Making a Winning DJ Set

The Process behind the scenes

Well I got it, finally closed out a second win in the BeFm Expat DJ Contest, that really is a mouthful. It was good to get the win but it was a long time coming and should really have been mine a lot early but it is what it is. And in the end I ended up getting quite a lot of prize money from the contest as well as good photos and video footage over the years so all in all, it was worth it along with the fact that it was always a good excuse to go to Busan.

With that in mind, I might as well take a closer look at my set and break it apart since not only did my set come out really well, it also worked really well and there are aspects of it that I will def use pretty often as I do go forward with my DJn (however much longer that will ultimately last however) This will also be a bit of a breakdown of how I like to structure my DJ sets and the thought process that goes behind it. Might prove useful to some people and interesting to know for others.

Things you need to consider

  • Rules of the Competition: How will you fit your set within the rules?
  • Set Length: This will determine how many songs you can play and how much you can fit into your set.
  • Audience: Who will be your crowd, are you going to play for them or for yourself?
  • Skills: What skills are you going to showcase and how are you going to show them off?
  • Equipment: What is provided, what extra will you use, can you set it up easily, will it be reliable, do you have what you need to show off all your skills?
  • Judging criteria: These tend to be relatively standard, but you need to know which categories hold the most weight, are skills worth more points or is audience reaction worth more?

It is all about the intro.

As the saying goes, first impressions count and this is very relevant with regards to DJn, the impression you make when you start your set will set the tone for the rest of your time performing and for me, a good intro has always been my way of saying this is who I am. In the past I have often used a lot of wrestling snippets in my intros since wrestling really has the art of an intro down to a fine art. This year however I decided to make my own intro based around what would end up being the theme of my set, I’m Back and aren’t you glad I am because I am the best. While quite an arrogant statement, I was back to prove a point and not about to mess around while delivering that point. Taking the vocal intro from I need a Doctor (one of my favorite songs) and turning it into I need a DJ thanks to the help of a good friend and great singing Mirror Hong, we managed to take that vocal intro and turn it into something quite special. Along with the option to use tone play it made quite the well rounded intro to my set.


Showing off some skills

Along with a vocal intro it is always good to put a skill section into the early beginnings of a set. For mine, I decided to go with the Avici track ‘Levels’ to give props to a great artist, who passed away too early. The track also allowed for tone play options and the remix I used has a nice instrumental break part that I could use for samples and scratching. Finding tracks that have tone play options and also good instrumental parts is always a challenge because you also need them to be popular and recognizable but without being overused. The vocal samples were easy enough to come up with, samples revolving around being back and being the greatest to fit with my theme. After the intro, the rest is the bulk of the set where I actually start to play some songs.


Selecting Songs for your Audience

This is always the more difficult part of creating a set. Coming up with a list of songs that will go well with the crowd but songs that are also not too generic and maybe a song or 2 to surprise the audience. When selecting songs, I usually gravitate towards songs that I have been listening to recently or songs that reflect my mood. But I also need to select songs that can fulfill different roles in my set to. At least 1 tone play song these days seems to be required as well as a song or 2 that can be used to incite crowd interaction. With this competition we also had to add some Korean songs so this also influenced my song selection. In the end I used a mix of songs I already used often with a couple of newer remixed versions of songs and 1 surprise song. The main thing with these songs however is presentation and making sure that they all flow together in a way that allowed me to manipulate the audience to do what I want, when I want. So once I had the songs selected, it was a matter of fitting them together the right way so that I had the variation in my set of playing a song, showing of various skills and working on the microphone to interact with the crowd. To make this happen requires a major skill a lot of DJs overlook.


Edit, edit and edit some more

This is the big thing, editing tracks, taking the part of a track that I need and making sure that it is not too long, taking out parts that are not needed and adding parts from the song that help to make the transition to the next song seamless. The worst thing about this competition however was the short time limit. 10 minutes is not much, even less when your DJn EDM music so a lot of a song was left on the cutting room floor, however there is only so much of a song you can cut before it doesn’t sound right.

Finishing it off

An ending doesn’t have to be that much of a big thing but having some kind of ending always helps round off your set. It can be simple and that is usually what works best at least for me. Again with the running theme throughout my set my ending was made to stamp that point home ending with a nice Reinhardt quote ‘I am the Champion’ A couple of other voice lines before that again just to reinforce my statement after finishing with a big crowd favourite song allowed me to finish on a high note. The last song is also important since this will often be how the audience remembers you and you also want to finish on a high, again as the saying goes, save the best for last.

Theme it out

Having a theme isn’t always something you need to do in your sets but it is something that can help make your set stand out. I’ve always liked using some kind of running theme during my sets, these can be either subtle or in your face, again depends on how you wish to present your set. Previous years I have used more subtle themes but this years theme was de more in your face and felt it worked well for me. Also adding the underlying Overwatch theme using Reinhardt voice lines was something else that I deliberately did too.


So there it is, some insight into what I do and how I do it. This is just me doing me and other people will no doubt do things differently. So for those who were interested, there you go, for those who might want to learn more, feel free to ask or feel free to use this to craft your own sets.


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