Professional DJ Tips & Tricks For New & Experienced DJs
DJ Tips & Tricks
Its Sean Lamb, a professional DJ from Edmonton AB, CAN here to dish out some tips & tricks for you budding and even you experienced DJ’s! These ideas have been inherited over the years from many different mentors and I have also compiled this list with the help of my business partners.
Here at Happy Wife Happy Life Entertainment we have over 75 Years of combined DJ experience between our 4 founding owners. Over those many many years playing weddings, corporate events, private parties, school dances, clubs, pubs & festivals we have picked up subtle tips and tricks to help get you through your night. Now teaching yourself the fundamentals of mixing in key and beat matching are all one thing in another but assuming you know the basics of DJ’ing & mixing this list should help you work your room and get you out any hard spots.
1) Practice, Planning & Preparing
Every professional DJ knows it takes an incredible amount of practice that truly never stops to stay on top of your craft. But what about getting ready for a gig. Should you plan out the whole night ahead of time or should you just show up and wing it. Some DJ’s swear by both ways but the truth is, it’s really a matter of finding a good balance between both. It’s great to have crates ready to go but its so important to read the energy in your room and you may need to adjust from where you thought you would be. Also, any good DJ should know his music library inside & out and keeping your library organized is key as it grows along with having a dedicated back up system in place for your hard drives.
2) Being Versatile
To take requests or to not take requests. As a professional DJ you do not need to appease all requests. Some DJs like them, some DJ’s love them and well, some absolutely hate them with a passion. Its up to you to decide if the song is a good fit (You’re the professional right!) Again here though, more than likely, your venue and type of gig will usually dictate wether you will be facing requests or not. That said being able to play more than one genre of music will allow you to gain many more professional DJ opportunities.
3) Knowing Your Crowd
What size of room is it? How many people does it hold? What is the general vibe in that room. These are all very important things you should know before you start to play your set. You should also be considering your time slot which we will get into next but also consider where your crowd will be mentally at the time of your slot. Take some time out of your night and try to decipher which sounds you think you will connect most with your crowd.
4) Time Slot Awareness
This seems to be a bigger issue than ever now a days. In my humble opinion the art of opening has been long lost. Many new up and coming DJs and even some professional DJ’s seem all to eager to show the crowd “their sound” regardless of what time of the night it is. There is specific type of energy that flows through every night and going against that flow can really have a negative effect on the crowd and on the night overall. Not only that, but it really takes away from the DJ playing after you and is quite disrespectful to them. Do not be that guy or girl!
5) Build It Up, Break It Down
Some of the best advice I was ever given ‘you gotta build it up, so you can break it back down’. It makes a lot of sense if you think about it. If we just kept constantly building the energy up it would hit crazy fast levels way too early in the night. Do not be afraid to change up the tempo drastically or jump genres to achieve a change in the energy in your room to keep the flow fresh and on the move.
6) Red Is Not Turbo
All I am going to say here is when you see Red on your mixer input levels it means the signal is being distorted. We do not want to be playing anything distorted. When you play with red showing all you are doing is amplifying a distorted signal and that can totally ruin your nights vibe and that is about as a un professional DJ as you can be. In addition to all of that, pretty much every venue now a days will have an in house system set up by professionals that will usually have some sort of limiter installed to protect the system. So when you Jam your volume up all the way, it wont even have an effect on the rooms overall volume it will just sound like is sitting on your music.
7) EQ Etiquette
Do you know what the purpose of the EQ really is? Some simply think its the area of knobs you turn when mixing. And there could be some half truth to that but when its comes to EQ’s there are usually 2 simple rules to follow
- Keep your EQ set to 12:00, unless of course you are making an adjustment but the EQ sounds best at unity gain so you really should have them set to 0db whenever possible
- Cut signals whenever you can instead of boosting. Think of it in negatives, If you want more bass, then turn down the mid and highs a bit.
ProTip* Try to only ever have one sub bass source playing at a time. Usually having 2 going at once sounds terrible but you can use this to your advantage. Simply have the bass off on the track you are bringing in and as you mix them together you swap one out for the other. Its a great little transition tool!
8) Effects Enabler
We have all heard of these ones before, you know, a so called “professional DJ”. Some DJs though just cant seem how to turn off their effects properly or even EVER in some cases. The effects are there to be used as tools, not a substitution for another track or as a way to mix between songs. People have become very familiar with a lot of the industry standard gear effects. You are not fooling anyone but yourself!
9 ) Plan B
We have all been there before. No USB Cord, No Power Cord, Missing Head Shells, Show up to the Wrong Venue. The laundry list of things that could go wrong is literally endless. No I mean it literally. You will never be ceased to be amazed at what could go wrong to try and stop you from performing at your gig. The trick is to always plan ahead, playing a vinyl set? Bring a back up USB!
Driving out of town, give yourself extra time to get there. You wanna know the real trick to being one of the smartest professional DJs around? Its your ability to plan for the unexpected and be quick on your feet to adapt to any situation.
10) Its supposed to be a Journey
When you’re playing your set to your crowd, you are taking them on a musical Journey and its up to you to be a pro and treat them right. To know what they want to hear before they even know. To share new sounds and remind them of their old forgotten favourites. There are a lot of “professional DJ’s” out there but its up to you to set yourself apart from all the others.
I hope you gained a little something from all of this. Thank you from the whole Happy Wife Happy Life Team!