Why learn to DJ?
DJing is one of the most fun hobbies you can take up, and these days it doesn’t have to cost you a fortune, either.
I decided I wanted to learn to DJ almost immediately after the first time I heard electronic dance music performed by a DJ. I was fascinated by the mixing part – what does the DJ do to make one track seamlessly flow into the next, often creating a completely new song in between? I should be clear here, I was not listening to a wedding DJ who played one song, which ended, and then another song, which also ended. This was a DJ who was clearly layering one song or track on top of another, thus creating something entirely new in between, before the next track was in full swing. That new track was really exciting to hear! I wanted to be able to make those sounds, create that flow, and get people dancing the way I was (rather enthusiastically, I must admit).
But how to learn? And what was the best DJ equipment for beginners? Was cheap DJ gear any good or should I go straight for the high-end?
In those days (late 1990’s) the Internet barely existed and there were no DJ schools like there are now. I started one of the first DJ schools ever, in fact, and called it Metatrack Studios, in Washington DC. My friends and I made the decorations, taught the classes, and hosted the events.
Now there are hundreds of schools. Now you can learn how to DJ with almost unlimited resources to help.
These days I have a digital setup at home, and I’ve used both Traktor and Ableton Live software for DJing. However when I started, then there was no “sync” button. I had to learn to use turntables and beatmatch by hand. That was a frustrating and fascinating process I’ll go into more on this site. I highly, highly recommend all DJs learn to beatmatch, even if you don’t have to these days. It’s a process that helps you get really deep with your music, and being able to beatmatch leaves you able to handle almost any mishap that comes up during your gigs – and mishaps do happen, believe me.
So where to start when it comes to learning to DJ? Before you can really start DJing, you do need to have some gear on which to work.
Let’s start with headphones. They are so important they have a page all their own. Then you can think about whether you want to DJ old-style with turntables (to some, the “real” way of DJing), or on a digital setup.
What kind of DJ setup do you want to use?
One of the first things you should try to do is to try out someone else’s equipment before you put your hard earned money into finding DJ equipment for sale. This plan does rely on you knowing someone who has a DJ setup (which is pretty common these days). However, if you know no one, and you can’t think of anywhere that you can go to use a DJ setup, you’re going to need to think of buying some DJ equipment for beginners.
One advantage of being as old as I was (29 the first time I heard the music) was that I had the money to jump straight into it by buying the best DJ gear available. However I knew and helped a lot of DJs get started who were not able to purchase the highest quality setups to start with, so I know what’s worth buying and what’s not. As I build this page, I will provide links to pages with more detail about the setup options you have.
The Original DJ Setup: Two Turntables and a Mixer
Until recently, the best and most standard DJ gear available was of course the Technics 1200 turntable. These turntables are still highly popular today, and they are gaining respect for being used by “real DJs”, and they certainly provide the original DJ experience.
A turntable setup generally requires:
- 2 x Input devices (Turntables or CD decks)
- 2 x Slipmats (for turntables only)
- 2 x Cartridges and Needles for the Turntables (normally included)
- 1 x Mixer
- 1 x Pair of Headphones
- Something to amplify the signal (Stereo, Amplifier + Speakers etc.)
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Much more to come!