Spinning records at clubs, parties and on radio, giving invaluable support to music artists; being a DJ has to be the coolest profession out there. Here, I walk you through the 411 on how to become a Disc Jockey.
Would you make a good DJ?
The fact that it looks cool doesn’t mean it’s easy to become a respected DJ. And the fact that it doesn’t require degrees doesn’t mean anybody can do it. If you have a love for music you have a good chance. But the best way to know if it’s for you is to intern with an established DJ and decide if you want to stick with it; because it takes years to build your career as a DJ.
Where should you start?
The best DJs are teachable people and there’s no better way than to start off as a student apprentice of someone who’s experienced in the industry. That person will have to give you access to a DJ studio where you can learn the techniques necessary.
What’s up with all the fancy equipment?
DJing has evolved a whole lot since the seventies. There are different kinds of equipment, from the Vinyl Turntables, to CD Turntables and lots of modern hardware and software. If you work your way from turntable decks (vinyl or CD) before getting used to the newer technology, you would be a better DJ. There are a lot of technological advancements in the DJ profession but the problem is that many of them do the work for you. If you count on things like the Virtual DJ software and other apps, you will not get any respect in the industry. After all, the word, ‘virtual’ means ‘fake’.
What the heck is Serato?
Serato is a technology that combines hardware and software to make the DJ profession a hundred times easier. This revolutionary technology which became popular in the early 2000s, allows DJs to carry their entire music library in their laptops while retaining the control of turntables. Every serious DJ owns one.
What are the basic skills one needs to learn?
You will need to learn beat-matching, which entails taking two different songs and making them beat in harmony as you transition from one to another. It is a very delicate skill and can be quite frustrating in the first few weeks of your training. A DJ who is not good at beat-matching is just like a chef who simply warms food bought from restaurants.
Another important skill is; knowing how to connect the various equipment. This is actually the first thing that a DJ should learn and it will require accompanying an established DJ to live events for practical training. A DJ who doesn’t learn this will be humiliated when there’s a technical fault during his set and he cannot fix it.
What about scratching?
Scratching is a complex skill which you learn after you learn beat-matching, and the truth is that most DJs can’t scratch. Even a monkey can place his fingers on a turntable and move it back and forth; that is called a baby scratch and it is the only scratch that many DJs know. There are about seven basic scratches and a real scratch DJ masters them and combines them, creating the kinds of combinations you hear on actual tracks (example Return of the Mack).
You don’t have to learn to scratch to be a DJ but the truth is that it helps you stand out and it is so much fun performing scratches.
So, no education needed?
Erm… not exactly. These days, Nigerian DJs can achieve celebrity status if they master their craft and understand how to brand themselves. Sooner or later, such a DJ is going to be interviewed or will need to express himself on social media or get on the microphone to hype the club. It is important for a DJ to do everything to improve himself or herself.
Any other advice?
An eagerness to learn and a humble attitude will take a Disc Jockey far. In our interview with legendary, Cool DJ Jimmy Jatt, he pointed out that he believes he has been around because of how much he treats people. Being a good guy works in every profession.