How To Play Long (5+ Hours) DJ Sets


Many DJs who play a lot of gigs will at some point get the opportunity to take on a marathon gig, spinning tracks for upwards of 5 hours. As the length of a set increases, the more it differs from a “normal set. How can you prepare for sets that last all day/night? Work with these tips:


An average set time for a “typical” DJ set can run anywhere form a relatively quick 45 minutes to a longer 4 hour set.

The length of a set will vary wildly depending on the type of gig, and each type of event presents its own set of challenges. But when time behind the decks starts stretching on past five hours, it becomes less of a simple set and more of a marathon.


Planning out your entire set is out of the question when you’re staring down this long of a set time. Instead, focus on making sure you have good collections of music for different parts of the night. A solid range of music is vital for setting a variety of appropriate moods.

For instance, if you are playing for 6 hours straight, it wouldn’t be smart to play 6 hours of straight fisting pumping, big room music.

Make a playlist for high energy tracks that you absolutely know need to get played, and also another playlist for songs that you want to test out or that are deeper cuts. With so much time, it offers a lot of opportunity to flaunt your skills and adaptability. If you can, even consider sectioning your set by genre, artist, or even time periods. Get creative!



Playing an extended set really gives you, the musical curator, a lot of space to work with. You can let your songs breath – so if you want to play the extended version of a track, do it. If you want to work on an extra long mix between two songs, go for it. Take time to develop your own mood with a build up. Usually, if a set is only an hour, DJs will waste no time and go straight to the hottest tracks of the year. When you have hours to work with, use that time to set a mood and develop that build up.
Every hour or two, break up the mix with two major weapons in the DJ aresenal:

– Change tempo drastically

– Explore multiple genres

This keeps the event fresh, and even more importantly it keeps you interested and challenged.  A bored Dj can get sloppy and complacent.

So avoid that all together by challenging yourself and trying different tempos and genres.


Taking care of yourself is very important if you’re hoping to be just as good (if not better) of a performer at the end of your set as the beginning.

– Remain Hydrated & Energized: I know this sounds like a parent scolding you, but DJing for 5+ hours is incredibly draining. Whether you’re outside at a summer music festival, or in a crammed bar, you will sweat and begin to fatigue. Drink lots of fluids and try and work in a snack if you can.

– Take It Easy: If you’re drinking alcohol, be very responsible of the amount you’re drinking. A marathon set not only provides a ton of time to get creative with your music, but also gives you a lot of time to drink. Not only will the buzz affect your skills, reaction time, and vision, but it’ll also make you need to use the bathroom really frequently!

– Ergonomics: Make sure all the equipment is at a comfortable level before you start playing.

Also, have great shoes that support you well throughout the night.

If it helps, you can be like Fatboy Slim and don’t wear any shoes at all!

fatboy-slim-show-in-baliAT THE END: CLOSE STRONG OR SMOOTH

Having an “end of the night plan” or an “exit strategy” is very important. you don’t need to know how you’re going to end the marathon set necessarily, but as you’re playing and deciding what tracks to play, it’s a great thing to keep in the back of your head. Two common end-of-set styles are:

– Leave them wanting more: This is where a performer closes out a set in the peak vibe – where it’s action right up until the last second. This keeps the energy up so that people are almost begging for you to keep playing art the end of your set.

– Ease out: This is where everything comes full circle, much like an epic saga of a book with tons of closing epilogues and tying up loose ends.

This could mean playing songs that have “end of night” feeling or theme to them, or slowly fading the energy levels so that the audience feels good about the evening closing out.

Want to practice DJing regularly in our lab? Looking to learn more about the artform? Schedule a tour of our facilities and get to know the only place in the Boston area where you can become certified in the art of the DJ.

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