Contrary to popular belief, learning to DJ isn't an easy route to overnight success. This requires work, effort and time. But it's hard to stand out and be exceptional. While the basics of being a DJ can be learned in an hour, the skill required to scratch requires several more.
Although it seems that technology makes it easier for a DJ to work, the musical knowledge necessary to reproduce what the public wants to hear before they know they want to hear it is a difficult talent to teach. Being able to count to four helps. Discover how people from other parts of the world react to the music you play by experiencing their culture first-hand. Yes, learning was hard and slow, but the good thing was that all that eagerness to get jobs and have to do it in the real world was something that could be carried to the future and, therefore, in the back of the mind.
No, you don't need to “reverse engineer” or learn to use CDJs and vinyl; those things are fun, but optional. After all, one of the truths about learning to be a DJ in the past was that it would take you a long time to become good enough to get any job: you had to save up for the professional team, you had to slowly create a music collection, you had to learn the difficult skill of mixing rhythms, if nothing else. A-Trak, a superstar DJ and winner of five world DJ championships, said that Turntablism took him years of practice and “monastic discipline to learn”. There was a time when learning to play as a DJ was limited to those who were fortunate enough to know a DJ with very little tuition available.
Learning to play as a DJ at a level competent to make mixes can be achieved quite quickly, as some people learn faster than others. Let all the other DJs keep the new music, head to the listening booths, decide on the spot what you'll spend your hard-earned money on, and do your shopping for the week. A far cry from the amorphous and aimless months that DJs used to dedicate to previous generations, and much more in tune with the modern world, where, frankly, most of the learning is done in public, which is perfectly normal and is fine, even expected, of today's DJs. If you learn to mix properly and to transition smoothly between all types of music, you'll set yourself up for greater success.
And to learn about the fundamental techniques of DJing, techniques that today's amazing DJ systems have made optional for you until now. No, you don't need to learn how to play on record players, or even to mix rhythms manually each time (it's like saying that to be a good photographer you have to know how to use cinema and develop in a dark room), but in the same way, understand the basic concepts of song structure, time, how the mixing of rhythms works, etc., and your results will immediately catapult into a different world. Learning to be a DJ used to mean painstakingly learning the skills, patiently collecting the music and, after having spent a lot of time and money on those two things, finally working hard to get gigs, with a lot of mixtapes in hand.