What Skills Do You Need To Be a DJ?

What Skills Do You Need To Be a DJ?

As a teenager, we feel music gets us through life.  Music is our lives.  Depending on our moods, up, down, sad, angry, confused, or in love, music will enhance our moods or change them. 

Have you ever thought, I love music so much why not choose a career where I can listen to music; all the time?  Perfect!  I wonder what skills are needed to be a DJ, how much college will I have to have?   

At age 17 an ad appeared for a radio DJ in our local newspaper.  Hey!  Wow, what an opportunity.  I know music, I love music!  This is awesome, I beg my mother to take me to the interview after I applied.

(I can only imagine what the interviewer thought after I left, I’m pretty sure he didn’t see me as DJ then, or anytime soon). 

I know what I knew, my dreams were crushed.  The interview went like this:

  • Interviewer: What makes you want to be a Radio DJ?
  • Me: I love music. I’m a quick learner.
  • Interviewer: What skills do you have to bring to our team?
  • Me: I love to talk.  I play the organ and I sing to myself all the time.
  • Interviewer: What experience do you have with the radio?
  • Me: I listen all the time and keep up on all the new music.

Okay, so maybe I don’t want to be a DJ, at least not until I graduate and go to college, get some skills and experience, then I will apply again!

So what skills do you need to be a DJ?  An important skill to have to be a DJ are people skills.  If at all possible, take a college course in communication.  Or you can do this by taking a trip to your local library.  There will be several great books on learning how to improve your people skills and suggest ways to communicate.

Communication is necessary and important.  You will have to speak to lots of people to promote your business.  Learning to speak with an assorted variety of people, you can do a little asking around or research.  If it’s a local company others may be able to let you know what this person is like. 

A Radio/Television Broadcasting Degree is invaluable.  This does not mean you have to have one, many DJs learn from trial and error and mistakes are made.  Some people are self-learners.  Give them the equipment, and they will or can learn what every button is about, where to place the lighting and even know the sounds in the room the equipment is making. 

Know your equipment.  And yes, this will take practice and skill.  Nothing is worse than a DJ fumbling around with their equipment.  You should learn to mix music, lead into a song and leave very little room for silence.  Know the different genres of music, if not, before a gig, locate sites you can pull up fast and easily.  

New Age of Technology

This is the New Age of Technology.  As in any profession, technology is constantly changing.  It is a never-ending, fast pace industry.  Just when you think you have the perfect speakers, keyboard, microphones, controllers, and top of the line computer and lighting system, something new will come out!  Understand that even those this new technology comes out, you do not have to purchase.  If you have your entertainment package where you have become an expert with the equipment, do not change it.  This could be disastrous.  There is an old saying; stick with what you know.  I’m sure that came from my grandparents but, it does have merit.

For some DJs, they are quite content with using their laptop, software, turntable and great speakers. It takes courage (and money) to update your equipment.  Google any website for DJ equipment and the prices range from $700.00 to $3000.00 and up.  A variety of new equipment is available.  There is equipment from the new beginner DJ to the expert DJ and even for the person who DJs for fun.  To which can seem overwhelming, complicated and daunting.

There is now new DJ software and controllers to help your DJ experience go a lot smoother.  The equipment may seem overwhelming when setting up, however you will learn how to mix, sing, control the lights, the sound, the music all with a touch!  You will know how to interact with the audience while your hands are busy with the equipment.

The Right People Skills

The Right People Skills can be from interaction with the crowd, and again, having the intuition to feel out the crowd.  The amazing characters and personalities are all out there in one room.  This crowd is counting on you to entertain them, not just with the music, but mingling with them.  Treat them with respect.  Interaction with the crowd cannot be stressed enough.  If you are rude or disrespectful, play music only you like, the crowd will disappear fast. 

There will be times when there is a heckler or inebriated customer.  They are probably not alone, or maybe they are, instead of becoming angry with this person, understand where they are coming from.  Find a way, the best you can without confrontation to calm them.  When this doesn’t work, there is always a bouncer close by.  You have to learn to shake this off and get right back to the music. 

Knowing All the Hits

Okay, knowing all the hits for any one person is nearly impossible.  There are several ways, however, to stay up on the latest music.  Several websites or free for downloading digital music.  It is not at all hard.

Planning your venue can assist with playing different genres of music.  If you’re playing a Country and Western nightclub.  Do your homework.  Download the music and plan your playlist ahead of time.  This is not to say you have to know and play All the popular country songs, but you will have your fingertips, tons of country music. 

Believe it or not, some DJs are great at knowing exactly where to go to pull a song up and have it playing within a matter of minutes.

Know your crowd, know your venue before every event.  Plan for it.  Take the time to learn new music and be able to find it quickly if possible.  If for some reason you can’t find the song, be honest with the crowd (or person requesting the song), let them know you will find it later and have it ready.  Remember that person, they may return next weekend.

I mean, come on, it may be disappointing to not be able to hear your favorite song, but it’s not the end of the world.  This is where your people and social skills come in to play.  Handle it tactfully. 

How can I be a DJ just for fun? 

To DJ rather for fun, or profit can be exhilarating.  Start small, birthday parties, family gatherings, barbecues, family reunions, church activities.  Play for work, your job, career (co-workers promotion party, holidays), be careful with this one, you have to see them tomorrow. 

This may help, as you will not face so much criticism, encouragement is always great and builds us up for the next performance.  You not only enhance your ability and skills to DJ but, will have a great time. 

Who knows?  You may become so experienced and confident, that others, by word of mouth, can recommend you and you can make a profit from performing as a DJ just for fun.

Those who know you are more likely, to be honest with you, this can help lead you forward.  They do know you and are likely to be gentle while pointing out flaws or mistakes.  This is positive.

I am shy, can I still be a DJ? 

Yes, you can be shy and still be a great DJ.  You are working with a crowd who does not know you.  They don’t know that you’re shy.  To be a DJ can be related to being an actor or actress.  You may be a businessman during the day or a secretary, view being as acting.  Put on that mask and become someone else for a few hours. 

You’re behind the Mic, the equipment, the music.  Where you would commonly stay to yourself, to DJ, allows you to be a part of the crowd!  Those butterflies are perfect.

Know your music, know your equipment, and be lighthearted and humorous.  The anxiety of mingling and playing music for the crowd will become easier each time you play.  Especially once you see the floor crowded!  If you make a mistake, and you will, don’t cringe, cover it with jokes.  Make light of it. 

Get your feet wet and play for a local venue.  None of us are perfect and will make mistakes.  You can learn to laugh at yourself or find coping skills.

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