Undoubtedly, one of the coolest things about DJing is the collection of effects that can be applied to a song to spice things up.
Unfortunately, however, it is usually also one of the most misused aspects of a DJ gig. I’m sure anyone who has ever got behind the jog wheels has been guilty of playing around with the knobs like a kid on a toy spaceship at one stage or another—after all, how else are you going to become comfortable and familiarise yourself with all of the different effects that your DJ mixer has to offer?
Let’s start with the basics for a minute, and then we’ll cover the finer aspects.
Ensure filters are in their default positions
Picture this: you’ve been playing a handful of songs, but there’s something that hasn’t been sounding right. You can’t quite place it, and then it hits you: “Where’s the bass?” you mutter to no one in particular. You check your controls and remember that a few songs ago you did a high-pass filter during a mixing transition to blend together two tracks, but it seems that you forgot to turn the filter back to its default setting.
It might seem basic, but this seems to happen a lot, even to experienced DJs. Sure, it’s not the end of the world, but it’s a bit of a face-palm moment whenever you realise your error. This issue is easily prevented by checking track A’s filter settings are returned to their defaults after the fade to track B has been fully completed. (Vice versa for when fading from track B to track A.)
There is such thing as subtlety when it comes to applying filter effects mid-song
Most modern DJ mixers allow for a percentage of the mix to be affected by a filter effect. What this means, in short, is that you don’t need to go all-in with the gate effect every time you want to put a bit of pizazz into a track. Listen through your headphones and try to apply the effect with a dose that doesn’t completely garble the essence of the song.
However, we are aware that there are certain moments where 100% effect is permissible (especially leading up to a drop), but applying this all the time becomes tiresome quickly, so try to strike a balance during your sets.
Repeating the same effects over and over again
There are so many effects, plugins—you name it—available to DJs these days, but, for some reason, a considerable portion of DJs are compelled to use only one or two effects for every single song. We get it, the phaser is a cool effect that’s been tried and tested for decades, but saturating every song with it can be grating. Instead, try adding some delay, decay, sampling, mid-song filtering, or any of the other effects from the plethora of effects available at your disposal.
If nothing else, don’t just play with filters for no reason; if you can’t think of a good reason to be fiddling with the EQ or effects, just relax and take a sip of your drink and interact with the crowd.