Some DJs make a name by their music selection alone. Some are outstanding producers. Some employ stage gimmicks in combination to the above. Some don’t stop at playback, and create mashups, remixes and live performances on the fly. Some employ whole instrumental ensembles. Whatever approach you take towards learning how to DJ, you’ll want to stand out. Check out a few examples of non-traditional DJ methods that have put selectors on the map.
In this pretty cool interview, Lena Willikens describes how even the smell and temperature of the room can influence her track selection. It’s a great example of following your own judgment to create an identity out of your track choice. As you develop a sophisticated taste, communicate it clearly. You are the one that the people look to for advice on what’s hot and worth listening to on a week-by-week basis. Keep an eye on the charts, but spend as much time as possible crate digging and finding the music that fits your personality.
Technology plays a huge part in the arsenal of the more alternative DJ. Your choice of weaponry says as much about you as your music choice. And with the options available to DJs today, even a little technical understanding will take you a long way. From the technical overkill of Daft Punk to the simplest laptop setup, the level and character of technology you harness will say as much about you as your track choice. You’ll probably find yourself lumped in to one of a few camps. But labels like hip hop, techno, house, EDM don’t really matter. Becoming a DJ is about how you use the gear.
Having a pair of bongo drums or a guitar on stage with you is a great idea. If you’re able to enlist a friend or even play it yourself, you should seriously consider it. There are still enough solo, non-instrumental DJs in the world to make a bit of live action a massively intriguing part of your set. You don’t have to be this guy and play twenty instruments (you are a DJ, after all), but get some percussion in there and watch the difference it makes to the crowd.
Advancing your DJing skills and reputation means learning the DJ trade by going the way that the others aren’t going. It’s not rocket science. Pretty soon, whatever is trending becomes boring. Start looking for alternatives to the norm and position yourself as someone original as early as possible. You’ll feel the difference in the satisfaction with your work.
John Bartmann is an award-winning music producer and DJ.