How To Become a DJ In Four Easy Steps

How To Become a DJ In Four Easy Steps

It used to be the rock stars that got all the girls. Nowadays, it's the celebrity DJs! Whether you're dying to remix a tune or two yourself, or you have a child or friend that shows some inclination that way, here's how to get started with a simple, portable, digital set up. This allows complete customizable control of the music without any of the fuss of turntables, records, and needles.

First Up: The Music

Think of this as your virtual digital record crate. Download music (because you don't want the party to stop if the cell signal is bad!) to your laptop or tablet. Find tracks in the highest resolution you can get, because you're going to be playing loud and quality matters!

Beatport is a 15-year-old DJ music store. They offer premium digital music tracks curated by professional DJs that encompass all kinds of genres from Afro House to Garage to Indie Dance to Dubstep to Reggae and Dance Hall - you're definitely going to find something you like here. You can check out the top charts in each genre, or follow a specific DJ to see what they're featuring these days.

Bandcamp is another long-time music source. This is a great place to find complete albums by new artists. It's an indie-friendly storefront that's perfect for people looking for new music.

SoundCloud is a great way to find new music, often for free as producers try to establish themselves. It's also a good place to get previews on tunes that link to iTunes or Amazon where you can purchase full tracks.

Crate digging: going to second-hand stores, record shops and flea markets to find old records to sample.

Next, The Control Surface

Now you need to get the music from you laptop or tablet to someplace where you can mix it. An easy way to do this is to connect via USB to a controller.

Controllers range from entry-level to hosting-a-party-in-Rio. Numark is a popular brand that comes bundled with Serato Mixing Software. Here are a few models to think about:

  • Numark DJ2GO2 - this ultra-portable machine is easy to learn, lightweight and compact, and works with both Mac and PC.
  • Pioneer DJ DJ Controller - you'll find lots of Pioneer machines on the pro circuits. This one includes 2 headphone monitors and XLR and RCA connections.
  • The Numark NVII Professional DJ Controller really takes things up a level: two full-color displays help keep beats matched for perfect crossfading. Includes the professional version of Serato DJ and toolroom remix packs.

Controller brands popular in this space include Pioneer, Roland and even Denon. For more mixing software options, check out Traktor, Virtual DJ, or if you have a Mac, Mixxx open-source software.

If you have a Tidal account, create tracks in the cloud: Tidal is built in to the Serato app.

If you already have a Spotify subscription and a Mac, consider DJay Pro: it integrates Spotify natively so you can test songs, try out new mixes, and then buy the music you want to work with.

Mash-Up: Blending two or more tracks together; frequently the music from one track and the vocals from another.

The Preview: Headphones

So far we've got our music, we've got our mixer - but how can we hear what we're doing before we share with an audience? Headphones. Eventually, you'll be in a venue with a lot of noise, so investing in quality headphones with good full-ear coverage is key.

Things you should look for:

  • Lightweight - you might be wearing them for an 8-hour party - you don't want your neck to hurt.
  • Durable - DJ stands get messy and perfect equipment control is unlikely. Get headphones that can take some abuse.
  • Full coverage - whether on-ear or over-ear, you want to be sure you can block out room noise to hear over party noise.

Here are a few models to check out:

  • Sennheiser HD 25 - probably the most popular choice for DJs, including Calvin Harris and Afrojack
  • V-MODA Crossfade M-100 Master - stylish, well-built and above all comfortable
  • Shure SRH750DJ - with a frequency response of 5hZ - 30kHZ, what they lack in style they make up for in quality.

I can say with certainty you will never read this anywhere else on our website, but this is one time where a flat, neutral sound may not be what you are looking for. DJ'ing is really dependent on good bass, so buying headphones that emphasize bass is a good idea.

Cue: a button on the mixer that lets you set where in a song you want it to start playing. Match the beat in your headphones to the beat on the speakers by tapping this button.

Finally: The Speaker

Okay, you're all set: you have your mixing board and software, your tracks and your headphones. Now, how to share the music?

Easy as pie . . . Raspberry Pi, that is! If you've got an AxiomAir N3 Force, simply use the RCA output to connect to your controller, and you're there!

What's important in a portable speaker is bass. Bass is primal. Bass makes us want to move. And speakers with poor bass response will not get the party started. So pay attention to this spec when selecting your DJ speaker.

Putting it All Together

One of the AxiomAir programmers, MadBeggar, has been DJing in clubs for decades. Here's a video showing his set up using an AxiomAir, a Numark, and a computer.

Amie Colquhoun

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