Not much experience playing warm up sets? Check out our advice!
One of the most common complaints that promoters have is that DJs playing their events don’t know how to warm up a room. It’s a pretty understandable thing to be annoyed about to be fair. I mean, you wouldn’t be too impressed if you spent thousands booking a top DJ to come over and half the crowd were done in by the time they got behind the decks would you?
For a DJ trying to get recognised locally, trying to build a reputation and trying to get gigs, this skill is absolutely essential. Don’t let anybody tell you otherwise. But it can be a tricky thing to get right and you don’t want to blow your chances getting rebooked when you’re still learning the craft. So what should you be considering when selecting tracks, prepping your set and playing on the night?
Try to think back to DJs that you’ve seen play live, how did the warm up DJs set differ from the headliners? Keep this in mind when selecting what tracks to take with you. Make sure you’re not playing anything that’s going to blow the roof off. Keep your selection understated, but make sure that what you’re playing is groovy enough to keep people moving. When you’re going through your tunes, picture how you’d react to them if you heard them in a club and plan accordingly. This isn’t the time for big, thumping basslines and melodies. Percussive, beat driven tracks will usually do the job nicely. Warm up sets can be a great excuse to go digging through tunes and find hidden gems so make sure you do so. Remember, this is all about energy. You need to cultivate an atmosphere from the energy in the room and maintain it.
Also, this seems obvious... but don’t play the headliners tune. If they want to play that song, they’ll play it.
Structuring your set
The ability to structure your set effectively is as important as your choice in tunes. You want to keep heads nodding and feet moving, build a set that’s going to do this. If you have a slightly punchier track that you’re going to play, don’t just drop it in, build up to it. Slip it in at a peak in your set and watch the reaction you get when you’ve taken the time to get the audience ready to hear it. Tease the crowd by holding back and remember that people are there to see the headliner, so you shouldn’t be playing anything huge anyway. Ordinarily, it’s not a great idea to end on a big crowd pleaser either, that’s the headliners job and it could mess up their opening track. Just keep the vibe going by playing something that goes with your set and that the DJ who’s on after you has a good bit of time to mix out of.
On the night
When you’re actually on the decks, take it easy on the FX and take your time mixing. It’s better to make sure everything sounds nice and smooth than to try and wow people with your mixing ability. Watch how the crowd is reacting to your tunes and judge what you’re playing by them. You’re best having an idea of what you’re going to play but leave yourself the option to make some changes on the night. Make sure you’ve had a run through your tracks and you’re comfortable mixing all of them in case you fancy doing things a bit differently than you planned when you get behind the decks.
Most importantly, don’t get carried away. It can be easy to do and you definitely wouldn’t be the first. You’re part of the night, the night isn’t about you. Enjoy yourself, but make sure that you know your place and know your role. Etiquette is everything when you’re part of a club night and people will be a lot more likely to book you again if they know they can rely on you to do the job you were booked for.
Any other tips for DJs warming up? Comment below and help to sustain the art of the warm up set!