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Eskei83 at the 2014 Red Bull Thre3style World Finals in Baku, Azerbaijan. (Nika Kramer/Red Bull)
DJs should do plenty of research and preparation before entering a DJ battle. This goes for both newcomers and veterans alike. Below is a list of five essential tips, which apply to everything from turntablist battles to party rocking competitions.
1. Know the battle
Each battle has its own rules and it’s important to understand them so you can plan accordingly. If it’s a party rocking contest, focus on music selection rather than technical DJ skills. If it’s a scratch battle, use unique samples and various scratch combos to set yourself apart. You should also know who’s judging the battle, how the DJs will be scored, and what type of crowd will be in attendance. Crowd reaction is important and having the audience on your side usually results in higher scores. Find out which type of equipment is allowed, too. If you only use CDJs, showing up to a pair of 1200s will ruin your night.
2. Practice, practice, practice
There’s nothing worse than getting on stage and bombing. At a DJ battle, the pressure is especially high because all eyes and ears are on you, so make sure that you’re fully prepared for the spotlight. This demands hours of practice and patience. Once you’ve established a routine that you’re happy with, practice it over and over again. At a certain point, your memory will take control and the routine will become fluid. Many DJs don’t need to wear headphones during their routines because they’ve practiced it so much that they know it by heart. This should be your goal, too.
3. Set it and forget it
One of the last things a DJ should do while performing is constantly adjust the volume gains. To avoid this, make sure all the tracks are at the same level when preparing your routine. We’ve seen many DJs adjust the levels throughout their sets hoping to achieve optimal sound, only to end up clipping the mixer.
4. Check the equipment
Most battles require contestants to use the same basic gear. However, each contestant is usually allowed to adjust the equipment’s settings. Always check the equipment before beginning your set to ensure that it’s up to your liking. For example, if the DJ before you set the crossfader curve to the slowest setting, adjust it to sharp if that’s your preference. The same can be said for mixer effects, level settings, tonearm counterweights, etc.
5. Know your limits
This last tip comes from DJcity’s Kid Cut Up, who recently judged at Astro AVL’s “Across the Fader” battle in Los Angeles. Cut Up says that the confidence you have at home can fly out the window when you hit the stage. Stress can impair ability, so he recommends reducing the amount of tricks in your routine that are outside your skill set. For example, if juggling isn’t your strong suit, wait until you’ve mastered it before attempting it in a battle. It’s essential that you stay in your lane and execute the cleanest possible set.
Do you have other tips for battle DJs? Share them in the comments below!
Related: Four Color Zack’s Advice to DJs