There's a lot of ways that DJs can learn the tricks of the trade these days. You can listen to podcasts, watch YouTube videos, read articles on the Internet. That said, I find that for some aspects of DJing, nothing beats a good book where you can get the information on the various facets of the craft in a complete, structured way.
I've read several DJ books over the years, and below are the four that I've found the most useful in helping me become a better DJ.
This is a really awesome book. The authors trace the history of DJing from the emergence of audio recording technology in late 19th century to the heyday of disco in 1970s and on to the raves of 1980s and 1990s. The book also talks about the key genres that emerged along the way, like reggae, disco, hip hop and house. It really gives you the big picture of how the DJ profession developed hand-in-hand with the technology and the music.
"Last Night a DJ Saved My Life" is a must if you want to be a well-rounded DJ and know the history of your craft and the music that you play. One of my favorite chapters is Chapter Six, where the authors talk about the history of disco. Back in the day, I was fascinated to discover how most of today's dance music has its roots in disco, and that discovery taught me to appreciate and love that music.
Even though "records" in the title hints at its age, this book remains incredibly comprehensive and useful today. Written by the same author duo as "Last Night a DJ Saved My Life", "How to DJ Right" goes from A to Z of the art of DJing. It covers beatmatching, mixing, adding FX, creating your own edits, producing tracks and much more. What's no less important, it does all of it in an incredibly easy and fun way.
The book was written in early 2000s so some of the information is a bit dated, notably the chapters on digital DJing. Still, the book covers the various facets of the DJ profession incredibly well and you can derive a lot of value from it even today. Highly recommended.
The book's author, Phil Morse, is a very well-known person in the world of DJ training. He runs Digital DJ Tips, probably the largest DJ tutoring website out there. "Rock the Dancefloor" was written with a beginner digital DJ in mind and tells you all you need to know to get from zero to your first public gig in today's day and age.
What I like about "Rock the Dancefloor" is how action-oriented and practical it is. Phil only glances over beatmatching and mixing, providing you with just enough information to DJ a gig without embarrassing yourself. Instead, he provides a lot of practical information on choosing your software and hardware, building and organizing your music collection, playing the various types of DJ gigs (bar / mobile / club), promoting yourself and so on.
The book is very easy to read and is packed with useful tips. Just one Phil's tip on how to pack your crate and how much music to take with you to a party is easily worth the price of the book in my opinion.
This book is relatively unknown to an English-speaking reader but please do yourself a favor and get it. It's an autobiography of Laurent Garnier, a French DJ who got the DJing bug in his early 20s, got a residency at the legendary Haçienda club in Manchester and then went on to become a very successful techno producer.
The book is a great story of how dance music culture developed in Europe in late 1980s through 1990s and beyond. In the book, Laurent tells it like it is and manages to capture the fascination and love for music that drives us as DJs, the challenges we face and the highs and lows of the profession. If you're serious about becoming a DJ, I can't recommend "Electrochoc" enough.
I am convinced that as a DJ, you need to invest in your knowledge. Not just the knowledge of the DJ gear and techniques, but also of history of the craft, the music, and how the scene developed over the years. Grab the four books above and you'll be well on your way to becoming a better DJ.
Have you read any of these books? Are there other DJ books you recommend? Scroll down to the comments section below and share your thoughts!
JM has played open-air gigs, shared the stage with the likes of ATB and had mix albums released commercially. He has been teaching DJing since 2008.
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