The Biggest Mistakes To Avoid When Switching Between DJs
Learn how to switch between DJs flawlessly!
There are many mistakes you can potentially make when DJing. Every DJ makes mistakes, but if you learn properly with LSA you can avoid them all!
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What are the worst mistakes you can make when changing between DJs?
Here’s a list of the worst mistakes you can make when switching between DJs at a gig. Make sure you avoid all these common mistakes!
- Not following DJ etiquette
There are general unspoken rules in the DJ world about how you should behave. The first most fundamental rule is never be late! Be punctual and turn up on time! Once you arrive, make yourself known to the promoter of the night and feel free to enter the DJ booth to leave your belongings if there is no cloakroom service. However, don’t crowd the DJ booth, stare over the DJs shoulder or photobomb them! Make sure you give them space to do their job. When it’s five minutes before your set time introduce yourself as the next DJ and get ready to take over. While doing this observe what the DJ is doing so you can plan ahead for the next steps.
You should also always remain calm and be professional at all times. If there are any sound issues get the sound engineer or promoter to sort this out. If there are security issues ask the bar person to radio the security team. Never let yourself, the promoter and other DJs down by losing your cool! There should always be a sensible solution to any problem.
- Forgetting your headphones or adapter
This is more common than you might think! Some new DJs don’t realise that you are expected to take your own headphones, and that you must have the correct adapter for the mixer. Many DJs actually take a spare pair in case their headphones break and many DJs take a torch to help them see better if the DJ booth is dark.
- Plugging in your own equipment incorrectly
In certain circumstances a DJ might bring their own DJ controller or additional equipment to a gig. Perhaps the venue does not have industry-standard decks or you want to do something special on that night with your own gear. However, if you want to do this it should be cleared with the promoter before the night. You should organise a sound-check before the club opens to make sure it all works and everything is plugged in before other DJs start playing. Never turn up to a gig when a DJ is playing, reach over them and try plugging in your equipment, this is unprofessional and likely to end up causing you many issues.
- Only bringing one USB
If you’re playing with the industry-standard Pioneer CDJs you will know that they have a link function. However, that link cable can sometimes be loose, faulty or missing! It’s also possible that people dancing in front of you could dislodge the link and stop the music. For this reason, always take two USBs and never rely on the link cable.
- Ejecting the wrong USB
It’s very common for new DJs to accidentally eject the wrong USB when switching between DJs. It’s sometimes confusing in the heat of the moment and if you pull out the wrong USB the music will either stop completely or the music will go into an emergency four-beat loop. To avoid this situation you should make sure that you pay attention to where the track that is playing aloud is coming from. Is the USB or the LINK button lit up? If you look at the screen of the CDJ that is playing aloud you will see the USB and LINK buttons to the left of the screen. If it says USB it means the track playing from that deck is coming from the USB in that deck, if it says LINK it means the track playing in that deck is coming from the other deck, via the link cable.
If you’re not sure or want to check you should hold the USB eject button down for one second (no longer.) If the volume of the music dips slightly it means that you shouldn’t touch that USB, it’s the one playing! If there is no change in the volume of the music it is safe to hold down the eject button for three seconds to eject the other DJs USB safely. It’s always polite to hand back their USB so they don’t forget it. And ALWAYS eject properly, it would be rude to just pull out another DJs USB unsafely as it may corrupt it!
- Loading on the wrong deck
Once you’ve passed the USB drama you can now plug in your USB and load your first track. However, make sure you’re loading the track on the correct deck! It’s easy to accidentally load the track on the wrong deck and that might stop the music.
To avoid this mistake, look down at the mixer. Which channel fader is up and playing aloud to the audience? Figure out which song is playing aloud and therefore which deck is it coming from. Make sure you establish this and then load your track on the vacant player. You might have to use the LINK button if your USB is plugged into the opposite player.
There is a setting in the Utility Menu you should check before trying to load a track. Hold down the Menu button (top right of the screen panel) for two seconds to access the Utility Menu. You’ll need to do this on both decks. Then make sure that the Lock function (second function down in the list) is locked on both menus. This means that you can’t load a track if one is already playing. If you do try and load a track while one is already playing a warning will be displayed on the screen. It's a really useful setting to help you avoid this mistake when changing between DJs but also when DJing in general.
- Stopping the wrong deck
It’s a very simple mistake but easy to make! Make sure that before you press cue (stop) you double check that you’re pressing cue (stop) on the track that is not playing aloud to the audience!
- Forgetting to put Quantise on
Often when DJs transition between each other at gigs someone will use a loop, especially if they are running out of track! However, to make a loop without quantise is most likely going to go wrong unless you have machine-like timing! Make sure your turn quantise on so that when you press the loop buttons it will snap to the grid and make a perfect loop. This depends of course on your tracks having a good beat-grids set in Rekordbox. Quantise will also help your set cue-points on the grid and use hot-cues.
- Trying to mix the unmixable
Sometimes the DJ before you is playing a genre of music that will not mix well with your style. Don’t try and mix the unmixable, instead use a transition to get from A to B. For example, if the BPM of their track is too far away from yours to beat-match you could do a number of transitions that don’t involve any beat-matching at all. You could perhaps just wait until their song finishes and then fade between the two or you can go for something more creative.
Many DJs will use the FX to help them transition and a popular one is the Echo. Why not try to echo-out the old track and then drop in your tune. Make sure however that your track starts from an interesting part of the song, so that the audience doesn’t have to wait for a long vibe-killing intro to finish!
Another popular transition is to perform a vinyl-break. This FX involves using vinyl mode with the extreme end of the break setting so that it makes a slow-down sound, akin to killing the power on a turntable. This is a great and easy way to transition between DJs. For more ways of transitioning between genres and BPMs enrol on our DJ courses online or offline. Click here for more info.
- Running out of time
The DJ before you might not leave you with much track left! Keep an eye on the screen and the clock so you can see how much time you have left. Use the time-mode REMAIN to see it count down (same button as auto-cue, just tap it once). If you are running out of time make sure you’re ready to loop. Check quantise is on and then make a loop, longer loops are often better because they are less repetitive but if you’re running out of time just do a four-beat loop. I try and aim to loop and entire phrase. Avoid short loops on loud sounds like cymbal crashes as these can be quite jarring.
- Cutting short the other DJs track
DJs often save the best for last and their last track might be special to them. Make sure you don’t cut it short. The only exception to this is if you think the track is ruining the vibe in the room. If it is, you can take over as soon as you’re ready. You don’t want to inherit an empty dance floor!
- Not beat-matching the transition
If you're beat-matching between the previous DJs track and your first track make sure you do it properly! You might not be able to trust the BPM shown on the screen because sometimes it’s wrong! You should trust your ear above all else and learn how to pitch-shift. Pitch-shifting is how vinyl DJs determine the BPM. There is no screen on a vinyl turntable so the DJs have to do everything by ear. Even digital DJs should learn this skill because you can’t always trust what is shown to you on the screen, and the DJ before you might be playing on vinyl!
- Failing to notice the FX are on
It’s quite common for DJs to use the FX when DJing but also when fading out a track. Make sure you look at the Beat-FX panel and the Color-FX panel on the Pioneer DJM mixer and reset them. There is nothing worse than a DJ not realising that the echo is on and the mix sounding like an absolute train wreck! It’s also common sometimes for newbie DJs to not realise the last DJ used the filter to fade out their song. If this happens sometimes the new DJ can’t figure out why they can’t hear the song properly until someone else points this out, hopefully!
- Not realising the previous DJ was using the crossfader
Some DJs mix with the crossfader, some with the channel faders and some with both! Make sure you watch the DJ before you to see what they are using because you might need to change the settings when taking over. It’s a common mistake for DJs not to realise the crossfader is on and pushed to one side. If your track is playing and the channel fader is up but there is no sound this is sometimes the cause. It could also be a filter or effect, so check it all!
- Adjusting the volume
Once on the decks one of the first things you do is plug in your headphones and set the booth monitor level so that you can hear yourself mix properly. At the same time, you need to make sure it’s not so loud that you’re damaging your hearing. You also need to make sure that the balance knob is central so that the volume is coming out of left and right channels equally. I point this out because sometimes when people are looking for the booth monitor dial they accidentally move the balance by mistake.
You also need to check the master volume control which controls the volume of the speakers on the dance-floor (alongside the amplifier) you should check that level to make sure it’s a good volume for the room and not distorting. In addition you need to check the gain/trim of each channel to make sure the levels are optimum, loud but not distorting, avoid the red!
Lastly make sure that your headphone level is set to a comfortable volume and again look after your ears! Don’t forget ear plugs!
- Using low quality music
Make sure that you’re using good quality music files. The best formats to use are lossless formats like AIFF and WAV, some players also accept FLAC. These formats give excellent sound quality but often cost a lot more than MP3. MP3 is an industry-standard but the bit rate is much less, a maximum of 320kbps (WAV and AIFF are 1411kbps) this means that when you increase the gain you will hear more distortion. The difference is negligible for most DJs who are playing on smaller systems or keeping their gain/trim at sensible levels. A lot of DJs use MP3 because it’s cheaper. Where possible, never use anything less than 320kbps. iTunes files are only 256kbps and sound awful once you increase the gain. Youtube rips are often even lower and would be shredded by any sound system in a club, never ever use Youtube rips!
- Starting with a bad track
There is nothing worse than inheriting an energetic crowd and then killing the mood with a bad opening record! Make sure that your opening track is right for the moment, the energy and gets you attention as the new DJ! If you’re transitioning from another genre make sure it’s a good bridge and make sure you start with a cue point on an interesting energetic part of the track. Some DJs will also create special intros for their set for an added cinematic effect. It’s a great way to market yourself because everyone will remember you. Some DJs also use jingles within their set in certain scenes.
- Not reading the crowd
When you’re observing the DJs before you play you should be taking mental notes! Make sure you read the crowd, see what kind of music they are reacting positively to and which tracks kill the vibe. This will help you choose what tracks in your collection will set the dance-floor on fire!
Make sure you also play appropriately for the time of the evening and the venue, don’t go into a posh cocktail bar and play hardcore Gabba, at least in the cocktail bars I’m used to!
- Getting nervous
Neves about a live performance can sometimes cause you to make more mistakes than you would at home. Remember, it’s just a disco and it should be fun! If you make a mistake literally laugh out loud, make a joke of it and the audience will be on your side! Embrace the mistake and never ever let the audience see you cower into a pit of embarrassed self-pity!
- Not looking up
As a DJ you need to engage with the crowd, eye contact is essential! Make sure you look up and express yourself! Get in the mood, dance, bob you head to the beat or do any kind of body language that expresses how much you love your music! The mood will be infectious and you’ll win the crowd over!
Thanks for reading about the biggest mistakes to avoid when switching between DJs! I hope you found this blog useful! If you would like more help and guidance please read all of our blogs and please tag us when you share. We would love to hear from you too, if you have any questions about this blog or our DJ courses please contact us.