How to Become a DJ: 2 Essential Things You Need to Succeed
When you express your desire to enter the music industry, people are likely to automatically assume that you want to be a singer or a member of a band. However, there’s one particular career path that you probably want to try if you wish to explore more than one genre of music: being a DJ.
You’ll still be on stage, but a DJ does something a bit different from performing as a singer or a musician. Rather than performing your original songs, you’d be ushering a collection of sounds that the audience would want to hear at just the right moment.
Although this might sound like an easy task, becoming a DJ also involves more than playing other people’s music. It is a career that entails matching beats and delivering your own musical expressions while keeping up with the desire of the audience. Plus, it can be challenging to stand out and be exceptional, especially if you’re only starting out in this kind of work.
Still, there are a lot of positive things to look forward to. By picking the right equipment and mastering the right skills, you can become a successful DJ someday. To help you out, here are the two essential things you would need to get a head start:
1. Get Proper DJ Equipment
A guitarist needs guitars. Drummers, a drum set. Pianists, a piano. See where this is going?
Every aspiring DJ needs the right kind of “instrument” to be able to start in this career path. But before you go ahead and buy DJ equipment from the nearest music store, you must first know what sort of machines you would need to be a great disc jockey.
The job will require you to do more tasks beyond merely playing songs. This can include mixing, structuring a set, and, ultimately, making the crowd move to the beats that you deliver.
That said, you’d need to invest in large speakers, a MIDI controller, a monitor, an audio interface, microphones, and several plug-ins. But when you’re just starting out, you can make do with just the bare basics, including:
- Two CD players or turntables
- A two-channel mixer
- A pair of headphones
- Some speakers
Pick the Right Software
Aside from the hardware, you would also need a mixing software. Be careful not to mistake production software for a mixer.
The key difference between the two is that while production software allows you to make new songs with the use of recorded sounds from instruments, mixing software helps you combine two or more of them together to create an entirely new sound.
Analog vs. Digital
Beyond choosing a brand of musical instrument, every music artist should also be able to determine the instruments they need to help them express their musical passion better. This is also true for DJs.
When picking equipment, the first thing a DJ should think about is the type of tools he would need. For this bit, there are two choices available: analog and digital.
Basically, analog equipment is what traditional DJ set-ups are called. It involves vinyl records in direct-drive turntables, scratching stylus against vinyl, and building a massive collection of records to play. Digital equipment, on the other hand, entails CD-style sound mixing.
Between the two, the learning curve is much smaller with digital equipment since it involves the use of software that makes matching beats, blending sounds, and making harmonious music much easier.
2. Learn Vital DJing Skills
Like other professionals, DJs also require a specific set of skills that make them successful in their chosen field. Here are the vital skills that every DJ should have:
Although the mixing software can help you create magical sounds, your mixing skills will still determine the quality of your output when DJing. To do so, you must be able to match beats between two or more tracks to make them play at the same tempo (the speed at which a song plays) and phase (beats playing in time with each other).
When beatmatching, you would need to use a pitch fader to match the tracks’ tempo. You’ll also need to know how to work a pitch bend and jog wheel or manipulate the actual physical record to adjust the phase.
You can determine the level of difficulty of the tracks you’re matching based on their respective BPMs, or beats per minute. Manual calculation of BPM can be done using a stopwatch, but using mixing software with BPM counters might make it easier. The only problem with most of these digital mixers is that they aren’t always 100 percent accurate with their BPM count.
Not to be confused with “phasing,” phrasing is the process of chopping up and combining two tracks in a way that makes sense. If you’ve played an instrument in the past, you might find it easier to learn this skill.
Most of the music that DJs work with – like hip-hop, electronic dance, and funk music – is in 4/4 time. This means the songs have four beats in a bar, with a quarter note getting one beat each.
Equalizing – more popularly known among DJs as EQing – is the process of cutting or boosting the frequency of several tracks to create a beautifully blended output.
Audio “space” is mostly consumed by bass (lower frequencies) as demonstrated in most dance music. To prevent two tracks from clashing, you must avoid blending two loud kick drums over one another.
However, EQing doesn’t necessarily offer a quick fix for a bad mix. Instead, it can smoothen several audio signals together and potentially help a DJ express his creativity more freely.
Get the Beat Right
Becoming a DJ is a fulfilling path to take in the music industry. Learn all about the basics to get the beat right by using this article as a guide, and get a better chance at succeeding in this musical career path.
Amrit Shivlani is the Founder and CEO at Music Majlis, a community-driven e-commerce platform that offers a wide variety of musical instruments and equipment for every musician and sound professional. The company’s goal is to make music-making, recording, producing and mixing accessible and available to everyone.