Learning to DJ through the Years

Learning to DJ is an ever-changing playing field. The only constant in the world is change. There is nothing more we can rely on as fully as this. We are constantly in a state of change as is the world around us. This includes the tools we use, the music we like, the people we hang out with; literally everything around us. So what has this got to do with learning to DJ I hear you ask?

Learning to DJ

When I was first learning to DJ, I didn’t own a computer. The internet didn’t even exist, or at least not in most standard households. Now that makes me seem old, but in fact it only feels like yesterday.
Learning to DJ with turntableThe process of learning to DJ for me started by watching a friend mix two records together. Fascinated then, by what now seems such a basic function, or dare I say overlooked function. Beat-matching. It seems that people require more fancy colourful buttons to stir the same fascination these days.
The raw simplicity of two turntables and a mixer, enabled ‘jedi-like’ focus on one specific task; listening. Learning to DJ simply meant that you had to listen! That’s it, one simple task, listen to the music and make the tracks sound in-time. It sounds simple and to some almost Neanderthal. Being in that place of focus and at one with the music immerses you in the mix. All other distractions disappear and learning can begin.

The Introduction to ‘Change’

As I mentioned above, all things change and the introduction of CDJ’s, brought with it new challenges. The concept was still the same, but a few other intricacies needed to be learnt. The feel of the platter was different, the amount of push required had changed and the introduction of loops and cue points gave birth to a whole new style of mixing. There was more to think about, but also more possibilities. Aside from this, you didn’t need a ‘roadie’ to help carry your records anymore. Walking into the club as a DJ didn’t quite feel the same. The days of asking people to move out the way, as you just couldn’t squeeze through with your record box, had given way to a more stealth appearance at the club.

CDJ and turntables "Learning to DJ"Learning to DJ on CDJ’s was a natural progression for many. Adopters of new technology found it easy to transfer their turntable skills, soaking up the technology. With the ability of putting music onto CD, DJ’ing became more accessible. Music was more abundant, giving birth to more DJ’s and more scope for teaching people to DJ.
Many people still taught themselves, as the first CD players were very simple, not too many buttons and the skills were very easy to pick up. The CDJ players had a BPM counter, which gave extra guidance to those who could not quite master the art of beat-matching solely by ear. Yes, there were already mixers that could carry out that function, but they were never really as acurate as the CDJ’s at measuring the beat.


When digital DJ’ing came onto the scene it took a while for many to adopt . There wasn’t really any midi controllers and things were still mouse control, or even scratch control, so the move to digital was a slow start. Many people remained in the Vinyl or CD realm as people were not used to computers and the sound quality wasn’t as good. Learning to DJ on a computer was a self taught trial and error process. There were not many ‘DJ Schools’ but this was soon to change as the popularity of ‘becoming a DJ‘ exploded.

Computers got cheaper, music became infinitely abundant and the introduction of syncing meant that anyone could ‘become a DJ‘.

“I can just load up a bunch of tracks, hit play and it does it all for me!” 

This was the attitude of many a ‘wanna-be-DJ’s‘, they wanted it easy. But as time progressed people have learnt that to stand out from the crowd and to really become a ‘proper DJ‘, they had to excel and shine at something. They couldn’t just stand there and press a button every 5 minutes.

Learning to DJ with Traktor Basics Cousre Screen ShotThe programmes become more intricate, the tools and controls became more complicated and learning to DJ turned into a very technological experience. Those born into this era, tend not to have too much difficulty picking up technology quickly and seeing 2 year olds using iPads and 8 year olds teaching Dad how to use the phone, is not uncommon. But this is not the case for many. Some people have the fear of moving to technology from their vinyl set up, or others just feel overwhelmed by all the buttons and the set up. Others just don’t have the time to learn. We all live our busy lives and often want to shine at something immediately without the hassles of learning. I know I am guilty of this. If I can’t do it quickly, or easily, then I tend to give up too quickly and easily.

Because of this, DJ schools have popped up all over the place. They are many peoples’ saviour. Schools have removed the confusion element when starting out to DJ, clearing a path for DJ’s to get started out on. With the huge amount of choices and paths one can take, it helps to get some early stage guidance so that you pick the right path. It’s also important to learn the fundamentals of DJ’ing in order to really shine and understand the music. As Digital DJ Tips pointed out a little while ago in an article about beat-matching by ear, along with an article I wrote (Keep it Simple – Focus on the Music), it’s obvious that people are understanding the importance that the true art of the DJ is coming back into focus.

Get the balance right to get the mix right

Loco Dice - (Learning to DJ article)There are a lot of factors we need to focus on when Learning to DJ and they all need the right amount of attention, just like growing your own food. The seed needs the right amount of care, the right amount of water, sunlight, shade, and love. The same is true of anything that we grow, including our skill sets.

If you don’t know what conditions the seed likes, you’re not going to grow it right. If you’re completely lost when you look at Traktor, or you have no one else to ask, then it’s wise to take a course. The factors any Dj starting out should focus on are:-

  • Know what you want to achieve – Set your goal
  • Research the tools you want to use
  • Learn from an experienced DJ
  • Know your set up / Equipment like the back of your hand (includes Beat-Matching)
  • Know your Music
  • Network with like-minded people
  • Be Social – Online & Off
  • Be humble but confident
  • Work Hard – (Nothing comes to those that don’t put in effort)
  • Focus
  • Practice
  • Promote
  • Live, breathe & play music

Now go and get it!

Learning to DJ with Traktor just got easier with the Traktor Tips Online Course.

photo credit: The Man in Blue and kayintveenvia photopin cc

2 thoughts on “Learning to DJ through the Years

  1. on point sir!!! I can DJ off either form of equipment given enough time to mess with it, but i use what I’m most comfortable with. Even with my digital gear, the main thing i always work on is beat matching! its so crucial!

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