Most of what you learn about how to become a better DJ involves technical skills – how to make better remixes, how to use effects, how to do cool transitions, and so on. All of these skills are important, of course, but often in learning the technical aspects of DJing we overlook an equally (if not more) important aspect of the craft – psychological preparation. Music, after all, is all about communication and emotion, so in order to be a master at playing music and getting people to dance, you have to know more about DJing than how to turn the right knob at the right time.
Here are a few factors to consider when preparing for your next DJ gig that will help you unlock your mind and become a better DJ.
Music Connects Us
Why do people love going to the club and dancing? Sure, it’s a good excuse to drink and party, but there has to be more to it than drinking and partying if people are willing to pay huge amounts of money to see some of the world’s top DJs perform.
There’s something about collective enjoyment of music that seems to bring people closer together. In fact, studies conducted on choirs have found that choir members’ heartbeats actually synchronize when they’re singing in unison. And the phenomenon extends beyond performers as well. Consider this excerpt from Daniel J. Levitin’s 2007 book, This Is Your Brain on Music:
“If music serves to convey feelings through the interaction of physical gestures and sound, the musician needs his brain state to match the emotional state he is trying to express. Although the studies haven’t been performed yet, I’m willing to bet that when B.B. King is playing the blues and when he is feeling the blues, the neural signatures are very similar. [...] And as listeners, there is every reason to believe that some of our brain states will match those of the musicians we are listening to.”
So not only does a whole crowd start to dance on the same beat when you give them the right song, but when they really get into the music their emotional and physical states will start to become interconnected as well.
Music Is Felt, Not Just Heard
Why is this important to remember if you want to become a better DJ? Because good DJs are masters of conveying feeling and emotion. So even if you don’t technically need to feel relaxed when you’re playing a downtempo set, or hyped up when you’re playing a techno set, getting into the right emotional mindset before you go on will help you communicate emotion more clearly with your audience, which, whether we identify it or not, is what most of us are really after when we go out to the club.
So the next time you’re preparing for a set, rather than running through your setlist in your head again and again, take some time to get yourself into the right emotional state for the set you’re going to play, and take some time to gauge the emotional state of the audience as well. Try to get a feel for what sort of “vibe” is in the room you’re about to enter, and then use your emotional communication skills (and technical DJ skills as well) to either match that vibe, or change the mood to one that matches the music you’re playing.
For more on the psychology of how to become a better DJ, check out our blog post on How to DJ When You Feel Like a Failure. Becoming a Spin Academy member also gives you access to our celebrity interviews page, where you can watch exclusive interviews with some of the world’s top DJs to see how they approach the psychology of becoming a better DJ.