How to be a DJ

DJI was blessed with the pure joy of attending a surprise 50th birthday party over the weekend.

It was the usual affair: groups of people who didn’t know one another singularly not mingling – for that is the British way! – in a church hall decorated with balloons and amusing photographs from across the decades of the to-be-surprised victim interspersed among the various drawings of nightmares by children from the local school who use the church hall on a more regular basis. Posters on the walls depicted kids jumping next to the word ‘Jump’, hopping next to the word ‘Hop’, sitting next to the word ‘Sit’, and setting fire to the substitute teacher next to the word ‘Arson’. Education has come on a way since I was at school. There was a smell in the air that was at once both endearing – since it was so distinctly the very smell of school from childhood – and revolting – since my imagination concluded the chair I was sitting on may have been used my some six year-old who’d peed himself just the week before. Food was buffet-style and consisted mostly of crisps and nuts. There may have been quiche too but I was loathe to lift the foil on the plate next to the plastic cups and discover if this was so. Being a church hall and therefore an establishment lacking a bar this was also a "bring your own bottle" event; carrier bags that had ported inside them bottles of Jack Daniels or generic gin, or boxes of wine, or packs of cans of bitter were dotted under every table just out of the way of the small clearing space in the room centre allocated for the spectacle of "dancing".

In essence it was an occasion done on the cheap, which is no terrible thing in this modern climate of terrorists on every corner and mass redundancies by text message and squirrels with murderous intent in their eyes in the corner of the bedroom. But, the organisers had splashed out for a DJ!

Being raised a strict non-mingler Catholic and knowing approximately 1% of the people in attendance I was granted the time to sit back and observe what it is to be a DJ. All your Fatboy Slims and your Paul Oakenfolds and your Jazzy Jeffs had to start somewhere before they earned any respect and that place was DJing a mobile disco at a party, or a wedding, or a funeral, or a Christmas function, or a bar or bat mitzvah. With my dream of being ridiculously rich and not having to work for a living remaining unfulfilled I pondered whether I could learn in one evening the essence of DJ life. I think I did.


A good lighting setup with banks of coloured bulbs that flash and pulse to the beat of the song playing … is so 1990s. These days the core components at the heart of any DJ’s box of illumination magic should be a couple of projectors that can throw up rotating colour stars and flower shapes on the wall. Add a few strobes for when people finally get drunk enough to ignore the tripe you’re playing and dance anyway. Finally, turn a nicotine-stained 14 inch monitor to face the floor and start up Winamp’s Visualisations and you’re set!

DJ Gold Dust Tip! Strobe lighting levels the dancing playing field. Crap dancers look like they’re having an epileptic seizure. Great dancers look like they’re having an epileptic seizure. Epileptics can hide their shame.


Everybody knows that bigger doesn’t always equal best and this is very true when applied to speakers for a typical party catering for a largely elderly audience. Nevertheless, it is vitally important that a DJ has something to hide behind so if you’re a budding DJ you need to purchase the most oversized speaker system you can lay your hands on. As a general rule of thumb: if you don’t need to hire a flatbed truck to transport your speakers then they’re simply not adequate.

DJ Gold Dust Tip! Before the guests arrive you’ll want to set the output level of the speakers appropriately. Fill a glass with water and place it on a table approximately halfway back in the venue. You’re aiming to knock the glass over so just keep ramping the volume up until you achieve that goal. People who leave a party expect to have tinnitus. People who sit nearest to the speakers want their chest cavity compressed to the beat of Status Quo.


When you’re a fully-fledged DJ wowing the sweaty throng at Ibiza people will assume you can play one record and mix, scratch, or overlay it into another with ease and on command. But, if you’re starting out and attending Auntie Gloria and Uncle Herman’s Golden Wedding Celebration then your audience will be considerably less discerning. You could hone your skills anyway but, then again, £30 for a five hour set and all the Tizer you can drink might make you think: why bother? In this case the megamix is your best friend.

DJThere are plenty of megamixes already available – ABBA and the Bee Gees are two of the most popular ones – but you can always prepare some of your own. Thirty seconds of every song by an artist overdubbed with a beat that closely approximates that on one of the tracks and you’ve got yourself a paid eight minute sit-down and flick through Ideal Homes magazine.

DJ Gold Dust Tip! Some megamixes are better than others and it can help to talk to the organisers beforehand to get an idea for what’s appropriate. Uncle Herman may well appreciate your Einsturzende Neubauten Megamix but it might have been a source of arguments in his and Auntie Gloria’s household over the half-century together.

Songs To Talk Over

The main reason people don’t just plug their computer in and set their MP3 player on random is because of the hallowed DJ Banter. DJ Banter isn’t an actual DJ – well, it might be – but is, instead, the art of conversing with the partygoers in a manner relevant to the song playing, the venue, and the occasion, and so as to involve the attendees somehow. Find songs you can talk over and make Auntie Gloria feel special and you’ll never be short of gigs and recommendations.

Here’s an example using Jive Talking by the Bee Gees:

It’s just your jive talkin’ – WHAT SORT OF TALKING IS IT? – You’re telling me lies, yeah – PORKY PIES, PORKY PIES – Jive talkin’ – WHAT’S THE JIVE DOING? – You wear a disguise – CRAZY! – Jive talkin’ – IT’S STILL TALKING! – So misunderstood, yeah – WE KNOW THAT FEELING GUYS, HUH? – Jive talkin’ – STILL TALKING! THAT JIVE IS STILL TALKING – You really no good – WHO’S GOOD ON THE DANCEFLOOR? GET ON DOWN AUNTIE GLORIA!

DJ Gold Dust Tip! If you’re not very confident about speaking then make sure your microphone volume is around 75% higher than the music and speak with your mouth as close to it as possible. The unintelligble, explosive bass rumbling shattering pacemakers around the room will fool the guests into thinking you know what you’re doing.

Author: Mark

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  1. At least you didn’t have cold, uncooked black pudding as part of your buffet!

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  2. You know, not one doctor EVER told me the key to hiding seizures and/or the shame of, was blending in at a disco/dance.

    The bastards.

    I thank you.

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  3. Typical of the medical profession; they can’t cure something and still they won’t even attempt to explain how to disguise it. Paid too much the lot of them.

    Anni: cold, uncooked black pudding sounds … er, yes. My other half would probably like it; she likes blood. Me? I’m more of a uncongealed food person myself.

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  4. Mark,

    I’m ashamed of you! How dare you overlook the dj’s number one tool: the echo box! Talking over songs is great. Forcing the mic to the back of your throat is even better (just ask my sister), but a throaty rumble AND an eerie echo, now that just can’t be beat beat beat beat beat.

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  5. Cheeba, I was just preparing to erect a memorial in your honour – me, you, and erections; some things never change, right? – and reissue milk cartons with your picture on them. Assumed you’d been taken by the Feds for that thing with the you know what and the stuff and the dead hooker on that big ball at EPCOT. Good to see you’re still alive.

    Anyway, you were talking about your sister …

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  6. Dude, I am a musician, do you know that tragic damage that TINNITUS (ringing in the ears) is causeing among young people?.

    There are over 50 million people with this!. In your gold tip section, the part with the moronic glass of water example, do you realize that at least 40 % of people that leave a party with Tinnitus, always have it, I mean it never leaves!.

    There is a new campaign that MTV will start playing this December, and another one that will feature DJ’s (like Fatboy Slim and Moby), that will talk about this very issue.

    Feel free to watch this clip, it showcases a group of kids that went to a party and left with Tinnitus, but it never went away. One of them comitted suicide 3 weeks after this clip was finished.


    Watch the clip:

    DJ-ing is fun, but be aware that a stupidly high number of the planet’s biggest DJ’s HAVE TINNITUS. and it sucks.

    I am one of the many that left a party where me and 24 others got permanent tinnitus.

    TALK ABOUT HEARING PROTECTION, I know its not cool but just remember….

    Tinnitus, it happens, just like shit, it happens, at any time, any age, at any moment.

    Talk about that.

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  7. Thanks for bumming everyone out.

    Nicely made video though Jose and I hope it has the intended impact.

    My gut feeling is that I suspect that kids won’t be flocking to buy ear suppositories anytime soon.

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  9. The tip from DJ Golddust is so f’ing stupid. " People who leave a party expect to have tinnitus…" WTF? That’s like saying "People who watch porno expect to get herpes."
    There are proper ways to tune a room. Putting a glass in the middle and turning up the volume until it falls over is just stupid.
    Tinnitus is serious business. I hope it never happens to any of you.
    You DJ’s need to becareful about your ears. Just ask Moby, Fatboy Slim, Ed Rush, Optical(the list goes on) about tinnitus.

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  10. t_w_a_t_u_l_a_t_o_r said …
    The tip from DJ Golddust is so f’ing stupid. " People who leave a party expect to have tinnitus…" WTF? That’s like saying "People who watch porno expect to get herpes."
    There are proper ways to tune a room. Putting a glass in the middle and turning up the volume until it falls over is just stupid.

    Please allow me to say:

    Bwahahahahahahahahaahaha … breathe … bwahahahahahahahaha

    On your way out please leave through the door marked Shouldn’t Really Be Allowed Anywhere Near The Internet.

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  11. I used to have that high pitched whining sound in my ears, but I found a cure – make the nagging other half an ex-other half.

    Worked a treat for me.

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  12. But is there a way to control it , i mean keep it in measure such that it does not get any worse , i already suffer from a mile case of tinnitus . And i want to be a dj . Does wearing ear plugs really help ,just to keep it under controll . please advise .

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  13. Speaking of tinnitus I was interested in doing Djing again but shied away from it due to the hearing thing. I got some badboy earplugs though and went to a techno night at the front of the speakers with them in and was amazed when I left and took them out to find my ears were as crisp as the day I was born! no ringing whatsoever!

    So I’d highly recommend them as a must in the DJ’s arsenal.

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