10 DJ Tips & Tricks from Shiftee, Endo, Badawi, Matt Shadetek, and More!

What makes a great DJ? There is no single answer to this question. At Dubspot, we want to help you figure out and achieve what great DJing means to you. The goal of our DJ program is to make that choice as well-informed as possible. The journey will be extremely rewarding, and we can’t wait to take it with you! In the meantime, here are some tips from our talented instructors and industry professionals to get you started.

DJ Shiftee

Thorough preparation is very valuable, especially with the constant barrage of new music DJs must face on a daily basis. I generally won’t play tracks in a live set until I have set Beatgrids, run them through Mixed In Key, marked every key section of the song with Cue Points, and set strategic loops on cool parts and vocal phrases. I also have to write appropriate notes in the comments field of my browser and organize the tracks into appropriate playlists. This way even if a song is brand new, I can play it as if I’ve known it for years.

Matt Shadetek

If you are a warm up DJ, don’t play banging stuff. Warm up the crowd properly. Nothing will get you not invited back worse than coming on to an empty room and playing every banging hit track. It won’t work, and you will piss off the promoter and the people playing afterward. Feel it out and warm up to a peak. The party will go well, and people will want to book you again.

DJ Endo

Check out the latest evolution of DJ Technology with Traktor’s Sample Decks. While it’s possible to drop your own loops and one-shots into Traktor’s Sample Decks and play them in perfect sync with what your DJing, I find it most intriguing that you can actually create your OWN samples. I often grab the favorite parts of all of my tracks and build a library of samples made out of tracks that I already own.

Raz Mesiani aka Badawi

There are two kinds of DJ’s – Those who take requests and those who don’t. Be the latter. Also, practice without headphones so you can master beat matching.

DJ Shiftee

If the DJ booth is visible to the crowd, you are performing whether you like it or not. Visibly acting like you are enjoying/engaged with what you are doing goes a long way. Energy is contagious.

Mike Rivera aka OneMic

Always be prepared. Even if the spot claims to guarantee turntables, CDJs, controllers, slipmats, needles, and/or built-in interfaces – BRING YOUR OWN! You don’t want to be unpleasantly surprised at the venue. Also, always bring a line in cable. If everything is just plain wrong at the gig, but you still have to play something, that line in will plug into your laptop, iPod or phone. That will be your gig saver.

Sean Clements

When blending tracks together, lower/cut the bass on one of the tracks to create room for the other track. If you cut the bass on the track you’re blending into, the vocals and other mid-range sounds will still be audible (but you’ll be hearing them with the old bass line!). If there are vocals on the old track, consider lowering the mids to save sonic space for the new vocals. Alternately, if you cut the bass on the track you are leaving, it creates a smoother transition to the new track because the heaviest elements of the old song will be gone drawing attention and emphasis to the new track.

Martin Perna

Develop a knowledge of tempo, especially if you play music within a wide range of genres. If you’re a digital DJ, make sure all your music is tagged with the accurate BPM. Even when you’re just doing recreational listening, make sure the BPM column in your iTunes (or another music library program) is visible, and make a mental note of the BPM of the song as you’re hearing it. You can go through each song and manually add the BPM, or use a program like Mixed in Key to analyze batches of music identifying BPM and key of songs (for harmonic mixing). If you’re using vinyl, use mailing labels or masking tape to make notes about BPM and breaks on the album sleeves of songs.

JP Solis

Know your tunes. Develop your musical memory by playing tunes over and over, until you can sing them in your head. If you can hum the tune when you look at the album cover, it’s yours.

Michael Walsh

When you are performing live and find yourself confused in a mix, turn your headphones and monitor down to regain control of your ears (and the mix). Your ears fatigue from high volume levels and you need to give them a break to perform well. Often, when DJs feel “lost” in the mix, it’s a matter of the headphones or monitor (or both) being too loud. Make a habit of turning down your headphones and monitor between mixes to give your ears a chance to bounce back and work properly.

 


DJ Extensive Program

Immerse yourself in the complete art of DJing: from the fundamentals of beatmatching and mixing to using effects and programming extended club sets. Whether you’re a beginner wanting to learn fundamentals or a seasoned pro looking to take your talent to the next level, our curriculum is designed to accommodate all skill levels and styles of music. This comprehensive DJ program covers everything from basic mixing to advanced digital DJing with both Serato Scratch Live and Traktor Scratch Pro.

About This Program

At Dubspot you’ll be working at personal student workstations equipped with industry standard and cutting-edge technology: Technics SL-1200 / 1210 series turntables, Pioneer CDJs, Pioneer DJM or Rane TTM mixers, Apple iMacs and MacBook Pros, Native Instruments’ Traktor Scratch Pro, Serato Scratch Live, vinyl, CDs, timecode, and MIDI controllers.

Our instructors teach you the necessary techniques and draw on their vast collective experience to give you insight into the mindset, workflow, and art of DJing. Graduates of the DJ Extensive Program will have an opportunity to perform at an event in a New York City venue, organized and promoted by Dubspot together with you and your fellow students. At Dubspot, we want you to do more than just learn. We want you to be great at doing what you love. Let us help you get there!

What’s Included

  • DJ Level 1: Rookie Sessions | Essentials I
  • DJ Level 2: Phrase Mixing | Essentials II
  • DJ Level 3: Beyond The Blend | Intermediate Skills
  • DJ Level 4: Preparation | DJ Psychology
  • DJ Level 5: Classroom to the Club | Advanced Techniques I
  • DJ Level 6: Club to the World | Advanced Techniques II

Additional Information

Visit the DJ course page for detailed information on this program here.

If you have questions, please call 877.DUBSPOT or send us a message.

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  • Miah
  • 7/25/2011

“4. There are 2 kinds of DJ’s – Ones who take requests and ones who don’t. Be the latter. Also: Practice without headphones and you can master beat matching. – Raz Mesiani / Badawi”

Why not? If you have it and it fits in your set, play it. This seems effete to me. This whole response seems off the cuff and without context as to what it means. Less this guy, more Shiftee as he seems to have a grip on this.

  • Michael Walsh
  • 7/25/2011

It’s an opinionated tip, for sure. But it comes from someone who has carved their own sound into the face of music – which is an awesome and noble thing. The bigger suggestion here is to build a sound that is your own – because without that it’s very hard to move into the professional dj arena. This tip is directed at DJs who want to be playing the bigger gigs with your name on the marquee. (I don’t think Shiftee takes requests either, btw.)

Badawi (Raz):
http://www.discogs.com/artist/Badawi
http://www.razmesinai.com/
http://www.theagriculture.com/badawi.html

  • dennis parrott
  • 7/25/2011

I think requests depend on the type of DJ you happen to be, plain and simple.

If you are a headliner with a unique sound and all that lah-dee-dah, people generally won’t be asking you to play stuff because they came to hear your unique musical sound. Badawi has built that and he can say, NO.

Guys like me who are mobile, play parties, weddings and so on, we get paid to make crowds happy. They probably won’t know some of the stuff I might play for them if I were to head out on the “unique sound tip”. They want to hear songs they know, songs they like, songs they want to dance to… Once I build some trust between us, I can slip in some of the more musically unique stuff. The average wedding crowd isn’t into the latest thing to hit the New York or London dance floors. There might be one or two people at a 300 person wedding who would even know that stuff….

You know what? I like playing requests. Most of the music I play is stuff I’d listen to anyway and often times the track someone really wants to hear is a good (maybe great) track. So why not make them happy? Aren’t we there to make the crowd forget what’s going on for a while and let them dance? Or are we there to inflate our own egos?

No matter which sort of DJ you want to be we all need to remember that we all need the support of the audience to make it work. We need that support tonight to make the gig work and we need it in the future to keep working. No audience = no gigs.

dennis

  • Steven Lee Moya
  • 7/25/2011

As a mobile or professional DJ. I believe it is very important to stay true to what you want to convey musically as a DJ. You can never make everyone happy, which is why I do not take requests.

This is not to inflate my ego, but once you start taking requests, it becomes a bad habit. The whole purpose of selecting music is artistic & musical expression, YOUR OWN THAT IS! I would never walk into a restaurant & tell a chef what to cook me. I would never walk into a painters gallery & tell him what to paint. Catch my drift?

We are all artists conveying our own message. Anyone can play requests, but you have to train your respective crowd to what YOU think they should be listening to. At the end of the night, you’re still pushing the play/start button, you’re selecting the tracks, you’ve got your fingers on the fader & you’re still the DJ!

Cheers. SLM

  • slk
  • 7/25/2011

“4. There are 2 kinds of DJ’s – Ones who take requests and ones who don’t. Be the latter. Also: Practice without headphones and you can master beat matching. – Raz Mesiani / Badawi”

I just loved this statement. When Dj’s start to take requests they stop being music selectors and start become human Juke Boxes. I don’t think its wrong to take requests, I think its a choice about what sort of Dj you want to be. Its also a choice about your audience as well. Do you want to play to people who expect you to forfill their requests or do you want to play to people who respect your musical choices.

Re: Playing without headphones. I love doing this, if the system and setup is right and you know you tunes it can be an amazing liberating experience to just play.

This article is the best 10 Tips I have ever read. Cheers

  • Turntill
  • 7/25/2011

There are 2 kinds of DJ’s – Ones who take requests and ones who don’t. Be the latter.
simple and right! If ya not a jukebox ;-)

Peez from switzerland, would love to see this skool!

  • 5 Ableton Live Tips from Dubspot Instructors – Pt 1: Thavius, DJ Kiva, Hatsis, Cellitti, DJ Ceiba | Dubspot Blog
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  • Dawitchdoctor
  • 7/25/2011

If you’re doing a good job people won’t ask for requests anyway, you need to know how to control a crowd. thats the most important thing – reading a crowd.

  • Gilo
  • 7/25/2011

4. There are 2 kinds of DJ’s – Ones who take requests and ones who don’t. Be the latter.

I was against taking requests in the past but now I take it as a challenge to see if I can mix whatever track I get asked on the fly.

The track has to fit in the set though or else no chance.

  • ChayD
  • 7/25/2011

A thing I’ve learnt from working clubs for a while, the crowd aren’t there specifically to listen to you, they’re there to socialise and dance and have a fun time. Don’t let your position go to your head and go in there with guns blazing, banging out all the big hits first thing. If the crowd aren’t up for it, the dancefloor will become empty, and you would have used up your arsenal of good tunes, and burnt off a ton of adrenalin. Reading the crowd is (in my humble opinions) more important than mixing techniques, there’s no point in being able to do a perfect mix if there’s no one to play it to!

  • iEventCloud
  • 7/25/2011

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  • WooDz
  • 7/25/2011

I don’t know how long some of you have been DJing for but ultimately it’s irrelevant.
I know Djs who have worked for years and still don’t understand how to react to different settings.
The one rule every DJ should remember; there’s only a time not to take a request. The rest of the time you take them.
I’m sure some of you are thinking, “Yeah, and that’s every time.”
One commenter mentioned they are a mobile DJ and the guests are there to hear what that DJ will play.
So if they don’t like what the DJ is playing at their wedding then that’s tough luck? This DJ uses the excuse that they cannot please everyone so there’s no need to take a request. I cannot stress this enough.. This has to be the worse excuse to piss a crowd off I’ve ever heard. The commenter goes on the explain that you don’t go to restaurant and tell the chef what to cook. Unfortunately this analogy has been explained wrong because we do go into a restaurant and tell the chef what to cook. You order from a menu granted but when you order a 300g steak ‘well done’ you’ll be pretty pissed if you’re served a stuffed potato and spare ribs; heck you’d be just as annoyed if you’re did get a steak but as you stick the fork in the meat, blood pisses out all over the plate. The true thing we can compare in the restaurant analogy is that like a DJ the chef takes our request. What the DJ doesn’t need, nor the chef is to be told how it should be mixed, prepared and served. Whilst we’re on the subject of food though, another good comparison would be programming. Programming is the most important factor of any gig. Just as in a multi-course menu the starter comes at the beginning and dessert at the end and your musical culinary skills should follow suit; your programming should flow just as good as your mixing. The DJ is there for the guests at 95% of mobile gigs, club, open-air and concert gigs are a different ball game and many factors are at play so I’ll leave that for some other time but if you’re a mobile DJ and the guests have access to your booth then take that request, program it into your gig, make your guests happy and you may even be surprised that a song you’ve never thought of playing, may just turn out to be a song you end up adding to your playlist.

  • DJAshE
  • 7/25/2011

thanks , really helpful advice

  • Silky
  • 7/25/2011

Always have a back up plan.My tip for this is if you have the luxery of owning a pacemaker mp3 system bring it to your gig with you along with the cables that
come with the unit.Make sure your pacemaker is patched to your mixer or pa system via the supplied cables that came with the unit.Also make sure you have the units battery fully charged.Have the unit on stand by incase your laptop goes down or any other disater happens.Now you have yourself a plan b and should be able to mix with that if all else fails.I never leave home without mine.If you can shell out the money for one just do it.Trust me it is a lifesaver…plus you also have the ability to practice your set on your way to a gig.

  • Endo
  • 7/25/2011

Kind of a random off topic thing that just came to mind, but now you can find any song you want on youtube. For all of you mobile DJs it might be time to start requesting internet access at your gigs so you can have any song at your fingertips.

  • Aidan
  • 7/25/2011

I do not dj myself but I have been considering picking it up since I have been producing electro house and dubstep for a little while now and wanted to put on a show. This is definitely a helpful and friendly article! I will come back and re read once I have learned the basics of traktor

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