How do you plan a DJ mix? An Easy Guide


People think that DJs just turn up to venues and just hit play on their console. Most people don’t understand that, it takes more time to plan the songs and practice the transitions than to actually do a performance.

DJing is more about how to create a continuous flowing session that doesn’t break the atmosphere in the room where you are playing the songs. It’s more than just hitting the buttons and turning knobs.

There is so much more that happens behind the screen in the studio as well. A DJ is a producer who performs at a show, whereas a music producer takes the back seat in a studio.

When you look at the work that a DJ does, it’s more or less equal to that of a producer. A DJ mix has to be cohesive and should not feel like it has different songs in it. It should feel like the mix is one whole song.

There are always questions about whether a DJ is a music producer or not, there are also questions about whether anyone can be a DJ. You have to understand that just like all other professions, DJing takes a lot of skill and patience to master. You cannot fake anything as you will be performing for a crowd.

A DJ mix is usually planned based on the flow of songs, starting with the tempo, time signature, and genre of the songs. Each DJ session is planned to appear as a single song rather than a combination of songs. The flow of the session is more important than the songs that are used in the session. This is what differentiates a good DJ from others.

Learning about DJing is hard when it comes to the nuances which you will only learn through experience. Knowing something is not enough in executing a DJ mix plan. In this article, I will walk you through all the things to keep in mind while you are planning a DJ mix.

Based on the time signature 

The time signature is one of the important aspects of a set. When you plan a DJ mix, you have to plan the time signature that you are going to choose the songs, as it will depend mostly on the genres.

You have to be very intentional in choosing your genre as it will determine the time signature that you are going to play your set in.

Having multiple time signatures might seem like a good thing, but in reality keeping it simple is the best way to go. Mixing up the songs is more important than mixing up the time signature. Moving from a ¾ to 2/4 will destroy the energy of the set.

Many DJ’s always stick to 2/4 and 4/4 for this particular reason. This is also one of the reasons why you can’t find ¾ time signatures in electronic dance music.

The “four to the floor” concept about time signature came about because of electronic dance music getting an upper hand on dance floors. It brought a new way of DJing and started to involve more production towards trance and house music, which later developed into different sub-genres of music.

Based on tempo 

No matter which language it is if the song has rhythm people always start to move. Even our heartbeat has a rhythm to it. If you don’t work on the rhythm for your set, you will destroy the energy that the set should convey. This is one of the things that I learned as I started to perform on stage.

The basic components of rhythm are time signature and tempo, as we spoke about, when it comes to time signature keeping it simple is the best way to go. When it comes to tempo, it’s scientifically proven that 127 bpm is the sweet spot for the soul to move, as it elevates the spirit of a human brain. The brain activity increases when subjected to audio stimulation above 127 bpm.

This is one of the reasons why all the modern-day electronic dance music is around 120+ bpm. This gives the DJs more flexibility in performing these songs at festivals. When it comes to tempo, don’t mix songs that have a tempo difference of more than 10. It will drop the energy of the set.

You have to always make sure that the songs used in the set are around a specific range. For a set with a 2/4 time signature, you can always select between 120 and 135 Bpm, as people can’t notice the difference in those high numbers.

Based on genre 

The most important thing to consider when it comes to planning a DJ mix is which genre of music is going to be included in the set that is going to be performed. Adding multiple genres will disturb the mood and vibe of the crowd that the set is performed to.

You have to be very specific when it comes to picking your genres. You cannot mix sub-genres as well as they carry a different set of emotions. This is one of the things that differentiates a good DJ from others. Knowing which songs go well together and which don’t.

If you are planning to make a set in dance music, understand that there are more than 10 sub-genres in dance music. You have to know which genre you are going to perform. By understanding the sub-genres you can make a more effective set.

This is one of the reasons why many DJs produce their songs. If you study their songs you will find out that they all have the same theme and go well together. One other technique that you can follow is studying a DJ’s set, piece by piece and see how they put together different genres of music.

How do you start a DJ mix?

A DJ mix starts with the audience that you are going to serve. When you begin your mix, you always have to start with a small loop or a small element in the drums rather than going all-in on the mix. This makes sure that you can later turn on the build-up and transitions easily.

How long should a DJ mix be?

Usually, DJ mixes are about 1 hour in length, sometimes even more in case of special requests. When you play a 1-hour session you will play about 30 to 40 songs. Preparing for these sessions with multiple mix types is where you should spend your time. This is will give you more choices when you are DJing.

What programs do DJs use to mix music?

Ableton and pro tools are two professional software two programs that are extensively used to mix music by DJs, There are two software’s that are also used in music arrangement for production. DJs use Ableton lives for live performance as well. The functions in Ableton enable them to produce and perform at the same time.

What’s the best DJ equipment to buy for beginners?

Midi controllers are the best DJ equipment to start learning the craft of DJing. DJing takes time to learn and master, as it requires you to learn music production. Midi controllers will act as live equipment to perform as well as let you produce music in the studio.

How many songs does a 2 hour DJ set include?

A 2 hour DJ set on average will have at least 40 to 60 songs, if the DJ wants to repeat songs he might even repeat the first set once again. It depends on the crowd and the place where the songs are played. Professional music festivals don’t allow you to repeat songs in a session.

Conclusion

When it comes to DJing, treating it as an art to get better at it every single day is more important than thinking of it as a skill you can learn. Even though 50% of DJing is a skill that you can learn, you can’t be a master at it if you don’t allow yourself to make mistakes and grow from them.

Knowing music production will help a DJ perform well in the set as well. This is will give a better idea of which songs to choose for a set and how each song will flow rhythmically.

Not understanding the musical depth of a song will leave you hanging when you are performing at big venues as you will not be able to match the energy of people with the set that you have prepared.

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