I recently taught my 10-year-old daughter to DJ, and she played for nearly three hours at two school parties, after only a few weeks of practising. You can read all about our experience here, but in this article, I am going to distil what I learned down to seven easy tips. If you have a pre-teen who’s interested in learning to DJ, this list will make a good starting point for your journey together.
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Prefer me to talk you through this? In this video, a recording of a live show from the Digital DJ Tips YouTube channel, I talk you through everything in this article, and we take questions from our community on the subject.
Get that first gig
The very first step, before any of the teaching, is to get them a definite DJ date in the diary – a school party, in conjunction with their teacher, would be perfect. This focuses the child on a goal, which is important – and actually, it’s great advice for anyone learning to DJ, as it happens.
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Once you’ve done that, these seven steps will help you to prepare your child for their big day:
How to Teach Your Kid To DJ In 7 Steps
- Trust them on the music – Get them to start a list of music. They know far better than you the music they want to play to their friends. Once the ball is rolling, they’ll build a list of tunes naturally, involving their mates on WhatsApp etc. Don’t try telling them what to play, they really do know best! Just make sure they have twice the number of tracks they’ll actually play, and push them until they do
- Let them use a streaming service – One that works with the DJ gear they’ll be using. For their generation, downloading and owning MP3s is something 99.9% of them will probably never do, and there’s no way they’ll want to do it just to play some tracks in front of their friends. Whatever your views on DJing from streaming services, for pre-teens, there’s no debate, so cave in on this one
- Use the simplest DJ set-up possible – We used a Numark Mixstream Pro Go as it has built-in WiFi (and therefore streaming), you don’t need a laptop, it’s got speakers for practising, even a battery. A simple DJ controller that works with phone or tablet DJ software could work, too. Just think “simple”
- Teach them the very basics… – that means volume (keeping the volume level – basically, teach them to leave all knobs at 12 o’clock, and how to use the channel faders and crossfader), and “cutting out the gaps”. Forget beatmixing, counting, timing , beatgridding, stems and all the rest! They literally have a lifetime to learn that
- …then add a couple of bells & whistles – Kids do like to show off! So a simple Echo Out, maybe a bit of filter – done
- When it’s “gig time”, let them take a friend – A best friend for moral support will really help a kid to keep their confidence up. Plus, kids love to share experiences just like us adults do, and it is exceedingly lonely being the one and only DJ, separate from the rest. A friend will bring the whole experience to life for you child
- Involve their teacher – This is why a gig at their school is such a good idea. Their teacher will likely be enthusiastic about helping your child to learn such a skill, as they’ll see the commitment and outcome and how motivating it is for them. They also, frankly, are probably better at teaching than you are, so will trust you to give your child the skills, while they can provide the encouragements. Involve them – they’ll help, and it’ll make the whole process more effective
Remember, our job is to encourage and enable. By all means set up the gig, take the gear to the school, liaise with the teacher, take your child to the event and so on – you should and ought to! But don’t try to take over or make them do it “your way”. It isn’t rocket science, and they know more than you think. Give them the space to figure the small things out for themselves.
Learn the skills with us: The Complete DJ Course
DJing is about playing the right music, for the people in front of you, right now. The rest is optional. A 10-year-old can learn this, and if they show any aptitude at all for doing this, follow these steps and get them through that first gig. Then, there will probably be no stopping them!
Do share your experiences or add to this advice below – we’d love to hear from you.