1) Talk to other DJs. This is the best way to learn about this career. Find out how they secured their position and what type of skills you need.
2) Ask about a mentorship. Check to see if you can study under a DJ in order to learn the business. This will typically be a non-paying position.
3) Learn about all aspects of music. You need to know about all genres of music, including the popular types that are played at weddings, clubs and other events.
4) Borrow or rent DJ equipment. When you first start out, you don't need to purchase your own equipment right away. Depending on what type of DJ that you wish to become, you may need turntables, CDs, mixers and basic stereo equipment.
5) Advertise your DJ services. You can advertise online, in the newspaper or print out flyers in order to attract business.
A nightclub DJ plays music at clubs and bars. Club DJs can be hired just for a night, or can have what is called a residency at the club. This is like a full time job. The club DJ plays every night, or on certain nights of the week. If you make a name for yourself as a club DJ, you may get to play gigs in different cities, states, or even countries. The top club DJs get to travel around the world playing new clubs each week, and get paid very well. Only a small percentage of people achieve this level though. Usually, to make it that far, you need to also produce your own music and be signed to a record label.
Mobile DJs are the ones that play music at Weddings, Birthdays, Bar Mitzvahs, and School Dances. They bring their own DJ equipment to the events. Mobile DJs usually run their own business, or work for someone else. They can make a lot of money, because these are special occasions. But make no mistake, it can be tough work dealing with parents, brides, and teachers at these events. You have to have people skills to be a mobile DJ, and deal with much more than just playing music.
The DJ Basics
The first thing you learn to do as a DJ is called mixing. This is the act of mixing one song into another. There are two things to keep in mind when learning how to mix:
When you learn to mix two songs together, you have to make sure to match their volumes. You don't want the new song to mix in much louder or softer than the current one. One way to check the volume of the songs is by looking at the colored LED lights on your mixer. These lights are a visual representation of the volume of each track. If they volume is matched correctly, these lights should peak at the same level as each other.
Another way to check the volume of an incoming song is to listen to both songs in your DJ headphones. While one song is getting played out to the crowd, you can put on your headphones and listen to that song plus the new song you are getting ready to play. This is done by "cueing" the song up. The crowd can't hear the new song yet, but you can in your headphones. If your DJ mixer has a "split cue" function, you can play one song in one ear, and the new song in the other ear. This is a good way to gauge the volume of each song, and make sure they match.
Beat matching is the 2nd skill you should be aware of when trying to mix two songs together. Each song has it's own BPM, or Beats Per Minute speed. Just like it sounds, it's how many beats happen during one minute of play. As a DJ, you want to learn how to match the BPM of the two different songs so that they blend together in a smooth way. This means you may have to speed up, or slow down the new song so it will match the BPM of the current song. This is done in the headphones as well, so that the crowd doesn't hear anything until you want them too when you crossfade into the new song.
It is not necessary to learn to scratch unless you plan to DJ at clubs. Wedding and formal event DJs do not need to scratch.
If you want to become a radio DJ, you should consider getting a degree in broadcasting.