For many DJs just starting out, their first gigs are usually shorter sets between 45 and 90 minutes. It can sound like a piece of cake for pro DJs, but for new DJs it’s often totally nerve-wracking!
Succeeding at DJ sets like these can help you build the confidence to play longer shows for bigger crowds. Knowing how to prepare for a set this length can not only help ensure a successful gig, but can also help calm your nerves.
Here are our five tips for spinning these kinds of sets.
Five Short DJ Set Tips
1. Prepare more music than you think you’ll need
There is no worse feeling than having a great gig, then towards the end realising that you didn’t prepare enough music to finish your set. It’s very easy to run out of songs if you didn’t prepare, especially in a short set situation where you may be running through tracks quickly (ie “quick mixing”).
This is easily avoidable by preparing double the amount of music you think you’ll need. It’s a great rule of thumb and one that we always recommend here at Digital DJ Tips because it hits the sweet spot of having enough tracks for your set (regardless of length) while not having too many songs to choose from, which can be overwhelming.
Packing a playlist this way gives you more options: If you play a track that isn’t going down well with your crowd, you can switch it up quickly. So doubling up on the amount of music you take along means you can keep your crowd happy, plus you reduce the chance of you running out of tunes before your set is over.
2. Have songs ready that the crowd will love
Packing a full crate isn’t enough: you also need to have the right kind of tracks in it. Always make sure that you have crowd-friendly “pleaser” tracks ready that you are confident your audience will enjoy. They can help guide you through your set if you are unsure of what to play next.
Having these songs at the ready can help buy you time to pick another song while still making sure that your audience is enjoying your set. It’s a great way to alleviate the pressure of feeling lost while making your song selections, especially for tougher crowds who need a bit more encouragement to let loose on the floor.
3. Have “mix out” points prepared
Mix out points in tracks help you keep the flow of your set. They let you see where to start mixing into the next song. This can be done in your DJ software using hot cues:
- Pick a point in the song you think is a good part to mix out from
- Set a hot cue point at the beginning of this section
- If your DJ software allows, label this point “mix out”
In the case of playing a short set, setting a mix out point can also help you make sure that you are getting through the music you’ve prepared at a pace that will allow you to play all the songs you wanted to include in your set.
4. Keep an eye on the clock
Even experienced DJs sometimes lose track of time once they get into the groove, and that’s why it’s so important to keep an eye on the clock while spinning. This helps you make adjustments to your set quickly, especially if you realise that you’re burning through your tracks at a faster rate than you would want.
Glancing at the clock once in a while is a good reminder for you to slow it down a bit, or if you are letting tracks play too long, it can remind you to pick up the pace.
5. Remember to have fun!
It’s easy to start overthinking when playing a short set. No one will be a bigger critic of you than yourself. If you made some type of mistake, chances are the crowd probably didn’t notice, or after a couple more songs they’ll have forgotten about it.
While it’s important to try to play your best set possible, don’t dwell on mistakes if you make them. Especially when your set time is already short, it’s a better use of your time to focus on making the most out of the remainder of your set.
I’m also a firm believer that the type of energy you give to the crowd while DJing will be given back to you by the crowd. So if you look frustrated or upset during your set, the crowd will have a tougher time getting into it, but if you look like you’re having fun while you are playing they are more likely to enjoy themselves.
So remember, have fun with it and show the crowd that you are enjoying playing for them as much as they are enjoying hearing you play!
Short sets are a great way for new DJs to get comfortable playing in front of a crowd. Preparing for the gig properly can be the difference between success and totally bombing. For experienced DJs who are used to playing longer sets, shorts sets can also be challenging. Taking the time to prepare can help with adjusting to the different pace that comes with playing a 45 to 90 minute set when you are used to playing sets that may span multiple hours.
Preparation is the key to being successful at any type of DJ gig. This is especially true when you don’t have an extended amount of time for your set. So make the most of the time you do have by using these tips to help you have the best short set possible.