Grove Press
Grove Press
Grove Press

How to DJ Right

The Art and Science of Playing Records

by Frank Broughton

“This lucid, comprehensive guide will tell you everything you need to know if you seriously want to pursue a career as a club DJ, from beat matching to promotion to not going deaf.” –Gavin Edwards, Rolling Stone

  • Imprint Grove Paperback
  • Page Count 288
  • Publication Date July 25, 2003
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8021-3995-5
  • Dimensions 7.13" x 8.88"
  • US List Price $18.00

About The Book

From the authors of Last Night a DJ Saved My Life, a readable, fun, and illuminating guide to spinning records, perfect for neophytes as well as the established DJ

In recent years, DJs have gone from being underpaid live jukeboxes to becoming premier entertainers, producers, businessmen, and musicians capable of commanding admiration from thousands and earning serious money. Bill Brewster and Frank Broughton’s Last Night a DJ Saved My Life was the definitive history of the DJ. Now they gather their mastery of the artistic and technical aspects of being a DJ into a guide for all aspiring jocks that is clear, accessible, and entertaining.

How to DJ is the perfect guide to the art of the DJ–from the most basic keys to establishing a music collection and a distinctive sound, to elementary record-spinning, to the complex skills of scratching, hot-mixing, and beat-juggling, as well as the inimitable art of creating an evening of sound that is perfectly timed, balanced, and unforgettable. Diagrams throughout illustrate phrases, beat timing, and song structure with no reliance on music theory, and resource lists recommend everything from which songs are best (and most fun) to learn with, to good sources for building a library of disks, CDs, and MP3s. For those who want to turn pro, the authors give sage advice on the vagaries of the club and music business. Enlivened by short quotes, anecdotes, and photos of famous DJs such as Grandmaster Flash and Derrick Carter, How to DJ is the definitive book for anyone who has ever considered becoming a DJ.


“This lucid, comprehensive guide will tell you everything you need to know if you seriously want to pursue a career as a club DJ, from beat matching to promotion to not going deaf.” –Gavin Edwards, Rolling Stone

“A clever, useful guide to spinning records.” –Tricia Romano, The Village Voice

“With searing wit and calculated nonchalance, Brewster and Broughton tell it to would-be wax-slingers like it is. . . . Written with such style and attitude that even road-weary vets will be captivated.” –Remix Magazine

“A step-by-step how-to guide for aspiring DJs. . . . Should be required reading for anyone even thinking about putting needle to vinyl for a living.” –The San Francisco Examiner

“I love this book–it’s helped me set many guidelines for my long-term dream of starting a DJ academy.” –Danny Tenaglia

“Spot on. In the future, if anyone asks me for tips on DJing, I’ll simply tell them to read this.” –Rocky, X-Press 2

“[Broughton and Brewster] craftily combine interviews, photos, diagrams, checklists, and a deep understanding of the craft into a nearly definitive textbook that’s useful to beginners and long-time practitioners alike.” –Earplug

Praise for Last Night a DJ Saved My Life:

“Brewster and Broughton . . . have written a lively and–to anyone with a more than casual interest in the history of popular music in the latter half of the twentieth century–necessary volume.” –The New York Times Book Review

“A riveting look at record spinning from its beginnings to the present day . . . The book is intricately detailed and informative, filled with grand themes and historical anecdotes, all leavened with a wiseass humor that keeps the whole thing from getting too pretentious.”
Time Out New York

“[Brewster and Broughton] deliver the goods with humor and a basic sense of good storytelling.” –Vibe


1. How to use this book

Think of this book as a car manual for DJing. We made it tough so you can wedge it open next to your decks. Beginners should work through step by step – you’ll soon be mixing up a storm; if you can already mix, dip into the advanced chapters and master something new.

Is DJing for You?
Before you get started, answer these questions. We’d like to get a better idea of who you are and what the hell you think you’re doing.

Do you expect to get rich?
a) Damn, yes! Bling bling or bust.
b) Just a few bucks to buy records.
c) Of course not, music is my reward.

Hold on champ. There’s no fat paycheck just for finishing this book. While big-league DJs do very well, thank you, there’s more and more competition and fewer and fewer gigs at a basic level. Most DJs have to work it to the bone and live and breathe music before they get a sniff of green.

But hold on, I think you might have something special ”

Ever played music for a group of people?
a) Turn it down. I’m watching TV.
b) My disco CD rocked it at the end of that kegger.
c) Listen to this Dutch import. It’s amazing.

Sex comes close, but few things match the thrill of sharing music. Remember how you changed the atmosphere completely? How excited were you when they got into that old Q-Tip track (and how crushed were you when they didn’t like your Meters album)? DJing is just playing records in your crib but on a bigger scale.

Do you play an Instrument?
a) All the way to Carnegie Hall.
b) Smoke on the Water.
c) Just me and my Walkman.

DJing is about listening. Any musical training helps you to listen better. You’ll get a feel for how rhythm works, an ear for melody and harmony. If you’ve ever played an instrument, whether a drum kit in the garage or a cornet in the school band, you’ll have picked up skills that will be useful for DJing. And great news – in our book, even listening to a Walkman counts as musical training.

Do you own any music?
a) My vinyl collection has its own apartment.
b) A few CDs and (shhh “) lots of downloads.
c) My Sesame Street CD is scratched now.
DJing is about having the best music and showing it off to people. Do you regularly shop for music? Download tracks? Swap CDs with friends? If you don’t own any music at all, have a look at the gardening books on the next shelf.

Do you go clubbing?
a) I’m racquetball king at the country club.
b) Only to score girls/guys/drugs.
c) The nightlife is my life, son.

Let’s go out. Provided you’re old enough to get in, dance clubs are an essential part of your DJ schooling. You get to see how the atmosphere builds; how a good DJ chooses records to get things moving and keep them there; how a bad DJ bores people or does things in the wrong place ” Get your coat on.

Do you dance?
a) Like a Nureyev ninja on ice.
b) Like an arthritic water buffalo.
c) Sorry, I’m not trashed enough yet.

Dancing is your end product. You better know what it feels like. As a DJ, you have to understand what makes people want to get up and move and what makes them run screaming back to the bar. A DJ who never dances is like a vegetarian rancher – it’s all too theoretical.

Got any friends who are DJs?
a) DJ Premier is my uncle.
b) My homey has some Technics.
c) I love Howard Stern.

DJ friends are great. You can test-drive their decks before you buy your own, they give you tips on hot tunes, they get you drinks tickets in clubs, and you can watch and learn from all their career mistakes. So stay close: carry their box, hang out in the booth, watch what they do ” then stab them in the back and steal their gigs.