03 June, 2019

DJing in classrooms | FutureDJs interview

Mixing is being taught in UK schools, and FutureDJs helped write the curriculum. Find out how the founders are training the headline DJs of tomorrow.

Just under 2 years ago, Austen and Scott Smart co-founded FutureDJs – an organization bringing modern music education to young people in the UK. And they’ve been able to teach DJ mixing in classrooms because last year, decks were recognized as formal instruments by exam boards – allowing DJing to be taken as part of students’ music GCSE.

We spoke to the guys about what their curriculum entails, asked for their thoughts on how to become a DJ, and chatted about our long-time collaboration. Read the full interview below.

What’s it like to teach DJing in a classroom setting?

Every time a technique clicks with a student you get goosebumps. It’s magic to see someone evolving and enjoying themselves when they’re in a state of flow. As they discover DJing, many students also find their self-confidence. We love seeing students use the decks in new ways and really exploring how they can manipulate music.

If they don’t have access to your classes, where should beginner DJs start?

We’re currently working on a 24/7 home-learning solution for students to be able to access all of the resources the team created. Until then, we’d suggest they focus on the most important part of DJing – becoming a selector. We live in a world where it’s very easy to find new (and old) music and build your collection. We would love to see students come to their first lesson with an idea of the music they want to DJ. In terms of equipment, there are some awesome entry-level units – such as the DDJ-400 – that students can use to begin their musical journey.


Do you think there’s one ideal path to becoming a DJ?

There are certainly a couple of traits we see that will help you become a great DJ – perseverance and patience. Plus, a great selection of music, and ideally the ability to network. We think beyond that, individuality is actually what is mostly celebrated in the DJ world. Take KiNK, for example. He has his own ‘identity’ when DJing – no one does it better than him. That’s what really matters.

Please break down FutureDJs’ curriculum. What do you hope students know how to do at the end of each course?

Our program covers what underpins music, from timbre, tempo and pitch to texture, rhythm, and scales. We take students all the way from understanding the basic building blocks of the DJ’s craft to discovering their musical instincts and building the confidence to trust them.

Our study program is linked to the exam boards’ syllabuses. It moves through three levels:


  • Learning the sounds and history of electronic music
  • Distinguishing grime from garage and 2-step from dubstep
  • Getting familiar with decks, mixers, PAs and other equipment
  • Learning how to mix tracks and match beats


  • Honing skills to become a competent DJ
  • Developing a command of the equipment
  • Becoming a more creative mixer
  • Mastering techniques like chopping, spin-backs, and drop-ins
  • Starting to use rekordbox to manage music


  • Becoming ready to perform for an audience
  • Editing music on the fly
  • Developing flair with techniques like advanced scratching and looping
  • Using effects to create moods in mixing
  • Building the confidence to find a personal style and sound
  • Along the way, students discover the inner workings of music, from rhythm and dynamics to pitch and texture. And they learn the value of perseverance, patience, and practice.


What gear do you use to teach?

We tend to use the Pioneer DJ XDJ-RR and the XDJ-RX2 in most of our schools. For speakers, we use the DM-40s. Our tutors use the HDJ-X5 headphones. On the roadshow performance, we use the CDJ-2000NXS2 with a DJM-900NXS2 and some Pioneer Pro Audio XPRS 10 and XPRS 12 speakers. We also have an overhead rig with a GoPro HERO5 and a Roland video mixer to go between our sonic animation and the livestream.

What does a final exam look like?

Not as daunting as you may think. The students will record a mix with a teacher present. When marking the final piece, the teacher will be looking for a combination of some basic skills such as cue stuttering, and drop-ins, and then more advanced techniques including live looping and scratching. Exam boards would like to see an exceptional ability to demonstrate expression with an assured sense of style and attention to detail. That would get full marks.

How can students go from DJing in the classroom to booking paid gigs?

In our incubator and accelerator programs – we work with the most talented and focussed students to help take them to the next level. We’re currently working with labels, festival promoters, you (Pioneer DJ) and the wider music community to guide them into the industry with a consideration of how they can have a healthy, successful, and meaningful impact with their new-found passion and skill set.


Where can we hear your students’ work?

We’ll be featuring student's work on SoundCloud. We’ll also be launching a new podcast series where we interview industry professionals to find out about the tactics, tools, and routines students can learn from in order to really excel (at anything in life).

Can you tell everybody about our collaboration?

Prior to the inception of FutureDJs, we had a good relationship with you guys (Pioneer DJ) in our capacity as artists. It was clear when FutureDJs was a seed idea that we only wanted to work with the very best brands. We asked ourselves, ‘What’s the point in teaching/learning on another manufacturer’s consoles when one is going to eventually play on Pioneer DJ decks?’ To this day, we’ve never seen any other brand on a serious stage – that speaks volumes about the quality of the product. Pioneer DJ is the right partner for us to remix music education around the world.

Tell us something cool about your job that we haven’t asked about.

Two of the guys in the team and our good friends were behind 10 number 1 apps in the App Store, including Angry Birds and Cut the Rope. The other really cool thing is that we’ve just started teaching in primary schools. When you perform for a room of 5-9-year-olds, the energy is totally unprecedented. Your hair stands on end knowing you could be inspiring a whole new generation of musicians.


Top results

See all results

Didn’t find what you’re looking for? Maybe use fewer words or a more general search term.
If you still have no luck you can contact our customer service.