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The Art of Playing a Good Warm Up Set by DJ Cable

The Art of Playing a Good Warm Up Set by DJ Cable

I don’t think I’ve ever written an article on “How to DJ” before. There are a million and one article on “How to Mix” (or you could just book a course at the academy!), but seeing as venues are slowly starting to open up here in the UK, I thought I’d pick a topic that needs addressing – the art of playing a good warm up set.

Most up-and-coming / bedroom DJs dream of getting that big break and playing their first set to a packed out room of up-for-it club goers at peak time. It’s a lovely thought, but the reality is that 9 times out of 10, you will most likely be given the warm up slot for your first few bookings.

This isn’t actually a bad thing though, as warm up sets can be fun – I also enjoy doing them from time to time. Not only do you get to play different tracks other than the staple bangers (we’ll cover this later), but you can use this opportunity to really show your knowledge and showcase your personality too.

Here’s a list of important dos and don’ts when playing a warm up set.


Your main goal is to build up a good vibe, and eventually a moving dancefloor during your set. Remember that you’ll be DJ-ing very early on in the night, so it may take a while for people to get round to dancing. If that’s the case, don’t be offended; most people have other things on their mind upon entering a club, i.e. going straight to the bar, meeting their friends, etc.

If you build up the vibe nicely, you’ll find that as soon as they have a few drinks inside them, they’ll report to the dancefloor.


To be fair, this is simple common sense. You don’t want to burn through the big tracks immediately. Whilst in genres such as D&B or UKG, where it’s acceptable to go in at the very start of the night, most other scenes and parties generally have a warm up section. If you play all the hitters early on, there will be nothing left for peak time.

Sometimes if a tune is big enough it might warrant being played again across the course of the night, but I’d suggest avoiding that, unless the crowd is begging for it. However, repeating everything across the night gives the impression that your selection/taste is limited.


I’ve seen this happen (and have also been a victim of this myself) too many times to count. A lot of new DJs think that by playing all of the biggest tunes really quickly, they are going to impress us. We give respect where it’s due, but not if you burn through half the tracks we’re expected to play.

You’ll get more props if you play it safe, select the right tunes and build up a solid dancefloor so the main resident or guest DJ can come along, do their job and smash the club.

Trust me, nothing is worse than turning up to a gig, only to find out that the DJ before you has rinsed all of the latest bangers before peak time! I’ve seen a number of top DJs kick off; even come close to beating someone down (no names mentioned) because of this!

However, there will be times where either the headliner is running late, or the party is so hype that you might have to dip into that peak time crate. That’s understandable, but always make sure you leave the headliner with enough ammo to shell it!


When you start to draw a crowd on the dancefloor, it’ll be tempting to start playing harder. Of course, you should pick up the pace and bring the energy levels up, but don’t draw for the biggest tracks straight away. Occasionally you can tease the crowd with a few big hitters, but always be sure to steer it back to warm up territory.

This also applies to those who may be booked to play the entire night. If you’re the only DJ spinning that night, chances are you may be tempted to pick up the pace earlier on, but as I said earlier, if you rinse your peak set too early, and find yourself repeating tunes, people may look at that in a negative way.


Some DJs view warm up sets as boring, but it can be a fun thing to do. In fact, a lot of DJs will tell you that they also enjoy playing them once and a while.

Not only do you get to dig out older tunes that you might have forgotten about, but it’s also a good time to play those records that you wouldn’t normally get to play if you were doing a main set. What’s more, you can also try out some of the new records/promos that you’ve acquired, provided it fits in with the overall vibe.

It’s the perfect opportunity to showcase your personal taste in music, learn how to control a crowd, and show the promoters and headliners that you’re professional, and why they should book you again.