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Thinking of getting your feet wet in the world of DJing or just want a much-needed refresher? Luckily, there are loads of DJ books out there that teach both professional and aspiring DJs everything from music production to music theory. To make things easier for you, I’ve compiled a list of some of the best DJing books that cover DJ culture and advice on how to DJ. I’ve made a little summary to begin with, then more information is provided below. I hope you find something useful! 🙂
Related: Best DJ Courses Online
- How to DJ Right: The Art and Science of Playing Records – Provides a comprehensive history of DJing with several how-tos built in.
- Rock The Dancefloor: The Proven Five-Step Formula For Total DJing Success – A detailed guide on how to become a better DJ, from getting the right gear to building out your music collection.
- Beyond Beatmatching: Take Your DJ Career to the Next Level – A great read for intermediate DJs looking to advance their skill set.
- DJing for Dummies – Provides insight for beginners who want to get their feet wet with scratching, spinning, and digital DJing.
- Last Night a DJ Saved My Life: The History of the Disc Jockey – One of the best and most comprehensive disc jockey history books around.
- Groove Music: The Art and Culture of the Hip-Hop DJ – A deep dive into the crossroads of DJing and hip-hop.
- The Record Players: DJ Revolutionaries – A wonderful follow-up to “A DJ Saved My Life,” detailing trends from the sixties forward.
- The Hacienda – How Not To Run A Club – An insider account of the rise and fall of the iconic Hacienda Club in Manchester.
- Electrochoc by Laurent Garner – Offers a look at the rise of DJing in the 80s throughout different electronic music hotspots across the globe.
- Dance Music Manual: Tools, Toys, and Technique – Rick Snowman – Often heralded as the standard “textbook” for electronic music production schools.
Table of Contents
How to DJ Right: The Art and Science of Playing Records – Bill Brewster & Frank Broughton
For Aspiring DJs, How to DJ Right: The Art and Science of Playing Records is an absolute must-read. It might be one of the best introductory guides to DJing on the market. Not only does it provide a detailed history of how dance music culture developed, but it also teaches readers all the fundamental DJ skills one would need to know to spin their music.
Authors Bill Brewster and Frank Broughton come together to share their knowledge surrounding the technical and creative aspects of being a disc jockey. Throughout the book, you’ll find a nice little compilation of anecdotes from some of the best professional DJs in history.
As for what you can expect to learn, the book includes information on ultra-technical DJ skills, such as beat juggling and scratching, and more basic skills, such as curating a decent collection of music.
Of course, because it came out in 2003, there are a few references and techniques that are slightly outdated, though, for the most part, the in-depth interviews with influential DJs alone make it well worth the read.
Rock the Dancefloor: A Proven Five-Step Guide to Achieving DJing Success is a killer resource for aspiring DJs. Authored by Phil Morse, a DJ and educator with international spinning experience, the book explores everything from DJ techniques to gear insights, while also throwing down a bit of knowledge for those overwhelmed by the idea of navigating the music industry.
Related: How to Get DJ Gigs
What sets this book apart is that it saves up-and-coming DJs from having to go through the dreaded trial-and-error process. Drawing from his wealth of expertise, Morse provides holy grail DJ guidance, just as a top-tier professor would. From mixing to track curation, the “proven five-step formula” hits all points. By the time you finish reading, you’ll have the knowledge to curate, organize, and mix your music like a pro.
If that wasn’t enough, Morse thoughtfully included external video references for readers who wish to learn more after the fact. Whether you want a digestible overview of DJing as an art or actionable steps to advance your career, it’s a solid resource.
Beyond Beatmatching: Take Your DJ Career to the Next Level – Eric Coomes & Yakov Vorobyev
Beyond Beatmaking: Take Your DJ Career to the Next Level is the brainchild of two professional DJs, Eric Coomes and Yakov Vorobyev. I would say that this book is a slight step up from the above two options in terms of who it’s best suited for.
The main goal of the book is to help you become a better DJ, no matter where in your career you’re at. They teach you how to build your brand, how to get DJ gigs, how to mix, how to create flawless mashups, where to look for high-quality tracks, and how to spec out your laptop so that it’s optimized for DJing.
I also appreciate the modern approach they use in their teaching style and the fact that they touch on the importance of social media for promotion. Love or hate it, you can’t go without having a social media presence nowadays.
Throughout the book, you’ll also get some insight into complex and not-often-discussed techniques that the world’s top professional DJs employ, and as a little bonus at the end, they give us several in-depth interviews from some of the world’s most iconic names in electronic music, perfect for that added bit of inspiration.
DJing for Dummies – John Stevenson
Who isn’t familiar with the big black and yellow “Dummies” book series? It’s a staple for anyone who wants to hone a new skill, and John Steventon’s DJing for Dummies offers solid beginner-friendly insight into scratching and spinning. If you’re a complete beginner looking to improve your chops, this book delivers.
As you read, you’ll learn all about the fundamentals of DJing, including different types of DJ software, DJ technology, and the necessary equipment you’ll need to begin your journey to stardom. Steventon does a great job at digging into the basics of how to make your DJ mixes sound amazing, all while helping you create your unique brand and sound.
Anyone who wants to level up their DJ skills overall will appreciate this book, from learning how to market yourself with modern promotional tools to scratching, mixing, and beat-matching your tracks like a professional.
Last Night a DJ Saved My Life: The History of the Disc Jockey – Bill Brewster
“Last Night a DJ Saved My Life: The History of the Disc Jockey” is another great Frank Broughton and Bill Brewster piece. The difference between this and the other book is that “Last Night a DJ Saved My Life” offers a comprehensive history of DJing culture. I had no idea how long the term “disc jockey” had been around before getting into this book.
It starts off the historical timeline in 1906, the year the very first vinyl record was played on a radio broadcast. The dynamic duo then take us on a journey through the century, decade by decade, exploring the evolution of the art form and how it became a worldwide phenomenon.
You’ll learn a ton about the many popular DJ clubs, tracks, artists, and labels that came in and out of existence over the past century, from the very first U.S. single turntable DJs to the most popular modern DJs who have graced the stages of some of the largest festivals in the world.
Overall, this is an excellent book for anyone who’s interested in DJ culture and history.
Most of the DJ-related documentaries that have come out in the past few years have revolved around the evolution of electronic dance music, from the raves and dancehalls of the early 90s up until now. What’s cool about Groove Music is that it takes a refreshingly different approach to DJ history by detailing the evolution of hip-hop.
I’ve got to hand it to Mark Katz — this book is incredible. From beginning to end, you can learn everything about the founders of hip-hop and how they changed the music industry for good.
It’s crazy that in just a few decades, hip-hop has arguably turned into the most prominent music genre on Earth. Katz presents the timeline with a mixture of impeccable research and personal experience, writing about the continuous transformation of DJ software and hardware, how complex gender and race politics shaped the hip-hop scene, and how competitive DJ battles had an impact on the genre as a whole.
All of this, and it even feels like Katz approaches this book with the same kind of gritty energy that you’d expect from old-school hip-hop itself.
The Record Players: DJ Revolutionaries is the latest offering from Bill Brewster and Frank Broughton. The book offers a detailed history of DJ culture and how it has dominated the music industry for many decades, from genre-bending eccentrics to gear-obsessed mad scientists.
The first few chapters of “The Record Players” detail the role of radio disc jockeys in the 60s and how they were essentially the “gatekeepers” of popular music at the time. No one had quite the same say in what was popular at the time. You could almost say they were 20th-century “influencers.”
A few chapters later, the book gets into the Wild West of the ‘70s and ’80s delving into how evolving gear and mixing techniques shaped the sound of music and the popularity of DJ culture.
I’d highly recommend this book as a follow-up piece to “Last Night a DJ Saved My Life.”
If you’re a serious Acid House fan, you might know a bit about the Hacienda. The iconic Manchester club was ground zero for acid house and the rave scene in the ‘80s. Moving on from the illegal rave parties, the Hacienda provided a legal environment where rave , DJ culture and club music became available to the masses. The author, Peter Hook (co-founder of New Order and Joy Division) gives readers a detailed look at the rise and fall of his infamous club.
During its heyday, The Hacienda was fueled by party drugs, gangs, exciting new emerging artists and the potential of fame for many aspiring DJs. If you wanted to find success in the U.K. or embrace the Madchester clubbing experience, this was the place to go. However, the Hacienda was marred by its own success and chaotic management style, ultimately leading to its demise. It’s well worth the read for anyone obsessed with Factory Records, Madchester and DJ history.
Electrochoc – Laurent Garner
Electrochoc was written by DJ Laurent Garner, arguably one of the most iconic DJs to have ever come out of France. As an award-winning DJ, record label owner, and best-selling author, Laurent has packed a career’s worth of experience into the book.
Garner delivers an insider look at the rise of dance music in the ‘80s. Similar to Hook’s book, you’ll learn about one of history’s most legendary clubs, the Hacienda in Manchester, UK. However, Garner also takes it a step further by exploring the many other DJ scenes that evolved at the same time in history in different cities around the world, including New York, Detroit, Chicago, and Paris.
While the book won’t necessarily teach you how to mix or use DJ software, you will get a great education into the history of electronic music.
Dance Music Manual: Tools, Toys, and Technique – Rick Snowman
There’s a reason that several of the top music production schools use Dance Music Manual: Tools, Toys, and Techniques as an introductory textbook for aspiring disc jockeys and producers.
Name a DJ-related genre or subject you want to learn about, and I can almost guarantee you’ll find it here. I love how Rick Snowman details the process of turning inspiration into tangible music.
Whether you’re looking to learn the basics of audio/music production, program synths, sample or remix your favourite tracks, or book gigs and get a head-start on your DJ journey, there’s a lot you can learn from Snowman.
I’ve written about books that teach you how to promote yourself as a musician / DJ in the article The Best Music Marketing Books.
If you’re looking to get more DJ gigs – you’ll find the article How to get DJ gigs: 13 Great Strategies useful.
If you’re interested in learning how to make your own tracks you’ll find The Best Electronic Music Production Books article useful too!
Or if you want to do a deeper dive into DJing techniques then here’s a review of the Best DJ courses online.
Happy music-making. 🙂