Whenever I do shows and I get a chance to talk to people afterwards, the thing I hear most is “How do you do that?” or “I wish I could learn how to DJ.” I tell every single one of them that they can learn. It’s a lot different from when I was starting out. I grew up in a small town in TN. I didn’t know anyone who knew how to DJ or wanted to know how (as badly as I did). Now thanks to the internet and technology, you can learn a lot from lots of different sources and people all over the world! Even though I’ve been doing this for a while, I still take time to learn as much as I can. Here are some of my favorite spots and some suggestions for anyone who wants to learn.
OK, first of all. I want everyone who wants to know about DJing to watch this movie. Scratch. I want you to buy the DVD. Rent it. Find a way to watch this. It’s a great look into the history and evolution of DJing and being a DJ as an artist and not so much as a human jukebox. It’s mostly hip hop focused but I don’t care what genre with which you identify. I think this is required viewing for education and inspiration. Here’s the trailer.
Now here are some great online resources that you should know about.
DJ Tech Tools – Once you’ve taken a look back at DJ roots, you can spring forward and embrace DJing mixed with technology. DJTT has excellent posts with tutorials, gear reviews, tips and tricks, even some marketing and miscellaneous DJ advice. You NEED to study up on this one. This site has prime real estate on my DJ attention span.
Dubspot – This is a magnificent DJ and Production school that has classes you can take in NYC, but also has online courses. I salivate so much over all the information from Dubspot. It’d be a great investment for anyone who wants to get the expert training they need. Of course, Dubspot has a great free blog that gives a lot of tips and anyone can start getting trying to learn how to DJ, produce, or even use the amazingAbleton. Additionally, DMC Champion DJ Shiftee is also a Dubspot instructor. Shiftee recently started a tutorial series over at DJ Tech Tools. So don’t sleep on these two sites!
Qbert Skratch University – This looks so awesome! This is his school run through a membership site (at the time of this post, it’s $60 for 3 months). You get access to videos of Qbert teaching you lots of different techniques from scratching to using Serato or Traktor. You can also submit videos of yourself practicing or performing using the lessons you learned and Qbert will send you a video back with his encouragements and critiques. This is gold if you’re trying to learn. Having a mentor can be so helpful. Also, there is a community of other DJs and students who you can connect with. This is great for accountability and even more learning. This would have been great for me when I was trying to learn at first! I personally know 3 or 4 DJs who are currently enrolled here and they are so technically sound because of it; it actually makes me mad! Where’s my $60 ?! (Coincidentally, I think I posted a free lesson from Qbert in a previous blog! Check the end of the post!)
Create Digital Music – It’s time to expand your mind and broaden your horizons a bit. CreateDigitalMusic.com is a great website highlighting people who are doing music in new ways. Not just DJing but also anything with technology. As the line between hip hop and electronic music starts to blur more and more thanks to technology, DJs should open their mind a little more to music in general and see examples of people who are being creative with digital music. Create Digital Music is a place to do that.
Crate Kings – This site is kind of like Create Digital Music except it’s more focused on hip hop. So you’ll be getting a great look at the culture of hip hop DJing including beat making, digging, history, samples, interviews, gear, software. Also, Crate Kings has it’s own library of samples, loops, instrumentals, etc. I like Crate Kings a lot because it doesn’t focus on JUST Ableton so much in the software world. They really cover a lot of everything. Even though we’re all different; if everyone starts using the same samples, gear, and software then we all start to sound the same.
Computer Music Magazine – OK, we’re done messing around! You realize that you’re no longer just a DJ. You’re a musician. And if you’ve gone the digital route, this is a site and magazine that you NEED to know about. I just happened to luck out and find a physical copy in a store one day. I’ve been hooked since. Great tutorials and lessons in their free blog, but even more in their magazine. This is too good not to use! Here’s some trivia, I learned how to do my QE voice thing after reading an article in Computer Music Magazine! Much respect!
Beat Tips – I hope you’re seeing now that DJing should also include producing. I think so anyway. I found a lot of scammy beat sites out there. THIS is not one of them. Sa’id over at BeatTips.com has made his site the most thorough and intelligent look into beatmaking I have ever seen. With all the technology in DJ-ing and beatmaking, there is a heartbeat and vibe that can be lost. After reading pages and pages of his blog, I bought his Beat Tips manual. It’s a super THICK book, y’all. This guy KNOWS about beats. I think making beats is going to help you DJ in front of a crowd, and vice versa. (Props to Justin over at Audiblehype.com for turning me on to this dude. P.S. – To anyone reading this; if you want to make hip hop music, read this first.)
YouTube – Did I miss the obvious? This is the most extensive video archive on the planet. Tons of tutorials, advice, tips, and training right there at your fingertips. All you have to do is search. When I ask DJs how do I learn or where can I go to learn something, they all say “Go to YouTube.” Aren’t you glad I’m telling you a little bit more? (Thanks to Corbett & Ash for inspiring me.) But maybe YouTube is the only place you need to know!
Forums – You can find a lot of great info in the cloud. Find your favorite software, gear, or artist. They might have a website, blog, or forum where people are hanging out and giving great advice on DJing, beats, technique, or gear!
Other stuff I have to mention –
First DJ video I ever got: Ultimate Beginner DJ’s Guide to Scratching
Most awesome DJ video I ever got: Turntablism 101
Best DJ book I ever bought: How to DJ Right: The Art and Science of Playing Records
Best DJ video I currently own (Besides Scratch!): X-ecutioners – Built to Scratch
Best DJ video that every other DJ has but I don’t own YET: DJ Qbert’s complete DO-IT-YOURSELF, Vol. 1 Skratching
Whatever you do, don’t forget to practice! With all the resources, sometimes you just need to get some gear and start messing with it! But no sense in going in blind when you have all these sources of knowledge to help you.
You have a favorite site or resource that shows you what you need to know about learning how to DJ? Let me know in the comments!