UG's DJ Union

Group options
Add to favorites
Forward to a friend

DJing 101

FrustratedRocka

Here's the thread where you put any tips you've picked up over the time you've been working the tables. I'm currently working on a DJing FAQ, but for now let's stick to specific questions and answers. Bear in mind - starting out as a DJ can be an expensive proposition. I'd do some research and make sure that you're willing to spend at least 5 or 6 hundred dollars (USD) before you buy anything.

Q: What is DJing?
A: The definition of DJing depends on what you want to do. The way I see it, there are 3 main types of DJing - Scratching, Beatmatching (also known as mixing), and Party. DJing parties is as simple as having a laptop, a speaker, and knowing how to pick the right song for the moment. Mixes are when you take a bunch of songs that have the same tempo and mix them together to make one song (see the Mixes thread for some examples.) Scratching is the style most associated with turntablism, and is the first thing that most people want to do when they get behind a set of turntables. My recommendation is to get a handle on mixing before you start scratching. Mixing is the best way I know to develop a good sense of rhythm, which is absolutely essential for scratch DJ's.

Q: What equipment do I need?
A: It varies depending on what you're prepared to spend and what you're interested in doing. For parties, all you need is this, a reciever or power amp, and a good speaker. For mixing and scratching, the rig is a bit more complicated. I personally recommend using vinyl records and turntables. It's a dying art, but it's absolutely worth it to get a very physical grasp of what you're doing. That, and vinyl sounds better than digital 9 times out of 10. You'll need a DJ mixer, 2 turntables, and any stereo system with an auxiliary RCA input. Alternately, if you want to go straight to CD's you can buy all-in-one systems, but they're more expensive. For a starter I would recommend either a pair of used Stanton T-60 tables and a Numark mixer or the Numark Battle Pak.. Stay away from anything that says "belt drive" and whatever you do don't ever buy anything from Gemini. Trust me - they are horrendous tables.

Q: Wait, what was that about vinyl? Do they still make that stuff?
A: Absolutely, but we aren't talking about your dad's priceless collection. Vinyl made today is built with the knowledge that it will be abused by countless needle scratches and finger prints, and manufacturers have compensated by designing records to resist those exact problems. There are a lot of fantastic suppliers located all over the world, but the largest concentration is in England. I personally buy from Chemical Records, but Redeye Records is good for when Chemical is sold out of something. Again - Vinyl is expensive.

Q: So I've decided that I like the feel of working with Vinyl, but can't manage the expense. Is there a middle ground here?
A: Absolutely! Recent technological improvements have led to the development of something called Virtual Vinyl. Pioneered by Stanton's FinalScratch line, Virtual Vinyl utilizes a specially designed timecode record, an audio interface, and software in order to let you control the playback of mp3 files with an honest-to-goodness vinyl record. Yes, it is awesome. The relatively high upfront fee that comes with this is canceled out fairly early on by the fact that you save about 5 bucks on every song you buy.

Q: So what if I just want to ditch the turntables entirely and go all digital?
A: You can do exactly that. There's a plethora of great software out there, and it's hard to go wrong with any of it (hard, but not impossible. More on that later.) The current lineup for the software route is as follows:

-Rane Serato Scratch Live: The reigning king of virtual vinyl software also has the least features and the highest price tag of the bunch. It makes up for this by being really, really good. I've almost never seen it glitch out and the tracking is almost perfect. Unfortunately, Serato is ONLY usable as virtual vinyl and works only with the Serato interface and the serato timecode records or CDs.
-Native Instruments Traktor: Traktor comes in 2 packages, each available in duo or pro versions. Traktor Scratch is a package containing the Traktor software, a Native Instruments audio interface, and the control records which allows you to use the virtual vinyl functions. The software can also be purchased on its own and may or may not be included with some NI soundcards depending on whether or not they're running a promotion at any given time. The software allows you to use it without the timecode vinyl It works with any audio interface, but is optimized for the NI stuff. The Traktor Duo software is offered at a reasonable price point.
-M-Audio Torq. As of the last time I checked (which was a while ago), this is the cheapest of the dedicated virtual vinyl programs, and it shows. Tracking is mediocre, audio quality is mediocre at best, and the interface is clunky. I also don't remember whether or not the software can be used on its own. Don't waste your money.
-Virtual DJ. This is pretty much the gold standard for stand alone DJ software, mostly by virtue of being the best known. It has a very user-friendly interface. I've heard of people making it work with virtual vinyl, but I've only ever used it once in a laptop-only setup so I can't comment on it. Adding to my headache is the fact that it's available in around 7 different versions, all of which have certain features stripped out. If you really want to look through the website to figure out which one you want, feel free.
-DeeJay. AVOID THIS THING LIKE THE PLAGUE.

Now that all of this is out of the way, I'd like to point something else out. A new contender has just recently stepped into the software ring. It's called Mixx, and it's available absolutely free. Honestly, I have no idea why they chose to release it that way, since it utterly trounces all of the programs I listed above in just about every way. I can't speak for virtual vinyl functionality, although I'm informed that it's there, because I don't own any timecode vinyl and my turntables have shorted out. Even without it, this is still an absolutely fantastic piece of software and I can't offer up enough praise. Customer service is so far above and beyond the norm that I can only elaborate further via an anecdote: I only know about the virtual vinyl function because the head of the dev team looked up the username on a review I posted, found me here, created an account, and PMed me with the information. DAMN.

Q: What's all this about "House", "Drum 'n Bass", "Dubstep", "Trance", etc.?
A: Those are all different genres of electronic music. However, unlike with regular music, the genre isn't as much an indication of sound as it is of the tempo. This is VERY important. It is borderline impossible to mix music with mismatched tempos. There are far too many genres to list here, but these are the ones most commonly used in mixes in my experience.

FURTHER QUESTIONS COMING SOON.
Here's the thread where you put any tips you've picked up over the time you've been working the tables.  I'm currently working on a DJing FAQ, but for now let's stick to specific questions and answers.  Bear in mind - starting out as a DJ can be an expensive proposition.  I'd do some research and make sure that you're willing to spend at least 5 or 6 hundred dollars (USD) before you buy anything.

Q:  What is DJing?
A:  The definition of DJing depends on what you want to do.  The way I see it, there are 3 main types of DJing - Scratching, Beatmatching (also known as mixing), and Party.  DJing parties is as simple as having a laptop, a speaker, and knowing how to pick the right song for the moment.  Mixes are when you take a bunch of songs that have the same tempo and mix them together to make one song (see the Mixes thread for some examples.)  Scratching is the style most associated with turntablism, and is the first thing that most people want to do when they get behind a set of turntables.  My recommendation is to get a handle on mixing before you start scratching.  Mixing is the best way I know to develop a good sense of rhythm, which is absolutely essential for scratch DJ's. 

Q:  What equipment do I need?
A:  It varies depending on what you're prepared to spend and what you're interested in doing.  For parties, all you need is this, a reciever or power amp, and a good speaker.  For mixing and scratching, the rig is a bit more complicated.  I personally recommend using vinyl records and turntables.  It's a dying art, but it's absolutely worth it to get a very physical grasp of what you're doing.  That, and vinyl sounds better than digital 9 times out of 10.  You'll need a DJ mixer, 2 turntables, and any stereo system with an auxiliary RCA input.  Alternately, if you want to go straight to CD's you can buy all-in-one systems, but they're more expensive.  For a starter I would recommend either a pair of used Stanton T-60 tables and a Numark mixer or the Numark Battle Pak..  Stay away from anything that says "belt drive" and whatever you do don't ever buy anything from Gemini.  Trust me - they are horrendous tables.

Q:  Wait, what was that about vinyl?  Do they still make that stuff?
A:  Absolutely, but we aren't talking about your dad's priceless collection.  Vinyl made today is built with the knowledge that it will be abused by countless needle scratches and finger prints, and manufacturers have compensated by designing records to resist those exact problems.  There are a lot of fantastic suppliers located all over the world, but the largest concentration is in England.  I personally buy from Chemical Records, but Redeye Records is good for when Chemical is sold out of something.  Again - Vinyl is expensive. 

Q:  So I've decided that I like the feel of working with Vinyl, but can't manage the expense.  Is there a middle ground here?
A:  Absolutely!  Recent technological improvements have led to the development of something called Virtual Vinyl.  Pioneered by Stanton's FinalScratch line, Virtual Vinyl utilizes a specially designed timecode record, an audio interface, and software in order to let you control the playback of mp3 files with an honest-to-goodness vinyl record.  Yes, it is awesome.  The relatively high upfront fee that comes with this is canceled out fairly early on by the fact that you save about 5 bucks on every song you buy. 

Q:  So what if I just want to ditch the turntables entirely and go all digital?
A:  You can do exactly that.  There's a plethora of great software out there, and it's hard to go wrong with any of it (hard, but not impossible.  More on that later.)  The current lineup for the software route is as follows:

-Rane Serato Scratch Live:  The reigning king of virtual vinyl software also has the least features and the highest price tag of the bunch.  It makes up for this by being really, really good.  I've almost never seen it glitch out and the tracking is almost perfect.  Unfortunately, Serato is ONLY usable as virtual vinyl and works only with the Serato interface and the serato timecode records or CDs.
-Native Instruments Traktor:  Traktor comes in 2 packages, each available in duo or pro versions.  Traktor Scratch is a package containing the Traktor software, a Native Instruments audio interface, and the control records which allows you to use the virtual vinyl functions.  The software can also be purchased on its own and may or may not be included with some NI soundcards depending on whether or not they're running a promotion at any given time.  The software allows you to use it without the timecode vinyl It works with any audio interface, but is optimized for the NI stuff.  The Traktor Duo software is offered at a reasonable price point. 
-M-Audio Torq.  As of the last time I checked (which was a while ago), this is the cheapest of the dedicated virtual vinyl programs, and it shows.  Tracking is mediocre, audio quality is mediocre at best, and the interface is clunky.  I also don't remember whether or not the software can be used on its own.  Don't waste your money.
-Virtual DJ.  This is pretty much the gold standard for stand alone DJ software, mostly by virtue of being the best known.  It has a very user-friendly interface.  I've heard of people making it work with virtual vinyl, but I've only ever used it once in a laptop-only setup so I can't comment on it.  Adding to my headache is the fact that it's available in around 7 different versions, all of which have certain features stripped out.  If you really want to look through the website to figure out which one you want, feel free.
-DeeJay.  AVOID THIS THING LIKE THE PLAGUE.

Now that all of this is out of the way, I'd like to point something else out.  A new contender has just recently stepped into the software ring.  It's called Mixx, and it's available absolutely free.  Honestly, I have no idea why they chose to release it that way, since it utterly trounces all of the programs I listed above in just about every way.  I can't speak for virtual vinyl functionality, although I'm informed that it's there, because I don't own any timecode vinyl and my turntables have shorted out.  Even without it, this is still an absolutely fantastic piece of software and I can't offer up enough praise.  Customer service is so far above and beyond the norm that I can only elaborate further via an anecdote:  I only know about the virtual vinyl function because the head of the dev team looked up the username on a review I posted, found me here, created an account, and PMed me with the information.  DAMN.

Q:  What's all this about "House", "Drum 'n Bass", "Dubstep", "Trance", etc.? 
A:  Those are all different genres of electronic music.  However, unlike with regular music, the genre isn't as much an indication of sound as it is of the tempo.  This is VERY important.  It is borderline impossible to mix music with mismatched tempos.  There are far too many genres to list here, but these are the ones most commonly used in mixes in my experience.

FURTHER QUESTIONS COMING SOON.
Posted: Mar 23, 2010 2:28 AM - Quote - Report!

SteveHouse

Your genre list lacks the biggest cash cow of them all (trance). Your genre list lacks the biggest cash cow of them all (trance).
Posted: Mar 23, 2010 3:18 AM - Quote - Report!

david_safc

Nice post. I'm curious as to why you advocate buying cdj's over something like a vestax spin interface for example. It's cheap and computer programs offer some priceless tools like saved cues and loops etc.

The only downside I see to these is that you can cheat with the beatmatching and it might get tempting to hit the sync button all the time, but it's not like you can't manually beat match.

I'm pretty set on buying the vestax typhoon (basically the same as the vestax spin, except for pc instead of mac), any reason why I shouldn't be?
Nice post. I'm curious as to why you advocate buying cdj's over something like a vestax spin interface for example. It's cheap and computer programs offer some priceless tools like saved cues and loops etc. The only downside I see to these is that you can cheat with the beatmatching and it might get tempting to hit the sync button all the time, but it's not like you can't manually beat match. I'm pretty set on buying the vestax typhoon (basically the same as the vestax spin, except for pc instead of mac), any reason why I shouldn't be?
Posted: May 3, 2010 12:44 PM - Quote - Report!

FrustratedRocka

If you know some good ones feel free to recommend them. The reason I don't discuss them is I've never used one and can't really give my personal opinion on something I have no experience with. If you know some good ones feel free to recommend them. The reason I don't discuss them is I've never used one and can't really give my personal opinion on something I have no experience with.
Posted: May 3, 2010 5:54 PM - Quote - Report!

SteveHouse

david_safc wrote on May 3rd, 2010 at 7:44am :

The only downside I see to these is that you can cheat with the beatmatching and it might get tempting to hit the sync button all the time, but it's not like you can't manually beat match.

I'm mixing with a crack of software and that's it right now, because I'm a poor bastard, and I have to tell you that the beatmatching features aren't always perfect, and the beat calculation is often wrong. I think it's a boon, though, rather than cheating, because it makes it easier to match the beat, which frees you up to do other stuff (effects, sampling, looping, live mash-ups, w/e).
[QUOTE u='david_safc' d='2010-05-03 07:44:57'] The only downside I see to these is that you can cheat with the beatmatching and it might get tempting to hit the sync button all the time, but it's not like you can't manually beat match.[/QUOTE] I'm mixing with a crack of software and that's it right now, because I'm a poor bastard, and I have to tell you that the beatmatching features aren't always perfect, and the beat calculation is often wrong. I think it's a boon, though, rather than cheating, because it makes it easier to match the beat, which frees you up to do other stuff (effects, sampling, looping, live mash-ups, w/e).
Posted: May 3, 2010 7:53 PM - Quote - Report!

FrustratedRocka

Which software? Which software?
Posted: May 4, 2010 3:41 PM - Quote - Report!

FrustratedRocka

Necroing the entire group for an announcement!

For those of you who want to go the software route, I have just discovered that the best software available is also completely free. It's called Mixxx. It is awesome. If you're planning on using timecode vinyl with it (it supports Serato), I recommend that you not use the version on the mac app store. Either way, it is excellent and in my personal opinion surpasses every other DJ program on the market. Download it ASAP.
Necroing the entire group for an announcement! For those of you who want to go the software route, I have just discovered that the best software available is also completely free. It's called Mixxx. It is awesome. If you're planning on using timecode vinyl with it (it supports Serato), I recommend that you not use the version on the mac app store. Either way, it is excellent and in my personal opinion surpasses every other DJ program on the market. Download it ASAP.
Posted: Feb 22, 2011 6:11 AM - Quote - Report!
Post your reply
Expand