How to Be a Dance Music DJ Using CDs

"DJs" or "Disc Jockeys" are people who play music to the public for parties, special events, or just plain fun. There are several types of DJs, according to setting, style, and genre of the music being played. This guide will discuss mixing dance music with CD players or Mp3s Controllers


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    Make sure you put out a piece of paper for requests. If people want to make requests, they will usually only do it if there is a piece of paper. You might want to do this a given time before you start playing. Other reasons for the sheet of paper are that people might be too shy to talk to the DJ, or they might not have access to the stage to submit a request. As a result there will be patrons upset about not hearing the song they want. This is not necessary if you do not intend to take requests.
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    Plan a "set" (a list of songs to be played) before setting foot inside a DJ booth. Choose which songs to play and in which order. Songs should be chosen by Beats Per Minute (tempo), genre, and key. Choose songs that "flow" together well. Song selection should be made from a collection of music within the same genre or closely related genres.
    • You could mix a set entirely composed of Tribal House tracks or mix a set of Classic House and New York House. You should not, however, mix something like house with drum and bass.
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    Load the first selection and, simply enough, press play on the CD player, which will from hereon be referred to as deck 1, to begin playing the song. You should ensure that the channel volume for deck 1 is turned up and the master volume is at a comfortable level. If you are using the crossfader ensure it is either in the middle or all the way to deck 1.
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    Load the next selection into deck 2 (the other CD player). Ensure that the channel volume for deck 2 is either all the way down or if using the crossfader that it is all the way to deck 1, and press play on deck 2. You will be able to hear the music coming from deck 2 in your headphones but it should not be playing to the speakers. This is where the "mixing" begins.
    • Note: If your mixer has "cue" buttons or switches ensure they are pressed or flipped on for the channels that you want to hear in your headphones.
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    Listen to a portion of the next track on deck 2, and try to judge the tempo and adjust the pitch/tempo fader to match the track playing on deck 1. This is called beat matching and involves ensuring the beat from deck 1 and deck 2 are exactly the same speed and lined up. The more you become familiar with the genre or style of music you are playing, the easier it will become.
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    Start the new song in deck 2 over, and find the rough location of your cue point. A cue point is the exact point in the song that you wish to hear when you press play. Generally you will use the first bass-drum kick as the cue point. Usually, this is done by pressing the cue button found on the player, and then searching with the search buttons or jog wheel until you are right in front of bear. When you tap the cue button you should hear a single beat as long as you don't hold it.
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    Still using your headphones ensure your songs are perfectly beat matched when you press play on deck 2. To do this mix it in only in your headphones well before you actually intend to send it to the speakers and ensure it stays on beat.
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    Wait for the point in the song playing on deck 1 in which you wish to begin mixing the song on deck 2 into the mix. At this point, press play on deck 2; either with the crossfader at 50% (in the middle), or with the crossfader at deck 1, and slowly moving it from deck 1, to the middle, and eventually all the way to deck 2, so that only the song on deck 2 will remain in the mix from that point. You can not hear the change in volume in the headphones, so many DJs wear their headphones with one side off of the ear so that they can hear what is coming out of their monitors, as well as what is going on before the music leaves the mixer.
    • Note: The use of the crossfader is not necessary. You can also mix using the channel volume levels and completely disable the crossfader.
    • The period of time that you allow both songs to play simultaneously before cutting the first track is completely up to you. However, most dance music is constructed with a ~1minute intro and and outro and it should be safe to leave the intro of one song mixer over the outro of another for the full minute without worrying about clashing vocals or abrupt changes. This will come with practice and knowledge of your music.
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    Continue to switch back and forth between decks. There are many "tricks" and techniques that have not been discussed in this guide, since this is just a basic explanation for complete beginners, or people curious as to what the heck that groovy-looking dude in the DJ booth is so focused on while he is "in the mix."


  • Make sure you test your equipment before an event. You want to make sure there is nothing wrong with it. You also want to familiarize yourself with the gear if it is not the same as the stuff you have at home.
  • Keep an ear on the main speakers actually broadcasting the music to the masses. Your headphones are most likely high-quality stuff designed to play music clearly at any levels, but the sound you hear in your 'phones does not represent the sound playing on the speakers. The same applies to booth monitors. You could be hearing a finely tuned symphony of techno-heaven in your DJ booth, and the crowd could be receiving an ear-bashing, brain-splitting train wreck.
    • A set of monitors is especially helpful for this. Monitors are speakers in the DJ booth that play the same thing as the speakers on the dance floor.
  • When practicing, if your mixer allows, record your work on a computer (GarageBand, Microsoft Sound Recorder, Ambrosia Software's WireTap Pro, etc.) or through a tape-player. Listen to your mixes to figure out what needs work, and focus on that during the next practice session. Once you believe you are good enough, plan and record an hour-long mix, record it, and burn it to CDs (your new business card) for promotional purposes.
  • Not all DJ sets have to be planned. A great DJ will be able to read their crowd, to develop their set based on the emotion and energy on the dance floor. Tweak your set based on how people react to songs at particular times of the night.
  • Many DJs choose to come up with the playlist off the top of their heads for a spontaneous feeling; particularly DJs with more experience in the field. Doing so requires incredibly intimate knowledge of one's music collection, but it makes for a set that fits the crowd better. It is recommended to have a playlist prepared if you're a beginner.
  • Don't start of the dance with the volume really loud. Start with a moderate volume, and boost it up tiny bits at a time until about halfway through the dance.


  • Be careful where you place your drink. Always set your drink away from your DJ equipment to avoid any damage caused by spilling.
  • Don't buy a boxed "DJ package" endorsed by some big-name DJ. The stuff in there is most-likely top-notch junk. Look for package deals at music stores ("Buy 2 Numark Axis 9s, get one Numark DM-10 2-channel DJ Mixer at half-price!"...or something like that).
  • If you value your equipment, keep the volume down. Most speaker system amplifiers have built-in overrides that set a maximum on the volume. However, this doesn't mean you can just keep turning up the volume, as that will cause an increasing amount of distortion, and your set will sound horrible.
  • If you value your hearing, invest in earplugs! There are companies that will custom mold ear plugs to fit your ear, and these block out all harmful frequencies from entering your ears and damaging the hairs inside. Music playing at loud volumes can and will damage your hearing if it is beyond your hearing threshold! After all, a good DJ is one who is not deaf.
  • Make sure the volume of your tracks is leveled. If it is not, the volume level of the music will be different on each song, and it will make you look like a bad DJ, and you will constantly get complaints about it not being loud enough, or being too loud.
    • Use the gain knobs on the mixer to adjust the individual track levels with finer precision. That is what they're for.
  • Actually own the music you'll be playing, or, at least, have the rights to play it publicly. The RIAA may not be making quite as big of a fuss over Internet music downloading as they once were, but if you get caught playing illegally copied music, you could lose your job, your reputation, your equipment, your music, and any chance at getting any of that back. Even legally copied music played without appropriate license is a copyright violation. Just play it safe.
    • Note: If you are playing a commercial venue such as a nightclub you must have a performance license for your music or music that is sold to DJs as "promo only" or with an included performance license. CDs you bought from the CD store in the mall are not allowed to be used for performance purposes.

Things You'll Need

  • A good selection of CDs within the same general genre of dance music.
  • A performance license for your music if playing a commercial venue.
  • 2 professional DJ CD-players.
  • A 2-channel DJ mixer.
  • Quality headphones (meaning they do not distort at high volumes. This will allow you to be able to hear what is playing in the headphones equally as loud as what is presently playing from the loudspeakers).
    • "DJ Style" headphones are not the same thing as "Pro DJ" headphones. You will need to go to an audio store to find good headphones, not Wal-Mart or Best Buy.
  • A decent sound system including speakers, sub woofers, monitors, and if the speakers are not powered an amplifier.
  • The desire to learn and improve (this also means accepting constructive criticism from others, because you can use that to your advantage to learn as well). A good DJ does not only play the songs well, but he also listens well.
  • Patience and practice.

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