If you’re thinking about being a professional DJ, you may want to know more about the different types of DJ and what it takes to become pro.
From club DJs and turntablists to battle DJs and radio broadcasters, there are many different ways to get your music out there and play professionally.
Each type of DJ uses specific skills to perform successfully. From mixing to scratching to adding technical equipment like samplers and effects pedals to a DJ setup, every performer has complementary skills that suit their style of work.
This guide explores what it takes to mix like a pro DJ, use the right technical tools and unite crowds with effective transitions.
Topics covered in this article:
- Club DJ
- Club DJ Skills
- Mixing House
- Mixing Hip Hop
- Mixing Other Genres
- Playing Long DJ Sets
- Mobile DJ
- Library Management & Planning
- Reading The Crowd
- Battle DJ
- Battle DJ Skills
- Broadcast DJ
- Technical Skills
Learn about the various types of professional DJ and discover the specific skills you need for success!
Whilst DJs perform in many different ways, and the industry is constantly growing and evolving, most DJs currently fit into one of four categories: Club, Mobile, Battle and Broadcast.
Ibiza, Tenerife, Miami, Majorca… club DJs who tour these locations are what most people think of when it comes to DJing.
Responsible for spinning music in nightclubs, festivals, and other live performance settings, club DJs usually specialise in certain genres, keeping audiences grooving by mixing and blending music together. They must be creative with their song selection and mixes and knowledgeable in reading crowds to get them dancing. Successful club DJs can become celebrities in their own right and often have loyal followings.
Club DJs will tour clubs regularly or have a residency at a particular club they play at week in, week out. The equipment they travel with is minimal, typically rocking up to a club with only their headphones and music, whether on a USB drive, a laptop, or SD card.
They will most commonly play electronic dance music genres; the whole spectrum is included, from techno, trance and drum & bass to house, garage and grime.
Hip hop and r & b are also common, and DJs play non-electronic genres such as rock, funk and soul in many clubs, too.
These DJs keep on top of trends within their scene and will be seasoned at playing on cutting-edge equipment with a heavy emphasis on mixing.
Club DJ skills
Club DJs need to know the ins and outs of how to mix, this includes having a good understanding of technical concepts such as mixing in key.
Each genre has unique mixing techniques and an overall style that the DJs specialising in it will typically follow; however, most mixing styles stem from either house or hip-hop.
Mixing house music is built on the old-school long seamless blend technique. This is where DJs gradually introduce a song and blend it into another for an extended period, often slowly fading elements from the existing track whilst the incoming song takes over.
Many modern house mixing techniques use the long blend as a base with other techniques and tricks, such as using hot cues or loops layered on top. It is the most iconic and essential mixing tool for club DJs!
If you would like to master the long blend as well as other mixing staples, our House Mixing DJ Course goes through this and everything else you need to know to confidently mix house and its neighbouring genres and subgenres, including techniques that also work well with EDM and techno.
Click here for a FREE lesson!
Mixing hip hop
Hip-hop mixing is about quickly building energy levels and wowing the audience with technical surprises such as wordplay, tone play and scratching.
This style of mixing is built on quickly cutting between tracks just after a hook or chorus so the rhythm and energy of an incoming track compliments the outgoing track, creating a vibe.
Whilst House mixing DJs typically play most of a track, hip hop mixing allows tracks to be thrown into the mix at break-neck speed, a sure-fire way to build energy quickly! This style is also perfectly suited to showcasing skills in DJ mixes on social media.
Our Hip Hop Mixing DJ Course includes 35 lessons that cover mixing, scratching, creating mash-ups on-the-fly and transitioning wide BPMs, which for modern-day hip hop sets is essential as they often include genres such as R&B, trap, drill, pop and even EDM.
Try a lesson for FREE here.
Mixing other music genres
Although many of the mixing skills from house and hip hop are transferable to any music genre, each genre has its own unique practices.
With techno, for example, the style of DJing is to long blend with a heavy emphasis on tweaking the EQs to make sounds melt into one another.
Beyond that, DJs can get extra creative or keep it as bare bones as they like. Some may add pedal effects and extra decks to layer in loops and samples rather than simply mixing from one record to the next.
Learning the core mixing style of a genre and then adding personal touches on top is how DJs can play multiple genres authentically and with skill.
Playing long DJ sets
Although headline club DJs may only play for an hour or 2, most resident DJs require a bit more stamina!
Mixing confidently is all about consistency and durability, so practice makes perfect. Becoming a resident may mean playing for 6 hours straight, during which time mixes must remain tight, and it’s important to know how to build energy and warm up the crowd before peak time. Residents usually grow to know their audiences well, so have an advantage when it comes to reading the crowd and creating the right vibe.
As well as mastering the art of mixing, to be a successful club DJ, you must hone and own your networking game!
Getting in with club promoters, hiring teams, and other DJs comes before any gig can be landed!
We’ve created our course, How To Get DJ Gigs, to help you succeed in the industry.
It is based on crucial insights from successful working DJs and takes you through channeling the right mindset, creating memorable content for social media engagement and building a strong network for picking up new work.
Also known as working, party, contract or wedding DJs. Their primary purpose is to provide musical entertainment to people attending special events.
Mobile DJs are the most hired category. They typically need to pack the right music for a wide range of occasions: upbeat anthems for the dancefloor, classic sing-along hits, background music for reception drinks or dining.
From hosting a birthday bash to soundtracking a corporate celebration, mobile DJs are hired for almost any occasion, so need to have an extensive knowledge of popular culture to satisfy the musical tastes of many people.
They also need to be able to shift various amounts of gear as they supply all of the equipment needed for their performances! This means having transportation, ranging from a car to a large van depending on the type of show they are putting on and how much equipment they need to move.
Mobile DJ Skills
Reading the crowd and playing with confidence are essential for a mobile DJ. They also need to be able to take requests during their sets, so must play with lots of flexibility. Experience is key and the more varied gigs are, the better!
Library management and planning
Mobile DJs need to know about popular culture, as this is their bread and butter! In catering to a wide range of people, often within the same performance, they need an extensive catalogue of varied music to play for all tastes.
To do this well, good music management is a must!
DJs can analyse the musical key of their tracks within most popular DJ software like Serato DJ and Rekordbox. This allows them to organise content according to how tracks sound when played together and can be used in live performances or when planning a set ahead of time.
Lexicon is also a brilliant management tool, especially for DJs who have large music libraries and need to work with multiple DJ platforms. Follow this link to our FREE Lexicon walkthrough and Crossfader discount codes
For more on how to organise your music library as a DJ, check our video below:
Also, our video on how to plan A DJ set has 10 useful tips for putting your sets together!
Reading the crowd
Mobile DJs require the most skill of any when it comes to reading a crowd and creating a vibe, as their audiences want to listen to the most varied selection of genres. Unlike club DJs who can expect their audience to have a relatively narrow selection of music in mind, mobile DJ audiences could want anything!
These DJs need to know how to marry a vast range of music styles, so a crucial skill is an ability to transition seamlessly between tracks.
Check out our article 3 Easy Transitions To Mix Any Genre for inspiration on hopping between tracks with a big BPM difference. These tips come from our DJ Transitions course, which includes many more creative and practical ways to transition between tracks.
Click here for your FREE lesson on transitions.
Fiercely competitive, these technical wizards specialise in performing well-rehearsed routines that help them stand out while playing live against other DJs in a musical battle, a sort of 8-mile for DJs!
Routines are usually performed on 2 turntables and a 2-channel mixer. They are typically only minutes long, made up of short, impactful snippets of tracks and showcase technical ability.
Battle DJs must make quick-fire decisions while they play and must have extensive knowledge of music genres, technical equipment and mixing techniques.
Highly skilled battle DJs perform at competitions such as the DMC World DJ Championships or Red Bull Thre3style, where DJs go head-to-head to win prizes, recognition and respect!
Battle DJ Skills
These DJs must be highly creative and concentrated to be able to competitively put together routines which tell a story and highlight their technical skill with style. Battle DJs are all about the art of turntablism.
Turntables are used as tools for Battle DJs to be creative with sound, utilising techniques such as cutting up breaks, word play, tone play and anything else they can come up with! Musicians in their own right, they make their own rhythms and melodies by uniquely manipulating recorded music.
They perform all sorts of technical tricks to energise their routines, like beat juggling, double-dropping and more.
Scratching is an absolutely essential component of a Battle DJ’s sound, and skilled performers can make their turntables “talk” with quick cuts and scratches.
A sure-fire way to start your journey to becoming a battle DJ is to spend time exploring different scratching techniques like drags, baby scratches, and chirps, as well as crossfader tricks like transforming and improvising remixes or bootlegs of well-known tracks on-the-fly.
Also, learning how to use various turntable features, such as reverse and pitch control, will enhance your mixing capabilities and help you to stand out.
Check out our Triplets Timing Scratching video for a taster on learning to scratch:
If you are interested in battle-style DJing or want to add more creativity to your sets, see our 3 Creative Mixing Techniques or brush up on some creative basics with our Free Creative Mixing DJ Tutorials.
If you want to seriously up your game with creative play techniques, we also have a range of courses to suit aspiring turntablists or anyone wanting to level up their DJ skills.
Try a FREE lesson on scratching here.
Broadcast DJs most commonly perform on radio, pirate radio, podcasts, or live streams. They are responsible for introducing new music to their listeners and keeping them informed on trends in the music industry. Broadcast DJs can play a wide selection of music but usually specialise in a single genre. They keep audiences educated and entertained with witty banter between songs or detailed information about the music they introduce.
Broadcast DJ Skills
Broadcasting DJs need to be comfortable on the mic, they are passionate about music and bring that enthusiasm to their audiences. Live streamers also benefit from having good stage presence as they are performing on camera.
These DJs must know how to present and engage their audiences with charisma. They are passionate and knowledgeable about music with a flair for putting together a great track selection, often recorded by their listening audience for repeated playback.
Broadcasters must be versed in using the latest DJ technology.
For live streamers and podcasters, the equipment used for DJing and broadcasting is more varied than in a radio booth, especially for those on the go or broadcasting from home.
A decent amount of digital literacy and some basic live sound mixing knowledge are needed to connect their set ups to the web with a microphone feed that broadcasts together with an audio stream.
At least 99% of professional radio booths worldwide use Pioneer DJ’s CDJ multi-players and DJM mixers, commonly found in the UK’s leading music radio stations.
Many podcasters and live streamers will opt for Pioneer DJ all-in-one equipment, like the XDJ-RX3, that replicates the flagship kit or will use the same CDJs and DJMs found in radio stations and clubs.
Our CDJ masterclass is designed to give ultimate confidence to DJs using the latest club standard kit, including DJM mixers.
We take you on a full tour of features, hints, hacks and tips to get you comfortable in using and troubleshooting this kit, great for those wanting to DJ on the air.
Or if you prefer an all-in-one, our XDJ course covers everything you need to master these popular devices from Pioneer.
FREE taster lessons are available with all our courses!
The key things many successful DJs have in common are consistent practice, learning new skills and reinventing their style with modern techniques.
Crossfader is all about growing and enhancing every DJ’s skills so they can succeed and thrive in the industry, and so we created our Complete Package!
Designed to equip you with all the necessary skills for success, a subscription-free, one-off purchase means becoming a lifetime Crossfader member with access to all our content, forever!
Alongside all of our past, present and future courses, you’ll also get access to hours of exclusive bonus crash courses and new monthly lessons, including detailed break-downs and analysis of iconic DJ mixes performed by those smashing it in the industry right now!
This is the ultimate way for DJs to upskill, stay sharp and become part of an active and inclusive global community with ongoing access to our expert help.
If you’re not satisfied with your progress within 60 days, you’ll get your money back, no questions asked!