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Open Format DJ Guide: Tips, Tricks, and Techniques.

Open format DJing is a relatively specialised skill, that not all DJs have unlocked. To successfully play an open-format DJ set you need to have a deep understanding of musical genres, have the techniques for cross-genre transitions, and have good audience perceptions. 

Seen as somewhat of a dark art, open-format DJing is a technique that needs to be mastered if you want to be commercially successful. 

In this guide, I'll explain the nuances of open-format DJs, demonstrate a bunch of essential tips and skills open-format DJs use, and share some secret software which is a vital tool for this technique!

TL;DR - Open Format DJing#

  • An open-format DJ will play any mix of different genres in their DJ sets. 

  • Being a multi-genre DJ requires a range of extra skills - like transition skills, audience awareness, and understanding a range of musical genres. 

  • Having an extensive music library is another key cornerstone of open-format DJing. 

  • Regardless of what genres you're mixing, DJ.Studio is a powerful DJ app which makes set planning, preparation, and creation easier than ever. 

What is an Open Format DJ?#

what is an open format dj

An Open Format DJ is a DJ who mixes a wide range of music genres in their performances - rather than sticking to just one. 

Unlike genre-specific DJs who might focus solely on, say, techno, hip-hop, or house music, open-format DJs rely on their versatility and ability to play to more diverse crowds. 

These artists will mix tracks from various genres like pop, rock, hip hop, house, techno, EDM, and more; all within a single set.

This approach requires a deep understanding of different musical styles, a sharp awareness of the audience's reaction, and the ability to transition smoothly between genres that might not traditionally be mixed together. 

Why You Should Learn Open Format DJing #

Developing open-format DJing skills presents several advantages for DJs. 

  • Access a wider range of gig and commercial opportunities. Perform at weddings, corporate events, clubs, and parties.

  • Become a more adaptable and versatile DJ, with the valuable skill of being able to please any crowd. 

  • Expand your knowledge of music and DJing, by exploring tracks and techniques from all genres. 

  • Develop your DJ skills, and unlock more advanced techniques and tricks to impress your audience. 

The Key Skills of Open-Format DJing #

Becoming a skilled open-format DJing requires training, practice, and experience. You need to hone a range of skills and techniques to pull it off. 

Here are the cornerstone concepts of open format DJing you need to develop.

Master the Art of Music Selection#

  • Broaden Your Music Library - Constantly expand your collection across genres, eras, and cultures. You never know when an obscure track might perfectly fit a moment.

  • Understand Your Audience - Research the demographic of your audience beforehand if possible. Age, cultural background, and the type of event can guide your music selection.

  • Be Open - You won't always be able to play your favourite tracks or even DJ-friendly genres. Playing commercial music, dance music, chart music, and anything else the crowd wants is part of the job as an open-format DJ. 

Skillful Mixing is Key#

  • Create Seamless Transitions - Learn to blend tracks smoothly, even across different BPMs and keys. Techniques like beatmatching, harmonic mixing, and using effects can help maintain energy and make a creative transition sound good.  

  • Creative Use of Technology - Familiarize yourself with DJ software features like key shifting, samplingstem separation, and sync to make mixing diverse tracks easier.

Read the Crowd#

  • Engagement Over Ego - Your primary goal is to entertain, not to show off your music taste. Watch the crowd’s reaction to each song and be ready to shift direction if necessary.

  • Interactive Experience - Don’t be afraid to engage with the crowd, whether through the microphone or by responding to their energy with your music choices. Be prepared for song requests!

Prepare but Be Flexible#

  • Have Playlists Ready - Prepare several playlists for different vibes or parts of the event, but don’t be afraid to deviate based on the crowd's reaction.

  • Improvise - Sometimes, the most memorable moments come from spontaneous decisions. Trust your instincts and be bold with your choices when the moment feels right.

Technical Proficiency#

  • Know Your Equipment - Whether it’s turntables, CDJs, or a digital setup, being intimately familiar with your gear allows you to focus on the creative side of DJing.

  • Backup Plans - Always have backups for your music and equipment. Technical issues can arise, and being prepared ensures the music never stops.

Continuous Learning#

  • Stay Current - Music trends evolve quickly. Regularly explore new music and mixing techniques to keep your sets fresh and engaging.

  • Seek Feedback - Open yourself up to constructive criticism from peers and mentors. It’s a valuable tool for growth. DJ.Studio has a community mix platform for interacting with other DJs and getting feedback on your mixes. 

Being an open format DJ is about more than just playing music; it's about creating an atmosphere, telling a story, and making sure everyone in your audience feels included in the experience. 

DJ.Studio: The Open Format DJ's Essential App#

DJ.Studio is a new piece of DJ software that is rapidly changing the way DJs work - across the industry. 

This is not your standard piece of live DJing software like rekordbox, Serato, Virtual DJ, or Traktor, it's a unique DAW for DJs: a new type of DJ tool which enhances and expands the DJ workflow at all stages, from music discovery to mix distribution. 

At its core, DJ.Studio is an app for making full, seamless DJ sets - but in reality, this software has a huge range of features which are useful in many situations, particularly for open-format DJs. 

Before looking at the specific situations where DJ.Studio is incredibly beneficial for open-format DJs, let's have a look at the type of workflows this app offers, by running through the process. 

  1. Open DJ.Studio - you can use it in your browser, or download the app for a better experience with integrations to your main live DJ software. 

  2. Build Your Library - DJ.Studio features its own powerful library manager - which has the unique ability to connect to other DJ music libraries and streaming services. 

  3. Create a Project - There are three main project types in the app, each designed to work with different audio sources:

    1. Local File Projects - These use downloaded music files to create mixes, and have the widest range of export options. This type of project can be used to connect with your live DJ software too. 

    2. YouTube Projects - These projects let you create mixes from any track on YouTube, YouTube Music, or Spotify, allowing you to experiment with songs before buying them. Finished YouTube mixes are shared on our Online DJ Community Platform. This is connected with 1001Tracklists, which makes it super easy for users to discover music from any genre, and start experimenting with new music in their mix. 

    3. Beatport Streaming Projects - One of the latest integrations enables you to create mixes from any of the 12m+ tracks in the Beatport Streaming Library. Your finished mixes can then be downloaded and shared using our revolutionary Legalize feature.

  4. Create the Setlist - After you've made your project, you'll want to start adding songs to use in the mix. DJ.Studio can also scan your library and suggest songs to fit based on harmonic analysis - which is a powerful tool for open-format DJs.

  5. Automix - You can make the setlist order yourself, or use DJ.Studio's unique automix algorithm to find the optimal order based on harmonic mixing and beatmatching. Within moments, you can go from a random bunch of songs, into a seamlessly flowing mix - with no clashing keys or beats. 

  6. Edit and Refine the Mix - Now it's time to start getting creative and editing your mix. DJ.Studio features a unique timeline editor allowing you to shape your mix however you imagine. You can cut, copy, loop, use effects, add samples, add voiceovers, use stem separation, use transition presets, and add manual automation - giving you endless creative freedom. Shape up your transitions, polish the flow of your mix, and create something exciting and new. Even add some final mastering for a competitive sound!

  7. Export - When the mix is finished, you have a range of options for exporting your mix depending on which project type you used. 

    1. WAV/MP3 - You can rapidly convert Local File and Legalized Beatport mixes to a single (or split) high-quality WAV/MP3. These are distribution-ready. 

    2. Create Videos - Local File projects can be converted into animated, audio-reactive mix videos with our huge library of graphics thanks to Shadertoy. You can quickly upload these to YouTube, and generate the tracklist information with timestamps to create chapter markers. 

    3. DJ Set - DJ.Studio can export finished mixes as a DJ set file, which can be imported into all mainstream live DJ software like rekordbox, Traktor, Virtual DJ etc... This includes all the information the software needs to rebuild your mix as an ordered playlist. All you need to do is press play and make the transitions live! 

    4. Ableton Live - If you want to edit your mix with extra tools, you can convert it into a multi-track Ableton Live protect. This includes all of your edits and work, instantly recreating your mix 1:1 in Ableton. 

    5. Online Platform - YouTube Mixes can be uploaded to our Online Mix Community Platform, where you can share your mixes around the internet, get feedback, and interact with other DJ.Studio users. 

Whether you're planning your next dance floor melting mix, or your creating some showcase sets to put online - DJ.Studio has the tools and features you need to excel. 

This is just one potential workflow offered by DJ.Studio - and in reality it fits in to a range of DJ methods. This means open format DJs can discover new music, and prepare their mixes all from one application. 

As you will see in the next section, DJ.Studio is particularly beneficial for open-format DJs 

Examples of DJ.Studio Uses for Open Format DJs#

DJ.Studio presents several benefits for open format DJs:

  • A 'Pee-Break' Minimix - Open format DJs often play long shows, so having a prepared bathroom-break mini mix can be a lifesaver. DJ.Studio makes it easy for you to mash a few songs together ahead of time. 

  • Custom Set Openers - The deep level of customisation offered by DJ.Studio means that you can create detailed personalised set openers. This could be a mashup layered with samples, loops, and your own custom DJ intro vocals!

  • Genre and BPM Transition Mini Mixes - One of the harder skills for open format DJing is transitioning between genres or large BPMs. Instead of doing this on the fly, you can prepare some transition combos, where you make a mini mix of 2 or 3 songs to bridge gaps.

  • Music Discovery - A large and diverse music library is key, and thanks to DJ.Studio's ability to experiment with and discover music from YouTube, Spotify, Beatport Streaming, and 1001Tracklists, you'll never be stuck without a beat. 

  • Playlist/Set Preparation - DJ.Studio is the ultimate tool for preparing DJ mixes and playlists. You can compile different themed playlists in DJ.Studio (with perfect harmonic and tempo flow), and export them to your live software as a pre-prepared playlist!


Start integrating the above information into your DJ practice, and you'll be well on your way to becoming a skilled open format DJ. It takes time and dedication, but its a rewarding investment that makes you a more valuable DJ, and can open more doors to commercial opportunities. 

DJ.Studio is the software companion designed to make the road to success easier. Try it out yourself today with the free 14-day trial, and see how it can easily accelerate your growth!

Noah Feasey-Kemp
I started DJing when I was 15. Started a record label, residency by a club in Bristol. I’ve played at all the biggest clubs in Bristol (and the small ones) and have entertained thousands of dancers! I love writing about music, DJing, and technology. I've been blogging for DJ.Studio since the start of the project, and am always happy to answer questions and help fellow DJs out!

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