Tips On Playing A Perfect DJ Set
Mixing tracks in front of a crowd is a whole lot of fun, and with continuing developments in DJ equipment it is becoming more accessible than ever before. However, it’s all too easy for that perfect dance floor moment to go horribly wrong, and then you’re left there looking awkward in front of an unimpressed crowd. There’s a few things you can do to make sure you deliver the best set possible.
Do Your Research
There’s nothing worse than spending weeks preparing for a set only to start playing and realise you’ve completely misjudged what people want to hear. Make sure you go in armed with all the info you can find. Talk to the promoter and see if they have any specific music policy for the event. Perhaps they don’t want anything too fast or they have planned for certain genres at certain times. Look up the DJs playing before and after you. Soundcloud and Mixcloud are a great way to learn what material a DJ likes to play – you may even find sets from other events. The music being played either side of your set should have an impact on how you start and finish. It’s probably not a good idea to end your set with hectic DnB if the next guy is playing deep house. Think about what time you’re playing. We’ve all seen DJs play a peak time set right at the start of an event, and the crowd just isn’t ready! Sure, it’s your set, but the crowd is there for the whole event and you’ve got to make it a great experience for them too.
Plan Your Time
With some research under your belt, start to think about what tracks you have that would fit in the context. Maybe you’ll need to do a bit of virtual crate digging, finding some new material that fits with your concept. Try to use your research to craft a set that takes people somewhere. Maybe there’s Electro beforehand and Drum and Bass after, so you can explore genres that fit in between in terms of BPM or mood, such as Dubstep or Trap. Try to fit in a couple of genres to keep it interesting for the people on the dance floor. Think about your set as a musical journey – it has to start somewhere and end somewhere else. How will you get from one to the other?
Know Your Tools
This might seem a bit obvious, but maybe you’ve just got some new kit, or switched from CD-J to a laptop. You need to be able to deliver a consistent performance the whole way through. It’s all too easy to miss one small thing when you’re setting up and end up franticly troubleshooting right up until the last minute. Write down a list of all the kit you need to take with you and triple check before you leave home. If you’re feeling unsure about plugging all your kit in try making yourself a step by step walkthrough. This can help massively with those pre-performance nerves and let you really focus on the music when you’re playing. If you’re playing from CD-Js or vinyl decks make sure you know exactly how to set them up. If you’re playing from a laptop become intimate with how to plug everything in, selecting the right sound card in your software and plugging yourself into the mixer. Preparing properly will make sure you can enjoy your set to the fullest.
So, you’ve done all your planning, but sometimes you get thrown a curveball. You start playing and realise that those surefire bangers just aren’t working the way you anticipated. It’s great to go in with a clear idea of what you want to do, but a good DJ is able to adapt to the situation. Watch the crowd and see how they react. If people are throwing themselves into it then you’re doing well! But they may not share your excellent taste. Make sure you have plenty of extra material with you, more than you need to fill your time, and make sure that you have some different material in there too. If your tracks aren’t working how you hoped, try throwing something else into the mix and see how the crowd react. It might mean that it takes 15 minutes to find your feet, but once you’ve hit that sweet spot and the crowd go wild it’s totally worth it. Always remember, the number one priority is that the crowd are going wild.
Make sure you have a great time up there. Not only for yourself, but also for the audience. There’s nothing more boring than a DJ looking like they’re emailing their mum. If the crowd look up at the booth and see you wilding out to the tunes they’ll follow suit! A big part of this is all your prep. If you know the tunes well, and you know your kit well, you can really get stuck in to having fun and keeping the crowd on their toes.
If you follow these tips you give yourself the best possible chance of smashing it. If, for whatever reason, it doesn’t go quite how you hoped, don’t give up! Like any skill, practice makes perfect, and every mistake is a learning experience. Just keep at it!