What Makes a good DJ set by Humberto Mendez

So yesterday I came across an argument of some local DJ’s. It started with one of them saying “going to be dropping bombs” at said event. Then other dj’s came along and said “I’m going to drop better tracks than you”. From there it went to this full on argument about which one of them was a better DJ. It made me a bit disgusted to think that instead of them saying “good luck on your set” they would much rather talk crap about each other. But it also made me think about what makes a DJ set interesting for me. As a writer and producer I go to shows, A LOT! So I have seen a bunch of local talent as well as some of the beatport charting artists you are all mostly familiar with. I know when I like a set and when I don’t but I really haven’t thought about the aspects of what makes a live set great for me. I sat down for a couple of hours to give it some thought and came up with this. Note, this is about what makes a set for ME so of course it’s an opinion. Everybody is entitled to their own opinion and this one is mine.


1. Intro and Outro

You may be thinking that the first thing you should do is start with a “guaranteed banger”, though that may work for some, it sure as hell doesn’t work for me. I like sets to be a story or a rollercoaster, I feel like every set should have a build up and how can you build it up if you start with some HUGE track right from the start? You’re going to bore me if you do that. I suggest you look into having an intro and outro with meaning. If you produce, make your own. Maybe some movie quoting or something melodic. I really enjoy the intro for Knife Party and Above and Beyond was great when I saw them start with “small moments like these” at the first weekend of Ultra Music Festival. I think the way Porter Robinson ends his shows with “Language” leaves a huge impact on the performance. An intro and outro can make your show just that much better for me and hopefully for others.



This is crucial as hell. If you’re playing beatports top 100 you’re just like 90% of the other DJ’s and I am not even goin to come near your stage while you’re performing. It pisses me off when people perform banger track after banger. I get it, “Animals” is in right now. But remember that thousands of other dj’s are playing it as well. If you want to make people go “Woah what the hell was that” I suggest performing your own tracks a lot more. If you don’t produce then perform your friends tracks! If you don’t have friends that produce try finding some underground tracks on soundcloud. The internet is a great tool, use it! Using tracks that are not too known will make people more interested in the song. Warning: prepare for phones being out with the shazam app. You’ll tend to have that effect on people if you take this piece of advice haha.


3. Video & stage production:

Last but defiantly not least! I’m not expecting every DJ out there to perform at a venue that has an led stage or a projector but you do perform there you should always, ALWAYS set a gameplan for video production. Videography can give you a great advantage. Funny videos, unique illusions and lyrics can really make your performance more interesting and that means it can leave an impact on the viewer. I typically like to have my logo for the end and some points in the middle. Since I am lucky to have a .png (transparent logo) I put a cool scenery video behind it. I personally also like to put some videos of glovers giving lightshows also. Everybody has their own idea of video production. For some great inspiration I suggest you see the comedy of a video show that is a Dillon Francis set or the complete epicness that is a Deadmau5 video production!

This is really just what I enjoy in shows so this isn’t a fullproof plan on how to make your set incredible for everybody but more of a viewpoint from somebody who put some thought into it. Who knows, maybe these tips will have you becoming a more memorable local performer! I guess you can’t knock it until you try it!

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