The Ultimate Beginner DJ Guide: 10 Powerful Steps to Learn How to Start Djing

Beginner DJ Guide - How to Learn to DJ
Beginner DJ Guide - How to Learn to DJ
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Learn How to DJ as a Beginner in this Guide

Becoming a top-tier DJ can be a thrilling and rewarding journey, but let’s be real, it can also be a bit overwhelming to know where to begin.

With all the diverse techniques, styles, and equipment to master, it’s not easy to dive into the electrifying world of djing.

Nevertheless, with the right support and resources, anyone can kickstart their DJ career and flourish in no time.

In this comprehensive article, we’re serving up 10 beginner DJ steps that will give you the kickstart you need to begin your epic DJ voyage.



Key Takeaways

  • Starting out as a beginner DJ can be overwhelming, but following a framework can help you learn more quickly and effectively
  • Beginner DJs should understand the basics first, and be honest with themselves about what their goals are
  • There is a lot of DJ equipment on the market which can be overwhelming for a beginner, but at the very minimum a DJ mixer/controller, a decent laptop and a pair of DJ headphones will be more than enough
  • Beginner DJs should continue pushing themselves by improving their DJ skills and repeating the basics until they feel confident in them


1. Understand what DJs Do

To start, it’s vital to grasp the fundamental concept of what exactly a DJ does.

Most people would say, “DJs just play music for the crowd”, but there’s a whole other universe to it than just mindlessly tapping the “play” button.

A seasoned DJ uses their musical ingenuity to blend tracks seamlessly, manipulate music, and generate a hypnotic atmosphere that pulsates through the veins of the audience. 

DJs who have mastered their craft are constantly evolving throughout their performance, reacting to the audience, expertly building and releasing tension, and ultimately taking their listeners on a journey.

For a beginner DJ who wants to learn how to start djing, this craft may not come naturally, but luckily djing is a skill that can be honed and improved upon.

It’s also important to note that Djing is a multifaceted craft that comes in various forms. For instance, there are club DJs, wedding DJs, and radio DJs, each with their own unique style and set of skills.

Understanding the distinction between these types of DJs can help you figure out which type of DJ you would like to become.

Thinking about your goals, and why you want to take this journey will go a long way in the overall process, especially when you begin your path.

Beginner DJ Guide - Learn how to DJ

2. Outline your DJ Goals

Now you have an understanding of what a DJ does, it’s time to ask yourself as a beginner DJ looking to learn how to start djing, what is it you want to achieve? 

Is it to become a club DJ? Is this a hobby that gives you a creative outlet? Do you want to DJ at special events such as weddings and private parties? These aren’t mutually exclusive, but start with one in mind.

Having clear goals in mind can help you stay motivated and focused on your DJ journey. Here are a few things to consider when outlining your DJ goals:


Identify your music interests

What kind of music do you enjoy listening to? Are you passionate about a particular genre or artist? Understanding your musical interests can later help you choose the right equipment, software, and approach for your DJing style.

Define your audience

Who do you want to play for? Do you want to perform at weddings, clubs, festivals, or private events? Knowing your audience can help you tailor your performance and select the right tracks.

Set achievable milestones

Break down your long-term goals into smaller, more manageable milestones. For example, if you want to play at a particular club or festival, set smaller goals such as networking with local DJs, practicing your mixing skills, and building your online presence.

Find your motivation

DJing can be a challenging and relenting field. Figure out what keeps you motivated and use that in the harder times. Perhaps it is celebrating your small wins, or recording your mixes and critiquing them with others, or perhaps it’s building meaningful connections to the community of DJs and music lovers.


By outlining your goals as a beginner DJ, you can create a roadmap for your DJ journey and stay focused on your progress. A roadmap may not sound glamorous or exciting, but even a rough outline will equip you better than many others starting out.


3. Learn Basic DJ Skills

Now that you have your DJ goals outlined, it’s time to start learning some basic DJ skills.

As a beginner DJ, it’s important to start with the fundamentals before diving into more advanced techniques. There are various ways you can learn the basics, but if you’re looking for a good head start as a beginner DJ, consider watching tutorials or even taking a course, such as Masterclass.

Beginner DJ Course - Learn how to DJ

Here are our recommended skills that a beginner DJ should learn:


Beatmatching

The first skill to learn is beatmatching, which involves matching the tempo and beats of two tracks so that they are in sync and can be mixed together seamlessly. Although many new mixers and controllers on the market come with a sync feature that can automatically do this for you, this is a foundational skill that is essential for any beginner DJ and should be mastered without the help of sync.

Mixing

Once you have a good grasp of beatmatching, you can move on to mixing. Mixing involves blending two tracks together so that they flow smoothly from one to the other. At its most basic level, mixing is done by manipulating the volume levels of both tracks, transitioning between the two. However, there are many different mixing techniques to learn, including crossfading, EQ mixing, and harmonic mixing, which we cover in our more advanced DJ tips and tricks guide

Equipment Selection

In addition to beat matching and mixing, it’s important to learn about the different DJ equipment available such as turntables, CDJs, or nowadays the more prevalent DJ controllers. Each type of equipment has its own unique features and functions, so it’s important to familiarize yourself with the different types of equipment on the market.

Ear for Music Selection

Finally, it’s important to start developing your ear for music. As a DJ, your fundamental job is to read the crowd and play tracks that keep the floor filled. This means being able to identify which tracks work well together and which tracks don’t. Developing your ear for music takes time and practice, but it’s an essential skill for any DJ and one we cover in our DJ tips and tricks guide.


Overall, learning basic DJ skills is a crucial step in becoming a successful DJ. Take the time to practice and master these skills, and you’ll be well on your way to becoming a skilled and sought-after DJ.


4. Get your Hands on some DJ Equipment

Beginner DJ Equipment

This may sound obvious, but getting your hands on the right beginner DJ gear is an essential step to starting your DJ journey.

Beginner DJ setups don’t need to break the bank to get you started, but investing in quality equipment can make a significant difference in the long run.

At a minimum, you will need either; 1) two turntables (traditional or a digital vinyl system known as DVS) or CD players (also known as CDJs) and a DJ mixer, or 2) a DJ controller. On top of this, a decent laptop as well as a pair of headphones. 

Turntables or CDJs are the source of music, while the DJ mixer is used to blend and manipulate the music source and create a seamless mix. Controllers are a digital, all-in-one solution that combines all functionality into one device.

Both options can plug into a laptop with DJ software for more features and a larger source of music. DJ headphones are used to cue up the next track and listen to the mix privately before executing the mix. DJ headphones are different to consumer headphones, and come in different styles, which we cover in our helpful DJ headphone article.


Beginner DJ Headphones

When choosing equipment, consider your budget, the type of music you want to play, and your DJing goals.

For example, if you plan to DJ at parties or clubs, you may need more powerful and versatile equipment than if you plan to DJ at home or small gatherings. Considering portability (weight and size of your equipment) is also important depending on where you aspire to perform.

Remember to do your research and choose equipment that fits your needs and budget. You can also consider buying used equipment to save money, but make sure to test it thoroughly before purchasing.

In addition to the fundamental equipment outlined above, you may also want to consider other equipment such as speakers, amplifiers, and microphones. These are not essential for beginner DJs, but they can enhance your performance and provide a better overall experience for your audience.


5. Choose your DJ Software

Choosing the right DJ software is an essential step in your DJ journey as a beginner DJ.

DJ software is what enables you to store and access your music library, create unique playlists for different sets, set helpful cue and marker points, easily identify key and bpm of your tracks, and ultimately equip you to perform in front of an audience.

In this section, we will highlight the different DJ software available in the market to better inform you to make your decision.


Serato DJ 

Beginner DJ Software - Learn how to DJ

Serato DJ software is often revered as the number 1 DJ software in the industry by many.

The software, boasting it as the “World’s most used DJ software” has its roots stemming from turntablism. Unlike the next two on our list, Serato do not produce their own hardware and in-fact focus their product development on delivering the smoothest and lowest latency software on the market.

The software works with a wide range of hardware on the market (such as Pioneer, Roland, Reloop and more) so whatever your setup consists of, chances are Serato has you covered.

Luckily, they offer two versions of their flagship software, with the first being Serato Lite, a 2 mixing track version that works with many of the DJ controllers on the market.

The Lite version is free to download and try, and it comes with some of the features of their main product, Serato DJ Pro. The legendary Pro version comes packed with all the features any beginner DJ (and professional) would ever need, including the exciting Serato Stems, and in our opinion is certainly worth the price tag.

Serato DJ Pro also can be used for free when using ‘approved hardware’ (such as the Pioneer DJ XDJ-RX3 and Denon DJ Prime 4), and arguably the best solution to use with traditional DJ turntables with Serato’s DVS system. 


Rekordbox

Beginner DJ Software - Learn how to DJ

Rekordbox is Pioneer’s native flagship DJ software, perfect if you plan to use Pioneer equipment for your DJ journey.

The powerful platform integrates smoothly to a wide range of music libraries both in your local drive and the cloud, and comes with a slick mobile app that allows you to prepare on the go.

On top of that, its in-built track analysis feature can save you a ton of time by detecting beat positions and automatically marking your tracks, with the average wait time of 4 minutes to analyze 500 tracks. 

Although Rekordbox is feature rich and used by some of the world’s most successful and noteworthy DJs such as Roger Sanchez, James Hype and many more, it is still a great choice for a beginner DJ who is already using Pioneer equipment. 


Traktor

Beginner DJ Software - Learn how to DJ

Traktor LE, DJ and Pro are part of Native Instrument’s DJ software family, a renowned German professional audio giant that has been supplying the industry with cutting-edge audio solutions for over 20 years.

With 3 different software versions to choose from, all boasting NI’s proprietary technology, a beginner DJ will be spoilt for choice. The Traktor Pro software is their ‘club-grade’ DJ software product, offering DJs 4-track mixing, expert beat analysis capabilities and a slick user interface that makes navigating the software a breeze.

In our experience, if you want to get the most out of Traktor software as a DJ beginner, pairing it up with one of their DJ hardware solutions (such as the Traktor S4 or the Kontrol Z1) is the best course of action.


There are also other DJ softwares to we suggest you explore and consider, such as Virtual DJ and Mixxx that are perfect for a beginner DJ. When choosing your preferred DJ software, make sure to consider your preferences and budget.

Many of these softwares offer some type of trial so you can take them for a spin so to speak, so try out a few different options to see which one works best for you.

Finally, it’s important to note that some software is more compatible with certain hardware (such as the previously mentioned Traktor Kontrol range), so consider the type of hardware you plan to use as before making a purchase.


6. Choose your Genre

Next up, you need to pick a genre of music you want to spin.

Some DJs prefer to play a particular style of music, while others like to mix multiple genres. The choice of genre can also depend on the audience you want to attract.

If you are a beginner DJ, it’s best to start by selecting a genre that you are passionate about and would feel comfortable playing over and over. It can be overwhelming to try to learn mixing with too many genres at once. Focus on perfecting one genre before expanding your repertoire.

Don’t overlook the fact that genres will have a key part to play with the audience you want to attract. If you plan to play at private parties or special events (such as weddings and anniversaries), you must understand the audience’s musical taste and select a genre that is likely to resonate and move them.

On the other hand, if you aspire to play in clubs or even at festivals, it’ll be best to focus on a specific genre that is popular in those venues.

Remember that choosing a genre is not a one-time decision. As you progress in your DJing voyage, you may find that your musical tastes change or that you want to experiment with different genres.

In fact, testing other genres is one of our key points in our DJ tips and tricks article. Be open to trying new things and evolving your style as you gain more experience.


7. Start Building a DJ Music Library

Beginner DJ Music Library - Learn how to DJ

Building a DJ music library is an important step in the journey of every beginner DJ.

Your music library is the foundation of your performance, as the right tracks can make or break your set. Having a diverse collection of music that can be used in various different events in priceless, as well as having your music organized, tagged and even marked for entry/exit points.

We’ve compiled a handful of helpful tips for building a quality DJ music library:


Determine your preferred genre(s)

As a beginner DJ, you need to have a solid understanding of the music genres that appeal to you. This can help you to curate a music collection that reflects your musical style and preferences. Take the time to explore various genres and subgenres to determine which ones resonate with you.


Identify the best tracks in your preferred genres

Once you have identified your preferred genre, the next step is to start researching and identifying the best tracks in those genres. Look for tracks that have been successful on the specific charts (such as Beatport or Juno Download) or that are popular with DJs and audiences alike. 


Build on your music collection

Building a high-quality DJ music library takes time and patience. It’s important to build your collection slowly but surely, adding new tracks to your library regularly. As well as sourcing music, we also highly recommend joining a DJ record pool for exclusives and edits that can’t be found anywhere else.

This will help you to develop a strong and diverse collection that will make sure to stand out from others, making you more memorable (and hopefully more bookable).


Leverage different sources for music

There are many sources of music for beginner DJs, including music stores, online marketplaces, and streaming services. We highly recommend learning where DJs source music from, as this will help you to create a collection of songs that are sure to keep your audience on their feet. Don’t be afraid to explore different sources to find the tracks that best suit your style and taste.


Meaningfully organize your music collection

As your collection grows, it’s essential to organize it effectively so that you can quickly find the tracks you need during your performances. Your preferred DJ software can organize your collection by genre, tempo, key, as well as compile them into different playlists that you can equip yourself for a particular event.

Consider the concept of harmonic mixing using the Camelot Wheel, making sure your tracks all have their key signature analyzed.


8. Master the Djing Basics 

Now you have your optimal setup, the basic concepts down and your library ready, it’s time to master the djing basics.

Although this may be repetitive, it’ll go a long way in building your ability and confidence as a beginner DJ. When you’re ready, load up a few tracks into your software (ideally in the same genre and similar BPM).

A solid starting point would be making sure you can execute the following techniques over and over: 


Beatmatching

Without the help of sync, load up and loop your tracks using multiple tracks, and continuously match each beat to the previous one. Once you have got this down, reset and try to do it faster.

EQing

Introduce the use of the filters on your mixer, EQing different frequencies of each track so that they don’t compete for headroom. A good indicator to ensure you’re doing this correctly is that each frequency band and the master output are not clipping.

Transitioning

Knowing when to mix in the next track is an art form in itself. Learn how to count beats without the help of your software, and understand the structure of tracks in your genre to determine the best time to mix. A good transition is seamless and maintains the energy of a set, whilst a bad one can drain the energy almost instantly. 


Getting these 3 basic skills mastered will put you ahead of the majority of new and aspiring DJs. Remember to keep practicing, experimenting, and learning new techniques to continue improving your skills.

Beginner DJ Guide - The Basics

9. Record your First DJ Mix

Now you have gained some confidence in your new founded beginner DJ abilities, it’s time to record your first mix.

Although it may seem daunting, recording your mixes, listening back on them and critiquing them by yourself (or with others) is a crucial step in improving your spin craft.


Follow these steps to record your first DJ mix:

Setup your equipment: Make sure your DJ gear is set up properly and ready to go. This includes your weapon of choice (CDJs, DVS or a DJ controller), your trusty DJ headphones and a fully charged laptop.

Prepare your software: Luckily, many of the leading DJ softwares we listed out earlier have in-built recording capability, which will record all of the audio output in a click.

Alternatively, most mixers and controllers have an audio output which can be plugged into your computer’s audio input and then recorded using software such as Audacity

Select your playlist: Choose the songs you want to include in your set and organize them in a dedicated playlist. Ensure your playlist has enough songs to fill the length of your desired mix time, as well as making sure they complement one another in tempo (and even key).

Levels, levels, levels: Before you can dive into your first recording, make sure the volume is properly set. Play a track or two on loop, setting the levels on your mixer or controller so that each track is at the right volume and there is no clipping, otherwise the mix will record with distortion.

Hit record: Now you’re ready to go, start your recording software and hit the record button. Concentrate, set off your first track and begin your mix. Don’t worry if you mess up early on, as you can restart the mix at any time. The goal here is to get comfortable playing under these conditions.

Review, edit and analyze: Once you have finished recording, listen back to your mix and take note of any areas that need improvement, such as your beat matching, transitions or song choice. You can use free software such as Audacity to edit and adjust the mix as needed until you are happy with your final mix.

Congratulations, you have just recorded and finalized your first ever DJ mix. Although this may not seem like a significant milestone, if you have made it this far you should take a moment to pat yourself on the back!


10. Keep Practicing and Learning

By this point, you should have a promising foundation of DJ skills, which is no easy feat.

With that said, it’s important to keep practicing and learning to improve your spin craft. As with anything in life, consistency is key and djing is no different.

Here are a handful of helpful beginner DJ tips you can follow:


Make time to practice: Make a schedule for yourself and try to practice for at least a few hours every week, even when you have low motivation or busy schedule. Giving your self an excuse to not practice will compound and make it that bit easier to skip the next scheduled session.

Test some new techniques: Once you’ve mastered the basics, don’t be afraid to experiment with new techniques and styles. This will help you develop your own unique sound and keep your sets fresh and exciting. Luckily, we created a separate article on DJ tips and tricks that will have you covered.

Attend workshops, events and festivals: This is one of the best ways to keep inspired whilst improving as a DJ. Observe showcasing veteran DJs and take audible note of their approach and decision making during their set. Put yourself out there as you may even get the opportunity to build some connections in the industry you can later leverage.

Keep ahead of the curve: DJ and pro audio tech is constantly evolving, so be sure to stay up to date with the newest equipment and software. Even though you may not upgrade your setup, it’s good to know what else is being used in the industry, as one day you may find yourself no choice but to use it.


With all that said, remember to have fun and enjoy the process of learning. It’s an exciting voyage that will come with many ups and downs, but ultimately be a rewarding experience that you will thank yourself for down the line. 


Summary: 10 Steps to Learn how to DJ as a Beginner

We hope you have enjoyed reading through our helpful beginner DJ guide and found the points actionable and insightful. In summary, we have recapped the vital 10 steps to learn how to DJ as a beginner:

  1. Understand what DJs do
  2. Outline your DJ goals
  3. Learn basic DJ skills
  4. Get your hands on some DJ equipment
  5. Choose your DJ software
  6. Choose your genre
  7. Start building a DJ music library
  8. Master the DJing basics
  9. Record your first DJ mix
  10. Keep practicing and learning

By following these steps as a beginner DJ, you’ll gain a solid foundation in DJing whilst developing the skills to eventually create your own unique style and sound to be applied to your spincraft. With dedication, patience and hard work, you can become a successful and masterful DJ. We wish you luck!

If you’re looking to level up your DJing and take it one step further, you have to read 15 DJ Tips & Tricks to Instantly Improve Your DJing Skills.


Beginner DJ FAQs


What kind of equipment do I need to get started as a beginner DJ?

You’ll need a few pieces of fundamental equipment to get started, such as a DJ controller/CDJs/DVSs, headphones, and a decent laptop. We would recommend a DJ controller as a good starting point, as it’s an economical way to learn how to DJ as a beginner whilst offering a bunch of cool features that help you jump right in. 


What kind of music should I play as a beginner DJ?

We suggest starting out with a genre that you enjoy and know. With that said, when you start playing in front of people, it’s important to understand your audience and their preferences. Experiment with different genres to find your niche, but don’t be afraid to step outside your comfort zone and try something new.


How can I record my DJ mixes?

To record your DJ mixes as a beginner, in most cases you’ll need a laptop and your chosen DJ software. Luckily, many of the leading softwares have a recording feature straight out of the box. On top of that, if you want to record to something else (such as a sound card or analog system) many DJ controllers come with built-in audio interfaces with a record output. 


How can I improve my skills?

Improving your skills requires consistent practice, even in the harder times. Set goals for yourself and work on specific techniques, practicing them over and over until you’ve mastered them. Don’t be afraid to watch tutorial videos online, or even attend online or in-person workshops. We also compiled 15 DJ tips and tricks that naturally compliments these beginner DJ tips.



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Thomas Smith
As Visionary and Chief Editor of 122BPM, Thomas is dedicated to inspiring the next generation of music pioneers. With a degree in Music and 10 years industry experience, Thomas is now shaping 122BPM as the central hub for music and audio education.
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