There’s a never-ending debate of mixing live vs pre-recorded sets. Some will claim that a DJ should be able to just “feel the vibe of the audience” and act upon it, while for others, a great mix comes from preparation and organization. Of course there is a difference when you play for a crowd or when you make a mix for a radio show, podcast, or demo. Guest Blogger Jeroen of Moon Jelly Agency asked DJs within the agency’s network how to prepare for making a DJ mix and created a list with 7 tips to help you prepare your DJ set.

7 tips for preparing your DJ set

#1. Know when to mix live or pre-record

If you decide to pre-record your mix, make sure you don’t overdo it. Remember that you can only add so much effects with a mixer in real time. Adding crazy filter envelopes and layers of delays can hinder the feeling of your mix being a ‘real’ live mix. However, if you are creating a mix for people to listen to at home (e.g., a podcast or demo mixtape), you can definitely use all types of automation effects to deliver the most impeccable mix.

#2. Know your audience

Whether your playing for a big festival crowd or a couple of people at home listening to your radio show, it is important to know your audience. What genre should you play? Is the crowd already jumping and dancing or do you need to warm-up the people? Being able to answer these questions will help you select tracks, determine the energy level, and decide on the length of the set. For example, if you are an opening act for someone else and you need to warm-up the crowd, you might want to go for tracks with a BPM rate between 110 and 125.

#3. Apply the energy diagram

The energy diagram is a tool that producers and DJs use to map out the energy levels throughout the course of a song or set. The most common parts are the ‘ramp’, ‘mountain’, and ‘wave’. The ramp indicates a rise from low BPM to high BPM while matching the energy. A mountain illustrates a rise to a peak and a symmetrical descent after reaching this peak. A wave represents a series of peaks and valleys where you’ll take the audience throughout the course of a mix.

#4. Select the right tracks

Your mix shouldn’t be one wave of absolute bangers or music from the charts. When you know your audience, you will know what energy levels you need to reach, what type of music they like, and which direction you’ll need to go. Choose tracks that fit your personal taste and represent you. Don’t be afraid to mix in some obscure or older tracks with mainstream hits; it’s all about connecting the dots.

#5. Use proper transitions

It is important to know which type of transition will work when mixing two specific records. In hip hop, DJs often opt for cutting, while radio DJs prefer fading. Combining different transitions within your mix can create some variety in you set, especially when your mix contains multiple genres.

#6. Mix in key

Just because two song have the same BPM and belong to the same genre, it doesn’t mean they fit well in a mix. Always consider the key of the songs first. When transitioning from one record to another, mixing in key gives a more pleasing sound that will definitely improve the overall quality of your set. There are some useful tools, like Mixed In Key, that can help you with this.

#7. Timing is everything

It is essential to know how and when tracks end and begin in order to complement the structures of the tracks. We’ve all been to a party where the DJ incorrectly timed the phasing of two songs, creating a lull in the energy. Make sure you keep a specific pace, but also give your audience some space to breathe between drops and build ups. It all comes down to the vibe of the setting.

It’s not easy to create the right mix for your audience, but following these tips will help you improve your set for sure. Did we miss any tips? Let us know in the comments below!

See also

» How to become a DJ?
» Why artists use ghost producers
» How to record a great-sounding demo
» 10 steps for finding the right artist name
» SoundCloud Pro, is it worth it?

Guest Blogger Jeroen Hillebrand (Moon Jelly Agency)
Ever since he was a kid, Jeroen has been a real hip hop head who likes to make beats in his spare time. To combine his passion for marketing and music, he decided to do an MBA specialized in the creative industry. Always following the latest developments in the music industry, he connected with the Moon Jelly team. It was only obvious Jeroen had to join Moon Jelly Agency, the international marketing agency for the music industry.
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