Because of its minimalistic structures and repetitive patterns, techno gives DJs lots of room to play around, making this one of the most creative EDM genres to mix. So if you want to know how to DJ techno, especially at a professional level, having some advanced techniques in your bag of DJ tricks is a good place to start. Here are some skills and techniques that would be useful to anyone who wants to learn how to DJ techno.
Know Your Effects
While every DJ has their own style, most techno DJs these days rely heavily on the use of effects like EQs, filters, and delays to create smooth transitions, interesting cuts, and rewarding build-ups. For example, filtering tracks during transitions by taking out the low end of one track and the high end of the other is a great way to cut out the muddiness that often occurs when mixing two tracks together. It also creates a sense of anticipation as your audience waits for the filter to finally come all the way off of that second track so they can hear it in its full glory.
EQs can be wielded in a similar way during transitions. For long transitions, which are common in techno music, keeping a sense of clarity to both tracks over a 16 or even 32 bar transition can be a challenge. This is one of the main reasons why mixers and software applications give you EQ knobs. Instead of allowing frequencies from both tracks to overlap and crowd the mix, experiment with EQing out some high or low end frequencies from your tracks. This works in much the same way as the filtering technique, but with EQ, you’re able to boost and cut certain frequencies more accurately.
Another effect to consider for techno transitions is delay. With the right delay settings, you can add a delay tail to a track as it’s fading out, or even after a quick cut. This gives the impression that the track is running longer, which again leads to smoother transitions.
All of these effects can be useful not just for transitions, but also as ways to add more interesting elements to a track. For some inspiration, take a listen to this effects-heavy set from techno DJ Derrick May:
While clever use of effects will help your transitions, all of these mixing efforts will be lost if you’re not mixing harmonically. This means mixing tracks with other tracks that are either in the same key or in a complementary key. It helps to have some music theory knowledge if you want to master this skill, and using software like Mixed in Key can also make this easier. For more on mixing in key, check out our tutorial video on using Mixed in Key software by DJ Roshan.
Know Your Material
There are so many mixing tricks and effects you can use when learning how to DJ techno that it can be a challenge to know when to apply each of these techniques. The best way to figure this out is to get to know your material well. By listening to other DJ mixes and building up your own library of techno tracks, you’ll get a feel for which styles lend themselves well to which types of transitions, which types of effects work well with which tracks, and so on. You won’t become a master at this genre overnight, but with some practice and lots of attentive listening, you become the one who teaches your friends how to DJ techno.
For more DJ mixing tips and tricks for all genres of EDM, check out Spin Academy, where you can access tutorials by professional DJs as well as interviews with celebrity DJs like Morgan Page and ill.Gates, all for only $19.95/month.