Welcome to SKAH DJ Blog! This is the 2nd post titled Art of Deejaying, WK 2 – Vital Tips for Newbies. We will keep this coming Deo volente et ceteris paribus. Today, we will be looking at vital tips for the newbies in the game. The basis of this post is from hands-on experience and knowledge gained in over a decade of deejaying as well as contributions from other top DJs.
Getting educated is paramount
Is it really possible to learn a new skill/trade/business or anything else and succeed without any form of formal or informal education? The answer to that is most definitely a ‘NO’. Be it an online course or a regular classroom course or some form of apprenticeship with an established DJ or even self-taught by reading e-books, every newbie needs to acquire some form of education in deejaying to even stand a chance of getting in the race.
Your choice of education will be largely determined by your aspirations and motives for deejaying (that is, if you deejay as a hobby or you intend to rise to stardom). Of course, what form education is readily available and affordable to you is also important in deciding what form of education to go for. You should also subscribe to newsletters from DJ websites, blogs, Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEM), YouTube channels and even social media accounts of the aforementioned. The volume of information from these is quite amazing and will keep you up to date with the latest developments in the industry.
Learning never ends, even after completing a program or training you should continue to research, dig up information and catch up on latest trends, developments, tips and tricks in the game. Learning is a life-long journey and not a destination. Read, read and keep reading!
Hardwork is not negotiable
No one else can do this for you. You need to practice, practice and practice if you are really keen on becoming a top deejay. Hardwork is not limited to time on the decks only, beatmatching, mixing, scratching or practicing turntablism it includes searching, purchasing and listening to new tunes/tracks, analyzing and organizing your library into crates and playlists, setting cue points, ‘mix in’ and ‘mix out’ points in the track and generally preparing your set.
Apart from these technical issues, there are other non-technical/soft issues that require a lot of effort such as promotions, marketing, networking and even sourcing and negotiations with prospects or clients. More of this will be discussed later on. You can imagine the effort required to sift through 100 email and SMS messages, phone calls and managing social media. At some point, you will need to hire a PR Manager.
You should develop a routine, like spending not less than 1 hour on the deck practicing new skills and techniques or just deejaying generally on a daily basis. Always remember to record your sets and practice sessions to evaluate your performance. You will be able to determine the high points of the mix and other parts that lacked energy or transition/EQ errors in the mix and improve on these subsequently. At advanced levels you should film your DJ sessions, in addition to the filming and recording being useful for correcting mistakes made during your DJ session, it can also serve as a vital marketing tool. Nowadays, digital cameras (some phone cameras can even deliver good quality video recording) and storage (external hard drives and DVDs) are very affordable.
Planning is very, very vital
You should define you career objective by setting short term and long term goals that are ‘SMART’ – Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-Bound. For instance, your short-term objective can be to record a monthly mixtape of the latest releases within the month or produce a DJ Remix of the latest tunes within a specified period.
On the other hand, your long-term objective can be to move your career to the continental or international scene within the next 5 years. It is very critical to put the plan into writing and breakdown the plan into smaller tasks, then put in conscious efforts into achieving these tasks and reviewing the actual versus plan at regular intervals. It is also important to note that you might need to play for free usually at beginner and intermediate levels of deejaying. So the smaller tasks might be to volunteer to DJ for free regularly, maybe at a friend’s birthday party or warm up for the lead DJ at a rave or any other event.
Planning includes what type of deejay you desire to be (mobile DJ, radio or club DJ), what kind of gear you need (turntables, controllers, CDJs and samplers), type of content (audio only or audio and video), music genres etc. All these factors are somehow linked to one another. For instance, if you intend to focus on corporate events, weddings and private parties, then you should consider going for a deejay gear that is compact and can easily be transported such as a controller. Every little detail matters and some form of planning is required in even the minor issues.
Gear; Don’t break the bank
Gear is a very crucial concern for most beginners and before deciding to invest in any gears you need to know that the hardware and software are just tools for becoming a good deejay and creating magic for people.
For a beginner, the minimum requirement will be starting off with a computer, headphones and free deejay software such as Virtual DJ Home Edition Traktor Pro 2 Demo Version RekordBox. With any of these, you can learn the basics such as cue points, beatmatching, drops, sampler, effects and even make a mix of your session. You can achieve most of this using the keyboard shortcuts for every action required. The objective is to learn the basics without spending so much on gear just yet!
The software layout of most DJ software mimics at least the basic layout of most deejay hardware such as turntables, CDJS, controllers, samplers and mixers. In order words, elements such as crossfader, volume fader, gain, pitch slider, play button, cue button, cue points, loops etc. will most likely appear both on the DJ software and on most DJ hardware. Hence, the ease of transiting from using just a laptop, to any deejay hardware is quite obvious. It is also important to note that as a beginner, it is highly recommended that you learn to use more than 1 DJ software.
After successfully learning the basics of deejaying it is now time to choose a gear. I will like to assume that as a beginner, you are not willing to break the bank. So my recommendations are hinged on the following assumptions of a low budget DJ gear without compromising quality, low maintenance cost, as well as portability. I will recommend an all-in-one unit i.e. a DJ controller. A DJ controller is an integrated midi DJ unit that has 2 decks and a mixer (1 deck on either side and a mixer in the center). The midi controller connects through the USB port of a computer and sends control signal to the DJ software, the DJ software responds and sends audio signals to the soundcard of the DJ controller which is then split into 2 channels for Deck A and Deck B. The DJ controller creates the right balance between cost and performance. Even the advanced routines such as beat juggling, turntablism, scratching and many others can be performed flawlessly with practice. See DJ Angelo on perform on a Reloop Terminal Mix 4 (a $600 DJ Controller).
It is important to note that turntables are generally expensive to purchase and maintain with the frequent replacement of the needles and control vinyl. They are also prone to vibrations and skipping. CDJs are equally expensive, with fewer issues than turntables except for the CD lens. In summary, the cost of purchasing 2 DJ Decks (either turntables or CDJs) and a mixer will be at least twice as much as the cost of purchasing a DJ controller of similar quality and performance. Whatever gear you choose should not stand in the way of your creativity.
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Stay tuned for the next article.