How to DJ for beginners: a guide to getting started

How to DJ for beginners: a guide to getting started

If you’re a music fanatic, chances are you praise yourself for creating the ultimate playlists to share with friends. If spending hours at night finding new tunes is a thing for you, then becoming a beginner DJ might be the best hobby you can start.

If you’re someone who would like to learn how to mix music, there’s a number of good reasons to start. While traditional instruments might not be your thing, the art of becoming a DJ is still a fantastic creative outlet. Even better, now is a great time to refine your skills before events and festivals open again.

Getting started with beginner DJ gear can be an overwhelming experience. What equipment do you exactly need? Can you DJ with just a laptop? We answer all your questions on the best DJ setup for beginners; including headphones, monitor speakers, a laptop and DJ controller / decks.

Getting started as a beginner DJ

To familiarize yourself with the basic equipment required for a DJ setup, here are a few pieces you’ll need to purchase if you’re a bedroom DJ or want to eventually perform at a club.

Decks / DJ Controller: This is essentially what the music plays on. If you’re using a set of decks, they will be connected to a mixer in the middle. A DJ controller is a more practical solution for a beginner DJ which includes decks and a controller that can be connected to a laptop or PC.

Mixer: If you’re going the more expensive decks route, you will also need a mixer unit to connect the two devices together. This also allows you to output sound to your monitor speakers.

Monitor speakers or DJ speakers: No matter if you opt for monitor speakers or DJ speakers, you’ll need something to output the sound. Either solution should be practical, depending on your requirements (inside a house, outside by the pool, budget, etc).

DJ headphones: A proper set of cans will allow you to listen to the next track that you want to mix in, without it playing through your speakers and creating a noise!

DJ Decks or DJ Controllers?

The first piece of equipment you will need to purchase is DJ decks or a DJ controller. Sure, it is possible to DJ on a laptop without any additional equipment, however it’s very limiting and hardly a fun experience.

  • DJ controllers: A DJ controller is definitely the easiest way to start your DJ career, especially if you already own a laptop / PC. Even some of the best budget DJ controllers come with a variety of features. A DJ controller will come with software that allows you to mix music on your laptop or PC, create effects and more.
  • All-in-one DJ systems: If you don’t want to deal with a laptop or PC, an all-in-one DJ controller can work independently, however it usually comes at a price. They are similar to a CDJ + mixer setup and are geared at semi-professionals to professionals.
  • CDJs & mixer: If you’d like to mimic what most professionals use and what you’ll find in a DJ booth at clubs, a set of CDJs + mixer is the best choice to go for. There’s definitely a learning curve, and it can be a costly investment, however they will most certainly become your most prized possession.
  • Turntables & mixer: Want a more old-school route? If you have a bunch of vinyls lying around, a turntable & mixer setup will be great for you.

Most likely a DJ controller is a suitable option for starting out, however if you’ve got cash to spend look at a All-In-One DJ controller solution.

Choosing DJ Headphones

While it’s possible to use any pair of headphones that you have lying around, a proper pair of DJ headphones intended for mixing will make your life easier from the start.

Plus, Pioneer recently launched the affordable HDJ-CUE1 headphones – so there’s no excuses! So, you might be asking, what makes DJ headphones different from regular ones?

  • Sound quality: A decent pair of DJ headphones will provide clear sound without having to play it at a level that will damage your ears. Being able to hear elements of the song like the bass and kick drum are vital for mixing.
  • Durability: DJ headphones are usually made with the intention that you’ll be constantly sweating on them, travelling to-and-from performances and more. Sometimes the tip of cable might bend too – so get a set of headphones with a bayonet cable.
  • Sound insulation: A proper set of DJ headphones will be able to block out all the noise around you, including the crowd and speakers, so you can focus on mixing your music to a tee.
  • Functionality: DJ headphones are often made for long durations. Sometimes you might be mixing for two-hours or more. A flexible headband and earcups that swivel are the primary functions you should look for. Plus, the cable should be long and be replaceable should something go wrong.

A proper set of monitor speakers

If you’ve still got money to spend, a proper set of monitor speakers in the next investment you should made. While any computer speakers will work, monitor speakers provide an accurate representation of the music that you are mixing. This will develop your skills much better. Computer speakers don’t have a “true” sound representation.

Start an online music collection

Now that you’ve got the right equipment, you’ll need to build a collection of music in the proper quality formats required. If you’ve visited platforms like Beatport, you’ll soon realize purchasing individual tracks can be incredibly expensive.

Music streaming services like SoundCloud GO+, Beatport Link and rekordbox cloud allow you to pay a monthly subscription and gain access to a plethora of music.

If you already have a large collection of music on your PC in high-quality formats, then you should also be able to import that into your DJ software.

Brian McKey

Brian has been a professional music producer and audio engineer for more than two decades. He has worked with a number of artists and bands across all different genres. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.