40 – Rewinds
Rewinds, the art of spinning a track backwards at a fast speed so you can play it again. They rarely sound good, but do allow you to play an incredible track twice. Be careful, because they quickly lose their charm. Occasionally rewinds can be used to cover up mistakes.
41 – Beat Grid
A tool in the digital DJs arsenal. The beat grid feature now comes with most digital dj software. Beat grids allow you to synchronize effects smoothly, calculate accurate BPMs and make good loops.
DJtechtools.com has a great article on how to set up perfect beat grids quickly and correctly.
42 – Cut signals instead of boosting
If you want to turn the bass up on a track, it’s better to cut the mids and treble slightly, rather then push up the channel gain. Pushing the EQ past the 12 position can cause clipping and then distortion. Generally, an EQ should be kept at the 12 position, unless already practiced beforehand.
43 – Harmonic Mixing
Mixing harmonies allows you to create smooth transitions between songs with lengthy vocal tracks and melodies. It takes a great ear and music theory knowledge to mix harmony, but you can download software that makes harmonic mixing much easier. These programs identify which key a song is in, from there, you can mix within the same key, which is generally smoother than from key to key.
For more information on harmonic mixing, check out the mixed-in-key website: https://www.mixedinkey.com/Book/Introduction
44 – Beat juggling
First developed in the mid ‘80s, beat juggling is when you take two or more samples and jump between them to create a new sound. Beat juggling is more of an umbrella term for multiple techniques. Turntablists often scratch, loop and use hot cues to juggle beats.
JFB’s use of Rage Against The Machine’s Killing in the Name of is a prime example of great beat juggling.
45 – Tone Play
Tone play is a technique related to beat juggling and harmonic mixing. You find songs in the same key, and then use hot cues to skip to specific notes. You can then rearrange the notes of one song, to replicate a melody from another recognizable track.
Tretino shows us how to use tone play in this video:
46 – Don’t overuse effects
Nowadays, most techniques and effects have been around for so long that they aren’t really fresh or interesting now. Effects should only be used to highlight interesting sounds or songs. A lot of people want to listen to the raw tracks that they know and love. There’s always time for great mixing and DJing, but if you’re using a filter on every mix, it will quickly wear thin.
47 – Knowing your music inside & out
You need to know the exact second to begin your loop, the right beat to scratch, at which moment that amazing sample comes in. Is the best bassline after the first or second drop? Mixing on the fly is fun, but when you’re performing a set, you should stick to songs that you could hum off by heart.
48 – Organize your music
This makes it easy to find and a whole lot less frustrating when you’re out performing. Make playlists for specific nights. Separate your music and create shortcuts according to genre, mood, tempo, key, scene and anything else you can think of. Make notes that you attach to songs with what songs mix well together. Note each song’s key. Some DJs recommend grouping songs together in threes, then seeing which groups mix to other groups. The scope for mixing between these becomes huge.
49 – Learning music theory
Whilst it’s not essential, having a good grasp of music theory will speed up your learning in most other aspects of DJing. From organising music to harmonic mixing, understanding music theory will accelerate your DJ skills.
50 – Marking your music
When using new music, go through a track and set all your cue points, interesting loops, set beat grids, vocal phrases and then make notes on your browser. This way you can learn the song thoroughly and play it like you’ve known it forever. Use special stickers on vinyl records that push the needle further into the track.
51 – Make friends with producers
Everyone loves to be appreciated and to talk about their passions. And if you know a producer, it might be worth getting in contact with them and asking for a preview of a track or an unreleased/unfinished songs. Of course, don’t go emailing all of your favourite producers asking for free music. Be humble and be respectful, obviously offer to pay for any music.
You will be surprised at the generosity when you pay real respects to those whom you share something in common with.
52 – Look to the past for inspiration
The best DJs find the best tracks and then work from there. Sometimes, old songs will go on a journey of being sampled and remixed, and an obscure funk record with a tiny circulation can go to number 1 as a remix. Get yourself in the record stores and educate yourself on as many different styles as possible.
Artists that take inspiration from afar will produce more interesting music than those that stick to their genre.
53 – Crowd control
As a DJ, it’s your job to ensure that the paying audience are enjoying themselves and the music. You have to be able to read a crowd. Try experimenting with different vibes and energies and seeing how they respond, and then react to them. This is one of the key skills that every elite DJ has.
54 – Song selection
Arguably the most important part of a good set/mix. Only the most experienced turntablists can take terrible songs and turn them into something new and exciting, whereas an incredible set list of tracks that mix well will sound amazing, even with simple intro/outro crossfading. Take time learning what songs mix well and what goes down well with a crowd.
55 – Treat your ears with care
They are your most important tool, after all. Repeatedly exposing your ears to huge volumes of noise on a regular basis without protection is asking for trouble. So many DJs and sound technicians have their careers cut short due to progressive deafness. Get yourself some earplugs.
56 – Accepting your mistakes
When you make a mistake in the mix, you might want to try and cover it as best you can. This is easy if you’re recording a promotional mix, as you can just throw it into audacity and clean it up afterwards. But when you’re out in front of a crowd and the mix goes wrong, it’s best just to let it play out. Mistakes are a part of the live experience and also prove that you’re mixing in real time, rather than playing a pre-recorded set. Accept your mistakes, and practice more so they don’t happen in future.
57 – Knowing your environment
You might know how to read a crowd, and you’ve selected the finest tracks for your set that mix perfectly together, you’ve practiced your technique over and over and now you’re playing in a club you’ve never played before. You need to understand the club. Try to understand the promoter. You don’t want to play pop at Berghain and industrial hardtek probably isn’t an ideal warm-up for your sister’s wedding (depending on your sister of course).
Knowing your environment is key to avoiding embarrassment.
58 – Creating a show
It’s one thing to play an amazing set, but putting on a show is an entirely different thing. Of course DJing is all about the music, but if you can put on a performance that a crowd can interact with, you’ll be sure to go down in history. Think about some of the biggest DJs, watch their live performances and see how much more there is than just the music.
59 – Using a theme for performances
A great technique that adds so much to a show: theme. Using a running theme throughout the set that ties in to the visuals and stage production has such a strong impact. If you want to use a theme in your music and extend this to the stage production, you may want to bring in an external creative director to ensure your show and your vision are one in the same.
60 – Getting an MC
Depending on your genre of choice, you are probably already familiar with MCs. Designed to keep a crowd hyped throughout our set, an MC can add flavour and energy to your set. Within the hip-hop community, an MC can draw a bigger crowd than the DJ. Know your scene and your genre though. If you’re playing a euphoric trance set, you might have to tell your best friend to leave the mic behind.