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Thanks to Rich for this excellent advice on how to shrug off nerves and go into your first live set as confident as the professionals.

If it's your first time at playing out to a live crowd then my advice would be to prepare a basic set in advance. Start with this set at least for the first 30 minutes, just so that you can get relaxed and calm any nerves - once you've navigated a few decent mixes your confidence will increase and the nerves will dissapear. If after 30 minutes you find its going well and you're not having any technical problems then by all means divert from the planned set and go with what you think is right. However, if things start going a bit pair-shaped (for what ever reason) you've always got your prepared set to fall back on. A lot of Dj's make a big issue with this whole "going with the crowd" thing - at the end of the day the reality is that the DJ has complete control over the crowd and if he/she plays a set of excellent tunes then the crowd will go with the DJ.

As for constructing a set - basically, there are a few logical rules to follow, although without knowing what music style you're DJing I can't be very specific:

1) If you are following on from another DJ don't be afraid to let his/her track play out - a pause between DJ changes is good since it lets the crowd know something is changing.

2) Never mix out of the previous DJs last tune when its only half way through the track - most DJs build their sets up and their last tune is usually a big anthem. I get really pissed off when somebody does that to me.

3) Choose your opening tune wisely. As i've already mentioned, you may be stopping the music for a second or two, so this gives you the opportunity to drop the level/bpm of the music. Don't open with a full on track, unless the previous DJ has done a really bad job and the crowd are bored stiff - if this is the case then emergency procedures kick in to place - drop a big anthem, preferbly one that everybody knows!

4) From your opening track build up your set gradually - watch the crowd and how they are responding to the music you are playing. Remember - you are controlling them and not visa versa. A general observation is that if their hands are in the air then you're doing a good job - if they are dancing with their hands at waist level then they're not putting much effort into dancing and hence are probably not that enthusiastic about the music.

5) One you are 4 or 5 tunes into the set try dropping a tune that the crowd know (or remix of a well known tune) - think of it as a reward for the crowd for staying on the dancefloor.

6) Don't peak too early - this all depends on how long your set is. If i'm playing for 2 hours then I hit the first peak around about 45 minutes into the set, then drop it down little, and then build back up around 1hr 30, and then maintain that level to the end of my set. You don't have to build up and up continuously - you'll exhaust the crow! If you've got a longer set then follow the same pattern of building up & dropping down over hourly intervals. For me personally when I drop the level of the music I usually change the style completly, e.g, from a trance anthem down to a cheeky funky big beat number - but this all depends on what style of music you play and how broad your musical scope is. When dropping the level make sure the track is a really good one - not an average filler. That way the crowd probably won't even notice that the level of the music has dropped. When you start playing out regularly you will build up a library of unique tunes that the crowd will recognise (by unique I mean non-commercial tunes that not every DJ has in his/her record/cd box) - its these tunes that will be crucial to your success as a DJ and that will help develop your own unique style, build your reputation and distinguish you from all the other DJs.

7) For your first few gigs don't try anything too fancy. Don't try playing with samplers and effects pads - just concentrate on the mixing. DJing in your bedroom or studio is very different to DJing in a club environment and it will take you a few gigs to get used to this.

8) Again, for your first few gigs don't try and be experimental - save this for your bedroom/studio. Even big name experienced DJs try being all experimental and it doesn't always work. Stick to what you know.

9) Get yourself a decent pair of headphones - most clubs require you to bring your own. A cheap pair of headphones will be useless cos you won't be able to hear a thing, and/or they will blow within minutes, leaving your crippled. A decent pair of headphones is a worthy investment - don't let other people use them unless you trust them.

10) Its a good idea to make sure you are confident with mixing both by using monitor speakers & the headphones and also through the headphones via a cue crossfader. I've been in situations where the monitor speakers don't work very well and all you can hear is the rumble from the bass bins - being able to mix purely through the headphones using a cue crossfader has been a life saver in these situations.

11) If you are not familiar with the equipment you will be using in the club then try getting down to the venue before the gig starts and have a practice - get to know the mixer/mixing desk and how the decks feel.

12) If things are going really badly for whatever reason and you find you are having problems mixing/beat matching then stop beatmatching all together and just blend tracks together. I've been clubbing for years before I started DJing myself and hence from my experience bad mixing goes down very badly, whilst blending tracks together gernally goes by unnoticed as long as the music is good. There is far more to DJing than just beatmatching and mixing skills - the choice of tunes is far far more important - I can't stress this point enough.

13) Finally, STAY SOBER! Don't take any drugs and don't get drunk, plus get a good nights kip the night before your gig. Drugs, alcohol and tierdness are all factors that will f**kup and cloud your DJing ability. Once you have finished your set and you know you are not needed again during the night you can join the party and catch up with whatever your preffered "refreshment" is.

Right, thats about it I guess. Building a set and the way you mix is very personal - there are a million and one ways to gain the net desired effect, and hence that is why there are a lot of very good DJs out there who all have very unique styles of DJing/mixing. However, I hope these pointers are useful.

Many thanks to Rich for this guide.
Visit: http://www.global-trance.co.uk/

(This tutorial was originally posted on the former site UT-DJ. Thank you Gonzo for letting us repost it here.)

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