How Long Does It Take to Become a (Good) DJ
One of the main goals of every aspiring DJ is to become a sensational DJ. We are talking about becoming the kind of artist that can lit up a venue as soon as 5 minutes into the set, effortlessly mixing passages that go well together, effectively entertaining both a casual crowd and an EDM nerd at the same time. In other words, becoming a hotshot! However, as you probably know, becoming this kind of DJ takes a lot of practice, experience, and of course, time! Now, have you ever wondered exactly how much time does it take to be good at this? I’m happy to say that the answer is below.
The answer is that becoming a good DJ will take between 3 months to several years of practicing and mixing. If the DJ isn’t fully invested in their craft, it might not even happen at all and the DJ in question will always underachieve.
And while the most precise, complete answer to the original question will be different for each DJ and it will obviously depend on several factors, the vast majority of DJs out there will seriously improve their skills to the point where they are considered a great DJ in that time frame.
Aside from that, there’s the chance that you are interested in other things related to this, for example, which are the factors that will most improve the skills of the average DJ in the shortest amount of time. If you are interested in knowing more about this and how to become a better DJ in general, please take a look at the video and read below!
Why Becoming a Good DJ Takes a Lot of Time
As I mentioned above, it usually takes between 3 months to 3 years to become a good DJ that will reliably satisfy a crowd. Not that this is a scientifically proven time frame, but it’s my conclusion based on years of watching newbie DJs improve their skills and of course reflecting on my own improvement over the years.
And some of you might be wondering why exactly does it take so much time to get good at this. The truth is that DJing is a discipline that is both technically and artistically demanding. There are several factors that every DJ must keep in mind when playing a set, including the musical preferences of the venue, the gear being used, the “feel” of the crowd, among other factors. A DJ must have all of these considerations in mind when mixing, while at the same time handling song requests, members of the club talking to him, etc…
All of these factors make DJing quite challenging. This is especially true for greener DJs new to the scene or DJs that are burned out. The first few months of a new DJs career are spent trying to balance his musical preferences with those of the crowd. If he’s really serious about his craft, a DJ might also spend some time trying to learn more about musical concepts and musical theory in general, which can be pretty puzzling for those unfamiliar with the aforementioned topics, but immensely rewarding over the long term.
Becoming better means practicing
Practicing has been proven dozens of times to improve your performance and so another big reason why being a good DJ takes a lot of time is simply that many DJs simply do not spend a lot of time actually mixing. Not that I blame them for it: many DJs only play in their free time when they are off from college or their job, hustling and trying to set up gigs in their free time. Not that you can’t become great if you only DJ part-time, but it will probably slow down your development obviously.
Anyways, something that I want to talk about is the factors that actually make a good DJ. Most EDM fans agree that there are several things that simply make a DJ “click” for them, and they are definitely the things that you should be looking to improve on if you are somebody that is trying to get better at this. So because of this, knowing what exactly makes a good DJ and what makes a lousy one is perhaps the first step to take if you are trying to be as good as possible.
Factors that make a good DJ
As I said above, I think it’s important that we talk about what exactly makes a good DJ and what makes a lousy one. Some of these factors include:
This is numero uno for a reason. It’s pretty simple and obvious: the more time you spend doing a particular thing, the better you get at it. For example, back when I bought my first equipment, I had a hard time even loading and cueing the songs on my new gear. Aside from the fact that I wasn’t very technologically savvy, the fact that I had to handle so many things at the same time kind of slowed my progression. Thankfully, I quickly improved and I was able to move on with other things.
Then came beatmatching. This used to be hell back in the day when there wasn’t any software to assist you. I personally had to learn beatmatching by ear, which is pretty challenging, to say the least. Most DJs have to dedicate at least a few weeks to really getting beat matching down, and even then they will have to keep practicing down the line.
Aside from technical factors like the ones above, or doing things like adding effects, working the EQ, or double drops, experience also has to do with how often do you play in an actual venue. Many of you reading this are bedroom DJs, and while everybody starts that way, the truly good DJs will have ample experience actually DJing in a club, venue, wedding, house party, or playing to a crowd in general.
The ideal thing to do if you haven’t performed to a crowd yet is to network and look for an informal house or frat parties near your area. If the party was just going to have a preset song list, you could always sell them the idea of a live DJ enhancing the ambiance for the party members. And if the prospect of actually mixing on a party makes you nervous, I would recommend that you always have some premixed tracks as a crutch just in case to screw up. The ideal thing would be to actually mix so that you develop your skills and watch the crown respond to the mixing.
Experience is overall the most important factor to improve your skills in DJing, especially in a venue. So the best thing that you can do to become as good as possible with the controllers is to just mix every day if possible.
Taste & musical knowledge
Another big factor that distinguishes a good DJ from a bad one is his taste, his general appreciation for music, and his musical knowledge in general. And I will explain what I mean about these 3.
First of all, it is taste and this is something very personal obviously. I personally know a few DJs that have a terrible taste in music. The tunes that they listen throughout the day are either played out, very dissonant, or they simply do not go very well with dance and house music in general.
Musical knowledge refers to a DJs knowledge of the different musical terminology, not only of general music but more importantly EDM house and trap music. Obviously, you don’t have to go to school or become some sort of musical encyclopedia, but I believe that a general understanding of terms like BPM, equalization, phrases, etc.. is important, especially for beginners.
Ample musical catalog
Another very important factor that will distinguish a great DJ from the pack is the songs that they use for their mixes. This is very important if you want to be as versatile as possible and be able to play pretty much everywhere. The best DJs tend to listen to a diverse amount of music, from the most relevant sub-genres of house music, RnB music, trap songs, to even rock tunes. A seasoned DJ should listen to songs popular on the radio at the moment and also more classic anthems that are and will be listened for years coming forward.
What I’m trying to say is that a DJ needs to be as versatile as possible in order to be the biggest fish in the pond. While it’s okay if you have your favorite genre and prefer listening and mixing those types of songs, it’s important to make sure that you are willing to switch things up when necessary. The best DJs will attempt to mix songs from different genres often, sometimes creating very euphoric passages that make the crowd go wild from otherwise very different musical genres. I recommend that you do the same when practicing.
One often-overlooked factor is your personality. To be more specific, the best DJs will have a more extroverted, open personality, which in turn will help them be a better DJ. For example, a more extroverted aspiring DJ will most likely meet more people that want to or are DJs already. This might help aspiring artists get more gigs and collaborate with them. He might even get help from a more experienced disc jockey if he needs it.
Personality also comes into play if the DJ also doubles as an MC at a party or a wedding. I personally know several DJs that actually do that too and they are pretty chatty for the most part. I personally haven’t seen one that is quiet or reserved, and it definitely comes into play when you have to hype up the crowd with the mic or even when trying to network.
“Knowing your customer” and feeling the crowd
Another big factor is knowing the venue that you are going to be playing on. While you would love to incorporate those obscure techno songs on that frat party that you are going to be DJing, the better idea would be to use more well-known songs that will be better received. This factor goes hand in hand with having an ample musical catalog.
Just as important is feeling the crowd and knowing when to introduce a faster, more euphoric song after several slower tunes. This is one of the most satisfying moments of playing a venue in my opinion and you really get a rush if you play the right tune at the right time. But it’s something that will come for experience for the most part or even watching live sets at a smaller venue if you are willing to spend time on it.
As I mentioned above, you should expect to become a good DJ in between 3 months to several years of playing. The actual time will obviously depend on several factors that I mentioned above, including how often do you actually DJ, how much musical knowledge do you have, your ability to network, and pretty much sheer talent honestly.
If you are a new DJ and are reading this article, simply focus on DJing as often as possible and you will improve really quickly. Make sure you got the technical basics down, listen to as much music as possible and try incorporating them in your mixes, and after all of this, make sure you start playing in front of a crowd as quickly as possible. If you do this, you will improve really quickly and will swiftly build a good reputation around your area!
I love researching and writing about new and exciting things in the world of mixing, including tutorials, reviews on hardware and software, as well as finding the latest and greatest. My goal is to help people become better DJs by providing them with all the knowledge they need to do just that!