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The Abcs of Being a Radio Dj

Updated on March 24, 2019
Rhylee Suyom profile image

Rhylee Suyom has hopped in three different worlds: the academe, the corporate, and the media. He enjoys being with nature and his family.

The microphone can be pretty scary if one does not have much stock knowledge about what he has to talk about. The amount of knowledge one has on a topic is usually directly proportional to his confidence to speak.
The microphone can be pretty scary if one does not have much stock knowledge about what he has to talk about. The amount of knowledge one has on a topic is usually directly proportional to his confidence to speak. | Source

The ABCs of Being a Radio DJ


There is no greater pleasure than listening to your favorite song over the radio especially on a long drive. Feelings rush in and memories begin to be remembered. A greater feeling happens when the disc jockey gets to give you a personal greeting from someone you hold dear or hopes to be one. The odds of having this experience sometimes can only happen in daydreams, but if you are the type of person who envisions himself or herself in front of the microphone playing songs, greeting listeners and followers, and enjoying the popularity that the radio has to offer, this walk through on how to be just that Dj may be for you. So get yourself ready because this may just be the one you have always been waiting for!

Listen and Listen Well

When you have an ear for music so much so that you can almost predict that a particular song will hit the charts, you definitely have a knack for music. Radio DJs usually have this ability to discern which song will be the next big hit. Music is in their system; they dream and fantasize about songs all the time. Most of what a DJ talks over the radio comes from observing and researching about what is in and out of the music industry. Who gets to be the next idol; why did a brand break up; the queer relationship of singers, composers, producers, etc.; how a band got its name; how a song was written and to whom was it written for…these are just a few of what a great DJ can work with while broadcasting a show. The ability to entertain rests in the ability to listen, not merely hearing, but sincere and honest listening. In fact, some radio DJs are so good at adlibs they need not research at all. All they do is speak from the heart and associate experiences or things they have read or heard with a theme or powerful line from the lyrics of a particular song. So listening between the lines of a song’s lyrics entails from mere interpretation for face value of lines to possible literary deconstruction. With listening, a potential DJ can be one of the greatest provided that he or she listens more and more for continual development of skills and personality.

Mirror Effect 1: Listen, Copy, and Tweak

When one is learning how to develop the technical and communication skills in becoming a DJ, mirroring is most essential. Ever tried copying the style of the person who first taught you something? This same principle applies to being a DJ: listen well to your favorite DJ; notice his transitions, his timing, choice of words, the witty adlibs, and smooth transitions between genres of music or between commercial breaks and songs. Only when one closely observes these small and simple things can he or she begin to develop his or her own ‘way.’ Notice that as one begins to develop skills, the unique individuality slowly kicks in and no sooner than expected, a personal identity is borne. Is mirroring someone bad? Not at all as long as the learner attributes that which he or she does not have to the owner. Remember that the best learner are those who know their limitations, acknowledges their weaknesses, listens and asks for help, continually develops skills and personality, and he or she may become the best that he or she may have always wanted.

Mirror Effect 2: Describe What You Feel or Observe

When an entertaining DJ speaks over the microphone, he or she describes the feeling before, during, or after listening to a particular song. Speaking from the heart is the key. Since people cannot see the DJ, all that he has is his ability to give a verbal description of how he feels and what he sees. The good thing about this is that people tap into their own well of sets of experiences and associate their individual experience(s) to what is being played on air and what the DJ is saying. An unexpected call from a listener who does not seem to be a fan is a great sign that you are starting to learn how to use this unique skill of communication.

Read, Research, and Rehearse

Like all good athletes, a great DJ knows his game. Researching about anything on an artist, the current hits, why they became hit songs, why an artist suddenly disappears, the facts and figures, the local, national, and global differences in preferences on songs and genres, and any other relevant information which any group of people may deem worth listening to. The key is to keep on researching because you will never know when these bits and pieces will prove useful on air. Rules in speech and public speaking state that the ability and confidence to speak is directly proportional to the amount of information one has. This explains why it is useless to rehearse on what to be delivering on air when one has not researched first. Note that the one must read and research before rehearsing lines for future use on air. This is an important procedure to remember; less or no research means less or no confidence to speak. Only when one has read and known much about a particular artist or song must he or she begin to rehearse for tomorrow’s broadcast.

During rehearsal, it is important to be sure of how long the introductory music is before the first word of a song gets to be heard. This is a tricky part in on air broadcast. Great DJs have impeccable timing so much so that their last word in introducing a song is automatically followed by the first word of the song. There is no gap; there is a seamless connection between the DJ’s last word to the song’s first word. The same goes for an ending adlib: the last word of the DJ is seamlessly connected to either a next song’s first word or ad ad’s first word. This skill will take much time and a lot of practice both on and off air but this is the reason why sometimes songs have time stamps which indicate when will be the first word of a song (intro) and the last word (extro). You may want to check on that and try it yourself.

The Same Beat or Break It!

Common mistake of new DJ is the random shift of genres and beat of songs while on continuous play of songs on air. This is total NO-NO in broadcasting. If I just played a ballad and would want the next song to be reggae, a breaker or an adlib is needed in between. Make sure to match the tone and speed of on air delivery to the type of song being or about to be played. A single style of delivery on air shows one to be a novice; the ability to drive the audience with the right tone and tempo of your voice will reveal the next song or even artist. This is a critical skill to learn so much so that a review on monologue is necessary.

Record Your Program and Compare with Your Idols

A saying states that what is on you nape is something you cannot see. Similarly, while a few fans and callers may seem to make you feel extra special being a DJ, recording your own program and listening to it will reveal small details and many areas of improvement. Only then will you notice that you have said “OK” 23 times on air for just an hour of broadcast. This technique in recording should be done during rehearsal time also so that when an actual broadcast happens, you are sure that you have little to no error at all.

Ask Difficult Questions and Answer, Think Impromptu

Impromptu speech skill is something that one must develop if he really wants to be in the radio business. Monologue speech delivery is also equally important for the variation of tones, pitch, and tempo of delivery. But if you can really give a short and powerful impromptu speech about anything, then you are already set for the microphone. Again, the amount of knowledge or information you have is the key to your confidence to speak; more stock knowledge means a wider option or spectrum of sub-topics to deal with. The key still is prior reading and researching before rehearsal.

It is all about the Delivery

Great DJs have two important skills in delivery: reading and adlib. DJs get to dub ads: their voices are used to record commercials, stingers, breakers, station IDs, announcements, public service broadcasts, and more. A single style in delivery will never be a good sign of a great DJ. Learn how to delivery many and different monologues so that your skill will dramatically improve. Some people are just born with the special ability to speak their minds; this is adlib. This impromptu skill is needed in the advent of technical malfunctions, system errors, power interruptions, accidents, and even during remote broadcasts. If one can read scripts in many different styles of delivery and has the unique ability to speak his mind in an impromptu manner, he is set for the microphone. Just remember that news delivery always has a hanging rising tone at the end, is formal, and needs a commanding voice/tone whereas any other broadcast (except for news and commentary) can be of the personal type of communication that ordinary people do of course without taboo language and name calling.

All Set for the Taking!

So I guess you are now all set to be the best DJ you can always be. In summary, let us recap what are the most essential things and procedures one must go through in order to unlock the DJ in you:

  1. Listen well to your chosen best DJ.
  2. Learn from his/her style, timing, and delivery.
  3. Copy and tweak your chosen lines.
  4. Read, Research, and Rehearse about songs, artists, and anything about them.
  5. Practice with impromptu and monologue speeches on difficult questions.
  6. Record programs and your rehearsals; learn, assess, and repeat.
  7. Practice different styles of delivery (news style and adlib)
  8. Learn the transitions between genres and ads.
  9. Be on the lookout for possible vacancies in radio stations near you.
  10. Good luck!


FAQs for You!

1. Where will I begin in developing my radio DJ skills? I would want you to first try listening to your favorite song, reading a few things about the song, its artist(s), find relevant news about both the song and its artist, then start making your own adlib about the song, its artist, and both.

2. I want to enroll in a speech class, what are the lessons and sessions I need to focus on which will dramatically help me in becoming a radio DJ? I personally like the impromptu and extemporaneous speech classes plus the sessions on monologue and public speaking. These will surely help you develop your confidence and delivery skills especially when in how to properly use the microphone.

3. I always dream of being heard on air but I do not have someone to try my verbal skills with and on, what should I do? You may opt to record one of your favorite disc jockeys' on air presentations and take note on how he/she delivers adlibs. Take note of even the smallest details as these will be useful during your practice. Pay close attention to transition adlibs too.

4. What is the best method in improving my delivery even without someone to help me with? I learned and developed my skills by getting a decent book which I am really interested in; reading it out loud while recording my delivery, listening to my recording and paying attention to my transitions or pauses, and redoing the entire process until my recording sounds a bit like my favorite DJ.

5. I want to try applying for a DJ slot in my area, how can I find this special job/vacancy? A quick tour of your area would be best. Ask around whether there be one within your town, city, or province. Search the Internet for a local radio station in your area and send a communication to their portal asking for possible tryouts and DJ vacancy. Remember to be courteous and optimistic when communicating so that even with your voice, they receiver will have a positive impression upon you.

© 2018 Professor S

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