Learn how to DJ like a pro
If you’ve always fancied learning to DJ but never found the time, why not give it a go right now? Lots of us are learning a new hobby during lockdown, and DJing is loads of fun. To help you get off to the best start, we asked an expert to share their knowledge and pass on a few hints and tips.
Terry Ryan runs On The Rise DJ Academy, and specialises in teaching entry level DJs how to mix, create sets and understand DJ tech. He was happy to answer a few of our questions….
How did you start out?
“I started as a bedroom DJ with a turntable and a cassette player in the early 90s. Then I progressed to two Technics 1210 turntables and a DJ mixer. I practiced, bought records and managed to get a few gigs. In 1999 I got signed to a record label, started touring the country, and then the world. About 10 years ago I formed ‘On The Rise DJ Academy’ to help beginners learn how to DJ. We now have 4 tutors teaching 1000s of students from around the world, in our studio and online.”
Do you have any tips for beginners?
“Sure, here are four great ones for starters…
Tip one. Decide really early on if you'll be mixing vinyl, CDs or digital music. All have their pros and cons, so do your research. Vinyl is the purists choice and the most authentic mixing method, but on the other hand, all those records can be quite costly and difficult to transport. Digital is the cheaper and more convenient option. Plus, you can do lots more fun stuff on digital compared to vinyl and CDs, so I'll be focusing on that today.
You can mix with digital music you stream online, or with music files on your computer. This is probably the easiest method, because you don't need an internet connection. You can buy music from the likes of iTunes, Amazon, Beatport and loads of other places online.”
Tip two. Concentrate on beat-matching to mix your tracks together. It’s the first technique that all DJs need to master.
BPM (beats per minute) is the speed of the music. To mix two tracks, you’ll need to match their BPMs using the 'Tempo' function on your controller. If you’re into hip-hop, the BPM is usually 80-100. House, techno and dance music is 120-135. Drum and bass is about 160-175. Use the controller to mix and fade between tracks, and try lots of different songs to figure out which ones sound the best together.
Tip three. Once you’ve got the hang of beat-matching, experiment with the effects on your DJ controller. You’ll have lots of fun playing the best sounding effects like 'Filter', 'Echo' and 'Loops'. These are pretty universal across all controllers – even the simplest entry level ones – and they’re easy to use.
Tip four. Play the music you love. That’s what DJing is all about! As far as mixing goes, house music is probably the easiest speed to mix. But if you don’t like it, you’re not going to want to spend ages listening to it. So play what you’re into."
What kind of kit should a beginner DJ think about buying?
“A great choice for beginners would be a DJ Controller like the Hercules DJ Control Inpulse 300. The software is easy to use, and lets you quickly create loops, add samples and build your set. Plus, Hercules has a huge amount of free online learning resources to really help you understand how the controller works.
If you’re more serious about DJing and perhaps want to make it more than a hobby, I’d recommend the Pioneer DDJ-400 or DDJ-200. The DDJ-400 has a club-style layout just like pro DJs use, while the DDJ-200's layout is simpler and easier to use. They both work with Rekordbox DJ – a software program lots of professional DJs use, but it’s also really easy for beginners to get to grips with. It lets you stream music from the Soundcloud website, or use music files from your computer hard-drive.
I’d also recommend that beginners buy a pair of DJ monitor speakers like the Pioneer DJ DM-40BT. The nice thing about these is that they come with a line input rather than just Bluetooth. This is important, because most DJ controllers don’t have Bluetooth connectivity. A good pair of DJ monitor speakers like these helps you practice and improve your skills, because you can really hear the full depth of your tunes.”
What mistakes do you see beginners make most often?
“The biggest mistake I see beginners make is not sticking with it. When someone buys a DJ controller, they can feel a little overwhelmed by all the faders, buttons, lights and even the software. But like I said above, companies like Hercules have loads of great free online resources beginners can take advantage of. Take it one step at a time!”
On The Rise DJ Academy offers 1-on-1 online and in-studio DJ lessons for all levels. Terry also creates content for beginners on My DJ Hub, a DJ learning resource that offers free webinars, podcasts, tips and tricks. You can register for free at mydjhub.com.
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