You think DJing is cool, you heard it was easy and you just want to get going. Am I right?! Point one is true, middle not so much but thankfully you can get started right away.
The amount of time involved depends on your style and level you are aiming to achieve. To help I’ll explain what defines a DJ and then break down the skills so we can answer in-depth, how long does it take to be good at DJing?
There are several individual skills that need to be learned to DJ successfully. None of the theory is particularly difficult, it just takes practice to make the skills second nature. Someone who is dedicated to practicing could easily be DJing confidently within 3 to 6 months.
Of course, that figure bundles everything together, how about each skill individually? How long does it take to learn them?
What is a DJ?
A DJ is anyone who, using a curated list of tracks, gets people to enjoy an event, preferably by dancing.
By this definition, if you curated a playlist on Spotify and enabled DJ mode then, technically, you’d be a DJ. In which case the answer to how long does it take to be good at DJing, would be the length of time it takes you to curate that playlist.
However, most people asking this question they are thinking of DJing in the truest sense of the word. Someone who performs to an audience from behind a set of decks (see our recommended decks here).
To answer the question fully we need to break down some of the individual skills that make a competent DJ.
How Long Does it Take to Be Good at DJing? Skill by Skill
Learning Your Tracks
Of course, if you love the music within your genre then you’ll have spent many hours doing this already. But for the benefit of working out time, we’ll assume you’ve not heard the tracks before.
Say a track is 3 minutes long and it takes you ten times to fully know that track back to front. Then we’re talking 30 minutes to familiarize yourself with each track.
For a 1 hour DJ set, you will need roughly 20 tracks to play. This puts your total familiarization time with these tracks at 600 minutes, or in other words, 10 hours.
This is incredibly simplistic working out of course and much of the learning can be done on the go. In fact, you’re probably already doing it when you listen to music on headphones when out and about.
It is worth noting that this is a key skill of DJing so it does require and take time. One of the best places to buy your music is from Beatport.
This is the simplest and fastest way to get DJing. Essentially all you have to do is fade in one track while fading another out. This is best done when there aren’t any vocals or drums playing.
If vocals or beats from 2 different tracks clash then it becomes really obvious to the audience. Instead, you’ll want to mix drums or vocals from one track into an instrumental section of another. This will make the transition as smooth as possible with getting too technical on mixing techniques.
How long does it take to be good at DJing by blending? Really quick. You can start in minutes, especially if you already know your tunes really well.
This is a skill that goes to the core of a true DJ. In essence beatmatching means adjusting the tempo of the next track to match the track already playing.
When they are playing at the same speed then your crowd is much less likely to notice the transitions and can keep the flow of their dancing. This is how a DJ controls and maintains the energy during a set.
Beatmatching is an art form in itself. And the amount of time you spend practicing and mastering it is entirely up to you. That said, it has become easier in recent times. And I’m not referring to automated beatmatching features on decks (see our recommended decks here, which do actually have this feature).
These days when you purchase music it will tell you what speed the track is at. This means that you can purchase two tracks both at 130bpm for example. Then you know when you play these two tracks together, they’re already at the same speed. You will, of course, need to know when to start playing them to make them sound as slick as possible.
Beatmatching is key to answering how long does it take to be good at DJing.
To understand and learn the concept of beatmatching will take only a few hours. However, learning to do it purely by ear (within the same genre) will take weeks to months.
And because it is a skill without limit so you can continue to practice and master it so you can beatmatch between all sorts of genres and styles.
You can actually keep perfecting it for weeks, months and years. Although you can perform DJ sets well before this of course. We are just talking expert ninja level when you spent years perfecting the technique.
How Long Does it Take to Be Good at DJing by Reading a Crowd?
This is another key skill for DJs and is a factor in DJs who play to empty dance floors and those who keep it packed all night. A good DJ is able to read the room. They will often observe before their set to see what the crowd are reacting to with the previous DJ.
This then enables them to tailor their set depending on the mood of the audience. As a basic example, if a crowd is loving high-energy house versus melodic house then the DJ can play their most energetic tracks over the lighter ones.
While this sounds like a simple concept, it takes skill and practice and is something that cannot be rushed. In essence, all DJs, even the superstars, would have played to empty dance floors at some point in their career. It is just a rite of passage.
How Long Does it Take to Be Good at DJing by reading a room? This one a bit more difficult to put a timeframe on. It’s really just a case of getting out there and performing as many shows as possible. As you do you’ll start to develop an ability for reading the room, which in turn informs your own style.
A Note on Learning to Read a Room
There are certain gigs and situations that are really forgiving to learn how to read a room. Like house parties for example.
Everyone is there generally to have a good time and get as drunk as possible. Meaning a DJ has to be pretty damn bad to keep a dancefloor clear…
Love DJ gear?
So do we, check out our favorites…
How Long Does it Take to Be Good at DJing – Mastering DJ Equipment
The very basics of DJing are fairly simple. You just have two players and you adjust the volumes when mixing between the two.
When you think of it in these simplistic terms, and ignore all the equipment features, then you won’t get overwhelmed. Modern DJ equipment has all sorts of functions so it is easy to obsess about trying to learn them all. To view our recommended equipment, push here for decks and here for mixers.
However, these can wait until after you have learned blending and beatmatching. Some features will take minutes to learn, others hours. Also as you learn features you will discover more and more ways to use them as time goes on.
As you become familiar with each, and DJing in general, you will start to incorporate a lot more technical mixing.
Once DJs have learned how to beatmatch then the next thing they start mastering is manipulating the frequencies of tracks. The frequencies are split across bass, middle and treble and are also known as EQs. DJs tweak these to smoothly mix tracks and essentially create live remixes on the fly.
On the mixer DJs have controls for these individually and it allows them to, once beatmatched, switch the bass around from one track to the other for example. Once again you can find our recommended mixer here.
This is again an art form and there are many tips and tricks to be learned. A DJ can really spend as much time as they want to master these techniques.
The basics, however, we are talking hours to learn to get going and then weeks to be able to do competently. After a few weeks, you should be able to do it pretty well.
A Tip to Speed up Your EQ Learning
Find a mix by one of your favorite DJs and then actually get hold of the tracks included within it. You can then essentially deconstruct and reconstruct the mix.
This will help you understand how they have used the various EQs to put that mix together and make it sound the way that they have.
Most equipment these days includes built-in effects. While these can be used by established DJs (or even pretend DJs to try and cover up a lack of skills) they do sound obvious and are easy to make sound bad.
So they should never be relied on in place of learning the actual skills of mixing. However, once you have learned to mix then learning individual effects becomes very quick.
We’re talking minutes to hours to familiarize yourself with an individual effect. Then within weeks, you will have learned all sorts of ways to use that to add flair to your mixes.
Scratching is another limitless DJ skill. In fact, it is true to say but not all DJ scratches have been invented yet which means it is impossible to learn then all. Again with this, we are talking minutes to get going, weeks and months to do well, and years to become a grandmaster.
That said the very basics of scratching can be practiced on a constant level. The “Baby Scratch”, which is moving the platter back and forwards, can actually be done when you are waiting to drop a track. In your headphones, if you’ve got some time to kill, then you can be practicing your baby scratch. The audience won’t be able to hear of course.
Scratching is Not Essential
You don’t need to scratch in order to DJ, in fact, it actually tends to be fairly uncommon amongst DJs. So don’t worry or feel like you need to be able to scratch in order to perform your first set. If you are interested in having decks that you can scratch with then check out our recommended set here.
Conclusion – How Long Does it Take to Be Good at DJing?
As you can tell from the breakdown above, DJing is not just one single skill that you learn and then never have to practice again. It can be very quick to start then you can spend as much time as you want to master and develop your skills.
If you wanted to get going then and perform, for example, an hour set then you could do this…
- An hour DJ set at roughly 5 minutes per track would be 12 tunes
- You could learn these 12 tunes back-to-front by listening on repeat until you know exactly how they start and end
- You could then just do basic mixing using the volume to blend between tracks
- Essentially, press play on one track as the other one starts to wind down
- Then you could just turn the volumes down and up.
You could practice this beforehand and probably get away with performing an hour-long DJ set with perhaps 10 hours of preparation and practice. Just be mindful that you’ll want to steer clear of trying to beat match and do anything too technical.
In conclusion, how long does it take to be good at DJing? As long as you want and as long as you want to dedicate to it.
FAQs – How Long Does it Take to Be Good at DJing?
Is DJing hard to learn?
DJing isn’t especially hard to learn and you can get going quickly. By fading between intros and outros of tracks then you don’t need to worry about learning complex techniques like beatmatching. However, that said, to become a professional DJ you do need to learn skills like these.
The theory is not difficult yet to beatmatch by second nature can take weeks and months of practice. This doesn’t mean that DJing is hard to learn though, getting new music and playing gigs as soon and as often as possible keeps the process fun and exciting.
How do I get better at DJing?
There are a few ways to fast track your learning. The most obvious one being to get a DJ setup at home and practice as much as possible. On top of that recording and listening back to mixes allows you to critique yourself and recognize mistakes much easier.
Getting out and playing gigs as quickly as possible will also mean you push yourself and get better at DJing much faster. Studying mixes by professional DJs can also help you understand how to build DJ sets and take your DJ skills to the next level.
What skills do you need to be a DJ?
There are a few key skills that all professional DJs have. The two most important ones are tune selection and reading a crowd, this is because they feed into each other. Once a DJ understands a crowd and what they are enjoying they must have the correct tunes available and know which to play, in order to keep the vibe strong.
On top of that you have the technical skills. Beatmatching being the most important. This is where you match the speed of two tracks so you can seamlessly blend them together. While technology (i.e sync) can do some of the work for you the details of a smooth mix will have to be done by ear and by knowing your music. These are skills that can only come through practice.
How long do DJs play for?
This depends on the situation. The minimum would usually be an hour, which is around 15 tracks (assuming each to be played for approximately 4 minutes).
DJs can also do marathon sets as well. DJ Scruff, for example, will often only book a gig if he can play the whole night, often 5-8hours. Things are also slightly different for event DJs. They can play in between bands, for example, meaning they may do several sets of 15-30minutes through a night.