather in between playing great music. Often times a radio DJ is charged with keeping the radio show high in ratings and coming up with fresh and unique content to entertain those listening from their car or home can be quite a challenge when there are so many other competing priorities.

DJ career salary

To be a DJ means to be dedicated to the hustle. The career can be challenging as well as constantly evolving. Being a DJ is not for the weak as it takes a great deal of determination and perseverance to stand out amongst a sea of talent. If you are successful at branding yourself and creating tracks that are one of a kind, you can become quite famous such as Avicii, Eric Prydz, David Guetta, and Calvin Harris. If you choose to go the wedding DJ route, you may not be famous but you can make a decent living and positively impact many lives in an intimate way while doing so. A wedding DJ is likely to make more than $50,000 and if you are lucky enough to earn your way to the top of the radio DJ list, you can find yourself making upwards of $80,000 per annum. If you catapult in to Dj stardom such as Zedd or Martin Garrix, you can make millions.

No matter what your salary goal is, DJing should be fun and something that you love to do. Whether you perform for a crowd, produce music on your own, or you DJ on your local radio station, becoming a DJ can be quite a rewarding and creative career choice. Our final tip for ou is one that should be taken into great consideration and should be something to remember. No matter how busy you get and how interested in DJing or producing music you become, be sure to take time for yourself and enjoy your hobbies, spend time with family and friends, and take breaks every now and then to participate in other fun activities. Otherwise you could face burn out and your DJ or producing career could come to a premature close.

Ben Ownes
Ben is our content manager and is perfect for his role due to his vast experience in testing, setting up and using DJ equipment. His love for DJing started at just 14 when he got his first amateur set up in his parent's basement. Since then Ben has perfected his craft which has allowed him to get regular spots in local nightclubs. When he isn't playing or mixing he is writing reviews and guides for our site.

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