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How to Build a Good DJ Set (DJ Sets Explained)

If you want to build a good DJ set, it will take some preparation. In this post, I’m going to share some things that I’ve learned before, during ánd after my DJ sets, to help you get the most out of yours.

How to Build a DJ set:

  1. Find out what music your crowd is into
  2. Find songs for your DJ set
  3. Listen to the songs and prepare the songs with hot cues and notes

Anyone can build a DJ set, but how to actually make a good DJ set, takes some practice. In the remainder of this post, I will go over all the aspects of a DJ set and give you some tips on how to make your DJ set stand out.

What Makes a Good DJ Set?

A good DJ set is when the crowd is having a great time. The main factor to make this happen is your song selection and your ability to read the energy level on the dancefloor.

You’ve probably heard this a million times, and that’s because it’s the truth. Some DJs don’t really want to hear this and fail to ever build good DJ sets.

Even when you’re performing and doing great transition tricks. People on the dancefloor never really notice it. They also don’t know how much practice it takes.

If you want to be a good DJ and build good DJ sets, it has to be enough for you to find joy in making the crowd happy.

DJs are there to entertain the crowd. Of course, it will help when you as a DJ are also having a good time because the crowd will notice when you don’t and it affects the overall vibe. After all, being happy is infectious isn’t it?

Think about this, when you didn’t know anything about DJing, what DJs did you like? When were you having the best time? It’s when the DJ played songs that made you have a good time on the dancefloor.

It’s a different story when the crowd is there for you. If you’re a very popular DJ, like Martin Garrix or DJ Tiësto for example. They just play their own music because they know the crowd came for just that.

Chances are when you’re reading this post that this is even maybe your very first DJ set. Maybe it’s your second or third. Whatever it is, a good DJ set is when you make the people happy.

How Many Songs Are in a DJ Set

There are on average 10 to 75 songs in a one-hour DJ set. Depending on the genre and mixing style, a one-hour DJ set will be on the lower end of this range or on the higher end. What it all comes down to is how long a song will be played before transitioning to the next song.

So we have 2 factors that determine how many songs a DJ set has.

What Genre are You Mostly Playing?

There are genres that have an average length of 3 minutes and there are music genres that have an average length of 5 minutes.

Pop music, for example, has an average length of about 3 minutes. When you’re making a DJ set with a lot of pop music, your setlist will have a lot more songs than, let’s say, a deep house DJ set. A deep house song, on average is much longer than a pop track.

What type of event are you playing at? Will you most likely be playing pop music? Or probably more house tracks? Maybe even 80/90’s music.

Look at the length of your songs and you can make a rough estimate of how many songs you need for your DJ set.

What is Your Mixing Style

Are you a DJ that loves to perform quick mixes? Do you get bored easily and like to switch things up pretty quickly?

Or do you love to layer the outro of a track with the intro of another track, playing almost the entire song before transitioning?

Keep in mind that the faster you mix, the more energy you will create. If you’re the opening DJ that is not a good idea. So make sure that you know when you’re going to be on that stage. in the beginning or later into the evening.

How to calculate the number of songs in a DJ set?

Now you know what to look for you can make some calculations.

Let’s say you’re going to build a one-hour DJ set. You’re going to be DJing at the end of the evening and the average length of the songs that you’re going to play is 4 minutes.

Because you’re DJing at the end of the evening, you’re probably not going to play the entire track, so let’s say every track will be around 2 minutes.

The next step is to calculate how many 2 minute songs are in a one-hour DJ set. That’s 30 songs.

So if the night goes exactly as you planned, 30 songs would be enough. But you don’t want to do that, because you always want to have some room to switch things up.

DJ in the foreground with crowd in the background

You won’t give yourself options to choose from. See what songs the crowd reacts to the most and adjust your DJ set according to that. If only brought 30 songs, how are you going to improvise?

When am doing a live DJ set, I often get some great ideas for the next song, when I see some kind of reaction from the crowd.

Adjust your DJ set to the way the crowd reacts. You can only do that by bringing more songs than the minimum of 30. My recommendation is to at least double the number of the minimum required songs.

In this case, 60 songs for a one-hour DJ set would be enough. But don’t limit yourself to that either. If you can find 10 more amazing tracks that would fit in your current list of songs then just add them to the list.

How to Choose Songs for a DJ Set

When I first started DJing I had DJ sets for 6 hours. The mistake that I made, In the beginning, was that I was always wondering if I brought enough songs for the entire 6 hours.

After a while, I discovered that having enough songs to play is not enough preparation to make a good DJ set.

Having enough songs to play in your DJ set is important but just as important, though, is having enough GOOD songs, that you actually know and have prepared.

Imagine having 100 songs to choose from in a one-hour DJ set, but half of them you don’t even know or never even listened to. Your DJ set is going to be below-average and the crowd is going to know because the songs won’t even sound good together and won’t make sense.

Before every DJ set, make sure you have enough songs at your disposal:
1. to successfully complete a full DJ set
2. That you know and have prepared

3 Steps to Building Your DJ Set

Let’s put together everything we’ve talked about and sum them up in 3 simple steps.

Step 1

Figure out to what crowd you are going to play and what kind of music they like. There are situations where you can’t really know. Like in a club, sometimes you don’t know what type of people will be there.

When this is the case, it’s a good idea to prepare a little bit more songs. Songs that are a little bit different in style. You could even maybe prepare 2 sets, with two different styles of music.

Step 2

Find songs that the crowd would most likely want to listen to and dance to.

If you don’t know where to find good music, I recommend reading my post: How Djs Get Their Music

Step 3

Listen to the songs from front to back and add cue points. Listen for song combinations that would blend well together and makes notes of those discoveries.

You can order the tracks beforehand if you want to, but it’s not necessary. It’s probably better to adjust to the crowd to choose your next song.

I hope you can take something out of this post that will help you in building your own DJ set. If you have any questions feel free to contact me!

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