I assume you’ve all been to a party where a DJ was playing songs after all, weddings and parties have DJs. Most of the time you’ve seen that the DJ was wearing headphones. Many are confused by this and the question on everyone’s mind is why do DJs wear headphones? And what is the purpose of the headphones?
Of course, headphones weren’t always here. In the beginning, when the DJ was still a new profession, DJs had to do this without headphones. Half of the equipment that exists nowadays back then was fiction.
So, don’t be surprised when you hear old school DJs criticize modern DJs for using headphones. Old school DJs judge from a different perspective, for some it’s personal.
Being a DJ doesn’t mean just putting on a playlist. The DJ has to mix the songs, match the beat, and follow the tempo. That’s where the headphones come in. We will explore below the 6 mains reasons why DJs need a headphone.
Swapping the track
As you may have noticed, DJs often cut the track that was playing at the moment, and swap to another one. The next track often starts from the chorus or the most significant part.
So, in order to swap the track, the DJ has to hear it in advance. He hears it with the headphones. This is the most common use of headphones, even amateur DJs do this.
Let’s see another use of headphones.
Often, DJs plan ahead what they will play. They create a short playlist from cut songs in order to gradually work up the crowd.
Of course, making a playlist doesn’t mean just taking the chorus from various songs, it needs something more.
By mixing, the DJ makes the song more interesting and more appropriate for the tempo of the crowd. He can mix the song when its turn comes but that takes a lot of skill.
So, in order to make mixing easier, DJs use headphones. With headphones, they can prepare an 8-minute mix while you are listening to the song that’s playing at the moment. (Source)
If you’ve watched a good DJ perform you may have noticed this, the crowd often waits for this moment.
On to the next one.
Parties can be a wild place, festivals especially. The crowd is yelling, the music is too loud etc. All this noise and flashing lights prevent the DJ from hearing the tracks well.
So, headphones are a good way of shutting down all that noise. With headphones, the DJ can hear the beat clearly.
Besides hearing better, with headphones, the DJ can focus better. You know that headphones provide a kind of sanctuary.
Now, the most important part follows.
You may have also noticed that when the song is near the end, the DJ will play another one simultaneously. This is called transitioning and is different from the first example.
The DJ has to know if the songs are synchronized beforehand. Once again, headphones make this possible.
Besides playing the two songs simultaneously, the DJ will save the matched beat from the 2 songs and sync it to another song. Of course, with headphones, he can time this perfectly.
Additionally, DJs also implement a sound or an instrument in a song. They can do this without headphones but the timing won’t be perfect. So, the DJ uses his headphones to cue perfectly whatever he has in mind. This offers great precision.
Beatmatching is a sign of a good DJ, let’s see something else now.
“Listening” the tempo
A DJ has no reason to hear the crowd, all he needs is a dancing crowd. Singers use the crowd as a voice sometimes and they need to be able to hear their voice.
DJs need to follow the tempo, they do this by following the crowd. So, as I said, headphones can make the DJ more focused. Not only focused on the songs, but on the crowd’s body language too.
If the DJ doesn’t follow the crowd, everything said above is useless. The mixes may be good but not appropriate for the crowd’s tempo.
The tempo has to be worked up gradually, and the mix comes in when the crowd is ready.
Time for the last one.
Just a style
Rappers have their style, pop singers also have a style, so it’s reasonable that DJs have a style too. As headphones became more and more popular with DJs, the trend turned into a style.
This didn’t happen instantly of course. As DJs saw how useful headphones can be, they started using them more and more. In the beginning, some opposed them, but after a while, headphones became a necessity.
Soon enough, a laptop and headphones were the logos of DJs. It’s hard to find a DJ today that doesn’t use headphones.
Summary on Why Do DJs Wear Headphones
As you can see, being a DJ isn’t an easy job. You have to mix ahead, synchronize songs, follow the crowd, and have a good sense of music.
All these things are made easier to do by headphones. Every good DJ will tell you that headphones are crucial if you want to have a good show.
You can’t deny that DJs have come a long way. Nowadays when a DJ is performing it looks kind of like a movie. You know this if you ever been to a festival. The shows that DJs have are amazing and headphones play a part in that.
Of course, other equipment is also crucial but without the headphones, it would be significantly less good. You’ve known better after reading all the uses of headphones for a DJ.
That’s it, now you know why DJs use headphones. I hope I helped someone who is thinking about becoming a DJ too.