Best Resources to Learn to DJ

If you are looking to get into DJing, there are only two steps which need to be addressed: learn all you can, and practice all you can. I recommend deciding whether you are truly wanting to do this, because it is an expensive hobby, and you are likely to face a lot of criticism and mistakes before you get good. Obviously it is highly recommended that you decide to take up the opportunity to learn, because DJing is super fun, and it means I haven't written this article for nothing! You don't need to have prior knowledge as a musician, but interestingly, all the best DJs I've met have been drummers, so if you are a drummer then you probably have a great head start. 

For me, in terms of getting started, I took the geek way - decided I wanted to be a DJ and walked to the library to ask for every book they had on it. Two weeks later, I had read four books cover to cover (one of them twice) and taken notes on everything that I was particularly interested in. I bought a controller immediately after that and started practicing. 

What worked really well with learning this way was that even before I had actually practiced, I was aware of all the concepts, from the basic beatmatching, to the more advanced techniques. It meant I had a journey already in my head which I could follow through as I practice, and nail everything I knew I was interested in. 

Practicing blind, without knowing where you are going is probably one of the hardest ways to learn an instrument. I have always been mediocre with guitar because I never had a "next goal". There was always a new song which I'd decide to attempt., but if I needed to know a technique for it, it wasn't stated in the tab, and so I had no way to employ it.

By knowing as much as you can theory-wise, everything falls into place when you actually go about doing it. Beatmatching, for example is not a skill many modern DJs learn from the start, instead falling into the trap of their first gig with CDJs, having no way to mix. If you know these pitfalls and essentials, you will learn so much faster, and more importantly not get stuck when you are most vulnerable.

Here are some of the best resources out there:

Its pretty great knowing that the For Dummies series is so vast, you can learn near enough every modern day skill with a bit of reference to one of the books in the series. Now in the third edition, DJing For Dummies remains one of the most complete guides for beginner DJs, and even acts as a great reference for the more experienced too!

It contains details on not just theory and technique, but also the types of equipment a DJ will encounter, and even career advice for those looking to make it as a working DJ. This book is probably the single most accessible guide to DJing in paperback form on the market today.

There are of course many books out there, but you will inevitably find that they all give roughly the same intro to DJing. Each follows almost the exact same chapter list and so all you really need is one comprehensive guide, and an open eye for any other articles on the subjects online. 

This next one is by far the most extensive resource for DJing, and it is by the man in the photo above. Going by the name of Ellaskins, he operates one of the most committed Youtube channels I have ever found. He regularly uploads videos sometimes multiple daily, with a plethora of DJ tips and advice, as well as general insights into the industry. You will be hard pushed to find anything that comes close to the amount of information he has to give. 

The only issue with using this channel as your first introduction to DJing is that he now has four and a half thousand videos uploaded at the time of publishing. There obviously isn't enough time for anyone to go through everything he has done in a reasonable time frame, and so for the first couple of years where I was learning and improving, I would try and watch a few videos a day.

I guarantee you that picking any ten tutorial videos from him, will genuinely improve both your technique and understanding of DJing. The fact remains, that even just watching other people DJ, or talk about it, you get new angles or techniques of doing the same job, and they can really change up the way you play, or inspire you to invent new techniques for yourself.

This point here may seem like a cop-out, because sure, I could recommend more books or content creators, but the absolute best thing to have once you have a grasp of the basics, is your own resources to practice on. It may sound strange, but if you don't have your gear set up in the right way, you can be badly affected when it comes to practice. 

Most notably, is practicing, from the start, on good speakers. What I mean by "good speakers" are studio monitors, or speakers which accurately represent the bass. If you are practicing on a cheap computer speaker, or portable speaker, there won't be enough low end for you to mix accurately. Imagine trying to paint a sunset but the red paint is invisible to you. You have no way of knowing if you need to add more, less, or if it is even working with the overall picture.

This analogy is like speakers where you can't hear the bass. Just like a sunset is full of red colour, the typical tracks a DJ mixes are bass heavy. When practicing mixing, you need to have a good representation of the bass, otherwise once you are on a good sound system, you could have two clashing basslines, previously unheard by yourself. 

Besides speakers, make sure you are learning on the correct piece of gear for what you want. If you want to learn to scratch and move on to vinyl, don't buy the Novation Twitch, or the Traktor Kontrol S8. As obvious as it sounds, making the right choices from the start, which reflect the direction you intend to go in, will help you out, and more importantly, save you money in the long run.