How do I create a DJ mix

6 golden rules for the perfect DJ mix

This is how you get the best out of the DJ mix

No matter whether you distribute your mixtapes on CD, via download or online on platforms such as Mixcloud:DJ mixes areone of the most important advertising tools available to a DJ. In addition, as a DJ you naturally have a thieving pleasure in creating new mixes and presenting them to the public. In order for this enthusiasm to be carried over to your listeners, your “publications” should have a certain quality. DJ Rick Ski introduces you to the 6 golden rules that you should absolutely observe when creating DJ mixes in order to get the best out of it.

Rule # 1: Establish a working title and topic

When planning any creative project that includes a DJ mix, it is advisable to define a topic or a working title at the beginning. Examples of this from my genre would be “Westcoast Hip Hop Classics” or “Cabrio Funk”. These topics already provide a basic direction in terms of song selection and mixing techniques, so that one does not lose oneself in the almost infinite variety of possibilities during the creation process.

Rule # 2: A mix is ​​different from a club set

When choosing a track for a DJ mix, one should note that the audience sometimes listens more intensely to the music than on a club set, where they can have fun on the dance floor. I would therefore advise you against more monotonous songs that might work well on the dance floor. The pleasant thing about the music selection for a “mixtape” (that's what it was called on cassette) is, among other things, that the selected songs don't necessarily have to be floor fillers and that you can dare to “pick” the songs.

Regardless of the topic, you should pay attention to a varied compilation, i.e. include hits as well as classics or underground songs of the preferred genre. If the working title (example: "Best of Rap 2015") excludes certain titles (here classic), make sure that the mix remains interesting thanks to the title sequence. More on this later in the text. Regardless of whether you work with a DVS system, audio CDs or vinyl records, you should always pay attention to the sound quality of the sound carriers used. For example, if you use vinyl bootlegs that are pressed too quietly or MP3 files with a low resolution, even the best EQ cannot do much in post-production.

Rule # 3: Only perform mix / scratch techniques that you can master while you sleep

Technology is one thing, mastering it is another. My experience has shown me that the majority of listeners prefer DJ mixes that get down to business. “Letting the songs run” for minutes here often seems boring and hand on heart: Actually, that's what the regular albums and compilations are for. So variety and action are required. In contrast to a club set, with a DJ mix you can work more often with style elements such as scratches, loops, filter Fx, backspins or beat juggles. After all, you don't have to worry about the mood on the dance floor. Nevertheless, you should use these stylistic devices in moderation and well-dosed (exception: pure turntablism mixes) and not overwhelm the audience. The most important rule: Always only perform the mix and scratch techniques that you master in your sleep, so that it doesn't rumble and hook. Mashed sound doesn't get you any further and less is sometimes more.

In a DJ mix, only those DJ techniques should be performed that you really have mastered and your own handwriting should also be recognizable in the mix. For example, using the transitions, FX and turntablism inserts.

Rule 4: Your own handwriting must be recognizable

Nowadays, DJ mixes are usually no longer offered for sale on a sound carrier, but mainly serve as a promotional tool for the respective DJ. The visual variant of a cover, including a photo and logo of the artist, as is still known from physical sound carriers (vinyl, CD), is therefore increasingly being omitted.

In order to avoid that your own mix gets lost in the mass of anonymous audio files, appropriate audio branding is highly recommended. This can be done by moderation or by playing DJ jingles, for example “You are listening to the“ ABC mix by the one and only DJ-XYZ ”. Even cleverly placed "shoutouts" (naming of the DJ name by prominent artists) can increase your attractiveness as an artist enormously. Your own signature and personality should also be reflected in the choice of music, the transitions and the choice of effects, to name just a few The world belongs to the brave, so dare to do something!

Rule 5: Plan the structure and suspense

Basically, a DJ mix should - to put it simply - consist of the three blocks intro, main part and outro. The introduction can be an instrumental song over which the DJ introduces himself and the mix on the microphone. Perhaps you'd prefer to create a scratch collage with corresponding wordcuts. Orchestra fanfares also usually work very well. The possibilities are many, so just be creative.

The main passage of the mix can in turn be divided into individual blocks. Examples of this would be: instrumental sections, party breaks or scratch parts. Overall, one should make sure to create an arc of suspense or a dramaturgy by skillfully combining quieter passages with intense sections and highlights. The conclusion should be a stylistically appropriate outro. For example, you can say goodbye to the audience via an instrumental with a microphone fade-in and point out any upcoming projects and contact options (web address, Facebook) for the purpose of booking.

When considering the length of the mix, keep in mind that these days they are mostly consumed on the computer. Very long playing times are not advisable, as experience has shown that the average attention span is short. I recommend a playing time between 30 and 90 minutes.

 

Volume and tone corrections can be made in post-production using a DAW.

Rule # 6: Finalize and optimize your work

Take enough time for recording, mixdown and finalization In the past, DJs recorded their mix sessions on cassettes, DATs or mini discs, but now computers and DAWs are usually the method of choice. Pay attention to the audio quality when recording, because annoying hissing and crackling, channel failures and the like can result from too long or faulty analog lines and should of course be avoided. It is not advisable to use the onboard audio interfaces built into the computer for recording, as these often only have mediocre audio quality. Suitable external solutions are already available for less than € 50, so don't save money at the wrong end.

When recording, make sure that the level is not too high, as this causes clipping in the analog / digital converter. Unfortunately, the resulting noise cannot be corrected afterwards. If, on the other hand, the input signal is too quiet, it loses its dynamics and the noise component increases too much with the subsequent level adjustment. So a little tact and mindfulness is required.

In the past you usually had to record your mixes in one take, fortunately with a DAW you have the option of subsequent error correction via audio editing. You should always pay attention to the clock accuracy. Excessive volume fluctuations should also be compensated for in post-processing. Subsequent tonal post-processing of the overall signal is recommended, with a favorite mix of yours serving as a reference.

If you make your mix available as a download (note copyrights), it should be provided with metadata. This can be done with the DAW, iTunes or other tools. Add information such as your DJ name, the title of the mix and your web address as well as a suitable cover art that presents the mix in a more professional manner and thus makes it appear more valuable than an anonymous audio file. The "packaging" is also important in the digital age.

Résumé

In my experience, if you take these 6 golden rules to heart when creating your DJ mixes, you will also be able to get them well received by the target group. And how about you guys? Do you have any other tips or similar experiences? Then let us know. The comment area is available to you for this.

Until then and "Keep the tables turning!"

DJ Rick Ski (Author)

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