The #1 Secret to Effective DJ Practice Sessions - DJing Tips

The #1 Secret to Effective DJ Practice Sessions

Practice makes perfect. You know that you need to practice regularly to become a better DJ, but what exactly do you do during those practice sessions? And, most importantly, how do you keep them interesting and fun? In this post, I’ll share my approach to practicing.

Let’s start with the basics. When you learn a language, your end goal is to be able to speak that language better in everyday situations. When you practice jazz piano, your end goal is to be able to play those jazz pieces better. When you have a DJ practice session, your goal is to play better DJ sets. See a pattern here? The end goal of any practice is to do the thing better… And I find that doing the thing is also the best way to practice.

What this means is that the best way to organize your DJ practice session is by building it around a DJ set. (And if you’re just starting out, you should try playing actual sets as early as possible.) Imagine that you’re working on your EQing at the moment. In your practice session, play tunes one after another in a DJ set, while paying special attention to your EQing during the transitions. If you don’t like how a particular transition worked out, rewind the outgoing track and try again.

Organizing your practice around actual DJ sets has many advantages. Here are some of them:

  1. You get to know your tunes better. A good DJ knows their tracks like the back of their hand. Where the breakdown is coming, where a good point to mix out is – all of this and more is tattooed into the DJ’s brain by listening to their tunes hundreds of times. And there’s no better way to learn your tracks than DJing with them.
  2. You challenge yourself. Each transition in a DJ set is a mini-challenge where you have to make a new pair of tunes sound well together in a mix. By doing this over and over, you learn to be less afraid of potentially “incompatible” tunes. This, in turn, will be freeing up your mind to concentrate on the overall direction of the set, making you a better selector.
  3. You may end up with a new mixtape. If you are recording your practice sets (and you should!), you may end up with a solid new mixtape to publish. All with practically zero special effort!
  4. You learn to perform before live audience. Granted, there’s no live audience in your bedroom. That said, I still think that playing actual DJ sets during your practice sessions helps you better understand how to manage your time and what to do behind the decks when you’re playing in public. In his “Rock the Dancefloor” book, Phil Morse even goes as far as to suggest that you should avoid practicing against the wall – just so you can imagine the crowd in front of you better.
  5. It’s a ton of fun. When you play a practice DJ set, you get lots of fun just from listening to your favorite tracks, dancing and (let’s face it!) imagining people on the dancefloor enjoying themselves. This is not the real thing, of course, but it’s still better than 50 minutes spent practicing just some isolated technique. What’s most important, when your practice sessions are enjoyable, you won’t need excuses to skip them!

I hope that by now, you agree that building your practice sessions around sets makes a lot of sense. However, that doesn’t mean that you can’t devote a bit of time to practicing a particular technique before your practice set, too. For example, if you’re learning manual beatmatching, you may spend the first 15-30 minutes of your practice session playing the “game of catch-up”. But after you’re done, take the plunge and get started with the set anyway.

To wrap up: The best way to get better at something is by doing it. In the case of DJing, it’s playing DJ sets, even if it’s in your bedroom to your dog. Just pay attention to the particular technique or skill you’re currently working on and don’t be afraid to rewind to try again.

How do you practice? Any tips and tricks to share? Spill the beans in the comment section below.

About the Author JM

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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