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    Monday, January 18, 2010

    How to DJ, tips for beginners

    After training several DJs in our radio station, I have noticed a few things which most of the new DJs would have in common. All of the following tips come strictly from my personal experience from teaching over the years. Another thing you might want to keep in mind is that each person has their own learning curve. I have trained DJs that will be able to get beat matching down within a few days. Other will take several months to get to the same point, do not give up, some of the best students I have trained took months to get decent at it. It also depends on how much time you can devote to just matching beats. Find people interested or already in the Djing scene, you will be surprise how often they will be open to help and even let you play with their equipment, that is of course until you get your own. 

    Why  should you listen to me?

    I have been DJing since 2005. It began as a hobby in high school and after buying a dual deck CD player, I started to teach my self how to DJ. When I moved to Daytona Beach for college, I joined my college radio station, 99.1 WIKD FM. Myself and DJ Helios started The Rave, and electronic music radio show, in 2005, and I've been the host for the last 4 years. WIKD FM has a mobile sounds division, which provides affordable DJ services to the Daytona Beach area. It was here that I learned how to mix in front of large crowds and all the different genres of music. Since 2008 I also began to work for Just Dance Entertainment which helped me expand the number of gigs I would get. It began from pool decks, to clubs and special formal events. But enough about me, lets get down to some good tips.

    Be aggressive with the pitch!

    As you begin to get the hang of beat matching, the most important tip I can give to new DJs is to be aggressive with the pitch/tempo control! Whether you are using turntables or CDJs, you will quickly learn that you have to overshoot on purpose. Beat matching is key when it comes down to mixing tracks and the more you DJ the less time you will take to do this. After you been doing this for a while you will learn how to hear a song that is not beat matched and just by the sound the two beats makes when they hit, you will be able to tell whether you have to increase or decrease the tempo. By overshooting, you will create an upper and lower boundary on your pitch control within which, the proper speed position will be located. Keep repeating this process and each time you do, you will make the boundary smaller. After doing this a few times you will find the exact position for the track to be properly beat matched. Please note that beat matching is the core of DJing. If you do not get this down the rest of the tips will be useless.

    I have also noticed that plenty of young DJs will begin to play with the mixers equalizer and fx, way before they are able to properly beat match! It is pointless for you to use a flanger or echo effect if your beats are not matched. It will sound horrible, so please practice, practice, practice.
    I promise you that once you get beat matching down, everything else will fall into place.
    The next rule will give you huge advantage over new DJs, so pay attention.

    The Golden 0.8 Rule

    This rule was brought to my attention by one of my own students and from personal experience I can tell you I use this every night I DJ at a club or at the radio station.
    Be warned that I have only tested this rule on pioneer equipment, but it should also work for most of the other CDJs.
    Almost all DJ equipment nowadays provide the djs with track information. For this rule we are interested on the Beats Per Minute (BPM) of the track you are mixing into the currently playing track. Also note that this will only work on equipment which gives the DJ feedback on the amount of pitch/tempo change. For example, the Technics 1200s do not give you an incremental feed back, you only have a relative idea of the pitch change.

    The Golden Rule says that for every 1BPM that you want to increase a track by, you have to increase the tempo by 0.8 percent.

    Same thing applies for decreasing the tempo. Note that this happens to be very accurate between about 80-130 BPM, so make sure to brush up your multiplication table.
    Now something very important: please do not depend on this method. This method is a great tool, but it's not suppose to replace years of ear training. So please practice as much as you can to train your ear.

    Do not jump on the PCDJ wagon so fast

    Ok, before I get all the hate mail from this, please know that I have nothing against using software like Serato, Tracktor, Mixvibes, Ableton live, etc... They are great for DJing and they sure simplify DJing in many different ways. My argument here is for you to learn how to DJ and make sure that you are good at these basic things I have listed above before you transition to software. Why might you ask? Well, if your computer breaks down or stops working properly, then you are stuck DJing with out the software's help. I have seen this happen to so many DJs and it's something you definitely want to avoid. People tend to remember a DJ that sounded bad just as quickly as someone that made their night amazing. I am very impatient myself, but please take my advice if you really want to get into DJing.

    Beat Synchronization

    Synchronizing beats is something else that will make your mixes sound amazing. First, some background that might help. Different genres will have different beat structures, for example house usually has a 32-beat pattern, which means that every 32 beats you will hear different instruments, sounds, vocals, break down and build up occur. Other styles like hip-hop will have shorter 8 or 16 beats patters. To test this, next time you are listening to a song, find the beginning beat of a cycle and start counting.
    The entire idea of beat synchronization is for you to have the track that you are mixing in to match the beat sequence from the currently playing song. If you do this correctly your mix quality will increase by a significant margin. I remember when I first stumble upon this, it was back in 2006 and I did it by pure coincidence. This is what will make your mixes sound very professional.

    Hope this helps you get started with your own DJing. Get a hold of me if you have any questions or comments.

    DJ AlexG

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