DJing: Everything You Need to Know Before Starting


DJing: Everything You Need to Know Before Starting

Not long ago, I knew nothing about DJing or even considered it a hobby.

Sure, I loved music and listened to world-famous DJs every day, but for some reason, even getting the equipment and learning what buttons do, was somehow overwhelming.

A lot of topics, terms, concepts… And I was questioning myself, like “do I even want to do this? “.

But, I was eager to make a move. With a bit of free time and a strong will, I decided to start learning about DJing and, at least for a start, to become a bedroom DJ – as the DJ community calls those who only mix at home.

Today, I’ve decided to put my writing skills in action for future newbies in this field.

Specifically, I looked at questions that I was asking as a beginner, including:

  • What if you don’t have much of a background in music?
  • How much time on average should you invest?
  • Why being a bedroom DJ only is totally fine?
  • Does your age even matter?
  • What are the costs of DJing as a hobby?
  • How to start?
  • Quick tips regarding the equipment for beginners?

This article is all you need if you’re not sure if DJing is for you.

Is DJing a Good Hobby

If you’re like I was, a future bedroom hobby DJ, you probably know how much you don’t know. I’ve done in-depth research on this topic because, as I’ve said, I only recently entered the DJ world, so this content is pretty fresh.

DJing is a great and fun hobby that promotes creativity and expression. If you have a perception of different tunes and music and how to put it together and want to introduce your take on music to other people, this is your hobby. 

You need to be willing to learn and accept the fact that knowledge mostly comes from experience. If you don’t cover the basics and practice enough, you’ll quickly get lost along the way. When you hear your vision of mixed tunes playing live is a gratifying feeling. And if you, on top of that, make a few people in a room go nuts, you’ll get hooked.

DJing is in some way like a puzzle or legos. With building blocks, which are the parts of a song, you’re forming a mix or a live set and turning the existing tunes into something totally different, and often better.

There’s hardly something more purifying than a great melodic transition. And as you get better, you also start to love the performance aspect of it. 

Any kind of music practice is extremely more fulfilling than any Playstation game, and I’m also a gamer. 

DJing is also cool because there’s always something else to learn and add. You’ll learn how to prepare tracks better, there will always be a more satisfying blend, more pure EQ, more established transition, more unusual cuts. That’s why it pulls you in.

You’ll feel this magical sensation when you drop a song at the right second to get a transition just right. Then you’ll keep trying to obtain that magic again and again.

What If You Don’t Have Much of a Background in Music

How big of an obstacle is this? And how simple is it to master the fundamentals to set a structure to start learning DJing?

When you hear the music, are you passively listening to the song structure? (eg. intro, verses, choruses, builds, drops) 

Can you easily predict how the song will flow even if it’s unknown to you? After hearing two songs, can you roughly say which one has a better flow?

Even if you don’t have an ear for this, don’t worry, you can learn it with time. It would help, but it’s certainly not necessary.

The main thing you’ll need to learn is how to count music (beats, bars & phrases) and how to count it for the genre you’re interested in. And then you’ll research the harmonic key. That also shouldn’t be a problem. 

Figure you’ll need up to 3 months learning how to count music (~25-55 hours) and two months for harmonic mixing. That should be enough for you to learn how to build a DJ set.

What Makes DJing Interesting for You?

What makes mixing exciting for you? Is there anything particular you love in DJing?

Ever hear a song and go “good lord, that would sound great if combined with this song”? That’s what got me into this hobby.

I love the complexity curve. You have to put time into anything you do.

How often are you using Shazam to find some good tune you hear on the radio? Finding music is like 50% of the fun for me.

And once you gather your catalog of tracks, you’ll get to the point where you hear something new, and say to yourself, “holy cow, this song would transition perfectly into this other song that I love.”

Is there anything specific genre you like? I am currently obsessed with tech-house. Hot Since 82 is a great way to introduce yourself to it. Do you love EDM, House sub-genres, Techno, or Hip-Hop? If you don’t have a genre you’re so into, don’t worry, you’ll get there.

Before I started, for a long time I’ve been fantasizing about starting bedroom mixing. It’s an interesting way to “listen” to new tracks. If you usually just pop in tracks in your media player, it’s like watching a film. If you drop them into your controller, it’s like playing a video game.

So, what makes it attractive for you? The experimentation? Once you get started, the feeling of being able to try anything is exhilarating.

Are you trying to get to a point where you can play live? You’re probably planning on playing house parties just for fun, but who knows what the future holds. 

And you know what to do if you get bored? Download new tunes. And maybe take a break for a day or three if you feel burnt out.

Don’t get frustrated in the beginning, though. Because there will be a period where you just suck, there’s no way around it. 

You can even start DJing without equipment if you still haven’t got a controller!

If you can afford it, take lessons. Just taking lessons once a week for one month helped me out immensely. Or use YouTube as a resource. Please don’t get frustrated and stop doing it! 

It will probably take you 7 to 12 months with almost daily practice to start sounding “okay.”

How Much Time on Average Should You Invest

Do you think you could commit ~3-4 hours a week (~12-16 hours a month) or so into DJing?

If you just want to play for yourself and your mates and upload mixes online for supporters to listen to, you’ll be alright. After practicing about 3-4 hours per week for about three months (so ~45 hours of practice, about one week at a full-time job), you’ll be set to play for close pals.

Here are the approximate time responsibilities for practicing DJing:

  • 45 hours: Beginner ready to play for buddies, upload private DJ sets to share with supporters on cloud services, maybe DJ small gatherings for close siblings
  • 90 hours: Hobby DJ ready to mix for bigger house parties and upload public DJ sets to cloud services
  • 230+ hours: Journeyman fit to guest DJ at underground parties for fewer people
  • 450+ hours: Semi-Pro ready to do a regular residency at clubs and online music services
  • 1500+ hours: Pro prepared to be paid as a professional DJ

The Costs of DJing

Starting to DJ doesn’t cost much, but considering it’s a hobby, it’s important to have a clear vision of your budget. For a start, you only need essential equipment, some of which you might already own. As you’re getting better, you’ll need a few more things which we’ll discuss.

If you possess a laptop and buy brand-new equipment, the average cost of starting to DJ will be around $350. You’ll need a DJ controller (~$250), DJ software (usually comes with a controller), and speakers ($100).

If you’re on a very low budget, but eager to start, you could consider going secondhand or even renting equipment. Here are the laptop specs required by each DJ software.

You also need an approximate future expense that comes if you decide this is for you. 

1) If you want to progress faster, it’s probably a good idea to roll into one of the many DJ courses available online.

I’m not saying you should waste your money on anything, but if you decide you like this hobby, it might be a good idea. Youtube channels are great, but courses are more straightforward and can point you quicker in the direction you want to go.

I did a few courses myself not too long ago, and when I find the time, I’ll write the review for each one. I’ll post everything on this site for future generations to know who’s legit and who’s not.

2) Eventually, you’ll want to build your music library or simply put – buy tunes

In the past, it was expensive to buy and sometimes even too challenging to find new music. Today, with monthly prices starting from $9 on some record pools, it’s simple and effective. If you want more exclusive tracks, it will cost you around $2 per track, at most.

But, you don’t have to worry about that right now, even though it’s inevitable if you stay in this little longer.

Another thing I want to mention is a preference between formats (Digital, Vinyl, CDs). Because if you have any preferences, the cost can vary. Maybe you’ll need another type of turntable, perhaps you already have lots of music in a specific format, maybe you’ll want to buy records.

Quick Tips Regarding the Best Equipment for Beginners

Even if you have the funds for the pro without an issue, be hesitant to pull the trigger when you don’t know enough about DJing. Since you’re starting as a complete novice, read all the threads you can.

The most common entry-level controllers in this industry are the Hercules Inpulse 500 and Pioneer DDJ-400. Not only are they very affordable, but they are easy to use for those who want to get started and offer great sound quality.

My son has Hercules and loves it. Here’s the article where I explain exactly why I choose Inpulse 500 over Pioneer’s DDJ-400.

The Hercules Inpulse 500 is a great entry controller, and you could work with it. In my opinion, it’s the best for the buck controller. It’s compatible with almost all software and keeps its value for re-sell.

On the other hand, Rekordbox (it comes with DDJ-400) is continuously updating, and it’s pretty software to use. Lots of tutorials on YouTube too. DJ Carlo Atendido teaches Djing and mainly uses the DDJ-400 in his tutorials. Pretty easy concept to get used to. Plus, Rekordbox has all the effects a professional DJ setup would have.

Speakers, you can wait with great ones. You can easily work with a pair of nice 2.1 computer speakers. If you’re not concerned with a super loud sound, even a set of Logitech 2.1 computer speakers is enough for a start.

Here’s how many speakers does a DJ need and with what you can get away with for a start.

If you want a decent pair of headphones, you will likely spend over $75. I use Numark Red Wave’s (link to Amazon), which are around $100.

How to Start DJing (Practical Tips)

It’s not one of those hobbies where you can expect to be any good in the first month or two, but if you exercise skills frequently, it will pay back tenfold.

DJing has a steep learning trajectory, but if you roll with it and don’t ignore the fundamentals, it can be gratifying when you begin to master your art.

I always give the same recommendation to anyone who’s just starting:

1.     Rise slow

Buy a fair but basic controller and work with it. Don’t go beyond your budget and spend too much on high-end equipment if you’re not sure you will stick with it. You can always upgrade.

2.     Study the fundamentals

The first thing I would learn is what the buttons do. Go through your instructions, play around with a controller, and watch some YouTube videos that explain what the buttons do. From there, learn beatmatching and phrasing. Take the time to study how DJ’s mix and how to do blends. Ignore the cue points, samplers, effects for now. Just master the basics.

3.     Aim on to something

Something that causes many to quit soon is they never set objectives and levels of success. I’m not talking about goals such as “perform a big festival,” but more like “record a full set” or “learn how to beat match.” Learn to understand the phrasing of tunes (4 beats in a bar, 8 bars in a phrase).

4.    Record your mixed tunes and listen back to them

You’ll get so much from actually hearing yourself play. I think this is the best advice I ever got.

The tutorials on Youtube have a lot of good advice, but also a lot of nonsense. Watch them, but keep a critical stand and use your head. I’ll be writing about the best YouTube channels and other online resources that are actually time-worthy.

I also found this book on Amazon quite helpful.

Why Being a Bedroom DJ Only Is Totally Fine

Mixing in front of a people vs. bedroom DJing by yourself is like night and day. It’s fantastic to be able to control the energy of a crowd (like moving the masses).

But, you see, not everybody wants to do it, and I can understand why. Some people don’t feel the need to perform. At the moment, at least.

I got into bedroom DJ’ing for the creative aspect, but I like crowd DJing for the performance aspect. I find that with bedroom DJing, you can be a lot more creative in your mixes. 

Not to mention that you can mess up and redo a piece as many times as you like without getting strange expressions from the public.

A couple of weeks ago, my friend said that he was asked to play at a cousin’s birthday party, but after not having played for years for the crowd, he realized during his set that he couldn’t enjoy playing when he’s not just doing it for himself. 

Besides being another possibility of being in touch with the music I love so much, DJing is like a sort of meditation, with the mind utterly blank at times and only living in the mix of the music.

The thing that could stop you from playing at events aside from the constant dealing with drunk folks is because out there; they’re always playing the same songs (top 40 hits, for example) every night. There are so many songs and genres out there that are 99x better for performance, but people only want to hear the same music they heard last Friday and the Friday before.

This way, it’s possible for you to stop appreciating music and forget why you fell in love with it in the first place.

But one thing you could really do after some time is to create up your own thing. Find a nice spot of small-medium capacity, contact the owner, and start with a monthly party there playing your style. If you live in a medium-sized city, it must be possible to attract 200-300 people with the same taste, mainly if this style isn’t represented on the market. With time your reputation will grow if there’s interest from the audience.

An acquaintance of mine is doing this kind of event in a 500k city in Croatia, playing music that is way less popular than EDM has ever been (he plays only music from old 45rpm vinyl). None of the tracks ever made it to the top 40, not even back in the years, and he attracts 200-300 people every month. Being the black sheep in the herd makes you unconventional and unique.

Does Your Age Even Matter

My brother’s brother-in-law is 41 and doing it since 2001. Never made a penny. He still mixes techno music for like-minded friends as a hobby.

Being a DJ is not a matter of age. Think about it, the older you get, the more you know what kind of music you like. Your taste is like a fine wine, getting better with years.

And if you’re not a fan of modern music, there’s nothing wrong with playing old-style tunes that made you happy back then. Read this encouraging analysis and tips for those older than 30 y.o. who want to start DJing.

Do You Have Supportive Parents/Friends/Spouse

Why would you not be supportive and positive toward someone’s hobby? I don’t understand it, and to be real, it’s a bit immature. 

Even if you’re not that good of a DJ or the people around you aren’t that creative personality, it’s not an excuse for not supporting someone’s passion.

Having a hobby or two is one of the healthiest ways to live a long and happy life. It’s a passion that you enjoy. Everyone needs a creative break!

If you’re young and fighting with your parents on this, just promise them you would not be a fool and drop out of school.

If you’re arguing with your spouse, just make sure you’re making enough money to support your family before entering the DJ world. It’s that simple.

My friend was having a lot of problems with her parents once she started to DJ. Once they noticed she wasn’t asking them for money and her grades actually improved, they were quite supportive. Since then, they’ve referred her for countless gigs and helped her make a lot of money.

She wished that she would have found djing sooner so she could have pursued that instead of her schooling. Don’t get me wrong, she’s happy about getting an excellent education but more passionate about music and mixing.

You never know, maybe your DIY ethic finds you your career niche.

When Does DJing Stop Being a Hobby

Picture that! Imagine if all you had to do was DJ for $100-200 per hour! How awesome would that be?!

First, we need to get clear on what is “DJing as a hobby. ” If you’re making money of DJing, then you’re a professional part-time DJ. It’s a hobby if you’re not getting paid for doing it. 

Someone can be a pro DJ playing part-time and a full-time lawyer. You can love both careers and charge well for your services at both.

My friend is 24, he’s been DJing for six years, mainly for entertainment at home using a DDJ-400 (it’s around $250 on Amazon) but once he got good, he ended up doing a few side gigs at the club for like $70 min a night. He has never played a musical instrument before. I guess it’s not a hobby for him anymore.

But to be fair, anyone doing this for the money alone is in the wrong occupation. Even semi-successful pro-DJ’s have a thin income at best. Sure, you can have high-paying nights, but unless you have a recognizable brand and people are coming specifically for you, there’s just nothing in it.

And if you’re able to play at a bar that allows you to decide the theme of the nights and pays you a percentage of bar sales, which is usually a couple of hundred dollars, why not make money from it?

Maybe it starts as a hobby, then you get a booking agent and suddenly start making decent money. Who knows? 

The key is just to start DJing. And as time flies you’ll find out if it is or if it’s not your passion.

I think it’s worth it, don’t you?

Tray Fiddy

Tray has come to terms with the fact he will probably never be a famous DJ.... but that hasn't stopped him from mixing and throwing parties around the town. Tray has over 10 years experience of DJing at home and events.

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