How Many Songs Should There Be In A DJ’s Set?

Beginner DJ’s may struggle with this, since we don’t really have so much experience under our belts to have a idea of how many songs we should prepare for a gig. Which is why I was desperate to find a guideline or even a rule of thumb.

So- how many songs should there be in a DJ’s set?

Divide the number of minutes you intend to play by 2. This is the number of songs you need. For instance- if your set is 5 hours, or 300 minutes long, you won’t need more than 150 songs. Doing this calculation will ensure you’re never short of music at your gig, regardless of genre.

So- the average number of songs by length of set:

Number of songs in a 30 min set: 15

Number of songs in a 1 hour set: 30

Number of songs in a 2 hour set: 60

Number of songs in a 6 hour set: 180

However, if you want to avoid overpreparing, it’s worth knowing how to plan your sets according to genre.

How Length Of A Set Varies By Genre

The above formula that I laid out was based on the fact that even when a DJ is power-mixing, i.e: mixing and dropping tracks quickly, one after the other, they’ll play at least 2 minutes per song.

However, if you’d like to play out 3 minutes or 4 minutes per song, or even the whole song, that means you need lesser songs in your playlist.

How do you make this decision?

Well, the length of each song in your set depends on the song structure quite a bit. Is it fast paced? If so, you’ll probably get away with playing 3-4 minutes of the song. The song structure should also allow you to mix into other songs easily.

For instance, house is generally one of the easiest genres to mix, since it follows a mostly standard pattern. However, if you’re playing a song with vocals, say, you can’t just cut it off mid-sentence. You’ll have to wait until the bridge between the second paragraph of lyrics, at the very least.

That being said- I trawled the internet forums to gather examples of how many songs DJ’s play per hour in their sets, by genre.

  • Commercial house: 20 songs per hour
  • Trance: 12 songs per hour
  • 80’s pop: 10 songs per hour
  • Dubstep: 40 songs per hour
  • Techno: 12 songs per hour
  • Hip Hop: 30 songs per hour


How Long Should You Play A Particular Song For

On average, you won’t really be playing more than 2-3 minutes per song. It of course depends on the genre a bit and the kind of audience you’re playing to, however, the rule of thumb is 2-3 minutes.

The reason? Well, blame it on the modern age, if you want, but if you’re in a traditional club setting, you’ll find that it is SO easy for people to get distracted, that you’ll find your audience losing attention post the first set of lyrics and chorus.

There are exceptions to this rule- for instance a trance set may most likely have the DJ playing upto 5 minutes per song(almost the entire length, really)

Is Planning Your Sets In Advance Cheating?

There are many split opinions in the DJ community regarding topics like whether you need to know how to beatmatch by ear, whether you should ‘analyze’ your tracks through whatever software you use and prepare them beforehand, etc.

My own two cents on this is- as long as it works for you and you’re able to give your audience a good time, who cares what anyone else thinks?

Vinyl DJ’s looked down upon those who wanted to play on the controllers, who now look down upon newbies who start out mixing tracks on their laptops. And of course, experienced DJ’s can afford to be ‘lazy’ at times, and afford to not prepare as much before a gig.

But if you’re just starting out, you SHOULD plan your sets and prepare well. You make up for inexperience through more preparation and planning, not less.

How To Prepare Your Set Before The Gig

There are SO many song choices in front of us in the digital age that it can become overwhelming, which is why I suggest it’s best to make a separate folder in your laptop/ USB/ Hard drive with ONLY the songs that you think you’ll need for the night.

Next, you should make mini playlists of songs that you think will mix well together. It could be lists of 4-5 songs or even more. This may take you some time the first couple of times you do it, but soon as you build your library of song folders, it’ll be a quick job to do this prep work.

Now, give your playlists some order. Which ones should you play at the start of the gig, which ones in the middle and which ones towards the end?

You may have multiple options in mind regarding song transitions, so you can keep it flexible and choose as per how the audience is reacting to your tracks- but it helps to have some order in the form of a rough playlist when you’re going to a gig.

Generally, you should have your best mixes playing in the middle and towards the end of your set, rather than at the beginning.

If you want to get creative, you could even choose a theme for your set, and start pulling tracks accordingly.

Also- don’t be afraid to transition into different genres. Slowing things down with a romantic track once in a while won’t be a bad idea- though it depends on your setting, of course.

How To Organize Your Music Library

Sure- when you’re out for a gig, it’s always good to have a backup of all your songs in a hard drive, so that if you get any unexpected song request, you can cater to it.

However, your music library in general needs to be organized well for easy access. You don’t want to spend 10 minutes sifting through your folders to play a song request, do you?

There is no particular rule on how to organize your folders- you could organize your music by genre, mood, based on a particular ‘theme’. You could have separate folders for current Top 10 tracks, often requested tracks for different occasions, such as weddings, birthdays, etc… you get the idea.

I personally, am quite partial to having my tracks sorted by mood. I have a ‘happy’ playlist, a ‘mellow’ one, another called ‘motivation’, and so on.

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