What comes to mind when you think of DJing? If I had to guess, it would probably be the guy with headphones and turntables who plays at clubs and music festivals, and possibly on the radio as well.
Clubs, music festivals and the radio are all pretty mainstream, so it’s often easy to forget that DJs also play at house parties. Indeed, news of a house party is usually spread by word of mouth, and if you don’t know someone, it’s often difficult to attend. If you are a reputable DJ, however, you may get the opportunity to play at a house party in addition to regular gigs at clubs and festivals.
Without further ado, here are 14 tips for how to DJ a house party.
First up, you need to start practicing before the party. This means taking in pride in what you do, because it will show in your performance, and the party will be better because of it.
Study your mixing techniques and figure out what works best. There’s nothing better than being prepared for any situation, so make sure you’re ready!
2. Expose Yourself to New/Unfamiliar Music
There’s so much music out there, and with new releases every day, it would be wise to expose yourself to it. The more music you listen to, the more you’ll reflect the varied tastes of people at the party. Although it’s impossible to please everyone, the best DJs are the ones that appeal to the greatest number of people.
Digging for records and listening to the radio will also help in this regard. You don’t need to go up and play everything radio DJ’s play, since this would be unoriginal and boring, but you should have a general sense of the latest music, and what people are currently listening to.
The ‘New Music’ section of the iTunes store is another great resource for this.
3. Prepare a Long Playlist
In general, it’s a good idea to prepare a playlist that is double the length of the time you’ll be playing music- so if you plan to play for 60 minutes, your playlist should contain at least 120 minutes of music.
This is a good rule to live by, since it provides more flexibility in song choice, allows you to be more creative, and lets you have plenty of backup options (just in case some songs are not well-liked, which they sometimes are).
Take your time preparing the playlist and be sure to study up on it beforehand so you have a good sense of what it entails, and so you won’t have to spend an eternity searching for a song or type of music you forgot to include.
If there’s one thing I can’t stand, it’s a mess. If I can’t find my music, things can get iffy, and the show might not be a success.
Whether it be sorting through an actual crate of records or just folders on your laptop, having a sense of where your music is before arriving at the party will make things much easier.
5. Create a Good Atmosphere
It’s important that the party has a good atmosphere. As DJ, you have control of more than just the music. You’re able to turn up or turn down the energy of your audience.
I’d recommend substituting these flashy elements with simpler ones, such as Bluetooth speakers, a disco ball, and maybe a few lanterns and/or candles here and there. The right atmosphere creates the right environment, which allows everyone to have a good time.
6. Keep the Songs (Fairly) Short
A dance-crazed crowd that may have been drinking will quickly lose interest in 10-minute songs that have several bass drops and the same riffs over and over again. So be sure to keep your songs short- Juicy M recommends playing the best 30-45 second snippet of a song (a chorus, a verse or two, etc.), and then moving on to the next track.
People’s attention spans are fairly short, and it’s good to switch up songs on a regular basis. However, not every song needs to be cut short, nor should it be. If it’s a classic pop song that everyone knows the lyrics to you should probably play the whole thing; as the crowd will love you for it.
7. Know How to Structure the Set
Begin the set hard, slow it down, finish hardest.
As a DJ, your job is to keep the audience dancing and the energy and excitement high at all times. After all, that’s why people show up. Be careful not to crank the energy up too high, though- people will lose their energy and become tired halfway through the party if you don’t include slower-paced songs every now and again to give them a chance to recharge.
People mostly remember the intro and the last 10 minutes, whether it’s a concert or a DJ performance — try to use your best tricks and skills during this time!
8. Play for Your Audience, Not for Yourself
Yes, it’s true that the DJ is in control of the music as well as the energy in the room at any given time. This gives the DJ a lot of power, and you know the old saying: “with great power comes great responsibility.”
Don’t do it too often though, as people will catch on to you pretty quickly, and it will just make you look bad. As Triple Threat DJs says, “You’re still entertaining people as a DJ, whether it’s a club or competition. When you take the audience out of the equation that’s when things get iffy.”
The on-stage experimentation is best left to professionals, since the crowd expects this from them.
9. Know What to Play and What Not to Play
This is crucial for beginners: you need to know what to play and what not to play, since the music sets the tone for the excitement of the room, and also affects what people think of you as a DJ.
It’s just as important to know what not to play- audience awareness is key. I’d steer clear of trap music, since it may not be well known. Also, avoid SoundCloud rappers that nobody’s ever heard of. Putting on your friend from high school’s latest song may be cool for you, but trust me, it won’t be for anyone else. It will come across as unoriginal, get people off the dance floor, and kills vibes almost 100 percent of the time. In other words, people don’t want to listen to no-name artists, so if you remember this, you’ll avoid a major buzzkill.
10. Keep the Music Coming
This one is pretty self-explanatory. When the music stops for a few seconds, so does the fun and the general mood shatters, so try to keep a few bangers on your playlist; or at least keep them in mind. You really want to let the good times roll here! It’s a party, so as long as the music is playing, people will have a good time. Feel free to take the occasional song request as well- it will help you connect with people, and as a result, they’ll think highly of you.
11. Read the Room
It’s important that you read the room/study up on your audience during the party, as it will help you connect with them. To do this, I suggest looking around the room to get a sense of which sections of the room are rowdy, and which are quieter. If you want, you could even home in on specific people to see what it is they’re reacting to most about your music (just be sure to avoid creepy eye contact).
Also, as mentioned above, be sure to gauge when it might be time to switch it up from high-energy tunes to a slow tune, since people like variety, and need a break every so often. And if for some reason people don’t look like they’re enjoying the current track, stop the music and try a different song. Reading the room and making decisions based on the vibe of the party can only help you.
12.Stay in Control
There’s a reason why you were hired to DJ the house party. Whether it be your style, your skills or simply your good taste in music, people want to hear you play. So, you need to remember that you are in control of the party, and you should keep it this way. It’s fine to take song requests every now and again to build rapport with the audience, but don’t overdo it. If you don’t set the tone and exhibit confidence from the beginning, things can go haywire pretty quickly. Just ask DJ Lucas Andrew, who notes that at one house party, “Nobody was really in charge of the tunes which created a chaotic stop-and-start mash up of whoever felt like their favorite song was more important than the last which kills the fun of the party.”
13. Dress Well, Have Fun
“If you look good, you feel good.” How you dress says a lot about you. What you wear will depend somewhat on the setting of the party, but you do want to wear something where people will know you’re a DJ- this adds to your credibility, and makes people know that you’ll be in charge of the tunes and energy in the room. Consider the type of venue you’ll be playing in prior to showing up, because this will give you time to prepare an appropriate outfit. If you’re having trouble figuring out what to wear, or are just looking for ways to spice up your DJ wardrobe, ask people for advice on online forums, or check out BPM Supreme’s guide “Five Standard Looks DJs Typically Wear to Work”.
Having fun is also super important. In addition to communicating through the songs you play; body language is crucial. If you’re in the DJ booth and look uninterested or like you’re just going through the motions. It’s very likely that the crowd will become a mirror image of the energy (or lack of energy) you convey. So instead of looking at your phone when the music’s playing, try to look enthused, engage the crowd, and be present in the moment. Remember that the DJ sets the tone for the mood of the night, and if you want to create good vibes and have the party be a success, you need to have fun- it all starts with you.
Let’s be honest here- parties can get pretty crazy sometimes, and most parties these days have alcohol involved in one way or another. As a DJ, you need to remember that you are setting an example for the party-goers not just with your music, but also through your actions. As I mentioned in one of my previous articles, drinking is not a good idea while playing, since it can impair your judgement, and even lead to hearing damage as well.
It’s perfectly fine if they have alcohol at the venue, but don’t supply people at the party with drinks. Although most people will probably be over 21, you don’t want to risk legal trouble/action by giving booze to minors (especially since under-age people usually find a way to get into 21+ events). The bottom line? Don’t be a fool. Otherwise, you might end up like those high school kids from the movie Project X and could very well have a hard time finding work afterwards.