What advice would you offer to new DJs?

We asked our followers this question across social media and hundreds of you responded. Here’s what you told us.

We’re fortunate to be surrounded by a community of DJs who love sharing knowledge, whether it’s discussing what we can learn from our worst gigs, or how to DJ at a wedding

Even so, when we posted “What advice or tips would you offer to new DJs?” across our social media recently, we were overwhelmed by the response. Not just in terms of quantity, with almost 400 people offering thoughts and insights, but also the depth and quality of the responses. 

In the original posts, we said we’d be in touch with some of the people behind our favourite comments to dive deeper. But with such an enormous response, we’ve decided to go wider, with many more people than we’d originally intended featuring in the piece below. 

The original threads—which we’d encourage you to browse on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter—are goldmines of knowledge for new DJs (although we reckon experienced DJs would learn plenty from the threads also). 

Running through the hundreds of responses were some clear themes, which we’ve highlighted for you below. It was fascinating to see what experienced DJs felt it was most important to consider for those who are just starting out on their journey… 


Time and time again, experienced DJs told new DJs to be themselves. They approached this advice from a few different angles. 

“As with everything in life, first of all it is best to contemplate why am I becoming a DJ?” said BOBSAN. “What are my goals? Just to enjoy music? Trying to entertain people? Making income? Different goals require different paths.” 

Colby Boothman looked at this idea from the angle of artistry. “Explore what it is that makes you, as an artist, unique,” he said. “What artistic approach sets you apart from others? Figure what those assets are, and hone them. Turn what already makes you different into what others cannot ignore!” 

“Don’t focus too much on trends, lean into your personal taste,” said DJ FWB. “That’s where you’ll flourish and gain the most fulfilment out of this whole thing. Also, it’s never too soon to go ahead and start learning production. Even if it’s just to make your own edits, being able to season your sets with tracks that only you have will help take things even further for you.”

Kate Meyher (pictured below) mentioned the importance of patience. “It’s all about building your brand and reputation. Socials and your network matter but take time to build and don’t come overnight. Stick with it though, because slowly it will come together.” 

The message was clear: as a DJ, explore what makes you you. 


By volume of mentions, this was among the most popular pieces of advice. 

“The most essential thing is to know your tracks very well,” said Reno Mindemann, one of lots of DJs, including just geo, Charlie Vilas, DJ Nix In The Mix, Marcel Si and Thatayaone Khehla Lenyora, who offered variations on this theme. 

As a beginner DJ you might be wondering why is it so important to know your music. The experienced DJs felt this was so self-evidently true that no one fully explained it. So we’ll try to answer this one…

As DJs, we play a certain track at a certain moment because we believe it will create a certain feeling on the dance floor. We don’t always get this right—the response might be nothing like we anticipated. But when we know our music well, we should more frequently get the dance floor outcome we expected. 

We build up a picture of a track by closely listening to it in private and then seeing how an audience reacts to it in public. We store this information away in our mental vault in preparation for next time we’re considering dropping the track. Different crowds will react to different tracks in different ways at different times—like so much of DJing, context is key—so we should form general impressions of tracks and be ready to update them.  

Beyond the track’s overall mood and affect, knowing your music also means you should have a sense of its key events. Things like breakdowns, the arrival of a vocal, a song’s bridge, an unexpected tempo shift, tracks that fade in or fade out—this is all crucial information that will shape how you mix, sequence, create loops and so on. 

There are many ways that music management software like rekordbox can help orientate you around a track, especially if you do some preparatory work with things like Hot Cues in advance. But there is also no substitute for spending time listening to your tracks from start to finish. Bonus points if you can give them your undivided attention at a location other than your desk (or at the very least, while you’re neither working nor answering emails).


Plenty of people stressed that DJing is about reading and reacting to the crowd. 

“I have found over 20 years of doing this that music knowledge and being able to read a crowd is the most essential part of being a great DJ,” said DJ Miggs SA. “Knowing how to work a crowd and keeping the majority happy and entertained is what it is all about.” 

As a newcomer you might be thinking: isn’t it obvious that DJing is about playing for the crowd? Well, you’d be surprised. There are situations in which a DJ might forget, or even choose to forget. 

In fact, there is a school of thought that playing for yourself first and foremost is an optimal strategy. After all, if you’re not enjoying the music, then surely the crowd won’t be enjoying the music? Well, yes and no. Unless you’re a DJ with such a strong following that the crowd will indulge you in whatever you play, it’s usually best to find the sweet spot between what you enjoy and what they enjoy. 

“DJing is all about understanding the crowd, venue, time frame and finding the perfect synergy between all these,” said Deejspark (pictured below). 

“Synergy” is a perfect word here. For example, if you find yourself playing exclusively for your small group of music-nerd friends in the crowd, then the dance floor may fall out of balance. If a gap opens between what you think a crowd should like and what they actually do like, the vibe can quickly go south. 

It can be helpful to occasionally remind yourself of a point Quan Leongrae quite forcefully made: “You DJ for the crowd, not to fill your ego.”


“Practice every day, even if it’s just 20 minutes,” said MICA (pictured below). 

“Do a lot of research and practice!” advised Rospie

“The best advice I can offer new DJs is practice, practice, practice,” said Hype House, “but more importantly practise with other DJs and listen to other DJs because you will learn a lot more from them than being holed up in your bedroom.”

The benefits of regular practice are clear, but it can often be tough for the execution to match the ambition. In his excellent recent book, The Creative Act: A Way Of Being, the legendary music producer Rick Rubin offered the following thoughts on establishing routines: 

“Discipline and freedom seem like opposites. In reality, they are partners. Discipline is not a lack of freedom, it is a harmonious relationship with time. Managing your schedule and daily habits well is a necessary component to free up the practical and creative capacity to make great art.”  

Outside of the numerous calls to practise as much as you can, many DJs felt it vital to study the basics of music. 

“Focus on building a strong foundation in music theory and production,” said Angela Mierzwa. “Understand the fundamentals of rhythm, song structure, and melody.” 

This was a point echoed by Dancin’ Mark. “Study, study, and study some more. Let the music be your guide. Learn the fundamentals of what to do.” 

Being able to count to four might be enough theory to get you started on your DJ journey. But taking things to the next level will require a more detailed understanding of how music works and how that applies to DJing. Once you’ve internalised music’s fundamental code, subconsciously following a track’s phrases, you’ll likely find that this whole mixing lark becomes much easier.


“Library management is one of the most important non-technical sides of DJing that I feel gets overlooked by many,” said Zeus. “So many have music anywhere, no metadata, not tagged properly. Get that sorted and building playlists/your gigs become way easier.” 

If you tend to keep your digital life organised already, you probably won’t need convincing that an orderly music library is a sound idea. If you don’t, take our word for it: boring-sounding things like organised folders, descriptive track comments, clear and consistent file-tagging and library backups are more than worth the effort. 

If this stuff comes naturally to you, consider taking things to the next level. Smart / intelligent playlists that will automatically populate based on the parameters you set up. Fields like key, genre and BPM can be used to filter your newly uploaded music into relevant playlists, making your DJing life even easier. 

But what about those of us with chaotic filing systems—or no system at all? What if organisation simply does not come naturally to you? Our advice: just try to do the basics consistently. Make sure the key fields for each track—artist, title, genre—are in place, and figure out a system of folders and playlists so you can easily find something when you need it. Even the “sloppy but proud” DJs among us will admit that being unable to locate a track in the heat of the moment is very frustrating. Getting the basics right means less searching and more DJing. 

We’ll close this section with the advice of Benessa—advice you’ll hear many times across your years of DJing but that bears repeating: “BACK UP YOUR LIBRARY REGULARLY AND ON MULTIPLE DRIVES.” We should also here mention cloud library services, like those offered by rekordbox, which mean that, in addition to your music being safely stored, you’ll be able to access it from multiple devices. 


DJ gigs are intense sensory experiences. They take place in highly social environments, where our bodies are overloaded with inputs and emotions are running high. Although we seek out these environments for the peak experiences they often give us, DJs gigs can be a delicate balance between enjoyment and overwhelm.  

Which is why we loved this tip from Mark Armstrong (pictured below): 

“Remember to breathe! There’s so much that’s going on around you, smoke filled rooms, loud music, people trying to talk to you. If you can centre yourself with one deep breath…. Hold… and on your exhale, everything just seems to be that little bit better and well more manageable.

Use this when planning your sets, making decisions or just generally in your life. It’s my life hack when teaching so hopefully this can help you now too.”  

If you’re interested in going deeper in this area, check out a piece we published last year called 5 Tips For DJs With Performance Anxiety


This relates directly to a reminder offered by Zachary Atkinson (pictured below):  

“As far as advice goes I would say the best step in becoming a successful DJ would be to realize that this is a social activity. In order to succeed you have to get out there into the scene and make yourself approachable and known.” 

“Immerse yourself in the scene you want to be a part of, go to all the shows, meet everyone involved in every aspect,” said Twiggy Garcia. “Understand the culture. Be kind and enthusiastic.” 

Having a reputation as a decent person will hold you in good stead in any area of life. But in the hyper-social world of DJ culture this can be especially important, where relationships, collaborations and favours are so often the currency. Bring respect, honesty and positivity into your chosen scene and you’re more likely to get those things coming back to you. In relatively small and connected networks, news travels fast. If you get booked for a show and behave badly—turn up late, mix in the reds, act frosty to the staff and other DJs—expect people to find out about it.    

If this all seems self-evident, remember that the world of DJing is fast-paced, competitive and, at times, hedonistic. Events are often run on tight profit margins. 

Compromises sometimes have to be made. Even successful parties can leave people involved feeling unhappy. All of which is to say, while being a good person appears obvious in theory, out in the wild it can sometimes be challenging. 


This is an area where it really pays to listen to those who are older than you. 

“Protect your hearing from the very start,” Chris Jones told us. “I wish someone had told me that when I started out 25 years ago. It was only the onset of tinnitus that made me pay for custom made ear plugs to DJ with but it is the best money you will ever spend, so do it straight away! Don’t wait to react to the problem, prevent it from being a problem in the first place!” 

The effects of tinnitus range from a minor ringing that goes away in weeks or months, through to life-altering symptoms that can cause insomnia, depression and anxiety. Estimates have put the number of sufferers in the US at somewhere around 15% of the population—but among musicians studies have shown that figure to climb as high as 50%. Bear in mind that hearing damage can begin to occur at around 85 db, and that nightclubs tend to play music at roughly 100 db. DJs can be especially at risk, with the additional exposure to booth speakers and headphone monitoring. 

All of this said, with the right precautions there’s no reason to fear loud environments. A quality set of ear plugs, preferably custom fitted, will mitigate the damaging effects of noise. Be mindful of headphone levels in any situation. And consider turning down booth speakers between mixes. It helps to think about the maintenance of good hearing health holistically. 


There are few areas of DJ culture as divisive as manually beat matching VS using the sync button. But we’ll stay above the fray here and offer a quick bit of history and some advice. 

For those who don’t know, back in the day, when turntables were the dominant format, DJs had to learn to beatmatch records without the assistance of digital BPM counters or sync buttons. Subsequently a lot of emphasis was placed on how well a DJ could beatmatch records (an emphasis that in some scenes persists to this day). 

So when older DJs advise (or shout at) younger DJs to learn how to mix properly, they can come off like grouchy old people resisting technology. Which is a shame. Because what they’re saying actually makes some sense. 

“I think ideally learn on turntables and vinyl,” said Davros, among many DJs. “No sync, BPM counter, waveforms. You’ll hear your music in a whole different way.” 

That last part is key. It’s about developing your musical ear without the visual information of BPM, key, waveforms etc. Less inputs means more mental bandwidth is channelled towards your auditory system. Over time you might feel that you connect with your music on a deeper level. 

While knowing how to mix with vinyl is a great skill to have, you can absolutely learn to mix by ear without it. Covering any LCD screens that give you information you’d usually rely on for mixing is a great hack for emulating the conditions that vinyl DJs used to mix under. “If you want to train your ears properly, at home on your own, hide your screen and train, it is not so hard and your reflexes will get better,” offered DAVID JAY.


It’s your debut gig. You’ve been practising for months. Your friends are all in the crowd. You’re nervous but excited. The first couple tracks you play have gone down well. You go to select your next track and then—silence. You’ve pressed the cue button on the wrong deck. Panic sets in as you grope about trying to figure out what to do next…

Sounds like a nightmare scenario, right? Well, you could say that. Or you can understand that it’s all part of the process, and that you shouldn’t take it—or yourself—too seriously. 

“My one tip would have to be don’t beat yourself up over a bad set, everyone has had them, no exceptions and being hard on yourself is never going to help,” offered Fatty Funk. “Go away, analyse your performance and look to do better next time.” 

“Embrace mistakes, learn from those mistakes and always remember to HAVE FUN with it,” said Eric Ballew

“Don’t put too much pressure on yourself to get it right,” said Adam Khamas. “It’s all a learning experience.” 

Nights Journey: “Don’t worry about messing up, I do it all the time. It adds to the human element to your set.” 

“The worst gigs will teach you more than 25 good gigs,” advised DJ-SUN

We explored this idea of embracing mistakes at length in a recent piece called What Can We Learn From Our Worst DJ Gigs? In essence, we learn much more when things go wrong than when we’re killing it. 

On a related topic, envy and FOMO can be big factors DJs need to contend with, especially in the age of social media. But, said Nikki Carvell, “don’t worry about the gigs everyone else is getting, it’s irrelevant to your journey.” 

Again, this is something we’ve touched on before. DJing can be an incredible hobby that some people are lucky enough to do professionally. But it’s a world that’s associated with plenty of mental health issues. Learning from the experiences of others can be one of the best ways of staying safe and feeling sane.

Words: Ryan Keeling