DJ School

Places You Can Learn to DJ Without Spending a Ton of Money

Pretty much every step of the way on the journey to becoming a full-time working musician is difficult to master. While it isn’t often acknowledged as such, perhaps the hardest of them all is the very first one. Simply learning how to make music is extremely tricky, and while many people have wonderful ideas, they’re not necessarily ready to be musicians.

Starting with silence and ending up with a finished song is much, much tougher than most people recognize when they first start out, and the vast majority of would-be stars quit after just a few weeks or months. Mastering a tool, whether it be a guitar, a violin, or a synthesizer, takes an incredible amount of patience and talent. Those who make it big first have to stick with whatever instrument they choose for a long, long time.

Now that I’ve hopefully established how hard it is to get started, let me make it clear there are many ways to learn to DJ, and you don’t necessarily have to do it all on your own. For some rising talents, figuring things out entirely on your own is the best course of action, while other people need as much help as they can get. What will work for one person won’t necessarily work for another, and sometimes a mix of learning styles is what’s needed.

In this article on learning how to either DJ or become an Electronic Music Producer, I’ll focus on those options which are either free or which shouldn’t cost you too much money. A proper DJ school can run you thousands, if not tens of thousands of dollars, and while the education you’ll receive might be worth the price tag, it’s typically better to start smaller and work your way up, eventually shelling out the big bucks if necessary.

Many Producers and DJs who make their living from the dance music they create haven’t ever stepped foot inside a proper classroom as students. Instead, they taught themselves, and if you read enough interviews with popular acts in the electronic space, you’ll begin to understand many of them played around in programs like Ableton, Logic, and the like until they knew what they were doing.

Trial And Error

If you simply can’t wait to be accepted to a college or you don’t want to wait for other types of production schools to begin classes, you can always just start playing around with music production software and learn that way. When you first start out, what programs you have isn’t the most important issue, but I’d still recommend beginning with one of the most common options. You’ll spend some time fiddling with everything and learning how sounds are made with a program you’ll likely end up using in a classroom (online or in-person) anyway.

This isn’t necessarily the best way to go about becoming a professional electronic musician, but it is a tried-and-true method, and you can’t argue with results. Many Producers and DJs who make their living from the dance music they create haven’t ever stepped foot inside a proper classroom as students. Instead, they taught themselves, and if you read enough interviews with popular acts in the electronic space, you’ll begin to understand many of them played around in programs like Ableton, Logic, and the like until they knew what they were doing.

The upside to this first option is you’re going to need to spend a lot of time getting started in this fashion anyway, so why not do so before you pay money for expensive courses? If you’re brand new to electronic music production, you’ll need to dedicate hours, days, weeks, months, even, to figure out how everything is done and learning the ins and outs of several different computer programs. A Teacher or a Professor will tell you to do the same, and you may find you don’t need to shell out all that money right away if you lock yourself away and just begin creating.

Sure, it will sound terrible at first, and it might be a long time before you can truly call what comes out of your fingertips “music,” but that’s how every musician using any instrument starts, so don’t feel bad!

YouTube Tutorials

Over the years, YouTube has become a fantastic resource for people to learn almost anything they could want to know, from languages to how to do their makeup (a particular favorite on the site) to, you guessed it, learning how to DJ. Whatever you may not know, someone is talking about it and teaching you on YouTube via tutorials.

A quick search for “electronic music tutorial” on the Google-owned video site turned up almost 24 million results, so there is no shortage of options to choose from. You will, of course, want to be more specific in your search, and you may want to hone things by sticking to one specific program, asking a question, or perhaps you may find one studio or Producer who you like who has made some of these videos.

The trick here will be finding the videos that work for you and truly teach you what you need to know. Not everyone makes quality content, and you may waste a lot of time watching videos that don’t end up helping you at all. That’s okay as long as you eventually stumble upon something useful, though it does suck when it takes a long time to get to that point.

Watching videos on YouTube will never take the place of working with an actual Teacher, but it can help you along the way. If you’re contemplating paying to better your understanding of the electronic music world, you may want to stick with the first two options I’ve listed in this piece. If you spend a lot of time fooling around with a program or two and watching clips on the world’s most popular video hosting site and you’re still interested, go for it! If you do just that and think it’s not a good fit, please don’t sign up for a course that may run you hundreds or even thousands of dollars.

Once you’re a musician with a few fans who has shared a handful of tunes and maybe even played some live shows, you can talk to other artists about partnering in an apprentice-like situation. This isn’t a fit for everyone, but it’s not entirely uncommon to see one successful act taking another under their wing to help them grow as a creator and learn the ins and outs of the business.

A Tutor

I’ve started this article with options that shouldn’t cost you anything (other than the funds necessary to purchase computer programs most Producers use…though even some of the biggest names in the industry found ways to grab those online for free when their cash flow was limited), because when you first begin creating electronic music, you never know where it will lead you. For most people, it remains a hobby, while for others, it could become a job. Very few will be able to make a good living off of the art they craft on their laptops, so it’s difficult to justify spending the cash to learn how to do it well…but if you’re committed and you have a few dollars, perhaps you’ll want to hire someone to get you where you’re trying to go.

Bringing on a Private Tutor can be a fantastic way to advance as a musician making any kind of art, including electronic dance. It might be slightly unorthodox, but just because it isn’t the norm, that doesn’t mean it won’t work for you!

There are a million places online where you might be able to find someone who knows what they are doing who is willing to impart their experience and wisdom to you for a price, but I won’t get into making a full list here. Be open to speaking with potential personal Teachers about what they’ve done, how they can help you become a better artist, and listen to as much of their music as possible. Prices and teaching methods will definitely vary, but hiring a tutor for a while is a well-known method for becoming better at whatever you want to excel at (even if DJing isn’t usually what people think of when they think of tutoring!)

Sure, it will cost you a healthy chunk of change, but at some point, you’ll need to spend some money. Don’t even think about a tutor until you are already on your way and need help getting to the next level, because if you do, it’s probably a big waste of cash.

Another Musician

Once you’re a musician with a few fans who has shared a handful of tunes and maybe even played some live shows, you can talk to other artists about partnering in an apprentice-like situation. This isn’t a fit for everyone, but it’s not entirely uncommon to see one successful act taking another under their wing to help them grow as a creator and learn the ins and outs of the business.

Every genre has examples of young, new talents signing on with more established figures, either as labelmates or perhaps one acts as an employer. You could be the newest signee to their record label (which they may own or simply also be signed to), or you could work for them in some context. You can offer to assist with menial tasks like social media, website maintenance, booking, or perhaps if you have the skills you can spend hours mastering, mixing, or engineering their music, freeing them up to do more creating. In exchange, they can teach you what they know and set you up for valuable opportunities that might take you years to encounter on your own.

You might not want to consider this option until you at least have the basics mastered and some music out in the world. Also, while you can pursue this type of relationship with artists you admire, this isn’t to say absolutely everyone will agree to mentor you in this fashion. It’s a stretch, and the kind of opportunity most people are never offered, but if you can find a way to make it happen, it might be the best way for you to advance your burgeoning career.

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