How To Practice On Club DJ Gear You Don’t Own

Recently we’ve noticed DJs around the web asking about getting a chance to use club gear before playing a gig. One of the best things you can do before a DJ set is be completely familiar with the DJ gear that you’re going to be using. But for those who are new to some types of gear, how do you get time behind those particular decks? Learn from DJTT’s own DJ community a few great strategies for gaining experience on club DJ gear.

Gaining experience on professional club DJ gear isn’t super easy for every person who wants to take on learning how to mix. Especially for those DJs who don’t have a lot of cash to throw at the problem of acquiring DJ gear, it’s not uncommon to have more experience mixing on a virtual set of decks with little-to-no outboard gear.

And the truth is, the industry standard set of club DJ gear now runs well over $2,000. It’s not exactly a casual hobby investment, but for many DJs, not having that experience can be a huge hinderance.

Rent The Gear

Where do you think most of the DJ gear in your town or city is right now? Most likely there’s a large stockpile in local audio gear rental companies – this is where clubs and promoters go when they need to get certain bits of kit that they don’t have locally. Anyone can rent this gear, and usually it’s only a fraction of the price of purchasing it.

A few tips for making sure you get your money’s worth if you rent DJ gear to practice on:

  • Ask the rental company if there’s a time of the week that’s cheaper to rent (often weekends mean higher demand and prices)
  • See if there are weekly / monthly rates that are a better deal
  • Shop around! If you’re in a big city, quickly call each rental store and see what their rates are.

Go To A Music Instrument Store

While the last decade hasn’t been especially kind to brick and mortar stores selling musical instruments (see this analysis from February 2015 on the financial decline of Guitar Center), they still remain one of the few places for many musicians to try gear before they buy it.

Historically, these stores are more than happy to let budding DJs come in and test out gear in exchange for a potential sales lead. Of course, this comes with the drawback of it being an unpredictable environment. Sales people will bother you – they want to make their commission, other customers will want to play with the gear as well, and you’re likely to be surrounded by a ton of other noise from other instruments and DJ stations.

Overall, a musical equipment store is great place to check out and learn about pro DJ gear, but not the best way to actually get solid practice time in.  

Find A Friendly Venue / Play At Soundcheck

Image credit: @djthay420 on Twitter - dj soundcheck at a club -
Image credit: @djthay420 on Twitter

If you’re going to be playing on unfamiliar DJ gear at a venue, why not try to find a way to play in that DJ booth before the actual show? If you’ve got a good relationship with a venue owner or a promoter, ask to show up earlier in the evening on a slower night and get a chance to play on the gear.

One of the best things about this plan is that you are using the exact gear that you’re going to be using on the night of. If there are any quirks (especially common with well-worn club mixers), you’ll find out before you show up for your gig. 

There are a few drawbacks here as well – not every club will be willing to let you in early, and some club owners might (unfairly) doubt your ability to DJ if you’re asking to get some practice in.

Read our 2013 article on talking to promoters and club managers to build these relationships so a request like this is a breeze.

Swap Gear With DJ Friends / Local DJs

local DJ meetups
Just a sampling of the local DJ groups on

Have you found a community of DJs in your local area? Meeting and befriending other DJs will pay dividends in many ways, and one of them is the potential to share and trade gear. One DJ might have turntables and want to try out CDJs, or two DJs might want to swap controllers to try out a new brand or model. 

I’ve personally found to be a great place to find these local groups of DJs looking to connect with others. Even if you can’t find the bit of kit you need right away, odds are you’ll meet someone who can point you in the right direction.  

Watch Videos Of The Gear In Use

This one might be the most obvious to many DJs because we live in an era in which almost every piece of gear in any area of technology has a video of someone using it. Not only are there tutorials for DJ gear, but you can also try searching for videos of complete mixes on that specific gear.

Taking the above example of the Kontrol Z2 mixer, a quick YouTube search reveals this 20-minute POV mix video that would be very informative for anyone who knows how to DJ, but might not know the ins-and-outs of the Z2:

Have your own thoughts on how to get experience with club DJ setups before the big show? Share your stories in the comments below. 

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