Last time we talked about how to DJ downtempo sets on the blog, we explored some of the different subgenres that make up the downtempo movement, and also talked about the general philosophy behind downtempo music. Now that you understand the basics of what downtempo music is all about, we can get into some of the nitty gritty of how to DJ downtempo sets. As we’ll see, however, being a downtempo DJ is just as much about artistry as it is about mastering the technical side of things. But first, to start off, let’s take a look at some of the basic techniques all downtempo DJs need to master.
Although downtempo music places less emphasis on beats than other EDM genres, that doesn’t mean the beats don’t matter. In order to create smooth transitions, you’ll want to make sure that your songs are beatmatched. Want a primer on how to beatmatch? Check out our beatmatching video tutorial series, which is included in every Spin Academy membership.
Mixing in Key
Even more important than beatmatching when it comes to how to DJ downtempo music is the technique of mixing in key. Since beats are often secondary elements in this genre, that means melodic elements like vocal lines or instrumental samples will dominate the sound. So in order to get your transitions right, you’ll want to make sure that you’re always mixing in key. After all, this genre is all about creating a vibe, and there’s nothing that ruins a good vibe quite like an off-key mix. For more on how mixing in key works, check out our advanced tutorial on the Mixed in Key software.
Developing Your Taste
Any DJ who wants to become proficient in any genre needs to understand the two fundamental techniques mentioned above, and if you want to DJ downtempo sets, these two basic techniques are really all you need to get started. Except there’s still one crucial piece missing – good taste. That’s because downtempo, at its core, is not about fancy mixing tricks; it’s about creating a unique atmosphere that puts people in just the right mood. And the way to create a unique atmosphere is by developing your taste and knowing exactly what to play at what time during your set.
A good downtempo DJ will have to learn how to strike a balance between spontaneity and organization; you’ll want to have a good idea of what you’ll be playing during your set, but you’ll also want to be able to break from your setlist if you feel that you want to change up the mood. Want to know more about preparing your sets? We’ve got a video tutorial on that as well.
While the basic concept of how to DJ downtempo is simple, many downtempo DJs spend their whole careers perfecting their craft. Because the techniques involved are fairly easy to grasp, this leaves a lot of room for experimentation, and this is what sets great downtempo DJs apart from the rest – those who are able to experiment and come up with unique sounds are the ones who will develop a following and a good reputation, while those who simply follow the rules will be the ones left behind.