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Whether you’re looking to start DJing as a side gig, or you’re interested in picking it up as a hobby, DJing is a great skill to have. When it comes to choosing a genre you want to learn how to mix, techno is particularly useful for raves and dance parties.
With just a little bit of time, anyone can learn to mix techno music, but if you’re just starting out it’s one of the easiest genres to mix. Keep reading for some useful tips and tricks to help you learn, alongside some of the equipment you’ll need to get started.
Before you begin mastering the art of mixing techno, you need to first understand the genre. What makes techno, “techno”?
A Brief History
The birthplace of techno music was Detroit, Michigan back in the 1980s, and was seen as a radical new music genre as it relied heavily on remixing loud and repetitive beats.
Although techno music was released in the U.S. and the UK first, the word actually comes from the German language. Techno has since been used to describe this genre of music all around the world.
How To Categorize Techno
Techno is a category of electronic dance music (or EDM), which is recognised by a repeating rhythmic beat. To perform techno you need a computer to “mix” and layer different beats together.
To be skilled in techno mixing you need to have both a sense of rhythm, and computer access.
Evolution Of Techno Music
Traditionally, techno focused on one beat, with just a couple of other primary instrumentals in the background. These beats varied in speed/tempo, emotion and feel.
In the earlier days, techno artists recorded random sounds, like car door slams, which they incorporated into their tracks.
Nowadays, techno music has become far more complex due to the advanced mixing techniques that come with new technologies. Although some artists still record natural sounds, computers can create a more polished audio clip.
What Do You Need To DJ Techno?
To start mixing techno, you’ll need a basic setup which will include a laptop and DJ software. The software will be the brain of your setup, as this is where you’ll create, organize and perform all of your tracks.
It’s also pretty useful to get a DJ controller. You can pick basic models up at a pretty low cost, and they’re great for mixing. There’s a lot of controls on DJ controllers which can be synced with your DJ software.
They’re most useful for mixing between two tracks, queuing songs and adding effects. It’s always good to have a controller (or at least a drum pad) if you’re playing live as it allows you to incorporate a performance element into your set.
They’re also useful for live performances as you’re not bound to your keyboard and mouse.
It’s also worth investing in a decent pair of over-ear headphones. You don’t have to spend a lot, but a decent quality set will help you isolate music when you’re trying to switch and fade in and out of tracks.
If you’re just starting out with techno mixing, you don’t need to spend a lot on DJ software. You can create a lot of simple beats with free or low-cost DJ software programs.
Some great beginner DJ softwares include:
The limited version of CrossDJ allows you to have a library full of tracks which can be cued, and mixed. However, if you want some more advanced tracks, you’re going to have to pay for the full program.
This is a free software that has some simple mixing, reverb and scratch effects. Due to its limitations, it doesn’t overwhelm those that are new to DJing.
This is a clean looking software which lines tracks up on top of each other. Just like MIXXX, it’s a free piece of software that has stretch, layering, cut and investing features.
If you use Audacity, you may have to spend some time playing around with the software to get to grips with its features.
Some of the most recommended softwares, however, are Serato, Virtual DJ, and Traktor. It’s worth mentioning that some DJ controllers come with a form of DJ software that will be most suited to its technology.
As DJ software can be costly, do some research before you purchase any, and make sure it’s compatible with your laptop (Windows, Mac etc.).
Where Do Techno DJs Get Their Music?
There are tons of online sites you can go to get high-quality DJ music. Most websites have MP3 format files which are great quality for DJing. Just make sure you listen to them first to make sure they’re not grainy.
One of the biggest sites for purchasing and downloading DJ music is Beatport. They have a very deep catalogue which features a large selection of new releases across all major labels. If you want uncompressed files, you can also download them from Beatport.
Juno Download is another popular site which offers a pretty similar service to Beatport. Also try using iTunes and Amazon Music too.
It can be difficult to DJ as the cost of tracks can start to build up, so a lot of professional DJs use record pools. These are subscription services that allow you to download music. Just do your research before you commit to the subscription.
There are also several sites that have free music downloads if you don’t want to spend too much on tracks.
Where To Find New Music And Inspiration
As a DJ it’s important to keep up with new music and new trends. So, keep track of some techno artists who you like to listen to, and follow their social media, YouTube, SoundCloud and Mixcloud.
Also if you can, try and see them live. With smaller crowds and DJs, you’ll be able to get up close to the booth and watch how they mix their tracks and control the crowd.
Pay attention to what music and effects they’re using, and how they can manipulate the crowds’ energy.
How To Improve Your DJ Skills
Once you’ve got your setup sorted, you can begin to mix techno. Here are some tips to help you get started.
Experiment With Your Software
One of the easiest and quickest ways to start learning is to experiment with different beats and tempos. At the core of techno DJing is mixing and twisting songs, so play around until you find what sounds good to the ear.
Try out the different tools so you can find out what your software is actually capable of. Also, don’t be afraid to use platforms such as YouTube to learn more.
There are a ton of videos which will teach you how to use your DJ software. Also, there are lots of videos on techno music which you can use to help you learn, and draw inspiration from.
Find Your Beat
Techno music centers around the central beat, so you’ll need to find one which matches the vibes of what you’re playing and the audience you’re performing to.
For example, if you’re at a high-energy dance club, you’re going to want a faster and heavier beat. This will be around 130 beats per minute (BPM) as this will be a quick, danceable rhythm.
A general rule of thumb when mashing or mixing techno is that you shouldn’t have too much of a jump between beats in between songs. For a seamless transition, it’s always best to pick a song that has a similar BPM for the next track.
There are a few typical flows and patterns that techno DJs tend to follow. These include:
The BPM will steadily increase to a peak around halfway through the set, and will decrease in the same pattern towards the end.
Similar to the Hill, during the ramp the BPM begins to steadily increase to a peak. However, once it reaches the peak the BPM stays at the same speed. This is great for high-energy sets.
This is a more complex pattern in which the DJ needs to increase and decrease the speed over and over again.
These are just templates, your music can follow any pattern you like – just as long as there’s a smooth transition between tracks.
Figure Out Transitions
Most techno DJs have a variety of transitions between songs on hand, as this is where the “mixing” aspect of DJing comes from. The sign of a skilled DJ is a seamless transition.
For techno music, it’s pretty common to use “beat matching”, which means that the song flows into another track which has the same BPM. That means that the beat never changes.
DJs also like to “fade” in and out of tracks, so as one gets quieter, another gets gradually louder.
General Tips For Techno DJing
Make Transitions Quick
As techno is a high-energy genre, you want your transitions to be just as quick as the tempo. A quick, dramatic change is much more likely to excite your audience than a transition that is dragged out.
Switch It Up
As techno focuses more on beat rather than melody, if a song is playing for too long it can be boring. Switch your tracks up often during your set.
Don’t Layer Heavy Bass Beats
As techno is reliant on bass, don’t layer two heavy bass elements on top of each other. This will muddle the sound and is too heavy to dance too.
It’s the same with any skill, but the only way you’ll improve is to practice. DJing is all about experimenting so don’t panic if you’re getting it “wrong”. Experiment till you find something that sounds.
It’s also pretty useful to record your practice sessions so you can get an idea of what’s working and what’s not.