How to stop being nervous when you DJ

Tips for DJs with performance anxiety

DJing is an exhilarating experience that allows you to share your passion for music with a live audience. However, it’s natural to feel nervous, especially when stepping up to the decks in front of a crowd.

Nerves can strike anyone, regardless of experience, and can quickly spiral into full-blown anxiety if not addressed. 

In this article, we’ll explore various techniques and tips to help you overcome nervousness when DJing, ensuring you can stay focused and deliver a memorable performance.


DJ mistake - nervous

Understanding the Causes of Nervousness

Being nervous before a DJ set is, in many ways, a positive indicator of your enthusiasm for your craft. It shows you care about your performance and the experience you provide for your audience.

I get nervous when DJing. Help!
However, when nerves become excessive, they can significantly hinder your ability to perform. Understanding how to manage and reduce these feelings is essential, as proper control will enable you to perform at your best, with increased confidence and enjoyment.

Throughout this article, we will discuss practical tips such as deep breathing exercises, mental preparation, and effective ways to channel your energy, all aimed at helping you gain control over your nerves. As you continue to hone your DJing skills and implement these strategies, you will see a noticeable improvement in your ability to stay calm, focused, and in control, allowing you to truly immerse yourself in the art of DJing.

Anxiety and Nervousness

Anxiety and nervousness are closely related, but they have some distinct differences. Anxiety is a feeling of fear, worry, or unease that may be related to an upcoming event, while nervousness is a natural reaction to a new or stressful situation. It is important to note that everybody experiences nervousness at some point in their lives, and it is a normal and natural reaction.

Anxiety and nervousness are feelings we DJs all grapple with from time to time, often surfacing when we least expect it too.

They’re the silent companions of uncertainty, hanging around when we’re stepping out of our comfort zones or facing a new challenge.

As famed author and spiritual teacher Eckhart Tolle puts it:-

“Anxiety, the illness of our time, comes primarily from our inability to live in the present moment.”

Remember, it’s natural to feel these emotions. Yet, as American writer Mark Twain reminds us,

“Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear, not absence of fear.”

Learning to navigate these feelings is a crucial part of life’s journey. Hollywood Actress and mental health advocate Emma Stone once shared her perspective on this, stating,

“I think the most important thing is to speak out, not holding things inside and letting this life-long struggle be your dirty little secret. It’s about being honest about who you are.”

So, when anxiety and nervousness start to creep in, remember you’re not alone and it’s okay to share your feelings.

Performance Anxiety AKA “Stage Fright”

Performance anxiety is a specific type of nervousness that occurs when an individual is worried about how they will perform or be perceived by others. This can be particularly relevant when DJing, as there is an expectation to entertain and engage an audience.

The fear of being judged and not meeting these expectations can lead to increased adrenaline and other physical symptoms, which can worsen performance anxiety.

Performance anxiety, often referred to as “stage fright,” is indeed a common experience among DJs, regardless of whether they’re spinning tracks in a small local club, a big music festival, or a private event. This anxiety doesn’t discriminate based on the size of the audience or the nature of the event. It’s a feeling that can creep in anytime a DJ steps up to their decks, knowing that they hold the power to create an atmosphere, set the mood, and dictate the flow of the event.

This type of anxiety is rooted in our innate desire to succeed and be appreciated, coupled with the fear of making mistakes or failing to meet expectations. It’s a complex emotional cocktail that can lead to a rush of adrenaline and heightened stress responses. As a result, DJs might experience symptoms like shaky hands, a racing heart, or even mental blocks, which can make song selection, beat matching, or executing that perfect transition more difficult.

Carl Cox talking about nerves when DJingHowever, it’s important to remember that even the most successful and acclaimed DJs have had their share of performance anxiety. World-renowned DJ and producer Carl Cox once said,

“I still get nervous before going on stage. But as soon as I’m on the decks, I forget everything else and just enjoy the moment.”

This quote illustrates that nerves can be part of the process, but they don’t have to define the entire performance experience.

For many DJs, the key to managing performance anxiety lies in preparation and experience. Thoroughly knowing your music, your equipment, and your audience can provide a solid foundation of confidence. Practicing your sets repeatedly until they become second nature can help, too. 

Over time, with each performance, you’ll likely find that the butterflies in your stomach start to calm down, replaced by the exhilaration of connecting with your audience and sharing the music you love. David GuettaAs world-famous DJ David Guetta puts it,

“The people, the crowd, that’s what it’s all about. I love it when everyone is in a trance and having a good time.”

In the end, remember that it’s okay to make mistakes and it’s okay to feel nervous. It’s a normal part of the human experience and it simply means you care about doing a good job. Embrace it, learn from it, and let it fuel your journey as a DJ.


Negative Thoughts

Negative thoughts play a significant role in causing nervousness. When one focuses on the possible mistakes they might make or the negative outcomes that may arise, it can heighten their anxiety and impact their performance. Common negative thoughts experienced during DJing might include the fear of equipment malfunction, poor song selection, or loss of connection with the audience. To help alleviate this form of nervousness, it is essential to address these negative thought patterns and replace them with more positive and realistic expectations.

In summary, understanding the causes of nervousness when DJing involves examining the relationship between anxiety and nervousness, the impact of performance anxiety, and the role negative thoughts play in heightening these emotions. By recognising these factors, individuals can identify the most effective strategies to manage nervousness and enhance their overall performance.

Building Your Confidence and Preparation

Trust in Your Abilities

It’s essential to trust in your own abilities as a DJ. This means believing in your skills, creativity, and value as an entertainer. Building self-confidence can be achieved by:

  • Regularly challenging yourself to step out of your comfort zone
  • Reflecting on past successes and accomplishments
  • Surrounding yourself with supportive people who encourage and believe in you

Practice and Experience

Experience is key to overcoming nervousness in any situation, including DJing. To gain experience and become more comfortable, consider:

  • Practising regular DJ sets at home, ideally simulating live performances with an audience
  • DJing at smaller events to build your experience and confidence before progressing to larger gigs
  • Rehearsing your transitions, cues and beatmatching skills consistently, aiming for mastery

Mental health is important to every DJ

Know Your Music

Being well-versed with your music collection is crucial to reduce nerves and increase confidence during DJ sets. To achieve this, you should:

  • Invest time in categorising, organising, and tagging your music library.
  • Create and maintain playlists for different genres, tempos and moods.
  • Regularly update your music library to stay up to date with new releases and crowd favourites. Always have backup playlists if the crowd aren’t feeling it.

Preparation Techniques

Preparation is important in reducing nerves and boosting your confidence when DJing. Some useful techniques include:

  • Creating a structured schedule for your practice sessions and sticking to it.
  • Developing a pre-show routine, such as deep breathing exercises, to help calm your nerves. More on this later
  • Preparing a ‘safety’ playlist with tested tracks that you know resonate with audiences for moments when you feel unsure about your next move. These can be a live saver!

By using these strategies and focusing on building your confidence and preparation, you’ll be better equipped to conquer nervousness when DJing.

Remember, practice makes perfect, and trusting yourself is essential for success in the DJ industry.

Breathing and Relaxation Techniques

Deep Breathing Exercises

Deep breathing exercises can help reduce nervousness and anxiety while DJing. One effective technique is resonance breathing:

  1. Lie down somewhere comfortable and close your eyes.
  2. Gently breathe in through your nose for a count of six seconds, without overfilling your lungs.
  3. Exhale for six seconds, allowing your breath to leave your body slowly and gently.

Practicing deep breathing regularly can help increase relaxation and focus, ultimately helping you feel more in control when DJing.

For more deep breathing techniques watch this excellent video.

I also recommend the 2:1 breathing technique which works wonders for quickly relieving stress and calming your body and mind. Check it out in this video.

Progressive Muscle Relaxation

Progressive muscle relaxation (PMR) is another relaxation technique that may help calm nerves before a DJ performance. PMR involves tensing and relaxing various muscle groups to promote overall relaxation. Here’s how to do PMR:

  1. Find a comfortable position, either seated or lying down.
  2. Start with your feet, tensing the muscles as you inhale deeply, then exhale as you release the tension.
  3. Gradually work your way up your body, including your legs, abdomen, arms, and neck.
  4. Focus on feeling the tension release from each muscle group as you exhale.

Regularly practicing PMR can help you become more aware of the tension in your body and release it before performing on stage.

Yoga and Meditation

Yoga and meditation are also effective relaxation techniques for reducing nervousness during a DJ performance. Incorporating these exercises into your daily routine can lower stress levels and increase your energy and focus. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Begin a basic yoga practice that includes gentle stretches, poses, and mindful movement.
  • Set aside time each day for sitting meditation, focusing on your breath, or engaging in guided visualisations.
  • Consider joining a local yoga class or meditation group to further develop your practice and connect with others who share similar interests.

By integrating these breathing and relaxation techniques into your life, you can build a strong foundation for overcoming nerves and feeling more confident in your DJ performances.

Remember, practice makes perfect: the more you engage with these techniques, the more effective they will become in helping you conquer stage fright.

Managing Nervous Energy and Physical Responses

Channeling Nervous Energy

To harness nervous energy effectively, try organising your environment, such as clearing out your inbox or creating folders for essential emails.

Practicing mindfulness and setting clear goals can also help you focus and maintain a sense of excitement about your performance. Laughter, too, can be a powerful tool to release tension and channel energy in a positive manner.

Harnessing your nervous energy effectively can indeed be a game-changer. Organizing your environment is a great first step. Besides clearing out your inbox or creating folders for essential emails, consider tidying up your physical space as well. A clean, well-organized DJ booth can help you feel more in control and less overwhelmed. Also, consider organizing your music library meticulously. Knowing exactly where your tracks are can ease your mind and free up mental energy for your performance.

Practicing mindfulness, too, is a powerful tool. This involves grounding yourself in the present moment, which can help you disconnect from the noise of your anxious thoughts. Deep, controlled breathing exercises can also play a crucial role in regulating your body’s stress response and calming your nerves. Remember, the goal isn’t to eliminate nervousness completely, but rather to manage it. As renowned mindfulness expert Jon Kabat-Zinn says, “You can’t stop the waves, but you can learn to surf.”

Setting clear, achievable goals for each performance can also help channel your nervous energy. Instead of putting pressure on yourself to deliver a ‘perfect’ performance, focus on more specific, tangible objectives. These could be things like trying out a new transition technique, engaging more with your audience, or introducing a new track into your set.

Laughter, without a doubt, can be an effective tool for releasing tension. As Charlie Chaplin once said, “A day without laughter is a day wasted.” In the context of DJing, this could mean sharing a laugh with a friend before you start your set, watching a funny video, or even laughing at yourself during a soundcheck mishap. Laughter can help you view your performance with a sense of joy and fun, rather than as a daunting task.

Additionally, consider regular physical exercise as part of your routine. Exercise releases endorphins, the body’s natural mood lifters, and can help manage stress and anxiety. Whether it’s a quick jog, a yoga session, or even some backstage dancing, moving your body can help shake off the nerves.

Finally, remember to celebrate your achievements, no matter how small they may seem. Every time you conquer your nerves and complete a performance, take a moment to acknowledge your courage and resilience. This positive reinforcement can boost your confidence and help reduce performance anxiety over time.


How Exercise and Physical Activity can help your DJ nerves

Regular exercise and physical activities can significantly reduce stress and anxiety. Incorporating activities such as walking, running or yoga into your daily routine can help you manage stress and the fight-or-flight response.

Practising relaxation exercises, like deep breathing or progressive muscle relaxation, can alleviate tension and relax your muscles.

Also, consider getting regular massages or exploring aromatherapy for a holistic approach to managing stress.

Maintaining good physical health through regular exercise and activities can indeed play a critical role in managing stress and anxiety associated with DJ performances. When we talk about activities like walking, running or yoga, it’s not just about the physical benefits such as increased stamina or improved heart health.

It’s also about the mental benefits. Exercise is a natural mood booster, thanks to the endorphins it releases.

These are often referred to as ‘feel-good hormones,’ and they can help lower stress levels and foster a sense of well-being.

Adding these activities into your daily routine, therefore, can be a proactive step in managing your nerves.

For example, taking a brisk walk or run the morning of your DJ gig can help clear your mind and keep any anxious thoughts at bay.

Yoga, in particular, can be extremely beneficial as it combines physical postures, breathing exercises, and meditation. It’s a practice that fosters both physical strength and mental clarity. As internationally acclaimed yoga teacher B.K.S. Iyengar said,

“Yoga is like music. The rhythm of the body, the melody of the mind, and the harmony of the soul create the symphony of life.”

Practising relaxation exercises can also be an effective strategy. It can lower your heart rate, stabilize your blood pressure, and provide a sense of calm.

Holistic approaches

On top of these exercises, consider exploring other holistic approaches to managing stress. Regular massages can work wonders in releasing muscle tension and promoting relaxation.

Aromatherapy, too, can be beneficial. Certain essential oils, such as lavender, chamomile, or ylang-ylang, are known for their calming properties.

Using these in a diffuser or adding a few drops to a warm bath before your gig can help create a soothing atmosphere and reduce anxiety.

Remember, the key is to find what works best for you. Each person is unique, and what helps one DJ might not work for another.

But by exploring different strategies and making them a regular part of your routine, you’re taking proactive steps to manage your nerves and ensure that you’re not just physically, but also mentally, ready for your DJ gig.

Diet and Intoxicants

Your diet can greatly impact your stress levels and emotional resilience when it comes to DJing. Make sure you eat a balanced diet rich in whole foods, including fruits, vegetables and lean protein sources.

Limit excessive intake of caffeine, as it may contribute to headaches, shaking, and increased stress responses.

Keep in mind that alcohol and other substances may temporarily relieve nervous energy, but often lead to a negative long-term impact on overall mental and physical well-being.

Connection Between Diet and Stress

The connection between diet and stress levels cannot be understated, especially for DJs who experience performance anxiety.

Eating a balanced diet rich in whole foods, including fruits, vegetables, lean protein sources, and whole grains, is essential for maintaining both physical and mental well-being. As the world-renowned DJ and producer Paul Oakenfold once said,

“Health is wealth. You have to look after yourself, eat well and exercise.”

This principle is especially important when it comes to managing anxiety around DJing.

Avoid Caffeine and Energy Drinks

Caffeine, found in coffee, tea, energy drinks, and some sodas, can be a double-edged sword.

While it can provide a temporary energy boost and increase focus, excessive intake can also contribute to headaches, shaking, and increased stress responses. It can even exacerbate feelings of anxiety.

If you’re prone to performance anxiety, consider limiting your caffeine intake or experimenting with alternatives like herbal tea or caffeine-free beverages.

Alcohol and drugs

Alcohol and other substances may seem like a quick fix for nervous energy, but they often have a negative long-term impact on overall mental and physical well-being.

While they might provide temporary relief, they can impair cognitive function, coordination, and decision-making, ultimately affecting your performance as a DJ.

Furthermore, relying on substances to manage anxiety can lead to a dependence that’s both unhealthy and unsustainable.

Instead, focus on incorporating foods that support mental health into your diet. Some examples include foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, such as fatty fish, walnuts, and flaxseeds, which can improve brain function and help reduce anxiety.

Foods high in B vitamins, like whole grains, legumes, and leafy greens, can also contribute to a healthier nervous system and support stress management.

Stay hydrated

Staying hydrated is another crucial aspect of managing anxiety.

Dehydration can lead to feelings of fatigue, dizziness, and even increased heart rate, which can worsen anxiety symptoms.

Make sure to drink plenty of water throughout the day, especially before and during your DJ gigs.

Pprioritizing a balanced diet and proper hydration can significantly impact your emotional resilience when it comes to DJing. By taking care of your body and fueling it with the right nutrients, you’re setting the foundation for a healthier mental state, which can ultimately help you better manage performance anxiety.

Mental Techniques and Coping Strategies

Distraction Methods

Distraction can be a useful technique to prevent your nervous system from getting the better of you while DJing. Some effective methods to distract yourself include:

  • Engaging in a brief physical activity such as jogging in place or shaking out your limbs
  • Focusing on the technical aspects of your equipment, ensuring everything is running efficiently
  • Chatting with someone nearby, taking your mind off the anxiety

Mindfulness and Staying in the Present Moment

Mindfulness is a powerful tool that can help you remain present and grounded in the moment. While DJing, try the following mindfulness techniques:

  1. Deep breathing exercises: Take slow, deep breaths, focusing on the sensation of your breath entering and leaving your body.
  2. Body scan: Mentally scan your body from head to toe, releasing tension and bringing awareness to any discomfort.
  3. Sensory awareness: Pay attention to your surroundings, observing the sights, sounds, and physical sensations, allowing yourself to fully engage with your present environment.

Positive Affirmations and Mantras

Positive affirmations and mantras can help reframe thought patterns and instill confidence as you DJ. Incorporate these suggestions into your routine:

  • Choose a mantra or affirmation that resonates with you, such as “I am a skilled DJ” or “I can handle anything that comes my way.”
  • Repeat your chosen phrase several times, either silently or out loud, throughout your performance, harnessing its calming and confidence-boosting effects.
  • Visualise your success as you recite your mantra, imagining yourself excelling at your DJing responsibilities and garnering admiration from your audience.

By employing these mental techniques and coping strategies, you can effectively manage nervousness, increase focus, and enjoy a more satisfying DJing experience.

Facing Your Fears and Embracing the Audience

How to stop DJ stage frightOne of the most common fears when DJing is the fear of judgement. It is important to remind yourself that every DJ, regardless of their level of expertise, experiences some level of nervousness.

To combat this, try using some breathing techniques. Take deep breaths, inhaling for four counts and exhaling for four counts. This can help lower your heart rate and calm your nerves.

Another technique you can try is Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT), also known as tapping. This method involves tapping on specific points on your body while repeating phrases to help ease anxiety. This can help you release any negative emotions and prepare you for your performance.

Instead of focusing on the potential for judgement, shift your focus to providing a great experience for your audience. Remember, the audience is there to enjoy the music, so embrace that connection and let it guide your performance.

Connecting with the Audience

Building a connection with your audience can ease your nerves while DJing. Here are some tips for engaging with your audience:

  • Eye contact: Make eye contact with your audience members. This not only builds rapport but also helps you gauge their reaction to your music.
  • Interact: Engage with your audience through gestures or talking to them between mixes. This can create a more dynamic and enjoyable atmosphere.
  • Read the crowd: Pay attention to the crowd’s reaction to your music. If they are enjoying a particular track or genre, consider playing more of that style.
  • Accept feedback: After your set, if someone approaches you to provide feedback or share their appreciation for your music, graciously accept it. This can help you grow as a DJ and boost your confidence.

By following these tips and incorporating techniques such as deep breathing and EFT, you can overcome nervousness and build a strong connection with your audience.

Don’t forget to take care of yourself by getting enough sleep and maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

With practice and self-awareness, you can conquer your fears and create a memorable DJing experience.

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