So, after all that time and effort you put into creating a press kit and marketing yourself, and after all the evenings and weekends you’ve spent honing your DJing skills, you’ve finally landed the gig you’ve been hoping for.
Now what? Well, this is where you put those DJing skills to work. A successful set doesn’t just happen. It takes a whole lot of planning and thought to make sure that all the parts of a great night come together. Who wants a decent set when you can have a fabulous set?
You may be alone in the booth, but DJing shouldn’t be a lonely profession. There are communities of DJs that you can tap into for tips on how to be even better than you already are. Sourcing opinions from a bunch of DJs about what they think is vital to having a dope set is just what I did.
Here’s a summary of their best advice:
practice, practice, prepare, prepare
I know, I know, we’ve all heard it a million times. Practice like crazy and prepare everything you’ll need (and even stuff you think you won’t need). Overkill? Maybe. But experience tells us that it’s all true. Knowing every part of your set and set-up will actually free you up so that you can be creative on the spot if necessary. Become familiar with all the possible options beforehand, like which tracks mix well.
mine the venue
Have you ever showed up to a gig only to find that the crowd was different than what you’d anticipated? Your set was planned around a particular genre, but the crowd in front of you is in the mood for something else. Don’t panic. Don’t retreat into a kind of I’m-the-DJ-so-they-play-by-my-rules attitude. You’re the life of the party. If you hit a dead-end, breathe some life back into the party by getting creative.
Come prepared (see tip #1) with different playlists organized according to mood (upbeat, soulful, etc) and tempo (slow, medium, fast). Mix some of the tracks from those playlists into your set until you’ve figured out the crowd.
opener or headliner
Which time slot is yours will depend on what you’ve been hired to do. Take note: this is no time to test boundaries. I know you really want to impress the audience and the promoter, but you’re just going to make everyone mad if you spin like you’re a headliner instead of the opener (and vice versa). Show off your talent by doing exactly what’s expected of you. If you don’t know what that is, ask. Join DJ forums, check out our articles, talk to other DJs you know.
this is no science class
So, after all that time you spent learning how to DJ, you can now say that you’re mixing like a pro. In fact, you’re so amazing at it that you can quite literally mix anything and everything … so you do … ad nauseum. Testing your technical know-how is fun for you. For the crowd, though, not so much. Creating a vibe is key. The crowd wants to sink into the music, dance and have a good time. Go easy on the technical stuff and focus on the music.
keep it level
If you see those little lights on your mixer glowing red, you’ve taken it too far. Boosting the volume won’t make people dance more. It will distort the sound instead. So, all that prep work you did choosing the ultimate music for your set and scoping the venue won’t count for anything.
• Keep the EQ at 0db
• Turning up the bass? Turn down the middle and high ranges too
• Don’t play two tracks with heavy sub-bass together
Again, you’ve heard it lots of times, but it’s worth repeating – prepare a back-up. Consider the possibility that any or all the technology you’ll have in front of you at the venue will fail at some point or another. Make sure you’ve packed a few USBs, vinyl, an MP3, and even CDs. Who knows what might happen? When disaster strikes, make sure you’re prepared.
Over to you: How do you set yourself up for a great set?