Wearing headphones is one of the most popular stereotypes for DJs, but you might wonder why it’s so common.
After all, DJs are listening to the same music as their audience, so they should be able to listen that way. However, there’s more to the story behind a DJ’s headphones.
DJs wear headphones so that they can prepare for the next song on deck. When listening to what the audience is hearing, it can be hard to make two songs fit together.
But adding headphones gives the DJ a chance to listen ahead, and they can match the beat to the next song in their playlist.
Whether you want to become a DJ or you’re curious about what they do, you should know why they wear headphones.
It may seem unnecessary when you’re DJing to a crowd, but without good headphones, a DJ will have to know the music much more.
Headphones Enable DJs to Listen With One Ear
One of the biggest reasons why DJs use headphones is so that they can listen to what’s coming up. They can use one side of the headphones to listen to a beat or two ahead in the music.
You can use your other ear to listen to what the audience hears so that you can mix and edit.
Splitting the sound is especially important when a DJ cues up the following song in their playlist. They can use the current song to help beat match the next one, which can facilitate the transition.
Good DJs know how to move between songs without it feeling awkward and listening ahead is how you can do that.
To listen to two songs, you need a special pair of headphones where you can listen with one cup. While you can wear headphones on both ears, it can keep you from hearing the current song.
If you can’t hear both at the same time, it will be harder to sync the two.
It can take practice to get comfortable listening to multiple songs at once. You can practice this at home by putting one earbud in and listening to one song through that.
Put another song on with another device, and see how they match up.
The more you work with different songs, the better you will be at cueing and beat matching. You’ll learn which songs go best together and how you can prepare.
Then, you can use those skills to give your audience an amazing experience.
Headphones Help DJs Choose the Next Song
Perhaps you’re new to DJing, and you don’t have a ton of knowledge of different tunes. You can use a pair of headphones to figure out which song to play next.
Then, you can make sure you choose a song that flows well and that the audience will respond to.
When you perform live, anything can happen, and you need to be ready for it. Even if you have one song in mind, you can watch your audience to see how they react.
If they don’t seem to like it, you can shift to a different song, and you can choose the best one by listening first.
You always want to have the next song ready to go so that you don’t have an awkward silence. Mixing is a key part of being a DJ, having gaps is plain amateurish 🙂
Now, you can choose a song without listening to it, but you need to know that song well. As you gain experience, you may not need to use headphones as much, but you should have them as an option.
Still, if you ever need to adjust your playlist, you can use your headphones to ensure you choose the right song. Then, you can keep your audience entertained and having fun.
Headphones Block Out Distractions
Another more practical reason why DJs wear headphones is to block out distractions. When you’re mixing music, you need to make sure you don’t overcorrect.
If you want to beat match, you should focus on that as much as you can so that it will flow well.
Unfortunately, DJing can have a lot of distractions, from the audience to any other performers that may be around you. You can put both sides of your headphones on whenever you need to block out sound.
If you use a pair of noise-canceling headphones, you can focus on what’s there.
While it can help to hear the current song, you may want to focus on mixing the next one. And it can be hard to do that when you have a very different tune playing.
However, you can’t walk offstage and into a different room to prepare the next piece.
If you’re ever at an event with a DJ, try not to talk to them. But if you’re the DJ, you can use your headphones to stay focused, and it can help others see that you don’t want to chat.
You can always lower one or both sides when you’re open to a song request or another suggestion.
Headphones Enable DJS to Listen to Audio Only
DJing has come a long way over the decades, and one fantastic development has been a visual representation of sound. Today, you can use your choice of music software to mix and edit your tracks.
A lot of popular programs also let you visualize the song and beat patterns.
But if you ever need to DJ without that technology, you will have to rely on audio. In that case, you need to wear headphones to match the beats and other elements of a song.
For the longest time, listening was the best way for DJs to beat match.
However, you can use the visualizer of a given music program to see the music. So if you decide that you can’t or don’t want to wear headphones, you can use the imaging to line up your tracks.
You can still get two songs to flow together, but you don’t have to worry about relying only on your ears. That can be useful if you’re in a loud environment or if you don’t have the best sense of rhythm and need to see the tracks.
Headphones Help Prevent Hearing Loss
The more you DJ, especially in loud clubs, the more you put your hearing at risk. While some exposure to loud music won’t hurt, DJs can have multiple gigs each week. Some gigs can last for hours, and that can take a toll on your ears.
And unfortunately, you can’t get your hearing back once you lose it.
Prevention is key to maintaining your hearing so that you can keep DJing. Electric guitars play at about 92 to 110 decibels (dB), and rock music can peak at 150 dB.
However, you can experience hearing damage after about 15 minutes when the sound level is 100 dB.
Many musicians will experience hearing loss, but you can prevent it by wearing earplugs and headphones. While headphones can’t block sound entirely, they can reduce the level that reaches your ears.
You can also pair them with a good set of earplugs that reduce the decibel level without keeping you from hearing.
Do DJs Have to Wear Headphones?
Sometimes, you may see a DJ perform without headphones. It may not be common, but there’s no headphone requirement for DJs. As long as you can play and mix music, you can DJ, headphones or not.
But before you go without headphones, you should consider why you want to. Headphones can be very beneficial for your productivity and health.
However, if you know the exact playlist you will use, and you’ve worked with it a lot, you may not need headphones.
Once you know a playlist, you will understand which alterations you will need to make to the tracks. You can change those things without thinking or listening to the upcoming songs.
And if you use the visualization of your tracks, you can use those to mix and edit on the fly.
DJs wear headphones for a number of reasons, such as being able to hear the next song and to protect their hearing. Headphones can help new and experienced DJs, but you can also go without them occasionally.
Just make sure you know your playlist well enough to make the right adjustments.