How to Select and Prepare Music for a DJ Set

As a young DJ, you should be aware of the vast history that has gone before you. One of the most important pieces of advice that you should take on board is to read extensively on the heritage of dance music (now approaching its 5th decade), which if you genuinely love the music will be fascinating. Starting with last week’s releases will give you no understanding of why Drum & Bass (D&B) became as rapid and as hard as it is, or why seasoned DJs still idolise the early club pioneers such as Dave Mancuso, Larry Levan and Ron Hardy.

The golden rule is: ‘You need to know where you are coming from in order to know where you are going to.’ This is basically the same in all walks of life: you need to know your roots, which then enables you to appreciate, understand and develop who you are. Research the music that you love and trace it back to its roots. Along the way, you will encounter seminal records that had a huge impact on that certain scene. Track these down and buy them. New records are fresh and exciting, but old records unlock memories and emotions for people. If you are looking for an emotional response from a crowd, you need some classic material as well as the upfront tunes.

Always remember that if you embrace a wide scope of music and increase your knowledge, you will improve your DJing skills just as surely as practising the techniques themselves.

Musicians have a nasty habit of pigeon-holing music into a particular sub-genre, so they can put a recognisable label on it. Most confusingly, these titles are constantly being changed, revised and updated. It’s widely known that the media like to help create and hype new genres, which then enables them to market, discuss and reinvent demand. As a DJ, part of your job is to keep up to date with these terminologies, but don’t allow them to define you or your music. They should be used to help, not to limit. Good music is what matters most, not the category it falls into.

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