Beginner DJ mistakes and how to avoid them!
Starting out as a DJ should be a fun and exciting time. There’s a lot to learn as you find your own sound and style on the decks. As you progress as a DJ it’s important not to slip into bad habits. In this tutorial, we’re going to break down the top five mistakes that beginner DJ’s make, and explain how to avoid them.
Controlling the Low EQ
The DJ mixer features dedicated controls to lower or boost the frequencies of your tracks. Most controllers will feature a three-band EQ on each channel, with control over High, Mid and Low EQ. How you use the EQ to control the sound of your tracks is a personal choice, however, there is one golden rule all DJs should abide by.
This rule is not playing two tracks at once with both Low EQ’s central. Playing both tracks at once with both Low EQ’s central will overload the speakers with overwhelming bass, often leading to a distorted sound.
The key when mixing is to balance the two tracks Low EQ whilst mixing, creating a smoother blend.
Staying with the mixer, a good clean sound also relies on the DJ controlling the mixers gain or output. Most mixers will include a trim control on each channel, allowing the DJ to boost or lower the output of the track. It’s important not to mistake this as a volume control. Although the track will play louder as more gain is added, the tracks signal is actually being changed, which can lead to major sound quality loss when pushed too far.
A VU Meter allows the DJ to physically see the gain status of a playing track, flashing green when the signal is low, orange when nearing the limit and finally red when the signal is overloading.
Understanding that the gain of each track needs to be set correctly will ensure the best possible sound quality. A tracks gain can be adjusted digitally inside the DJ software but this is usually automated by the software.
The trim controls on the DJ mixer on each channel allows further adjustment before the overall output of the mixer is controlled by the master gain control.
It’s important to remember to not only ensure each track is never played in the reds but the overall output of the mixer too. If more volume is required, purchase bigger amplifiers and speakers rather than playing in the red.
Distorted tracks and high gain outputs can cause clipping and even permanent damage to the speakers!
Mixing between tracks should be a smooth, almost seamless process to listen to. Nothing interrupts the listener’s enjoyment more than when vocals from two different songs start playing over each other. As a DJ, you can use loops to avoid an imminent clash but the method is to focus on phrasing.
Starting a mix at the correct time in a track is essential and matching the intro of one track to another tracks outro is called mixing in phrase. When done correctly the DJ can control one vocal to start just as other ends. Creating the perfect mix.
As a DJ you will need to understand basic music theory. Don’t worry we aren’t talking about learning to play the piano, but it is important to learn song structure so we can correctly time the mix. Correctly timing the phrasing will not only avoid clashing vocals, but also other elements of the track such as melodies and basslines.
Remember that four beats equals a bar of music and that most phrases of music are built in blocks of four bars. This is called the 4/4 time signature and it is how almost all modern dance music is structured.
A great tip is to listen to the last bar of music before a new phrase begins, as usually there is a breakdown or change in the track to indicate the upcoming new phrase.
Overusing the effects
Modern-day Dj equipment comes with more and more effects these days. It can be very tempting as a new DJ to want to implement every effect and explore all the creative possibilities. As great as a filter, pad effects and deck effects can be, there can become a point where they start to distract and overwhelm the listener.
Think of effects like seasoning on good food. They can help elevate and give a special touch to an already brilliant dish. Use too many however and the whole meal is ruined. A little really does go a long way with effects, use them wisely and carefully. Not every effect needs to be used all of the time.
Learn how to DJ and avoid the most common mistakes beginner DJs make when starting out in this video guide! These tips can be applied to any DJ controller, setup or DJ software.
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