Should You Program Your DJ Set in Advance? - DJing Tips

Should You Be Planning Your Sets?

If you are playing one of your first gigs in public or are otherwise outside your comfort zone, you may be tempted to plan your whole set in advance. I get it – performing live seems nerve-wrecking enough to be worrying about the tune to put on next. So should you do that?

Short answer: No, but there are different types of planning.

Long answer: As a DJ, you have to be ready to respond to the dancefloor. You never know what direction they might lead you in. By playing a pre-planned set, you may find yourself putting on records no one likes, unable to change your tune. This is where it becomes nerve-wrecking if you ask me.

Also, planning too much will make you perform worse, not better. You’ll be amazed at how much easier it is to choose that next tune when you have real people dancing on the floor. And how much better your choices will fit the “here and now” as opposed to planning a perfect set in your bedroom.

That said, some planning is actually useful. As I pack my record box for a gig, I take note of the key tunes that I really want to play and how they’ll shape the pace of the night. I mentally map out my options for a more banging set, or a more laid-back one – depending on what state the crowd will be in and what they will want.

In short, I imagine my set as an impromptu performance along certain points (which are the key tunes that I’ll be playing). That’s far from planning the whole set in advance, but it gives me the sense of being prepared and boosts my confidence behind the decks.

So try it and let me know if it worked for you. And again, remember that it’s not an exam. You’re not being judged; the folks just want to dance.

How do you go about planning your sets? Have you ever pre-planned a set down to an exact playlist? Share your story in the comments 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.