When we decided we wanted to share some knowledge about DJing to beginners, we couldn’t think of a better person to deliver their wisdom. Nina Las Vegas is many things; a producer, an artist manager, a music industry mainstay, a label head, and of course, a DJ. She dropped in to our offices earlier in the year to take us through all things DJ’ing from the ground up.

We also couldn’t think of a better product, the DJ-202 is paired back and streamlined, offering everything a beginner needs in an easy-to-learn format, without holding back on professional features.

The following video is broken down into 6 sections, each focusing on a key aspect of what DJs do, and how you can do it too.

BEAT-MATCHING

Beat matching is an essential skill for any DJ. Beat-matching simply means making track 1 and track 2 play together at the same speed, allowing you to move between them smoothly.

Back in the days of vinyl, this had to be done entirely by ear with an analogue pitch slider. This process was quite difficult to learn and demanded DJs constant attention to nurture the turntable and keep the track in time.

Now with modern DJ technology, beat-matching is as easy as lining up the BPMs of both tracks or hitting the sync button. This frees the DJ up to focus on track selection and transitions, both of which we’ll talk about later.

MIXING

So we’ve got the tracks lined up, beat-matched, and playing together in time. Now, let’s talk about how to move from one song to the next.

A DJ mixer can be thought of as an instrument. Like any instrument, it will likely seem intimidating at first and will take time & patience to master.

Once you get comfortable with the knobs and dials, you’ll unlock a tonne of options for mixing songs in your own style. As Nina demonstrates in this video, DJ mixers allow us to create smooth, gradual transitions, or abrupt and dramatic changes – and everything in between.

In this demonstration, Nina’s using the DJ-202 which has a typical knob layout. We’ve got the track fader to control volume, three EQs for bass, middle and treble, and a filter for taking out either the bass or treble.

PHRASING

Knowing when to mix is arguably just as important as knowing how to mix. Understanding how dance music is structured is a crucial skill and will ensure your sets flow smoothly.

When starting out, it can be helpful to count along with the music to identify 4, 8, and 16-bar patterns. Over time this will become intuitive and something you feel without thinking about it.

Getting this right means avoiding awkward pauses in the music as you mix, or songs dropping at unexpected times, interrupting the flow of the set.

HARMONIC MIXING

Unfortunately, some tracks just don’t play nice together, even when they’re beat-matched and in the same genre. Without going too deep into music theory, tracks in conflicting keys can clash and produce ugly dissonance.

In traditional music theory, keys are called things like C, A minor, G sharp minor etc. The world of DJing introduced the Camelot system which uses numbers, arranged around a wheel instead.

Nina’s using the DJ-202 controller here, which is designed to work with the DJ software, Serato. Serato automatically analyses the key signature of your tracks to guide you on how to mix harmoniously.

Songs with the same numbers will work together, and songs one number up or down will also work. This means you can travel around the wheel in either direction without things clashing. Inversely, tracks on the opposite sides of the wheel will clash.

TRACK SELECTION

It’s important to remember that a DJ only has one job, to curate an experience through music. A good DJ knows how to use music to affect people, to get them moving, or to create a vibe. More so than anything we’ve spoken about previously, this is done through track selection.

In some scenes, DJs are referred to by another name; selectors. This is an apt title, as it focuses on the DJ’s role as a curator, rather than a performer. It’s also worth pointing out that while most dance music DJs (including Nina) beat-match and mix every track to create smooth, flowing sets, many DJs don’t do that at all. Some selectors gently fade between songs using only the volume, or use delays to create an “echo out,” or simply stop one track before playing the next.

While some styles of mixing work better for certain genres or situations, (for example, beat matching to keep a consistent rhythm between songs is appropriate to keep dancers moving) there’s no right or wrong way to mix. What’s important is the music you’re sharing with the audience.

WATCH THE FULL VIDEO

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