How Do DJ Duos Work(With examples)?


I got curious recently as to how DJ’s like Daft Punk work together. I mean- I can imagine that it’s tough for a single DJ to mix records, and do the scratching, EQ and other effects- how the heck do two people coordinate amongst themselves?

So how do DJ duos work?

There primarily are two ways:

  • Back to back. This is where one guy mixes tunes and the other adds in the special effects- throws in loops, EQ, etc.
  • 2×2 Set up: This is where each person has their own set up, one of which, feeds into the master mixer- at a time.

In the back to back style, the person who isn’t mixing has lesser work to do relatively(there’s only SO many effects that you can add to a set), and so, they can also deal with engaging with the crowd. A lot of duos plan that each person will mix a certain number of songs before trading places.

In the 2×2 setup, there’s more independence since you aren’t hassled constantly to have to switch places. Of course, it’s also more expensive and not at all beginner friendly- but if you can afford it, go ahead.

Here are some real world examples of famous dj duos:

  • Dmitri Vegas & Like Mike
  • NERVO
  • Justice
  • Daft Punk
  • Bloody Beetroots
  • OC and Verde

 

Some other offbeat DJ Duo Styles

Apart from the most common styles of two DJ’s working together, I also found a few more ‘creative’ ways that DJ’s come together to collaborate.

#1 DJ residency

The duo dictates the music theme of the gig venue for a night and books the audience accordingly. This model is most suited for duos that also like to promote and bring in the audience for their gigs.

The upside for the audience being that they get to experience two different music tastes/ styles in an evening, for the price of one.

#2 DJ and an Instrumentalist

A lot of DJ’s like to experiment and bring in their instrumentalist friends to collaborate and jam with their sets. Check out this video of the late DJ AM and Travis Barker on drums

#3 Level up- Form a DJ Group:

The way that a group of DJ organizes themselves can be numerous. For instance, in a live set, it could be that one person gets assigned bass, one for vocals, another for melody, and one for the instrumental portion of the mix- all layered in. Being in a DJ band allows for more creativity and effects than a single DJ could manage.

A few popular examples of DJ bands are:

  • Invisibl Skratch Piklz
  • Birdy Nam Nam
  • Kireek
  • C2C
  • Swedish House Mafia

How To Work As A DJ Duo

First things first, you need to have a firm foundation to build a relationship on. By that I means that you need to get along well with the other person and actually like them as a human being before you can get anywhere close to creating magic on stage.

Next, see if their style of music is suited to yours. Even if it isn’t exactly to your taste or you find it to be different to your style, that doesn’t have to be a deal breaker. In fact, it can be a strength as you two can offer the audience two different experiences in one gig- something for everyone.

So, assuming that you have a solid guy/ gal that you want to team up with, let’s get down to brass tacks now:

Your preparation before the gig will pretty much look the same as any other DJ- create a playlist of songs that you think will go well together. Even if you’re experienced and are comfortable beatmatching and mixing on the stage- basically performing live- you still should record your sets for the first couple of gigs, since you’ll probably need that time to iron out the kinks and settle down into your roles.

Discuss your roles extensively so that everything is crystal clear. Maybe one of you takes the lead while mixing and the other takes on a lesser technical workload, but engages with the crowd.

Alternatively, you might decide that each person will get to mix a set of at least 3-4 songs before the other person switches positions with them. This way, everyone gets ample opportunity.

Finally- know that practice makes perfect and that you cannot afford to not be considerate of the other person when you’re in a partnership.

Pros and cons of being in a DJ duo

Pros:

  • If done right, playing off of each other’s energies can create an amazing experience
  • You can take a breather in between gigs and allow your partner to take centerstage to mix some tunes
  • You are a minority and so are differentiated from most other DJ acts that are solo
  • If your tastes are different, you can show the audience a diverse act, which is something no solo DJ can provide
  • You can work doubly fast to promote yourselves. When it comes to getting business, acting fast, at the end of the day, can make all the difference

Cons:

  • You get to earn only half the money that you could if you go it alone
  • Promoters may be put off as the perceived extra cost of two. For instance DJ Duo OC and Verde don’t cost more than a single DJ would charge. The only extra cost for the organizers to bear is travel and stay. However, the psychological barrier is something that duos have to actively counter against
  • Two different people are bound to have creative differences and so, you’ll probably end up spending some time on a regular basis discussing and debating. For instance, your sets might take longer to finalize, and you may need to spend more time in prep than you usually do alone.

Top 5 Tips For DJ Duos To Shine On Stage

#1 Play to your strengths

Say one of you is a better promoter while the other one has better technical skills. Instead of both persons trying to do both tasks- why not play to your strengths, divide and conquer? Of course, it doesn’t mean you don’t learn the other skillset over time.

In the long run, you’ll learn a lot from the other person, but this also means you need to be self-aware in the day to day and focus on getting good work first and foremost.

#2 Don’t let ego get in the way

One upmanship has no space in a collaboration. Your partner is bound to be better than you at certain things, and vice versa- this doesn’t mean that you need to feel threatened and insecure. Take it as a learning opportunity.

#3 Hack attention on social media

In this day and age- a personal brand can open doors for you that wouldn’t have even budged otherwise. Let your personalities shine through on social media and build a following. If you don’t know where to get started, just Google it and read free content for the next 10 hours.

You’ll now know everything you need, and will be left with just the hard part- actually executing on it and hustling.

#4 Communicate, communicate, communicate

Any relationship fails if partners don’t communicate properly. This applies to personal and professional relationships both, so please do not ignore this point. If something bothers you, you shouldn’t shy away from speaking your mind and communicating proactively. Over time, this is how trust builds slowly.

#5 Get to know each other’s tastes in music inside out

You’ll start getting an intuitive feel of how the other person thinks about their sets and understand their stage persona even better. Which will in turn, make you two more in sync on stage.

Conclusion

Are you in a DJ duo? How has it turned out for you? Let me know in the comments section below! I’d absolutely love to hear from you.

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