DJ Tip: How to warm up a dancefloor, by Joel Mull

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DJ Tip: How to warm up a dancefloor, by Joel Mull

Postby N-deep on 23 Oct 2008, 10:51

From Beatportal

Every DJ dreams of the glory of playing in front of thousands of screaming fans, but often the best opportunities for getting a foot in the door is through warm up sets before headliners.

There are very few DJs who understand the art of warming-up, and indeed, it is an art.

Understanding crowd psychology, human behavioral patterns and timing is just as important as track selection and mixing skills.

Swedish DJ and Producer Joel Mull has been warming up the dancefloors for Adam Beyer during their North American Drumcode Tour and he’s impressed us at every set.

We asked Joel to share his knowledge and tips on the art of warming up just for Beatportal users, a skill set that he has learnt through almost 15 years of experience.

Here are his pointers, spoken in the same accent as Mr. Miyagi from Karate Kid.

1. Know who’s playing before and after you

This is probably one of the most important things to remember. Your warm up set should be designed to provide a perfect launch pad for the DJ spinning after you.

In order to get this right, you should know what style and pace that DJ generally plays, and work on building your set to his/her sound.

Knowing what style of music the DJ before your plays is equally important, if you’re not the opener.
2. Take it easy, no peaks

The perfect warm up set shouldn’t have any peaks or large stand out moments.

It should be consistent.
3. The longer the better

A warm up set shouldn’t be rushed. In order to properly set the mood it should preferably be two hours or longer.

The longer a set is, the more time you have to build a mood and slowly raise energy levels. Going from zero to booming in less than two hours is hard.

If your set is shorter than two hours, ask the promoter or club owner if it’s possible to start the night earlier.


Wear glasses and pretend to be clever for warm up sets
4. Connect with people

When I play a warm up set, I always try to communicate with people.

I try to make eye contact with at least two or three people in the club and try to get reactions out of them through my music.

I see those people as barometers that I can measure my set upon.

As my music progresses, so should the moods and movements of those people.
5. Prepare. Prepare. Prepare.

I always prepare my first 5 or 6 mixes before a set. I know some DJs like to just turn up and play whatever they feel like playing, but when you’re in charge of setting a mood and feeling you need to do it right.

You need to play the right music for the right room.
6. Don’t play big tracks

There’s nothing worse than turning up to spin, and the warm up DJ is slamming out big tracks, or tracks that you were going to play.

Some warm up DJs make the mistake of playing the hits of the headliner, which is just plain annoying.

As a warm up DJ, you should never play big tracks because that’s not your job.

Your job is to set the mood for the other DJ to play the big tracks.


Don’t forget to wear deodorant for your warm up set
7. No songs and more drums

I always try to find tracks that are more drum orientated and tunes that don’t have a typical song structure.

You don’t want to be playing chorus verse chorus type music, as that’s not ideal for warm up sets.

I tend to stay away from big breakdowns and try to find music that is more stripped back and percussive so I can bring in more elements later, like melodies and more drums.

Think of your set as more of a flat line, rather than peaks and troughs.
8. Organise

Just because your hard drive can hold 30,000 tracks, it doesn’t mean you need that many in your box.

Instead of stuffing your hard drive with loads of music, be organised and regularly clean and arrange your hard drive.

I use playlists to temporarily plan my sets before I play, and playlists are also good when categorized by music genre.


Express boredom during the following DJ’s set
9. Don’t rush mixes

There’s not that much difference between my mixing style in warm up sets versus headline sets, other than when I’m warming up I try to draw out mixes as long as possible.

During a headline set, you can throw mixes in out and be erratic based on crowd reaction but during a warm up set I try to blend music together for longer.

It’s about creating a smooth ride that evolves over time.
10. Use technology, wisely

Most club mixers these days have lots of FX and audio tricks to use, but you need to make sure the FX you use help set the mood, not destroy it.

I use a loop machine to draw mixes out for longer, and a sampler so I can drop sound effects and samples into a set that gives the set some continuity.

I also use a Korg Kaoss Pad for reverb and tape delays, which I use subtly to help create more tension and more atmosphere.
11. The size of the room matters

Your music should be tailored to the size of the room. If you’re playing a festival warm up slot, then you’ll need to play music that is more big room and more energetic.

If you’re playing a small basement club, then you can get away with spacey minimal tracks with lots of subtle FX and drums.


Wearing a pirate scarf may or may not make you a better DJ
12. Hypnotize

People go to clubs for escapism. Dancing is a form of escapism.

If you can get people to close their eyes and really feel the music, you’ve done a superb job.

Try to close those eyes.
13. Patience

This is probably one of the most important aspects to warm up sets. The room might be full, the crowd might be asking you to play it harder, but you should hold back the urge to bang it.

That’s not your job, and the people on the dancefloor will appreciate it even more, when the DJ after you finally let’s rip.


After your set stare moodily at the crowd
14. Closing tracks

Try not to close with a track that is hands in the air. So many warm up DJs do a great job up until their last track when they suddenly forget their role and play a big tune.

Your last track is your closing statement, and as a warm up DJ, it’s your job to set up the next guy.

Close with a track that’s a bit flat, with nothing too noticeable about it.

Make sure it’s got plenty of outro beats so that the next DJ can easily mix into it, and then when he drops his big track watch the room explode and pat yourself on the back for doing a good job.
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Re: DJ Tip: How to warm up a dancefloor, by Joel Mull

Postby polocorp on 24 Oct 2008, 22:40

well that sounds simple. why didn't i think of it before pfff :rolleyes:

kudos N-Deep :D
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Re: DJ Tip: How to warm up a dancefloor, by Joel Mull

Postby abitmessie on 25 Oct 2008, 01:46

thanks Ndeep that was an interesting read!
its about time some one like Joel Mull explained this
so so so many DJ's play bangin tracks at 10pm :rolleyes: when the club just openned,, I belive techno should be a wave that slowly gathers momentom, not over 20mins but over hours then by 2am it should be storming
when Joel and Adam came to Aus thats exactly how it played out
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