Arts & Entertainment, Music

Hey Mr. DJ: DJ 101


Lesson time 17:42 min

Questlove teaches you the fundamental skills of DJing.

Students give MasterClass an average rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars

Topics include: Counting Beats • Scratching for Beginners


[MUSIC PLAYING] - I've been listening to records and analyzing records since the age of five. And I'm 50 now. Nothing frustrates me more than really bad segues. So oftentimes, I'll hear DJs do this. [MUSIC - JEAN KNIGHT, "MR. BIG STUFF"] (SINGING) Oh, yeah. Woo. Mr. Big Stuff. [MUSIC - CHAKA DEMUS & PLIERS, "BAM BAM"] (SINGING) I want you to know that I am the man who fight for the right-- [MUSIC - EVE FEAT. GWEN STEFANI, "LET ME BLOW YA MIND"] (RAPPING) Uh. Yeah. Now, here's the thing. I just played you three songs that are bona fide million-selling hits. But it was done very pedestrian, without any creativity, no sense of drama, and no sense of flair, none of those elements. This is why I feel as though above it all-- I mean, yes, I'm willing to let go-- the keys have to be perfect, and you have to have these magic segues. But at the end of the day, you just need to know how to count. You need to know the difference between where your 1 is and when your 3 is. Because oftentimes, I'll meet musicians that will think that the first thing they hear is the 1. [MUSIC PLAYING] Now, in this case, this is the 2. [MUSIC PLAYING] So it's like 1, 2, 3, 4. 1, 2, 3, 4. 1, 2, 3-- 2, 3-- 2, 3, 4, 1, 2, 3. And oftentimes-- --they'll just make the first thing that they hear-- [MUSIC PLAYING] 3, 4. 1, 2, 3, 4. 1, 2, 3, 4. [COMBINES BOTH TUNES TOGETHER] 2, 4. 1, 2-- That frustrates me too. So you should at least have a basic sense of pulse and of rhythm to know that where your 1 is leading up to your 4 and how to count. So in the beginning, I suggest that you do a lot of counting when you're first starting off. 1, 2, 3, 4 5, 6, 7, 8. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7-- You know, it's important that you just have a sense of where the music falls. That is important. Once you master that, then, I mean, you can start getting super creative. [MUSIC PLAYING] Okay, so in terms of cue points, I guess you could say that Grandmaster Flash was kind of the father of the cue point because you would often have less than 10 seconds to find the magic part of the song that you wanted. With 10 seconds and that high pressure, chances are that you might find it and might not find that cue point. So Grandmaster Flash actually started the habit of taking a crayon or a marker such as this and making his own cue points. And what he would do was he would place the needle on the magic part of the song. And then he would draw an arrow as his starting point. So in this case, I'm going to take "Call Me D-Nice." And that will be my starting point. Before Serato, some DJs would DJ without headphones and just go on faith of where it is. And the point is that that cue point will let you know when the rhythm-- when the beat starts. [SCRATCHING, BEAT] [MUSIC - D-NICE, "CALL ME D-NICE"] (RAPPING) My name i...

About the Instructor

Ahmir Thompson—better known as Questlove—is an iconic DJ, the drummer for The Roots, and the “coolest man on late-night,” but his first love is collecting and mixing music. Now the Grammy winner is sharing his passion with you. Explore DJ techniques, expand your musical vocabulary, and learn how to glide from genre to genre—including hip-hop, neo-soul, jazz, R&B, and more—to curate your own perfect playlist.

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The iconic DJ and Roots drummer Questlove teaches you how to be a better DJ, deepen your love of music, and make a perfect playlist.

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