How to Become a DJ: What Kind of DJ Are You?

Private jets, residencies in the world’s best clubs, VIP treatment at music festivals and colabs with the world’s most influential artists. These perks will make just about anyone want to become a DJ. But being able to create your own tracks in GarageBand might not be the best indicator that you’re cut out for a career as a professional DJ. For for those considering entering what is a highly competitive, ever-changing, and difficult profession, it is important to have a strategy so that your time, money, and energy isn’t wasted.

In the past 40 years, the concept of the DJ has evolved tremendously. DJs – or “disk jockeys” – used to have the simple responsibility of managing playback of recorded music, either on the radio or at live events. Today, the DJ is simultaneously a composer, producer, engineer, and entertainer. Here are the five different classifications of DJ:

  • Radio DJ: Radio DJs act as hosts, and they have variable skill levels when it comes to music. Some neither compose nor arrange tracks, but they are nonetheless knowledgeable about music selections. Others do a fair amount of mixing and production (some might moonlight as club DJs, producers, or turntablists). And others have marketable on-air personalities, and are largely responsible for optimizing audience engagement.
  • Turntablist: Turntablists are DJs who create, engineer, and perform music mixes and unique beat tracks using turntables, mixers, microphone, headphones, and other specialized equipment. Also called controllerists or scratch DJs, turntablists are extremely dedicated artists, often honing their craft for years and competing in tournaments. Turntablists exist in an insular world, and don’t typically gain widespread name recognition unless they branch out into a mainstream format, or collaborate with a known producer or artist.
  • Club DJ: Club DJs are DJs who specialize in one style of music, and act as DJ-in-residence at several different nightclubs throughout the week. The more popular the events become, the more opportunities the club DJ might have to broadcast the party on a local radio station or podcast. While some club DJs compose their own tracks or produce remixed versions of established songs, they very often play other artists’ recorded music.
  • Mobile DJ: Mobile DJs play weddings, private parties, proms, corporate parties, and any events requiring live music and audience engagement. Unlike club DJs or turntablists, mobile DJs must have access to a seemingly infinite amount of music, since they have to get track list approval from diverse clients, and even take requests. It is very important that mobile DJs are comfortable performers and public speakers, since they often have to act as master of ceremonies, as well as DJ.
  • Producer: Once a DJ starts composing music, they’ve begun music production. Producers assist in track recording, helping musicians achieve their intended sound, and use their own musical expertise to enrich the performers’ compositions.

Once a DJ starts composing music, they’ve begun music production. Producers assist in track recording, helping musicians achieve their intended sound, and use their own musical expertise to enrich the performers’ compositions.

At Musicians Institute, we offer comprehensive online DJ courses that help amateur and beginner DJs get to grips with the basics of DJing and build a solid skillset to significantly improve their technique. With the guidance of instructor Charles Chemery (AKA DJ Charlie Sputnik), students learn the basic principles of DJing, including finessing their beatmatching skills, exploring different functionalities of DJ equipment, effective online and vinyl crate digging, turntable fundamentals, and more.

To take a free online DJ lesson, please visit our course page and register.

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