Everything You Need to Know Before Starting to DJ
A short time ago, I didn't know anything about DJing and didn't even think of it as a hobby.
Even though I loved music and listened to world-famous DJs every day, just getting the equipment and figuring out what each button does was too much for me.
A lot of subjects, words, and ideas... I kept asking myself, "Do I really want to do this?"
But I was anxious to get going. I had some free time and a strong desire to learn how to DJ, so I decided to start by becoming a "bedroom DJ," which is what DJs call those who only mix at home.
I've decided to use my writing skills to help people who are just starting out in this field.
I looked in particular at the questions I had as a beginner, such as:
- But what if you don't know much about music?
- How much time should you put in on average?
- Why it's fine to only DJ in your bedroom.
- Does your age even matter?
- How much does it cost to be a DJ for fun?
- Where to begin?
- Quick tips for beginners about the equipment?
- If you're not sure if DJing is for you, this article has everything you need to know.
Is being a DJ a fun hobby?
If you're a bedroom DJ like I used to be, you probably know how little you know. I did a lot of research on this subject because, as I've said, I just started being a DJ, so this information is pretty new.
DJing is a great hobby that is both fun and good for your creativity and self-expression. This is your hobby if you have a sense of different tunes and music and how to put them together, and you want to share that with other people.
You have to be willing to learn and understand that most of what you know comes from what you've done. If you don't learn the basics and practice enough, you'll lose your way quickly. Hearing your ideas for a mix of songs played live is a satisfying experience. And if you can make a few people in a room go crazy on top of that, you'll be hooked.
DJing is like putting together a puzzle or a set of Legos. With building blocks, which are the parts of a song, you can make a mix or a live set and change the existing songs into something new and often better.
There aren't many things that clean the mind more than a great melodic transition. And as you get better, you start to love playing in front of people.
I'm also a gamer, but any kind of music practice is much more fun than any Playstation game.
DJing is also fun because you can always learn and add something new. You'll learn how to prepare tracks better, and there will always be a better blend, more pure EQ, a smoother transition, and a more interesting cut. That's what makes it interesting.
When you drop a song at the right time to get a transition just right, it will feel like magic. Then you will try again and again to get that magic.
What if you haven't done much with music before?
What kind of problem is this? And how easy is it to learn the basics to set up a plan to start learning how to DJ?
Do you just listen to the structure of the song when you hear it? (For example, an intro, verses, choruses, builds, and drops)
Even if you don't know the song, can you easily guess how it will go? Can you roughly tell which song flows better after hearing two?
Even if you can't hear this right away, don't worry, you can learn it. It would be helpful, but it's not a must.
The most important thing you'll need to learn is how to count music (beats, bars, and phrases) in the style you like. Then you'll find out what the harmonic key is. Also, that shouldn't be an issue.
Figure that it will take you between 25 and 55 hours and up to three months to learn how to count music and two months to learn how to mix chords. You should now know enough to put together a DJ set.
What do you like about being a DJ?
What do you like about mixing? Is there something you really like about being a DJ?
Have you ever heard a song and thought, "Oh my god, that would sound great with that song"? That's why I started doing this as a hobby.
I love the curve of difficulty. You have to spend time on everything.
How often are you using Shazam to find some good tune you hear on the radio? For me, finding music is about half the enjoyment.
And once you have enough songs, you'll hear something new and think, "Holy cow, this song would go perfectly with this other song I love."
Is there anything specific genre you like? I am currently obsessed with tech-house. The best way to get to know it is through Hot Since '82. Do you like Electronic Dance Music, House, Techno, or Hip-Hop? Don't worry if you don't have a favorite type of music yet.
Before I started, for a long time I’d been fantasizing about starting bedroom mixing. It is a fun way to "listen" to new songs. If you just put songs on your media player all the time, it's like watching a movie. If you drop them into your controller, it’s like playing a video game.
So, what makes it attractive to you? The experimentation? Once you get started, it's exciting to feel like you can try anything.
Are you trying to get good enough to play live? You’re probably planning on playing house parties just for fun, but who knows what the future holds.
And you know what to do if you get bored? Get some new music. And maybe take a break for a day or three if you feel burnt out.
Don't give up too easily at first, though. There will be times when you just stink, and there's nothing you can do about it.
You can even start DJing without equipment if you still haven’t got a controller!
Take lessons if you can afford to. Taking lessons just once a week for a month really helped me a lot. Or look something up on YouTube. Don't give up because it's hard and stop doing it!
It will probably take you 7 to 12 months with almost daily practice to start sounding “okay.”
How Much Time on Average Should You Invest
Do you think you could commit ~3-4 hours a week (~12-16 hours a month) or so into DJing?
If you just want to play for yourself and your mates and upload mixes online for supporters to listen to, you’ll be alright. After about three months of practicing 3–4 hours a week (about 45 hours, or about one week at a full-time job), you'll be ready to play for close friends.
Here are the approximate time responsibilities for practicing DJing:
- 45 hours: A beginner can play for friends, upload private DJ sets to cloud services to share with fans, and maybe DJ small parties for close siblings.
- 90 hours: Hobby DJ ready to mix for bigger house parties and upload public DJ sets to cloud services
- 230+ hours: Journeyman fit to guest DJ at underground parties for fewer people
- 450+ hours: Semi-professional musicians who are ready to play regularly in clubs and on online music services
- 1500+ hours: DJ Pro was ready to get paid to do his job.
The Costs of DJing
Starting out as a DJ doesn't cost much, but since it's a hobby, it's important to know how much you can spend. For a start, you only need essential equipment, some of which you might already own. We'll talk about a few more things you'll need as you get better.
If you already have a laptop and buy brand-new equipment, it will cost you around $350 to start DJing. You’ll need a DJ controller (~$250), DJ software (usually comes with a controller), and speakers ($100).
If you’re on a very low budget, but eager to start, you could consider going secondhand or even renting equipment. Here are the specs that each DJ software needs from your laptop.
You also need an approximate future expense that comes if you decide this is for you.
- If you want to learn faster, you should probably sign up for one of the many online DJ courses.
I'm not saying you should waste your money on anything, but if you like this hobby, it might be a good idea. Youtube channels are great, but courses are easier to follow and can get you where you want to go faster.
I recently took a few courses, and when I have time, I'll write reviews for each one. I'll put everything on this site so that people in the future will know who to trust and who not to.
- At some point, you'll want to buy songs or build your music library.
In the past, it was expensive to buy new music, and sometimes it was even hard to find. Today, with monthly prices starting from $9 on some record pools, it’s simple and effective. If you want more exclusive tracks, you'll have to pay at most $2 per track.
But, you don’t have to worry about that right now, even though it’s inevitable if you stay in this little longer.
I also want to talk about the difference between formats (Digital, Vinyl, CDs). Because if you have any preferences, the cost can vary. Maybe you’ll need another type of turntable, perhaps you already have lots of music in a specific format, or maybe you’ll want to buy records.
A Few Quick Tips on the Best Gear for Beginners
Even if you have the money to pay for a pro DJ without a problem, don't hire one if you don't know enough about DJing. Since you’re starting as a complete novice, read all the threads you can.
The most common entry-level controllers in this industry are the Hercules Inpulse 500 and Pioneer DDJ-400. Not only are they very affordable, but they are easy to use for those who want to get started and offer great sound quality.
My son has Hercules and loves it. Here's the article where I explain why I prefer Pioneer's DDJ-400 to Inpulse 500.
The Hercules Inpulse 500 is a great entry controller, and you could work with it. I think it is the best controller for the money. It works with almost all software and keeps its value when you want to sell it again.
On the other hand, Rekordbox (it comes with DDJ-400) is continuously updating, and it’s pretty software to use. Lots of tutorials on YouTube too. DJ Carlo Atendido teaches Djing and mainly uses the DDJ-400 in his tutorials. The idea is pretty easy to get used to. Plus, Rekordbox has all the effects a professional DJ setup would have.
Speakers, you can wait with great ones. You can easily work with a pair of nice 2.1 computer speakers. If you don't care about the sound is very loud, a set of Logitech 2.1 computer speakers will do.
Here's a quick guide to how many speakers a DJ needs and what you can get away with.
If you want a good set of headphones, you'll probably have to spend more than $75. I use Numark Red Waves, which cost around $100.
How to Start DJing (Practical Tips) (Practical Tips)
It's not a hobby where you can expect to be good after a month or two, but if you practice often, it will pay off 10 times over.
DJing has a steep learning curve, but if you stick with it and don't skip over the basics, it can be rewarding when you start to get the hang of it.
I always tell people who are just starting out the same thing:
1. Rise slow
Buy a fair but primary controller and work with it. Don't spend more than you can afford on high-end equipment if you aren't sure you'll keep using it. You can always upgrade.
2. Make sure you know the basics
The first thing I would learn is what the buttons do. Go through your instructions, play around with a controller, and watch some YouTube videos that explain what the buttons do. From there, learn beatmatching and phrasing. Spend some time learning about how DJs mix and how to blend. Ignore the cue points, samplers, and effects for now. Just master the basics.
3. Aim for something
Something that causes many to quit soon is they never set objectives and levels of success. I'm not talking about goals like "play at a big festival," but more like "record a full set" or "learn how to beat a match." Learn to understand how songs are put together (4 beats in a bar, 8 bars in a phrase).
4. Record and playback the songs you've mixed.
Hearing yourself play will help you learn so much. This is the best advice I've ever been given.
There is a lot of good advice in the tutorials on YouTube, but there is also a lot of nonsense. Watch them, but keep an open mind and think for yourself. I'll be writing about the best YouTube channels and other worthwhile online resources.
Why being a DJ only in your bedroom is fine
Mixing in front of people vs. bedroom DJing by yourself is like night and day. It’s fantastic to be able to control the energy of a crowd (like moving the masses) (like moving the groups).
But, you see, not everybody wants to do it, and I can understand why. Some people don't have to do anything. At least for the moment.
I got into bedroom DJ’ing for the creative aspect, but I like crowd DJing for the performance aspect. I find that with bedroom DJing, you can be a lot more creative in your mixes.
Not to mention that you can make a mistake and try again as many times as you want without people looking at you funny.
A couple of weeks ago, my friend said that he was asked to play at a cousin’s birthday party, but after not having played for years for the crowd, he realized during his set that he couldn’t enjoy playing when he was not just doing it for himself.
Besides being another possibility of being in touch with the music I love so much, DJing is like a sort of meditation, with the mind utterly blank at times and only living in the mix of the music.
The thing that could stop you from playing at events aside from the constant dealing with drunk folks is because out there; they’re always playing the same songs (top 40 hits, for example) every night. There are so many songs and genres out there that are 99x better for performance, but people only want to hear the same music they heard last Friday and the Friday before.
This makes it easy to stop enjoying music and forget why you liked it in the first place.
But after a while, you could really start making your own things. Find a nice place with a small to a medium number of seats, talk to the owner, and start a monthly party there with your style of music. If you live in a medium-sized city, you should be able to find 200–300 people who like the same things, especially if this style isn't already on the market. If people are interested in what you have to say, your reputation will grow over time.
A person I know is putting on this kind of event in a city of 500,000 people in Croatia. They play the music that has never been as popular as EDM (he plays only music from old 45rpm vinyl). Even back in the day, none of the songs ever made it to the top 40, and he gets between 200 and 300 people every month. When you're the black sheep in the herd, you're different and unique.
Does Your Age Even Matter
My brother’s brother-in-law is 41 and doing it since 2001. I never made a penny. As a hobby, he still mixes techno music with friends who like the same kind of music.
Being a DJ is not a matter of age. Think about it: as you get older, you learn more about the music you like. Your taste is like a good wine: it gets better over time.
And if you don't like new music, there's nothing wrong with playing songs from the past that made you happy. If you are over 30 and want to start DJing, you should read this analysis and tips.
Do You Have Supportive Parents/Friends/Spouse
Why wouldn't you cheer on and help someone with their hobby? I don't get it, and to be honest, it seems kind of childish.
Even if you're not a great DJ or your friends aren't very creative, that's no reason not to support someone who is passionate about something.
Having a hobby or two is one of the healthiest ways to live a long and happy life. It's something you like to do. Everyone needs a creative break!
If you’re young and fighting with your parents on this, just promise them you would not be a fool and drop out of school.
Before you become a DJ and start arguing with your spouse, make sure you're making enough money to support your family. It’s that simple.
When my friend started DJing, she had a lot of trouble with her parents. Once they noticed she wasn’t asking them for money and her grades actually improved, they were quite supportive. Since then, they've helped her get a lot of jobs and make a lot of money by recommending her.
She wished she had discovered DJing earlier so she could have done that instead of going to school. Don’t get me wrong, she’s happy about getting an excellent education but more passionate about music and mixing.
You never know, your do-it-yourself attitude could lead you to your dream job.
When Does DJing Stop Being a Hobby
Picture that! Imagine if all you had to do was DJ for $100-200 per hour! What a great thing that would be!
First, let's talk about what it means to "DJ as a hobby." If you’re making money from DJing, then you’re a professional part-time DJ. If you don't get paid for what you do, it's a hobby.
Someone can be a full-time lawyer and a part-time DJ. You can love both careers and charge well for your services at both.
My friend is 24, he’s been DJing for six years, mainly for entertainment at home using a DDJ-400 (it’s around $250 on Amazon) but once he got good, he ended up doing a few side gigs at the club for like $70 min a night. He has never been able to play a musical instrument. I guess it's no longer something he does for fun.
But to be fair, anyone who does this job just for the money is in the wrong job. Even semi-successful professional DJs don't make much money. You can have high-paying nights, but it's not worth it unless you have a well-known brand and people come to you specifically.
And if you can play at a bar where the theme of the night is up to you and you get a cut of the bar's sales, which is usually a couple of hundred dollars, why not make money from it?
Maybe you do it as a hobby at first, but once you get a booking agent, you start making good money. Who can say? The important thing is to start DJing. And as time goes by, you'll know if it's your passion or not.