A Pro DJ, i.e a Professional Disc Jockey should/would already be aware of the points highlighted below, but just in case one is not, its better to be safe than sorry! Pro DJ Tips -Protect your ears, protect your gear, stay healthy and secure to stay pro.
Pro DJ Tips – Things that don’t need to be said, but we are saying them anyway
Tip: Stay healthy (mind and body)
A DJ’s lifestyle goes against the order of nature (Sleep most of the day and be up most of the night); therefore subject to a lot of stress and strain. While one is young, one does not really feel the pain and endures. But as you grow older, the stress does take its toll. Late nights, irregular eating habits, loud music, lack of sunlight disrupted sleep patterns, all of this can really mess up one’s body and mind. Add on the additional stress of a touring DJ often with air pressure due to frequent air-travel, it can be a real mess.
It is important for a DJ to take care of his/her health, if one wants to sustain the lifestyle for a long time, you need to get into a healthy routine and build the willpower to get back into it after every weekend.
Pro DJ Health Tips:
- Eat healthy whenever possible or even try and follow a meal plan
- Always drink lots of water
- Get into a fitness or gym routine
- Free exercise (without weights or machines) when you don’t have access to a gym, and/or yoga.
- Take a break once a week or at least once a month from all music and music-related activities, a quiet getaway to nature based on your personal preference and geographic location could help – the hills/forest/beach.
- Control or avoid any intoxicants
- Practice quiet time after a gig
DJ Tip: Protect your ears on and off the console.
Your ears are precious, even if you are not a musician. As a Professional DJ your ears defines how you make your living. It’s a common fact that most DJ’s loose upto 30% of their hearing by the time they cross 10 years in the industry, so it is important that you try to protect your ears.
Pro DJ Tips:
- In the booth (DJ console) it is important to keep your booth monitors low to avoid damaging your ears avoid going over the 1/2 way mark on the mixer.
- Keep Headphone volumes in check, avoid increasing over 60%
- DJ’s are exposed to loud noises for a prolonged period of time, your ears need time to recover. Try to step outside for five minutes every so often in order to let your ears rest – possible if you are playing in a line-up or have an assistant or partner who plays alongside you.
- Keep your ears dry, after a shower, swim or wet in the rain. Excess moisture can allow bacteria to enter and attack the ear canal.
- Check those stress levels and ensure you deal with anxiety. Pressure and stress can travel up into your inner ear and contribute to tinnitus symptoms
- Hearing loss normally happens gradually, and by the time we realise it’s too late, so get regular ear checkups just to be safe.
- Invest in Quality earplugs, custom earplugs can protect your ears better.
- Wear ear plugs when off the console to protect your ears from loud PA’s, in a night club or at a festival.
Musicians’ earplugs are custom earplugs with filters that allow a person to hear conversations and music but still reduce harmful sound levels while maintaining the quality of the original sound as closely as possible
Tip: Know your gear, like one would know the back of their hand
Professionals must know the tools of their trade. Apart from learning how to use the gear to perform, it is a good idea to be able to troubleshoot basic issues as well.
Pro DJ Tips:
- It is wise to go through the user manual of the equipment even if you are an experienced DJ, it will just add to your knowledge and help you figure out basics that are often overlooked when new gear is updated.
- Follow music blogs/ tech magazines. As trends in music listening change so does pro audio. Technology is being innovated at a tremendous pace, adoption into the industry is however gradual. Keeping abreast with the latest trends and new innovations in the industry is also recommended to ensure one stays on point and relevant.
Tip: Skill up and get crazy good!
A DJ Professional must have really good Dj skills to mix and beat-match no matter what gear is presented to them. Remember Technology is only a tool and knowing your tools is very important but having great skills is more important. So practice, practice, practice – till you are good enough to play on anything.
Pro DJ Tips:
- Technology is only a tool and should not be your performance, the basis of it or a limiting factor. If your laptop crashes or your controller doesn’t work for any reason, or your USB is corrupted or the equipment fails you, you should still be able to give a great performance with the basic DJ setup of 2 cd players and a mixer.
- Always have a backup, Radio silence is never an option! Like, if someone accidentally spills a drink (firstly there should be no liquids at the console) always ensure that there is a spare mixer/ cd player available in case the worst happens. Always carry a mirror copy of your music, be it on a spare pen drive or laptop or a case logic with burned CDs. A 15-minute pre-mixed set on a spare Pendrive – for a technical glitch that needs your full attention, giving you precious time to change out a system. You should Always have a back-up plan when you get onto the console!
Tip: Avoid red-lining your mix
Say what you will, but redlining a DJ mixer is a strict no-no, no matter what your playing. It is just not done. Most modern mixers have enough headroom and limiters that makes red-lining intentional if anything – green, amber and then red- stop at Amber.
Analogue mixers allow you to push into red a little, but modern mixers such as Pioneers DJM series have digital cutoffs that clip the sound and make it sound noise-y and distorted.
Pro DJ Tips / Advice:
- Avoid it, as redlining is nothing but clipping. Follow the link to know more about clipping.
- All DJ’s talk about playing quality music, while most music is already compressed, redlining will just add noise and distortion to the track and who wants that.
- It is bad for your equipment as well, Red means danger and it is possible for you to blow the speakers if you are not careful. All equipment has a threshold, overdrive it and it may crack the cones.
- Some clubs expect Dj’s to redline and set compressors and limiters to the audio chain to protect the equipment, this will make the music either cutoff or sound really bad, and we don’t need either for the audience.
- Some DJ’s argue that they like the compression, it increases the loudness and the distortion adds to the music, but that just is wrong as you are adding in noise as well. Want more distortion, add a distortion pedal or take care of it at the production phase, don’t damage the gear and the audience’s ear.
- Like it loud, don’t redline the mixer, let the venue amplifiers add the loudness.
- If two tracks are not at the same level of amplitude it is better to reduce the louder one to match the softer one and then boost the master volume little more rather than boost the softer track to match the louder track and risk redlining.
Set your EQ’s back to 12 o’clock after a transition
It is good practice to reset your eq’s after each transition. Peak hour sets can get very hectic where the DJ is constantly on the move from track to track when one cues the track on their headphones having missing frequencies could hamper the transition. Get into the habit of bringing your eq’s back to 12 o’clock position because when things get hectic, you may not realise that the new track sounds off, because your EQ’s haven’t been reset.
DJ Tips : Be gentle with the equipment, don’t hit – just press (buttons)
If you are a professional you know the equipment is delicate, expensive and its taken you a while to be able to add these onto your tech rider; if you are an amateur or just starting out, you should know that the gear is gonna help you look good in your performance and take you further, you need to build up to a better tech rider, so don’t mistreat what you are currently using.
- As a one-off gig, you may not ever play in the venue again if you mismanage the gear you use.
- As a resident DJ, you would probably be responsible for the day to day functioning of the equipment and if the systems are malfunctioning due to misuse, you are probably the one who will suffer in your performance.
- Respect the tools of your trade and treat them like they are your own.
- Don’t abuse your gear, it will last longer.
- Never Stack equipment, especially on the job wheel of a CD player, most CD players wheels are touch sensitive and placing heavy objects on it can ruin the players. Often see amateur DJ’s placing laptops or controllers on CD players. This is a complete NO-NO!
- It does not matter where you are using the gear, you should make sure you use them gently, even if they don’t belong to you.
Tip: Stage presence. Enjoy what you are playing, move to your own music
Back in the day, the crowd danced with partners facing each other. Today most audiences are just that an audience facing the DJ and dancing looking at the DJ. This makes the stage presence of the DJ even more important (as a performer). Since the DJ is literally the dance partner to every member on the dance floor (his audience) it’s important for them to see the DJ grooving to his own music and having a good time.
- Some DJ’s prefer to ignore the crowd, but instead get deep into what they are doing behind the console. As long as the audience feels connected to what is being done on stage or at the console it serves the purpose.
- Have fun with what your playing, if you don’t enjoy what you do why should others
- Interact with the crowd when possible, let them know you want them to have a good time.
- Avoid answering calls and playing with your phone (there are better devices that you should be playing with) in the console
Read More about Stage Presence in our previous article here
More DJ Tips: Don’t get High! (on the job)
- Don’t Drink & Mix.
Just like drinking and driving, drinking and mixing can also get tricky. Dj’s have access to a lot of alcohol, however, one must keep their consumption within the limit to avoid embarrassing situations with the crowd or just general mixing mistakes. Besides this, you should avoid any beverages on the console. A spill can damage your gear and cause a short circuit, ending your performance. Also if you are drinking ensure you pace yourself, don’t get drunk! Try and avoid the mic as much as possible and focus on the mixing.
- Don’t Do Drugs.
Just Don’t do it, you don’t play better when you are on them; so DON’T kid yourself. You can say No! and still, be in the scene. Staying off drugs and alcohol keeps you in your senses and lets you do your job better, making sure your audiences are entertained. Be a professional!
Drugs will affect your hand-eye and hand-ear coordination, so you can’t have that (LSD & MDMA). Long-term effects of some drugs may affect your hearing which will soon put you out of work.
DJ Tips: Don’t Rip / Buy.
- Don’t rip off music, or download without buying.
- Support fellow musicians: that’s the only way musicians that make music can be paid for their efforts.
- If you must download music ensure you download quality music. Waves are better, though high-quality MP3’s do work. 320kbps!
- Your audience may not have the understanding of why they are not having fun hearing their favourite tracks when you’re playing it and may just label you a bad DJ, whereas, in reality, the track you downloaded may actually be sub-quality. Badly ripped or compressed music (converted from waves to Mp3) normally have their highs and lows cut off, leading to poor sounding music on a large PA, so be wary of where you are getting your music and always try it before you play it out to a crowd.
Let us end this with a few popular sayings that DJ should know to get ahead:
- Be seen, be heard and be great at what you do!
- Before you have Fame, you have integrity, don’t lose that.
- You can not expect to do well if you keep shitting on the industry you want to grow in.
- If you are unhappy with the scene, help change it or leave.
- Everyone has an asshole and an opinion, keep yours to yourself.
- A wise man once said, if you have nothing nice to say, Shut up!