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DJ Scott Mad Flip

DJ Scott Mad Flip
February 8, 2011

I Wanna Be A DJ, How Do I Get Started? Part 1

I get asked all the time “How do I become a DJ?”  I love having this conversation because I love being one.  Sometimes it happens when I’m in between mixes in a loud environment, and sometimes it happens on this blog or on our You Tube Channel.  Either way the answer is quite simple.  “Become What You Already Are”.  You are already a DJ to some degree.    It might sound Zen-like or Utopian but it is true.  You probably have a favorite song or you’ve compiled a play list to listen to or even to share with a friend.  If you have ever made a mix tape for a special occasion or for a significant other or for yourself then you’re already closer to being a DJ than you think.  Here are the first things to consider when your journey begins.

MUSIC

Decide what you want to play and start your collection.  Start with what you already have and build upon it.  Without dating myself (accurately anyway), I bought records in vinyl form the old fashioned way.  I watched 120 Minutes late on Sunday nights and made a list of what I liked.  I went to the local record store with my list and bought what they had and asked Eric to order what they didn’t have.  Rinse and repeat every week.  My intentions back then were to compile a collection of cool tunes so I could record my favorites on a cassette and share with my friends who wanted to listen to it.  These days you have many resources in which to listen to and purchase good music.  DJs will post their Top 10′s on sites like Beatport in order to give you an idea of what’s hot and you can almost always purchase the tracks directly from the site.  There are also a multitude of music blogs that exist to keep you up to date on new releases, remixes and the artists and DJs that are making the hot tracks.  So in essence you want to get educated on the music and the people that create it, decide what you want to play and buy it, build your collection and finally, prepare it for presentation.  You can then start to develop ideas of how you want to program your mix based on what you want to accomplish.  This process is ongoing especially if you want to stay current and get gigs.  At the end of the day, it is really all about the music.  No matter what.

Miss You!

BYOG – BUY YOUR OWN GEAR

Period.  No matter what it is, professional, intermediate, or beginner, new or used.  You can learn to play on anything, but I strongly encourage you to invest the money, great or small, into owning some sort of DJ set-up.  There is a process involved in deciding exactly what to buy, and we can certainly help here at Unique Squared.  But, a Jedi one does not become without his or her light saber.  It’s paramount to have the gear at your disposal so you can get used to the mechanics and tolerances of your equipment in order for you to develop your skills.  It doesn’t have to happen over night, but it has to happen in order to become a true DJ.  Do some research for there are many options.  I started with a Gemini mixer and 2 Technics SL-1210Mk2′s.  I purchased the mixer at an Air Force Base Exchange and I ordered the turntables from a Navy Exchange catalog.  Yup, I served in the Navy.  Nuclear Field.  Anyway, this was a standard DJ set-up in the late 20th century and it was perfect for me at the time.  I use a controller now but the layout is directly based on the very set-up that I started with a long time ago.  Two turntables and a mixer.  The point is I bought the gear and I learned how to use it because it was always at my disposal.  Then I learned to love it and I never looked back.

LEARN THE BASICS

Crawl, walk, run, fly.  This can be defined in many different ways in term of DJing.  I follow a basic guideline when I give lessons.  Without getting into great detail here’s my nutshell version:

1.  CRAWL – Listen to a lot of music but especially the music you want to mix.  Count 8′s, 16′s, and 32′s.  Listen for intros, verses, bridges, choruses, builds and breakdowns. Listen for the mix when you listen to other DJs.   You have to develop your ear in order to differentiate between 2 tracks.  All of this can be done before you even touch the equipment.

2.  WALK – Learn your mixer.  Learn your turntable or CD player.  Learn your controller.  Learn how and where to plug in RCA, XLR, and 1/4″ cables.  Press every button, turn every knob, slide every fader.  Learn the tolerances of your cross-fader, channel fader, pitch adjust, jog wheels and turntables.  Learn how to cue and monitor each channel on your mixer.  All of this can be done before you put on a record or load a track.

3.  RUN – Mix two tracks.  Every one has their own way of doing this, but this my favorite.  I would match two records of similar BPM on the  turntables so that they were already beat matched and no pitch adjustments were needed.  My student would then practice throwing each track on the first beat to get used to the feel of the record and turntable and monitoring through headphones.  After they become comfortable with that, they could slowly bring in the mix, adjust the EQ, and slide the cross fader to the incoming track.  I would then speed up or slow down one of the tracks so that they would have to listen to match snares or hi-hats and adjust the pitch in order to match the records before bringing in the mix.  Rinse and repeat.

4.  FLY – Inevitably, everyone wants to learn tricks.  Only after becoming comfortable and confident in a basic mix can one attempt scratching or EQ filter sweeps.  Mixing tracks that have complimentary keys is also an advanced technique that can be implemented after hundreds of mixes and an accurate musical knowledge of one’s record collection.  We’ve all seen some incredibly creative things that occur behind a good DJ’s turntables and once you have the confidence and experience it is time to fly.

NOTHING IS IMPOSSIBLE

Yes, I know it sounds like a cliché, but it is my mantra when it comes to DJing.  This has many meanings when it comes to DJing.  When it comes to learning how to mix it is important to understand that you will become frustrated on occasion.  Don’t give up because you WILL get better.  If you are learning to mix on what one may consider to be substandard DJ equipment then you will be happy to know that once you get the hang of it you will probably be more accurate when you finally get the proper gear.  It is a labor of love as I’ve said before and the fulfillment that you get when you’ve practiced and practiced and finally start seeing the result is truly amazing.  Nothing Is Impossible in technical terms relates to what you do when you mix.  You can express your music in so many different creative ways if you can break down musical boundaries and be inventive.

Vodka Logik - DJ MYND and DJ MADFLIP

So you wanna be a DJ?  Great, you should.  Everyone should.  I respect the art form and I respect any one, beginner or professional, that does it.  Why?  Because I love music and there’s music out there that one of you is going to play or mix that I haven’t heard yet and it’s probably incredible.  In the weeks to come I will share my views on what it takes to be a DJ.  In Part 2 I will go into more detail about making and uploading mixes, promoting yourself, gigs and gig etiquette, and creating your own business.  Stay tuned.  Cheers!

Check out Part 2 here.

Comments

  1. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by m scott magno, Unique Squared. Unique Squared said: Part 1 of DJ MadFlip's "I Wanna Be A DJ" series. Check it out, and let us know what you think… http://fb.me/Th0mk9FQ [...]

  2. Victor R. says:

    Great information. I’m an audio engineer and beat maker, amongst other things, so I do have a concept as to how a song is arranged. I’m very interested in learning how to use a turntable though. I currently use my macbook pro w/ logic and reason (both purchased through Unique Squared :) ~ ) to make beats. The type of music I make is mostly hiphop so scratching is a big important part of the process, I’m just tired of using samples and want the real feel of sampling a song instead of (cut, copy & paste). I hope in your upcoming blogs you can put some info on the difference between a midi, cd and vinyl turntables…

    *Note to those that actually want to be a DJ … Please master blending songs together… that seems to be a lost art now-a-days … I hate dancing to one song and then have to stop dancing because the DJ doesn’t know how to mix songs properly lol

  3. S says:

    Honestly, this article is great. There’s not much I could add that hasn’t been covered already other than a few things to avoid as a new dj just learning. I dj 4-5nights a week. Clubs, bars, lounges, friends parties, the venues always change. The opening dj’s and dj’s I spin with always change too.. One thing I’ve been noticing is that a lot of new dj’s I’ve seen lately are visual dj’s. Meaning they’ll open up Serato Scratch and just line two tracks up so they look good totally disregarding volume, eq-ing, and even song dynamics. Make sure no matter what you do that you know and love your music. Make sure you know how long your intros are (if any), and when to come in. Learning the basics of song structure and when a good time to bring a new track in are some of the most underrated fundamental skills overlooked by many aspiring dj’s in my opinion. Next would be volume control and proper eq-ing. There’s no better time to become a dj than now. So many different genres of music are available, dj software has become very simple and straightforward, just make sure you love the music you play and you start by learning the basic fundamentals. Like anything else, it takes time to be good, but most newbies overlook the basics, so having that edge will automatically put you ahead of quite a few dj’s I know that are already spinning. Hope this helps, and definitely get your gear at Unique. I just found out about them a few days ago when I was looking for the new JBL Eon 515xt’s. They were the only ones that actually had them in stock, beat everyone’s price, and shipping only took a few days!!
    Cheers,
    S.

  4. sebby says:

    Death to DJ’s hire a band…

    1. DJVicto says:

      DJ rocks!! Bands sucks!!

  5. Delaney says:

    GTFO Im in the Navy!!! LOVE this blog…Still in the crawl stage but I took a leap and bought the Omni Control from Unique Squared. Even though Im a n00b I absolutely love it!

    - D

  6. Westerly Henry says:

    My name is Westerly Henry, I’m born of pure sound waves and breath only bass. I am a producer and a pianist of 16 years and nothing in the world is more important to me than my music and my bass. Constantly I strive to produce as great of music as I can, but lack the resources I need to fine tune that perfect sound, that ultimate bass, that mega drop. I cant explain in words or emotion the love for music and my desire to become a DJ. Only though music can I show you. I am DJ Toctor Dalk and you will hear me in the future regardless of all outcomes, all I can leave you with before I go is a warning, Im at the bottom of my latest drop with a seismograph, dont jump.

  7. imlisa2 says:

    Love it! Yes – you gotta be a puppy before you can be a big dog!
    Read, watch, listen, learn from those you admire! This is a great tut with things laid out nicely.
    Understanding the basics and practice. When things don’t work – figure out why.
    Jumping high too soon will make it too difficult.
    Remember what you like, keep working at it and developing your style!

  8. Matthew C. says:

    I enjoyed this blog. What i enjoy the most, is that he purchased vinyl,instead of going the other route,which is cd’s,or digital. I personally feel that today,the art of djiing is being watered down. I have been a dj for over 10 years now, and i have never made the switch from vinyl to cd, or to digital via laptop. Digging for that one piece to make your collection stand out,was apart of being a DJ. Recently,there has been a surge in the amount of dj’s on the scene,who wholeheartedly do not understand what it means to be a dj. Being a DJ isnt about “looking cool”, or spinning so you can “pick up some chicks”. Its about the music,and the artform. Its about controlling the crowd and dropping that one track,that makes the night shine so bright,that the people who were there, never forget it. Its about controlling the emotions of everybody in the room. From Love, to Anger,to Joy,to Remorse. The amount of adrenaline you get, from being the main circuit for the room, is something youll never forget. Its better than any drug on the planet. The equipment,does play a role,but, a skilled dj can make anything work,and once you get into the dj realm,youll notice that half the places you play at,will always have something that is broke,or off,or just not right. So be ready to deal with obstacles along the way. Learning how to dj,they covered that pretty well, but it should be noted, if you want to be a great dj, be willing to sacrifice alot of things in your life. Your going to be spending hours upon hours of your life in your bedroom or studio,practicing, be prepared to practice at least 2 years,before looking for a gig,the last thing you want is your premier show to come out as a disaster because you jumped the gun when you werent ready, ive seen plenty of dj’s never get booked again because of that reason. This blog covers a decent amount, i felt that i had to put in some of my own thoughts on the subject. Nothing is impossible as it said, but it takes hard work and dedication in order to come out on top, If you want to shine the brightest…

    1. ariff says:

      Congratulations Matthew, you win this week’s FAN-tastic Friday. Your prize is a 3rd Gen 4GB iPod Shuffle. Please email your address and color preference (black or silver) to ariff@uniquesquared.com.

  9. Jason J. says:

    holy crap

  10. Sykes says:

    This article is so true. For as long as I can remember my friends have hit me up for mix cds. Sucks that it took me so long to realize that I should become a “DJ.” Putting together my equipment now. Hopefully I’ll be rocking the masses shortly.

  11. Ernie Smallis says:

    Alrighty Then! Da’ Blog. Good article and some good advice in this blog too about preparing and setting expectations.

  12. [...] can certainly apply to promoting your mobile DJ service.  In any case, I discussed the basics in Part 1 , now let’s talk about getting some [...]

  13. DJ Fred says:

    thanks you for this blog it really works coz i am A DJ in DJ academy in cairo but i wanna ask you about the eq while mixing 2 tracks (bass-mid-treble) hoping you answer fast cheers

    1. Sure, what is your question?

      1. DJ Fred says:

        what is the best eq technique to make ana intro-outro mix ??

  14. Rajitmeet Singh says:

    This was just incredible. I’m a young rapper in L.A. and I ould love to get involved more with music, and I know for a fact that this is the way. Thank you so much for inspiring me more on DJ’ing, by the way. I’m getting the Vestax Typhoon :D

    1. Thanks for the comment, and best of luck with your DJ career! Let us know when you’ve received your Typhoon and maybe you can contribute a review. Cheers!

  15. shay says:

    thanks man dj rock

  16. DjamL says:

    so,i want to become a deejay i sell my mixed tape throught near shops?

  17. len says:

    Great blog! I’m just staring my DJ career just for parties and stuff like that so this great. I will be following these tips

  18. Carlos says:

    Hi i was reading your article and is it ok that i count in 4′s because i used to count in 8′s but i want to know to go back to it if I’m doing wrong thing.

    1. It’s fine to count in any increment of 4, but musically it might make more sense to mix in 8 or 16′s. For instance, if you count a verse or chorus, it usually repeats after 8 or 16, and if you are mixing harmonically and by phrasing this would be more suitable. I hope this helps!

  19. yahaira says:

    like for some reason i just like that techno music and i would like to make up some real good beats for that people like me and all kind of music that’s i live for and i have never gave my self the change i haven”t even try it and i want is just gonna be something different for me in life… i just love it i like to express ma feelings with music I could be sitting at home and just start making up beats with my mouth is just crazy is like i have it in me but just don’t let is out…. i know how people like me feel… A and is good to let it all out with music…