If you have been DJing for any length of time, chances are high that at some point things got a little… boring? All creative passions have a natural ebb and flow to their appeal and even DJing can get a little old. For me, DJing has become stale several times in the last 18 years and today I want to share a few tips on how anyone can get through those rough patches and find inspiration again.
Try A New Music Style
New music is the number one source of inspiration for DJs. It is after all, why we started in the first place – through a desire to share something we love with others. So, if you are feeling a little over the craft, go back to the well and start digging for new music. For those that have a well entrenched listening style or specific “sound” I recommend trying something totally new and ideally fun to mix. Classic examples or “fun” genre’s are those that are easy to blend and lend themselves really well to DJ manipulation like, Dub, Reggae, Drum and Bass, breakbeats etc…
This may not end up being a genre you play out, but working with a fresh style can really re-invigorate your love of music and be a solid reminder of why we all began DJing in the first place!
Play – engage in activity for enjoyment and recreation rather than a serious or practical purpose.
Playing a set for fun, and not utility will do wonders for the DJ spirit. Instead of digging for yet another perfect tech house groover to drop at 3am, allow yourself to explore slightly less functional fields: reggae trance anyone?
Test Out A New Way Of Playing
After mastering the art of beat-matching, just mixing two records can get stale over time. so for your personal practice sessions, try out new crazy ways to DJ. Again, these might never make it to prime time, but will make practicing fun again. For me switching to digital, like I talked about in the History of DJ TechTools, gave me a ton of energy and sparked a solid 5 year run of excitement in DJing.
Warning to Gear Heads – Don’t change everything, integrate one new tool every few months so things can really soak in.
Recently I started to integrate the Roland TR-8 into my live set’s and it’s been a lot of fun. To make room for that I actually dropped a few other pieces in order to keep the number of possibilities at a manageable level.
When deciding what new gear to incorporate, try to find something that activates a new part of your brain. For example, if everything is very linear (long track mixing) then perhaps something melodic like a synth over the mix would be perfect. Scratching, or finger drumming can both be great techniques to pick up and learn after you have mastered the basics and need a new fresh challenge. Solving hard problems cure’s boredom immediately because the brain is occupied with the task at hand – so make it challenging! Challenging yourself with new gear may result in some anxiety but this can actually be a good thing:
In order to maximize performance, however, we need a state of relative anxiety—a space where our stress levels are slightly higher than normal. This space is called “Optimal Anxiety,” and it’s just outside our comfort zone. Too much anxiety and we’re too stressed to be productive, and our performance drops off sharply. (Source: Lifehacker)”
The trick is to balance time with the old and new gear. Even if it’s uncomfortable using the new gear, stick with it for a while!
If All Else Fails, Go Back To The Basics
For those that have already tried every new piece of gear on the planet – you may need to go the opposite direction. Some people find fun with music again by stripping out all of the noise and eliminating most technology entirely. Yes, I am talking about switching back to vinyl – even just for fun. More and more pro DJs like James Zabiela have begun mixing vinyl at home and even at shows when possible to keep the fun alive and get back into digging for rare releases that no one else has.
We are not advocating a “go back to the earth” switch here – but genuinely do believe that just playing music in it’s simplest form can go a long way to enjoying the craft of DJing again.
Take A Fun Gig
For those that are playing shows, it’s usually the shitty, play only for the crowd only gigs that truly burn out most DJs. I am talking about endless top 40 repetition or simply playing music that you don’t love for the cash. Bring back the love by playing a show that allows you to play music that is fun again, and ideally not for the money. This could even be a free show with low expectations.
This can be especially effective for the bedroom DJ who might have become bored with the new hobby. A few fun gigs playing music you love for friends in a low pressure setting could activate the desire to keep playing more.
Fellow DJs, what are you tips and tricks for making DJing fun again?
Please share in the comments below!