101 Ways to DJ Holiness, Serenity and Control: The Mixing Sutra

61 – Lighting

A huge part of any show that often goes overlooked or is left to the promoter/venue. A decent lighting setup immerses a crowd in visual splendour, helping them lose themselves to the music your spinning. If you can’t afford your own lighting rig and a technician to pilot it during your set, you might want to get in contact with the venue or promoter and ask to speak to the lighting technician about how you like to use lighting. Maybe send them one of your sets or some songs you play so they can get a good idea of what they’re working with.

62 – VJ

VJing is an offshoot of DJing, except instead of spinning discs, a VJ spins visuals. Actually, they do a whole lot more than spin visuals, they distort them, play with color, can project onto props and objects and co-ordinate the visual element of your show to your music.

 

Projection mapping has become extremely popular in the last decade as a tool for dance music. Check out this example of some pristine VJing:

63 – Stage production

If you’re handy with tools, you should have a think about building some interesting props and staging for your show. Alternative DJ booths and stages look great and can highlight your performance as being more than just a DJ set.

 

Check this out for an interesting booth:

64 – Look the part

Some DJs might turn their noses up at this tip, but if used well then it can go a long way. DJs and performers can dress in a certain style to stand out (think Daft Punk or DeadMau5). Some argue that you shouldn’t spend time thinking about how you look when you could be practicing your mixes. On the other hand, if you’re beats are big, you want the threads to match.

65 – Interactivity

Having some part of your performance interactive makes the entire night more immersive for your crowd. Dancers, actors, graffiti walls, toys, balloons, anything can be used to try and break down that barrier in the audience between observer and participant. You have to get creative with this one and think outside the box to make it special.

66 – Working with live musicians

Some of the most interesting performances arise when DJs play their set with live musicians. Live musicians are often neglected in the dance and rave scene, and so having a drummer dictate a beat live is amazing, for both the crowd and for the DJ. Contact some inspiring musicians and get creative. See how you can work together.

 

Listen to Ed Cox playing the accordion over a breakcore beat:

67 – Playing with another DJ

Going back to back (B2B) with another well known DJ can really elevate your set. Another DJ will throw their own flavour and style into a set that keeps you from falling into the same old routine and your mixes becoming stale. Make sure it’s someone that you can work with, though!

68 – Interact with the Sound technician well

If you don’t want the sound technician to silence you, keep your gains out of the red. Redlining a mixer is a big no-no for any sound technician or sound system owner. Ultimately, you don’t decide how loud the rig is, and crowds understand that a quiet setup isn’t your fault. And, if you redline the mixer, the promoter, owner, or sound technician might not let you play on their equipment again.

69 – Play suitable music for your time slot

If you’re booked to play from 10pm to 11pm, on a night that runs until 6am, it’s probably best not to drop all the high energy bangers that make the crowd go wild. In fact, people are just going t be arriving, they want to settle in to the music. Start slower, and build up for the next DJs. They’ll appreciate it and so will the promoter. Who knows, maybe next time you’ll get the 2am set?

70 – The “Push & Pull” Method

Always give the crowd enough to be energised and dancing, but don’t give up everything until the perfect moment. As the music reaches right up to a crescendo, bring it back to darker, deeper rhythms, and then when the crowd begins to slow down, push them back up. Pushing and pulling the set retains the interest of the crowd and spreads the energy over a longer period. Essentially you’re stopping the crowd from getting bored or wearing them out too quickly.

71 – Be Professional

Just because you’re in a party environment, remember, you are at work. Always be as professional as you can before and during your set. Don’t get drunk. Don’t get sloppy. Too often do we see DJs staggering onto the decks, loop rolling a beat for 3 minutes, cutting it into a tune out of sync and then scowling at the mixer because he can’t find the crossfader. Wait until after your set for a few beers (in this case, playing earlier can be better).

72 – Avoid promoters that always ask you to play for free

This might seem like common sense to most, but some DJs are so desperate to get their foot in the door or reach out to a bigger audience and so play for free. This is not only annoying for the DJ, but also detrimental to the industry at large. If more and more people become willing to play for exposure, unscrupulous promoters will neglect other hardworking DJs who have earned their place on a lineup. Respect yourself and your artform, and ask for some compensation for your time and effort.

 

Of course playing for exposure is great, but you have to weigh up the pros and cons. Is it actually exposure, or are you just free labor?

73 – Don’t pigeonhole yourself by genre

Too often we see great DJs getting disillusioned because they become pigeonholed into one genre. If you want to give up DJing, start by playing the same 20 songs every day and watch your love for the art fade. Play multi-genre sets, keep things fresh and keep your crowd guessing what you’re going to do next.

 

74 – Record your sets

This is great tip when you’re playing out at clubs, parties and festivals, but also when you’re mixing at home. For a start, you never know when you fall in love with one of your own sets, and want to listen to it again or use it as a promotional tool. Also, listening back to your sets a day later can help you identify mistakes, see what works and learn how to improve.

75 – Be armed for every eventuality

You’ve been there. The night has just started, security have just waved you through, you put your bags down backstage somewhere nice and safe, you find the promoter and your on in 10 minutes. Great. Only you look at the setup, and they only have vinyl decks, you’ve only got your hard drive with you. Why didn’t they tell you it was a vinyl only night? Too late now.

You have to be ready for anything.

76 – Bring your own cables

Like the tip above, but more specific. Cables. They’re cheap and one of the most important parts of a sound system, so it’s a miracle how often they go missing. Bring your own.

77 – Trust your instincts

With so many tips about preparation and planning, we’ve neglected this extremely important piece of advice. Go with the flow and trust your gut feeling. If you spend your whole life playing it safe, you’re not going to get anywhere. Ensure you are always experimenting, and if you think it will sound good, try it.

Promoting Yourself

You could be the best DJ in the world, but if no one has ever heard of you, then what’s the point? It would be a shame to know that so much talent and so many banging tracks are being left unplayed, because too many great DJs didn’t know how to get themselves out there.

78 – Targeting a Niche

Find a gap in the market, and fill it. No ones mixed funky breakbeat with classical turbo-folk yet? Well, that’s about to change. Find something that’s special about how you mix, hone in on it and use that to your benefit.

79 – Promotional mixes

Record the best set you can. Compile a tracklist that defines you as a DJ, record it from start to finish a few times. Go through them and find the best one, and then tidy it up in Audacity or another audio editing program. Once you’ve got that promotional mix, put it everywhere. Soundcloud, Youtube, Facebook, promoter’s inboxes, labels nightclub managers, Festival booking agents, friends, family, play it to your damn dog if you have to, but make sure people listen to it.

80 – Online radio

A great channel for drawing in new listeners and gaining a wider fanbase. Thanks to DAB digital radio and the internet, everyone has access to most radio stations across the world. Find a radio station in your chosen genre or style with a good reach and send them your promo mix.