This is a question I’m asked often concerning DJing in Second Life, and my answer is usually “practice and dedication.” I’m not attempting to be abrupt or callous; it is the short version of the longer answer. No piece of equipment, software, song or magic fairy dust makes one DJ better than another. It is the collection of how the equipment, software, songs, and ingredients of the magic fairy dust that makes a DJ better. The most expensive software, mixing boards and techniques don’t instantly make a person a good DJ, it really takes a lot of practice and dedication to become good. I feel that what a person really wants to know is “How Do I Begin to Become a Good DJ?” That’s a question I can answer in more detail.
The starting point in any DJ’s career is your identity. This is the second important thing as a DJ. Are you going to be an Online DJ? Mixing, “Radio Style”, both? Are you going to DJ at Bar or Clubs? Where? What sort of music? Who’s your audience? What do you do best? Answer these questions any way that you want to, there is no right or wrong answer here, but remember to have an understanding of what you really want to do. The pitfall is to answer these questions to make the most money, in reality you should answer these questions truthfully; the huge payoff from DJing is not right around the corner.
The most important thing is to have a passion about music and increasing your music vocabulary. If you want to become a good DJ, you’re not doing this to become rich. Not only will you get bored but it will become disinteresting and “too much work”. You have to be willing to get that new CD, single, to look for that frequently not heard song for your audience. You don’t have to be a musical savant (it does help), but you have to be fairly knowledgeable of music, genre’s, important artists and the finer details that matter. Here’s a great example: Rhianna’s “Don’t Stop the Music” samples the “mama-se, mama-sa, ma-ma-kos-sa” chant from Michael Jackson’s “Wanna be Startin’ Somthin'” which was taken from Manu Dibango’s “Soul Makossa”. Knowledge like this not only allows you to recognizing and discusses songs, but helps you with mixing them. In the above example you can go from hip-hop to 1970’s disco/funk using that “mama-se, mama-sa” chant knowledge.
Listening is the third most important thing (and the most important skill) to have as a good DJ. I really recommend getting an iPod (or similar media player) and listen to music that you like with music that you are unfamiliar with. For instance, I’m not a huge country fan, actually I’m very unfamiliar with country, but one of my favorite Industrial songs is Gravity Kills cover of “Personal Jesus” which was originally done by Depeche Mode and also covered by Johnny Cash (which was my first real introduction into Johnny Cash.) I became very familiar with Johnny’s earlier work (such as “Boy Named Sue” and “I Walk The Line”) which helped me develop a part of my library that no one expects me to have. Today, I’m still not very familiar with country but I have a better understanding of it, which really helps me respect and use collaborations such as Nelly and Tim McGraw’s “Over and Over.” By listening to music your unfamiliar with you are exposed to new artists and tracks and it helps you make important connections between different songs. For those interested in mixing, continuing to listen to music helps you differentiating from a house song at 125bpm and a trance song at 140bpm. Listening also requires you to also see how other DJ’s do it, choose two or three DJ’s whom you admire or would like to emulate and go to their shows. Listen to how they mix their music, how they perform, you will learn a lot from listening to others. As well spend an hour a day to music or radio stations, by doing this you tap into the best sources for new music and information.
As for resources, there are a few really good ones. I highly recommend the book “How to DJ Right: The Art and Science of Playing Records” by Frank Broughton and Bill Brewster. They do a great job of breaking down DJing history, how to mix, and how to promote yourself as a DJ, there is a lot of helpful advice for any DJ. For communities, the DJ Forums (http://www.djforums.com/) is a great website where you can ask any question and get a response. There are some great tutorials on mixing, and is a great source for anyone searching for new music. For you Online DJ’s there is my own project the Online DJ Wiki (http://www.onlinedjwiki.com), which is still in development, but serves as a how-to for those interested in DJing.