How do DJs Make Music?

Armin Van Buuren

DJing isn’t easy. While many people make cracks about ‘standing on stage with a laptop,’ as with any artistic career, a DJ has to be smart, know their craft and market, and be willing to put in the hustle. While there’s a ton to be said on the topic, today we take a brief look at some of the basics of making music as a DJ- and what you should know if you’re planning to make it a career.

The Musical Basics

While DJs effectively ‘recycle’ existing digital music clips and royalty-free music into brand new remixes and even unique songs, that doesn’t mean you can have a tin ear! Sound design, music theory, composition, tempo and more will be needed to successfully mix and master a great song. Of course, some people are naturally gifted in this area, and there’s a wealth of tutorials and other help online and in-person you can leverage.

This knowledge is what will help the aspiring DJ assemble their music from the wealth of samples, beats, and other musical items out there.


The DAW, or Digital Audio Workstation, is the heartbeat of the DJs workday. This is the software (and accompanying hardware) you will use to layer and create sounds, add effects, blend, mix, and master your music.

There’s a wealth of DAW options available to the aspiring DJ, from entry-level setups through to the very top in audio production, and each is a little different. Mostly it’s a case of budget and personal preference, as well as the intuitiveness of the system, as to what you pick.

Getting to know the ins-and-outs of your chosen DAW will be a key part of making music as a DJ.

Choosing an Angle

DJ is a very varied role. Most DJs start making music by re-editing existing songs to play as part of their sets, complete with their own personal style. However, you needn’t stop there. As DJs get to be well known and respected, they may be asked to collaborate with other artists, both famous and starting out in their careers.

For some DJs, original production is the end goal. This means starting from scratch, working with sound archives and artists to create a brand new composition, and possibly producing other artists and their music.

Knowing which creative angle you want to take as a DJ is important, so you can start from the ground up with your final focus in mind.

Tips for Creating Music as a DJ

With these tools to help you physically make your music, you will also need the support to help build your name and profile. Even one hit can help rocket a career- but you need to get that hit track to start with. As with many businesses today, building an online following of fans with smart and responsive marketing will also be a key component of making music as a DJ. You can also use gigs and sets you are booked for to boost your profile and get your name known.

You will need a good attitude, however. As an aspiring DJ, you will be working with any number of people- from roadies to venue coordinators- who could help you build your reputation, so avoiding diva-like behavior and rudeness is critical from Day 1. You never know what bridges one snapped word or haughty attitude could burn. Networking and marketing are as important to making music as a DJ as the physical skills.

A career as a DJ can be a satisfying one, and it all starts with knowing how DJs make music!