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What Makes a Good DJ Mix?

The number of DJs is increasing constantly and everyone wants to be sure that they are doing their part the right way. But making a DJ mix is not an easy task and if you’re reading this article you already know that.

Every DJ knows that they can get better, even the more experienced ones. In this article, I’ll give you tips and tricks so you can have the best DJ mix possible. Mixing two tracks together is just a basic approach, but to be different from the others requires next-level skills and experience.

A good DJ mix is a combination of energy, knowledge about music, and respect for the audience. Let’s dig in and figure out together how to make your DJ set even better than it is!

What Makes A Great DJ?

what makes a good dj mix

Before we dig into DJ mixes, let’s see what the person behind the DJ set has to offer in order to become one of the greats. Don’t get me wrong, you don’t have to be the greatest, but the more you work on yourself, the better your mix will sound. Guaranteed.

Every profession has these people that do the job perfectly, but lack respect for others and are perceived as arrogant. You don’t want to be that person either. Your audience will connect with you much more once you realize that DJing is not just a job, it’s passion and work combined.

No Such Thing As A “Bad Gig”

Okay, I’m sure you’re all like: “Sure, there is a bad gig!” You’re right, sometimes you’ll get invited to play at clubs where they didn’t provide any equipment for you, although they said they would. Sometimes even the bouncers won’t let you in so you have to prove that you’re the DJ.

Everything I mentioned above exists and will probably happen to you as well if it hasn’t already. But, if you are an aspiring artist, there shouldn’t be such a thing as a “bad gig” in your mind. All publicity is good publicity, and something good can come even from the worst venue.

Sure, you might be called to mix at some club where you will be underpaid and the acoustics are not so good. But remember that these are not things that should worry you. It’s better to spin for $0 and get noticed, than refusing a gig and then not ever getting invited again.

If you’re a good DJ, the audience will notice. And when they notice, the club owners also notice. That means you’re probably getting another call. That’s when you can think about asking for more money or better conditions, but first, get your name out there!

Respect Your Audience

Every DJ has their own style of mixing tunes and performing in front of people. We usually perform in more or less the same venues and cities. That means that most of your audience are regulars, especially if you’re spinning electronic dance music.

Know them and respect them. If they want you to stay and “work” for a bit longer, do it. They’ve devoted their night to listen to your DJ mixes, the least you can do is show them that you’re there for them as well.

However, you should always keep your dignity, of course. Don’t let them interfere in your music selection. You have your playlist and you stick to it, no favors, you’re not a wedding band. Sure, if you’re at a friend’s birthday party, play a song they like. But not for everybody. 

Even if you’re a radio DJ, you probably have that one listener who always calls and asks for a special song. So, the logic is more or less the same.

Keep Yourself Open-Minded

I have one thing to ask of you. Don’t be one of those DJs who are “hard-core” turntable spinners that constantly refuse to go digital, although they’re not really sure what that means. In the era we live in, it’s kind of selfish to refuse to use some DJ software for your DJ mixes, at least.

Even if you’re into turntablism, there is this thing called DVS (Digital Vinyl System), which allows you to combine the two worlds. You’ll be doing the track selection from your laptop, but manipulating them from your turntables.

At the end of the day, it’s important that your audience enjoys the gig and has fun. Believe me, they don’t care if you have turntables, a mixer, or just a laptop for that matter. Just make sure that your DJ mixes are lit and people love them!

Tips For A Good DJ Mix

Everything that I mentioned above is important if you want to be successful in your DJing story. But that’s just the beginning and should give you an idea of where to start. 

But to answer the initial question, you must learn some techniques and show that you have qualities other than being nice and respecting the crowd. In this part, we’ll see how you can take your mixing skills to the next level.

Prepare Your DJ Set

DJing is not about hitting the play button, although some would say that. But if you’re in the game for a while, you know how tough it can be and how many things you must keep in your mind to have a great night at the club and see happy faces in front of you.

In order to reach this goal, you need to make sure that certain criteria are met. Are you at the right venue? Does it suit your style and the one of your crowd? You’re not going to have a techno party at a hip-hop club, right?

Another thing you should do is check out the equipment you’re offered. Of course, if you’re bringing your own equipment to the set, there is no need for this, since you’re aware of what you own. But if the venue said: “Hey, don’t worry! We have all the equipment you need!”, then definitely go and see for yourself.

Not that someone is trying to trick you, but some people, especially club owners, have no idea what you need. A DJ mixer is a DJ mixer to them. So, you better see it and decide whether it suits you and your performance.

Get The Music Ready

The most important thing for a good DJ to consider before entering a venue is the playlist, or crates if you like. I’m saying crates because that’s what we all use in our DJ software and it’s what helps us have a nice and tidy library.

Having a ready-to-go playlist will help you a lot during your DJ set. You will have an idea of how you want the night to flow and how to fill in the time slot. Some DJs have the whole night planned ahead, but I don’t think you should go that far.

It’s enough that you organize your playlist, create crates and sub-crates based on music genre, artists, or even time period. The crowd loves it when you introduce a “forgotten hit” that awakes the feeling of nostalgia. Believe me, it always works!

Another tip that I can share with you so you could use it for your DJ sets is sorting the songs by BPM. Maybe this tip is not mind-blowing, but changing to a track with faster BPM always receives a good response from the crowd. Don’t know why, but it always does.

Harmonic Mixing

The basics of DJ mixing is to put together two songs that go well together. The best way to do this is to best match the tracks so they both fall on the same beat, and therefore sound cool. DJs make sure that they’ve adjusted the BPM (beats per minute) right, as well as the key a track is in.

This can be done by ear, which is important to learn how to do. However, in reality, all of the best DJs such as Carl Cox, David Guetta, etc, use DJ software that analyzes every track and will list your DJ set by key, genre, artist, or whatever you want, really.

But other techniques can also be applied. Well, not so much of a technique but another software that will make your mixes sound so cool.

Mixed In Key

Mixed in Key is one of the best key detection software programs in the world, used by many DJs across the world. It can be used as a plugin for all the well-known DJ software programs such as Serato, Traktor, Rekordbox, or Ableton. 

The deal with Mixed in Key is that it has spent many hours on research and data to create one of the best algorithms the world has seen. It performs better than any key detection software and is able to find the key of songs that don’t even specify a clear key they’re in.

With this program, you can organize your playlist by key or energy levels. Well, the latter only comes with Mixed In Key 10. Don’t feel obliged to get it, but it will make your DJ set much cooler.

Just for the record, it is available for both Mac and Windows.

Energy Levels

This feature is unique to Mixed in Key. As the name suggests, your songs will be analyzed and then ordinated by the level of energy they have. This means that the software will tell you which track has the highest energy and which one is slow and easy.

In other words, if one track has an energy level of 1, it means that the song has almost no beat and can make someone, if not everyone, yawn. The higher the number gets, the more energy that track has.

Seeing the energy levels at all times will facilitate your track selection process and you will always know the next track that will fit in perfectly. The highest number is 10, meaning that if your DJ sets mainly contain EDM, you’ll only want songs going from 6 and up.

The most usual club songs, such as progressive techno or house, trap, and so on, carry the number 7 to their names. Hip hop is a bit lower but still holds a high-energy level. 

It’s always smart that you start your night by playing a song with energy level 5, and then increase slowly to finally reach a high-energy song once the crowd is all warmed up.

Cue Points

One of the best ways to fire up the stage is to have cue points ready at any moment. In case this is new to you, a cue point is an exact moment in a track that DJs mark so they know exactly which part of a track they want to trigger.

In DJ software, they look like little flags and can be triggered at any time. It’s basically telling you: “Here’s a cool part at 40 seconds, and another one towards the end of the track.” So whenever you feel that the audience is ready for that part you play it!

Most DJ software will allow you to pup up to eight cue points. Usually, DJs set up one cue point at the first beat of the song. That way, when you mix two tracks together, you’ll make sure that they’re falling on the same beat. Otherwise, one would be faster than the other and that’s just bad.

Equalizer (EQ)

We all know the three knobs that you can find on every mixer, with a separate section devoted only to frequencies. They are a huge factor in the overall mix since the sound that will reach the listener depends on how you adjust your lows, highs, and mids.

Just to run quickly through all of them, lower frequencies describe the bass. These terms are often interchangeable and DJs who mix electronic music usually refer to the knob as a bass. 

The mids and highs sometimes overlap, depending on the vocal and instruments used.

Adjusting the frequencies right will add quality to your DJ mix. Having a well-balanced DJ mix is one of the toughest parts of DJing.

General EQ Rules

Differentiating between low, middle, and high frequencies is okay, but to be a really good DJ you need to start feeling them. This is not so abstract, and there are some simple patterns that you can follow to have the knobs adjusted the right way.

Not having enough bass means that you will have a weak mix, but having too much bass will make the mix lose clarity. The best thing to do is to adjust the knob in a way that will not lose clarity, nor will it sound too weak.

The same thing goes for the mids and highs. If you have too many mid frequencies, your mix will sound kind of muddy. However, it’s even worse to have very little mids, as the sound will be hollow and you don’t want that.

As for the high frequencies, too much will make the mix a bit harsh, while the contrary will give you a muffled sound. In other words, find a good balance with the frequency, start listening carefully and at one point, you will start feeling all this quite intuitively.

Working The Bassline

All frequencies are important for a DJ set and are crucial for a high-quality mix. But most DJs are interested in the bass, regardless if you spin hip hop or mix electronic dance music. It’s the frequency that makes you dance, or headbang, so you have to do it right.

Most mixer knobs don’t kill the bass completely. Even if you turn the knob all the way to the left, you will still be able to hear some bass. The same thing goes for the other frequencies, i.e. other knobs.

Swapping the baseline is an essential move for a DJ mixing EDM. That means to take the base from one track, and “kill” the bass of the other track. This will give you a smooth mix that will be well accepted by the audience.

A great tip to blend in the next track smoothly is to have the bassline of the existing track cut. So, simultaneously as you’re introducing the new track, you turn the knob of the master track to make room for some fresh baseline. Low frequencies really sound awful when they clash, so do your best to avoid that.

Manipulating Mids

Depending on the music genre that you’re playing, you’ll have many or few vocals. Vocals in general fall into the mid-frequencies category. So, sometimes you’ll have a track that you’re introducing second, and the vocals of the existing track will mess up everything.

This sucks because you would only introduce the new songs to get the attention of the crowd. However, in these types of situations, you should try and move down the filter knob of the first track, and turn up the knob of the second track, so it will get the spotlight it needs.

Finally, once you’ve done that it’s always good to think of the next track and slowly fade away the first one. Whatever you do, make sure you don’t have that muddy effect in your DJ mix with overlapping vocals.

Leave the EQ Knobs Neutral

This is something that rookies do a lot but the best DJs won’t ever do it. It’s a simple question of being careful of how you introduce a new track in the mix, and what you do with the EQ knobs. For example, if you’re having a new track waiting, in which position will you keep the “old” knobs?

I also had a tough time with this when I was starting out as a DJ. I would have the next song on the playlist ready but would leave the knob adjustment of the previous track untouched, the way it was.

This causes a harsh clash of sounds that’s very unpleasant to the ear. The crowd will start giving you strange looks and you might feel like you shouldn’t DJ anymore. Okay, that’s a bit too harsh, but that mistake should be eliminated forever.

The trick is to have the knobs in neutral position (12 o’clock) when you’re dropping a new song into the mix. That way, you will know how to set the knobs for the next track, because you will hear the actual sound of the master track.

Tone Matching

This section might look weird to DJs who never mixed analog and started off directly digital. Most techno, house, or even drum ‘n’ bass tracks have the same BPM and same frequencies (give or take), so there’s not much work to be done as they sit well together.

However, if you start experimenting with new music genres, which I highly recommend if you want to be a good DJ, you’ll start noticing how older music has a variety of frequencies running and doesn’t really have a clear tempo (speed).

That’s when you use the EQ to have a smooth transition from one track to another by equalizing the tracks, literally. For example, you can cut the mids of the older songs so the overall signal will have more gain.

It’s important to know that older tracks, especially popular hits from the ’90s don’t have a clear frequency range. Know this and add mids and highs where needed, so your crowd will listen to a first-class mix. This won’t only inspire them to dance, but it will make you more popular in your career as well.

Follow A Pattern

Your DJ set is nothing different from a movie, or a theatre play. It’s your journey accompanied by music and people that surround you. Just like a writer or an actor, you have to make your crowd feel part of something bigger: a story.

I’m just assuming that your DJ sets comprise mostly electronic dance music, which means that you’ve probably noticed how different bass, or rhythm, changes the energy levels of the crowd. That’s why you need to tell them a story that will have everything: an introduction, a plot, plot twists: basically, a story that unravels.

No, I’m not saying you should write books. But imagine the energy of the people if a DJ comes and starts with a fast and energetic trance, keeps it that way for 15 minutes, and then switches to house with a repetitive 4/4 time signature.

So, start slow, try to feel what the crowd needs. Increase the BPM a bit, see how they react. Bring it back down if needed. This is all part of your job! Your shift usually lasts up to six hours, take advantage of that time and give the people what they want.


A lot has been said in the article so far. The goal of the text is to make you a better DJ who cares about this profession and the people listening to our sets. From tips to tricks, this text should give you a wider perspective of how to approach the job.

Hopefully, you have a clearer idea now of what kind of a DJ you want to be. Do you want to be someone who will just play tracks without any idea of what the crowd wants, or will you engage more with the crowd? 

Since we really did say a lot in this article, let’s see what are the key points that you have to consider in your next DJ mix. To be a good DJ, you have to:

Respect your listener.

Always remember that you exist because of the crowd, not the other way around. If there are no listeners, there will be no venues where you’ll play your setlist. If you’ve had troubles that day, leave them in front of the club. You’re here for the people and they’re there for your mix. They want you to play a bit more, do it! You’ll go home eventually to get some sleep, and they will remember how cool you were to stay with them a bit longer.

Be open-minded and accept diverse gigs.

These two can be put together since they are quite similar. Being open-minded in DJ terms means taking on different adventures and experimenting in your work. Don’t stick to the same playlist your whole life – experiment with genres. Sure, you don’t want your sets to be melting pots, but no one will mind if you drop in something different from time to time.

In that direction, don’t be this “hot shot” that refuses gigs believing they are below their level. To make myself clear, I’m mostly addressing young and aspiring DJs. This is not the time to choose where you want to perform. If life gave you an opportunity to play at a birthday party, take that opportunity!

To make a good DJ mix, you have to:

Be prepared.

Track selection is perhaps the most important thing for your mix. To have a good set, your tracks have to be well-prepared and sorted by some relevant indicator. Don’t go unprepared, that’s the worst you could do.

Your songs should be sorted by genre, energy, BPM, and if you remember, I suggested that you should have a crate full of “old nostalgic tunes”. They always work.

Work on harmonic mixing.

The tracks in your mix must be in harmony with each other. I’m sure you’re aware of beatmatching but the best DJs take this one notch higher. There are also factors like energy levels for which I recommended a great tool, which will facilitate the track selection process for you.

Work on harmonic mixing.

The tracks in your mix must be in harmony with each other. I’m sure you’re aware of beatmatching but the best DJs take this one notch higher. There are also factors like energy levels for which I recommended a great tool, which will facilitate the track selection process for you.

Work on harmonic mixing.

The tracks in your mix must be in harmony with each other. I’m sure you’re aware of beatmatching but the best DJs take this one notch higher. There are also factors like energy levels for which I recommended a great tool, which will facilitate the track selection process for you.

Your mix will have soul when the bassline, mids, and highs are in the right order. Otherwise, you’re risking having either a muddy or a harsh mix that will be a pain to the ears. I will only repeat the general rules, and for the other tips, visit the section above.

  • Not enough bass equals a weak mix. Too much bass equals poor clarity.
  • Not enough mid frequencies equal hollow sound. Too many mid frequencies equal a muddy mix.
  • Not enough high frequencies equal muffled output. Too many high frequencies equal a harsh mix. 

If you stick to these rules, tips, and tricks, I’m sure that your mix will improve a lot. In any case, I hope that this article has opened up a new world to you and you’re already planning to upgrade your approach to DJing.

I will just remind you of this once more: our job exists because of the crowd, not the other way around!


What Qualities Does A DJ Need?

They need to be musical, to have a sense of rhythm as well as for timing. It also never hurts to be charismatic and to have the energy which will inspire people to dance. Of course, other things come to mind too as being a good negotiator since that’s also a part of the job.

Moreover, other than equipment, they should love the job and feel as if it was a pleasure rather than something they have to do.

What Is The Salary For A DJ?

According to DJing Pro, a DJ makes $14 per hour on average, but the price can reach up to $33 for more experienced DJs. Beginners might make as little as $10 per hour.

However, according to ZipRecruiter, the annual salary of a DJ goes around $58K. The top-paying DJ for 2020, according to Infoanyday, was Afrojack with some $10 million earned for the year.

Is It Hard To Become A DJ?

Every beginning can be hard, and so can a career in DJing. Becoming a DJ includes a lot of practice and a lot of time dedicated to your tracks, playlists, skills, and techniques. The equipment can be quite expensive too, but you only need a laptop and software to start.