How To Become A DJ: A Step-By-Step Guide (With Skills)

Updated 17 June 2023

Being a disc jockey, or DJ, is a fun and engaging career choice for those who like music. When working as a DJ, you may perform or play in front of large gatherings, create different types of music, blend and mix existing songs, and attend many fun events. If you have an interest in becoming a DJ, knowing more about the role can help you determine whether it is an ideal career choice.

In this article, we explain what a DJ is, show you how to become a DJ in seven steps, describe a few different types and list the skills required to excel in this career.

What Is A DJ?

A DJ is an entertainment specialist who selects pre-recorded music and mixes tracks to engage their audience. They sequence songs that complement each other and create an enjoyable, and sustainable listening experience. Rather than composing music or playing instruments to create a new tune, they rely on the existing work of singers and musicians when preparing sequences. Some venues may prefer pre-approved music based on what their visitors enjoy. For instance, at weddings, DJs might focus on the latest hits from popular movies and create a sequence for different occasions throughout the event.

The key responsibility of a DJ is ensuring that the tempo and vibe of their music are suitable for the venue, or event. By understanding the mood and atmosphere, they ensure everyone has an enjoyable time. While some DJs use turntables to play music, others use digital software to help with playback and beat-matching. Other responsibilities of a DJ include:

  • Playing music on schedule

  • Responding to social media interactions

  • Mixing and playing the latest music at sponsored events

  • Taking music requests and engaging with listeners

  • Reviewing weekly and daily playlists

  • Using broadcasting equipment to play music

  • Scheduling and promoting future shows on social media

  • Selecting and playing the latest music at public, and private events

  • Making musical recordings in various formats

Related: How To Write A DJ Resume (With Template And Examples)

Find DJ jobs

How To Become A DJ?

To learn how to become a DJ, follow these steps:

1. Research the job

As a DJ, it is not essential to fulfil any educational requirements because you can start working once you reach 18 years of age, but you can pursue related diploma courses to gain some basic understanding of music. Focus on researching different styles of music to identify your style. Find free tutorials and watch informative videos. The best education often comes from practising and experimenting with their equipment. You are likely to master the DJ skill through trial and error.

Related: 8 Best Practices For Online Job Search (With How To Search)

2. Learn how to use the equipment

DJs depend upon various musical instruments and other equipment to mix, and blend music. Some key equipment to explore includes:

  • Input devices: Input devices, such as turntables, USB devices and CD decks, allow DJs to transfer or play music digitally. While they use digitally available music, many also use turntables to play music not easily found online.

  • Mixers: Mixers allow DJs to mix, blend and control the transition between songs. They use mixers when preparing sequences in advance and while performing live.

  • Monitors: Studio-quality monitors allow DJs to hear the finer details of the mixes they prepare. They also use these monitors while performing live.

  • Software: DJs use software to organise sequences and save them for later performances. It also helps in manipulating and adjusting a song's sound quality.

3. Gain the skills required

After understanding the type of equipment DJs use, learn some essential skills for a successful career. Expertise and knowledge about different genres, and equipment can help you prepare for an event. You can enrol in a short music production course to learn the basics of producing music. Try attending live concerts or events to see how expert DJs perform and engage their audience.

Related: Top Personal Development Skills To Improve Your Career

4. Organise your music library

Most DJs have an extensive music library comprising the latest songs. Many also have a collection of songs from old films, which they mix with the latest songs to provide a different experience to their audience. For most DJs, this means collecting music from digital files, CDs and records. Spend time organising both your physical and digital music collections to find tracks easily.

Related: What Does A Music Composer Do? Guide And Career Tips

5. Practice using your equipment

Your mixer and input devices are likely to have many buttons, and features. Beyond understanding how to use them, knowing how to adjust them helps you perform live. Consider practising using your equipment in real-time to gain muscle memory for creating sequences when performing at live events.

Related: 9 Music Production Software Tools With Features And Tips

6. Start small

After understanding how to use your equipment, find established event and wedding planning companies that offer newcomers a chance to play, so you can hone your skills. Starting with small events helps you evaluate an audience's mood and play songs accordingly. Become a part of the musician network to practise together and get honest feedback from the audience. Once you gain sufficient experience, you can contact larger venues and expand your network by building a solid presence on social media channels, and streaming apps.

Related: What Is A Side Hustle? (With Advantages And Examples)

7. Find your specialisation

After practising for a few years, consider specialising in certain events. You can become a wedding DJ or perform exclusively for nightclubs, for example. Specialising in one area means having expert knowledge in it. This ensures you provide optimal services while allowing you to charge additional fees. You can even consider creating and releasing new music through a production house.

Types Of DJs

Here are some different types of DJs:

  • Radio DJ: Radio DJs provide entertainment and music commentary, and the latest news to listeners. They focus on playing music and sharing content such as interviews, phone-ins, comedy, news bulletins, weather reports and traffic updates.

  • Wedding DJ: Wedding DJs perform live at weddings or receptions and play tracks that encourage guests to dance when appropriate. They select special songs for certain parts of the event, such as during the entry of the couple or wedding party.

  • Club DJ: Club DJs play music at nightclubs. They might start their careers by playing at small bars and begin working at well-known clubs after some years of experience.

  • Mobile DJ: Mobile DJs tour with portable sound, lighting and video systems. They travel to different client locations and play desirable music based on the client's event.

Related: How To Become A Radio Jockey: Definition And Career Guide

Skills Of A DJ

Here are some skills of a successful DJ:

  • Rhythm and timing: Perfecting the transition between songs and using the right beat is crucial for a DJ. A knowledge of rhythm and timing can help you build a successful career.

  • Technical ability: The ability to use different audio software and equipment is essential for this role. Excellent technical abilities ensure you do not play music at too high a pitch, for example.

  • Stamina: The working hours of a DJ may vary and include late nights. As this is an energy-intensive job, most venues prefer DJs with excellent physical and mental stamina.

  • Organisational skills: When you work as a freelance DJ, you manage your own accounts and bookings. Excellent organisational skills help ensure you meet all your obligations and do not miss any bookings.

  • Creative talent: The ability to blend and mix music requires creative talent. Being creative helps you find new tunes and gain recognition to become successful.

  • Interpersonal skills: DJs are often highly social people who network with venue managers, musicians and other artists. Strong interpersonal skills, such as dependability, empathy and flexibility, can help you attract clients and build rapport.

  • Event promotion: DJs promote their events to gain popularity for each function. This primarily involves spreading information about each event on social media platforms and sending out posters, and flyers to the target audience.

  • Sound effect proficiency: DJs use various tools to create exciting and dynamic sounds. Your ability to manage these effects can add texture and depth, which help you create unique music.

  • Set equipment management: The ability to set up equipment quickly and efficiently is essential for a fulfilling career as a DJ. Knowing how to use different equipment helps you build a rapport with your audience.

Related Articles

Learn How To Become A Wedding Planner (With Key Skills)

Explore more articles

  • How To Become A Full Stack Web Developer: A Complete Guide
  • What Is An AWS Solutions Architect? A Complete Guide
  • 6 Highest-Paying Skills (And Ways To Improve Them)
  • Network Engineer Vs Software Engineer: What Are The Differences?
  • 15 Highest-Paying Jobs In Agriculture (With Salary)
  • How To Write A Follow-Up Letter (With Template And Examples)
  • What Does A Mechanic Do? (With Skills And Qualifications)
  • 13 Alternative Career Options For Chefs Looking For Change
  • Job Description For A Store Assistant (Duties And Example)
  • Insurance Broker Vs. Insurance Agent (With Salaries)
  • 5 SQL Developer Certification Courses To Pursue (With Benefits And Tips)
  • Radiographer Vs Radiologist (With Duties And Requirements)