Women On Record \\ DJs share their best tips for beginners

8th March 2019

‘DJs share their best tips for beginners’ completes our ‘Women On Record’ trio of features. Read our interview with Rebecca Vasmant and with Women In Jazz

If you’re interested in DJing, it can be hard to know where to start. If you live in a city or a town that has a healthy appetite for music, there’s nothing wrong with taking a spot close to the decks to watch how the fingers line-up with what you hear, and seeing how a DJ works the room. If your curiosity is starting at home, then Soundcloud, Mixcloud and watching sets on Boiler Room is a great place to start. 

Whilst learning the ropes can take a little bit of financial investment and research – read up here on Wire Realm for a pretty extensive introduction to gear – don’t be intimidated to take the first few steps if you’re curious. As our DJs point out below, everyone begins at the same starting point. You can learn to beat-match (playing two tracks of the same tempo at once) or do flashy transitions (changing from one track to the next) but essentially, the most importance thing is curation; take pride in the tracks you share and think about the collection that you’re presenting. A set of fantastic track selections with simple transitions is far better than a set of well mixed songs that have been carelessly plonked together. A set works best when it’s based on a narrative, whether that’s a style of music, a time period, a mood or otherwise. 

We’ve asked six DJs at varying stages of their careers for advice on how to get started. We’re marking International Women’s Day by asking and quoting some of our favourite women in the industry. Read below for advice from six talented tastemakers. 

 

Anne Frankenstein

Tattooed funk, soul & disco DJ who hosts The Late Lab on Jazz FM

It goes without saying that you need to work on your skills, and DJing in front of people as much as possible is so important so you can experience everything that can and does go wrong in a live setting, and learn from it. But there are two other essential skills you need when it comes to pushing your career forward – one is resilience, because you’re going to have to hammer down a few doors to get where you need to be. If someone ignores you, assume they’re forgetful rather than rude and chase them up until they respond. If someone says no, see if there’s anything in their response that could help you grow. The other is resourcefulness – who do you know in your network who could help you or mentor you or introduce you to someone? What books/shows/experiences do you have access to that could help to give you an edge?
 

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Jamz Supanova 
BBC 1xtra’s pioneer of Future R&B
 
I started a lot later than I should have, as I thought it was too late and I’d missed the boat. Even sometimes now I get really frustrated that I’m technically not as good as I’d like. But I have to remind myself that I’ve only been DJing for four years. The DJs I love and admire have been DJing for 15 to 20 years – so in DJ terms, I’m still a baby! Don’t listen to that inner voice that tells you “It’s too late or too hard!” – Quoted from Red Bull, read more here

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Erica Mckoy
Explorer of new sounds and host of WW Daily on Worldwide FM
 
Don’t be worried about making mistakes, or challenging yourself to go in to physical spaces that seem ‘beyond’ your skill set or level. Be open to learning – every DJ had to start somewhere. Ask your peers how they’ve mastered a method. Please please don’t get put off my DJs saying it’s easy, everyone has different entry points into DJing. The industry needs more explorers of sounds and technique, keep being inquisitive. Plus there are plenty of places to practice your craft. You just have to keep an eye out for them. For example, if you’re under 25, the Roundhouse is a great place to start! 

 
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Kate Hutchinson
Music Journalist, broadcaster and rising DJ who champions new sounds and scenes
 
Stop worrying what tunes everyone else has. Collecting is an obsessive past-time and it’s easy to fret that your set won’t be as good as someone else’s because you don’t have whatever is top of Beatport that day or whatever rare record has just cropped up on Discogs. Your DJ sets reflect your own musical discovery – that’s a very personal thing and is what gives selectors their own distinct flavour. And also, enjoy your sets and don’t give a floppy sausage what anyone else thinks. I still have to remind myself to unfurl my furrowed brow and stop clenching my jaw when I DJ as I panic-flip through what tune I’m going to play next. Half the battle, I think, is remembering to relax. Although a glass of wine usually helps.

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Peggy Gou 
Constantly touring, one of the most talked about DJs of the minute
 
I always believe everything is possible, it just depends on you and how you approach things: aim high but be aware of yourself. I know what I’m good at, but, most importantly, I also know what I’m not good at and what I need to improve: knowing yourself is the key – Quoted from The Fader, read the full interview here

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Rebecca Vasmant
Glasgow based record collector, producer, promoter and DJ
 
Playing records is a really privilege, and as a DJ you have the potentiality to help someone laugh, cry, dance, and form memories with their loved ones, so I always try to remember that anything can happen on a night, and I see this as a very exciting thing. Someone could form a memory from the dance floor that they might potentially never forget, so I try to always feel what people are feeling and try not to get too much in my own head when playing sets. Worry about everyone in the club as one unit, rather than just playing records for myself. I think that one tip I have discovered through time is just to be yourself, be honest about who you are, musically too, and then the rest follows once you are able to do that. – Read the full interview on Supreme Standards, here
 

 
What pieces of advice would you share? Comment below. 
 

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