What Makes A Good DJ?

Posted on November 12th, 2022

In the realm of music, the question of what defines a good DJ might seem subjective, but there are indeed certain criteria that experts and enthusiasts alike agree upon.

To provide context, I'll preface this discussion with a brief clarification of my credentials: while I'm not a DJ myself, my passion for music fuels my frequent attendance at various events, and my career involves extensive coverage of the industry and interviews with influential figures within it. Drawing from the insights of Bill Brewster and Frank Broughton's seminal work, "Last Night A DJ Saved My Life: The History of the Disc Jockey," I aim to offer an informed perspective on this matter.

Before diving into the attributes that distinguish a good DJ, it's essential to understand the role itself. A DJ, short for Disc Jockey, is fundamentally tasked with curating and presenting a selection of records or tracks for an audience's enjoyment. As Brewster and Broughton aptly put it, "What a DJ does is this: he knows music. The DJ knows music better than you, better than your friends, better than everyone on the dancefloor or in the record shop." This underscores the paramount importance of musical knowledge in the DJing craft, a principle that has remained constant since the profession's early days, whether on radio waves or in nightclubs.

With this groundwork established, let's delineate the key characteristics that define a proficient DJ:

1. **Ego Management:** Renowned figures like David Mancuso advocate for humility in the DJ booth, emphasizing that a DJ should neither overshadow nor underestimate their audience. Shedding ego and prioritizing respect for the music and the crowd fosters an immersive experience where the focus remains on the music, not the DJ's persona.

2. **Technical Proficiency:** Mastery of equipment and techniques is a cornerstone of DJing. Whether manipulating vinyl on turntables or harnessing digital tools, a skilled DJ leverages their technical prowess to seamlessly blend tracks, manipulate sound, and create dynamic sonic experiences.

3. **Creativity:** The ability to innovate and adapt sets exceptional DJs apart. By weaving together diverse tracks and responding to the energy of the crowd, a creative DJ crafts a unique and memorable journey for their audience, transcending the boundaries of individual songs to create a cohesive musical narrative.

4. **Discerning Taste:** Selecting the right tracks and sequencing them effectively is a hallmark of DJing excellence. A DJ's taste serves as a guiding principle, shaping the atmosphere and guiding listeners through a sonic landscape tailored to their preferences.

5. **Passion for Music:** At its core, DJing is a labor of love. Genuine enthusiasm for music is palpable and infectious, infusing performances with energy and authenticity that resonate with audiences.

In conclusion, while opinions on what constitutes a good DJ may vary, adherence to these fundamental principles can serve as a reliable barometer of proficiency. Whether you're a seasoned veteran or an aspiring newcomer, embodying these qualities can elevate your craft and leave a lasting impression on audiences.

Original article: What Makes A Good DJ?


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