It’s fairly common these days to see not just one DJ behind the decks but two or more. Aside from having a great time what are the two of them actually doing up there? How do DJ duos work together?
The best DJ duos will be bouncing off each other. Both in terms of energy and ideas and it’s this interaction that adds extra layers to their set. This is because although they talk to each other about what’s coming up, it’s common for DJ duos to surprise each other. This is how we used to do things as part of my DJ duo.
How Do DJ Duos Work Together on a Technical Level?
There are a few ways that DJ duos can work together. The setup they use will influence how they construct their set and how they interact with each other.
The Traditional B2B
The most common way for a DJ duo to perform is using a standard set of decks (see our recommended decks here) and mixer and taking it in turns to play one or two tracks each. This means they will also be sharing a music library and any preset settings they have built.
Although of course, they may have still created their own crates and settings within those libraries. You can see a B2B set in action in this Jamie Jones B2B Martinez Brothers video.
The more advanced version of the above and is to have a set of decks each.
How this works is each member of the duo will have a set of decks and a mixer each. That then runs through a third mixer allowing them to tweak the overall sound coming from each member. An example of this type of setup would be this boiler room set by Tale of Us.
Doing so like this allows both DJs to be cueing or mixing constantly. It also allows them to have their own unique music libraries, settings, and decks set up in exactly the way that they prefer.
This setup also allows for the most amount of layering. For example, one member could be mixing two tracks together, while the other is layering an acapella or sound sample on top of that mix. This means they could have up to four layers running at the same time.
The Controller Setup
When I was DJing as part of a duo, this was the setup we had. This would be a laptop per member, each with a link to a MIDI controller and then routed through a central mixer.
Both of us would use the using Ableton Live loaded with our own music libraries, samples, and vocals. A similar setup (although using Traktor by the looks of it) can be seen in this video of Pan-Pot.
We enjoyed using this setup as it meant we could surprise each other with tracks from any genre. As well as dropping in vocals and samples unexpectedly. Because we knew each other’s music and styles we were often able to create live remixes on the fly.
One of the main reasons we used this setup as opposed to the double-deck setup was portability. Often when going to clubs and festivals they wouldn’t have the double-deck setup available or even the space to do so.
Where possible, we would also take full decks (see our recommended decks here) (such as bar gigs for example). However, the double Ableton setup is a lot more flexible and easier to pack up and pack down.
How Do DJ Duos Work in General?
The key to any DJ duo working together is communication at every step.
This includes in the studio when purchasing their tracks and practicing, as each member has to be familiar with the other’s music library and style. It would be very difficult to have a DJ duo where one is playing heavy EDM and the other wants to play 70s disco classics every time. This would lead to some very disjointed sets indeed… Although there would be a certain amount of uniqueness of course.
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How Do DJ Duos Work Together?
When we used to DJ as a duo we would have a very basic structure to our shows. Because we played multi-genre sets we knew we were going to go from slower BPM to faster tracks. Often this would be Hip Hop through Breaks and into Dubstep, Electro and finally Drum & Bass.
Aside from knowing this basic structure we often didn’t tell each other what we were going to play.
Instead, we had roughly two tracks each (more if we had a section we wanted to play) and would just surprise each other and play the tracks that we thought would fit best next. Occasionally these would be tracks that we knew both of us had wanted to play… so one of us might rush to get that track on first.
By doing the sets in this way we never knew which direction they were going to take. And it added a level of excitement for both of us.
We would, of course, occasionally arrange certain sections or have routines that we had pre-planned.
For example, one could be layering vocals on top of a mix being created by the other. This was particularly the case when we had vinyl decks (see our recommended vinyl decks here) available, as I was able to scratch and drop samples really easily.
The Benefits of DJing in a Duo
One of the main benefits of playing in a duo is you get to share the enjoyment and excitement before, during and after a gig. After all, there’s nothing like having a best friend up on stage with you and feeling the energy together.
This also helps take the pressure off as you are not solely responsible for the event. Plus you have someone to laugh with when you make mistakes… which happens to every DJ.
At one event I accidentally restarted a song when I meant to start another. Thankfully it dropped in time so the majority of the crowd didn’t notice. However, my DJ partner did and it was the source of much amusement then and still is now.
Another benefit of DJing in a duo takes place before the gig itself.
There is a lot of work that goes into finding new music as well as practicing to bring up your skills. When you do this as a duo then again you have a friend with which to enjoy the process. Plus you share the workload which makes things a lot easier and more enjoyable.
Of course, we would still practice separately as well. Then we were able to showcase our own unique skills and individual tracks that we had found.
How Do DJ Duos Work Together When it Comes to Promotion?
This is another area where you can split the workload. Promotion is hard work but it is important for getting your name out and booking gigs.
Therefore it helps to have someone who is also sharing through their social network as well as meeting new people. The more you can broaden the number of people through which you can get bookings and gigs the better.
Each DJ Also Has Their Own Individual Skills
In many DJ duos, it is unlikely that both DJs have the exact same set of skills. Both individuals have specific things that they enjoy doing and are good at.
In our case, we split other tasks depending on skillset, outside of the DJ gigs themselves.
Wellzee’s strengths lay in producing music so he, for the most part, took care of creating our own tracks as well as producing audio samples, etc for use within our sets.
My skills outside of DJing include graphic design, animation, and video creation. This meant I was able to create individual artwork and logos and make videos/animations for projecting during our shows.
It’s worth noting that no skill is wasted when looking to DJ as part of a duo. A lot of things are transferable and skills such as graphic design can be used together to help your DJ career.
Travel and Logistics
DJing at various gigs and festivals does require a lot of traveling. This again is more enjoyable when you are traveling with a friend. Long journeys or Airport waits are made considerably more fun or at least bearable.
On the rare occasions where you get more than one day at a festival then you also have someone to party with 😉
Conclusion How do DJ Duos Work Together?
When they’re good friends then DJ duos work together really well and it makes the grind of DJing much easier.
A successful DJ duo needs to have strong communication skills and equal commitment to becoming established as DJs and artists. If one DJ feels like they are doing much more work than the other then it can quickly lead to resentment. Meaning the aforementioned communication becomes harder and harder.
You will be able to gauge this pretty early on in your DJ career with a friend. So, if you are thinking of starting out with a friend I would say go for it.
There is so much to be said for having someone beside you with which to share the crazy ride. I know with my DJ journey that it was only ever made better by being part of a duo…
If you have any questions or any other tips on how to work as part of a DJ duo then drop them in the comments below and I will respond to every single one.
- If you are looking to get more gigs then check out this post. It is jam-packed of tips, methods, and tricks to help get your name out there.
- Ever wondered what DJs actually do on stage? You’ll find all the answers here.