Eventually, you've got your first Swing DJ set. But thinking of it makes you nervous and clammy hands.
Here are a few tips to help you get ready for your first set in front of a dance crowd.
Know Your Music Library
It is crucial that you know your music well. Start with a small amount of tunes and organize them properly.
- Tag your music, e.g. use styles (big band, small group, gypsy, new orleans etc.), use instruments or vocals (sax solo, female vocals), use moods (how the song feels like to you), whatever helps you to recognize a song
- Count BPMs (beats per minute) and note them
- Rate the songs
Know Your DJ Gear
The best DJ software and the most expensive external sound card doesn't help you if you don't know how to use them.
Especially when you're DJ'ing with your laptop, then practice to set up your software and hardware at home again and again. Learn how to plug the different parts into each other and learn all the functions you need for DJ'ing.
When you start the evening with your set then you might have enough time to set up your gear but when you follow up another DJ then there is often not that much space and time, so you should be able to set up your DJ gear quickly and blindly.
Don't forget to bring a backup (iPhone, iPod, iPad etc.) with you, when you're DJ'ing with your laptop.
Research The Event
Get an idea about the location and your audience.
- Is it a local or an international event?
- Is the event attended more by beginners or advanced dancers?
- Is it a Lindy Hop, Balboa event or Blues event, or is it a mixed one?
- When is your DJ set: at the beginning, in the middle or at the end of the evening.
- Is there a head DJ?
- Are there rules about what music should be played?
- What is the technical setup. Do you have to bring your own cables?
Prepare Your Set, But Don't Over-Prepare It
You get confidence when you plan your first DJ set. That doesn't mean to prepare a playlist in advance and just hit play at the event. You won't be able to react to the dancers.
If your set is one hour, then you will play around twenty songs. So, have 40-50 songs ready. You might build groups of 2-3 songs which suit together well (same style, same tempo range, same recording period, etc.).
Build your set depending on the results of your research. An example: If you spin at the beginning of the night or at an event attended mostly by beginners, then you choose slower songs.
Your first DJ set should be simple and solid. Just play good swing music and avoid experiments. There is no need showing off while playing tricky songs with crazy drum solos and 8-minute songs. The dancers want to have a great time and you want to have one too.
That brings us to the last tip. Although most dancers will be concerned with their own interests, you will be visible to everyone.
How will the music be when the DJ seems to be bored? So, have fun and enjoy your time as a DJ!
Share Your Experiences
Do you remember your first DJ set and want to add something? Are you a new DJ just before your first set? Share your experiences with us in the comment section below.