Many people think making a mix is all about randomly throwing together some tracks. In truth, great mixing requires knowledge and skill, and there is a big difference between professionals and amateurs. Here we have gathered 10 killer tips on how to create a professional DJ set.
1. Choose an appropriate performance mode.
If you want to play radio podcasts or radio shows, you will probably pre-record your set and then play it back. If you are about to perform a gig in your local bar, you will most likely DJ live.
2. Pick a genre based on your knowledge.
Be conscious of the radio station or the people attending the venue. If you are a well-known DJ people will be familiar with your selections, so stick with your recognizable style. Beginners are advised to go with the flow of related artists, and to avoid extremes.
3. Select tracks with a similar tempo.
5BPM is often referred as the “safe zone” of mixing as pitching can fix the tempo differences for seamless transitions. Make sure all tracks are full versions, preferably with long intros and outros with no melodic elements.
4. Make sure the levels are approximately the same.
All tracks should be mastered around -1DB. If there are some quieter tracks, try to re-master these to increase punch and dynamics. Otherwise they will sound weak compared to the well mastered ones.
5. Plan the mix specifically for your timeslot.
Make sure you keep within an appropriate length for the timeslot. It’s better to be 3 minutes short than late. If you are a warm-up DJ, make sure your mix is suitable to prepare the crowd for the big names coming right after you.
6. Consider the dynamics of the set.
DJs often use the terms “the ramp”, “the mountain” or “the wave” to distinguish between different options. The ramp reaches the climax at the end, the mountain - at the middle of the set, while the wave is a series of ups and downs.
7. Order your tracks based on key compatibility.
Decide on the starting key and go up or down the harmonic scale based on the camelot wheel which was developed by the talented audio engineers behind the Mixed in Key software.
8. Beatmatch the tracks.
If you use audio editing software like Audacity, any transition can be zoomed in, time-stretched and matched by beat waveform. If you are into digital audio workstations like Ableton, enable the auto-warping function and let the software do it for you automatically.
9. Find the right transition types.
Experiment with instant cuts, long and gentle transitions or even mash-ups. Use EQ to filter out muddy frequencies. Use effects like swooshes and white noises to smoothen the transitions even more.
10. Export the final material to 24bit 320kbps .wav or .mp3 formats.
Rendering may cause some problems from time to time, so make sure you listen to the whole mix afterwards. If there are technical errors, re-open the project file, fix them and re-render the mix.