How to Digital DJ
The art of the DJ is one which has not been around too long. However, having been well established by the 1980 with the birth of house music in Chicago, it would grow and evolve right up into the 21st Century. Nowadays, we can mix tracks with just a laptop! There are many ways to DJ in this day and age, from the traditionalist's turntables, to the star of the 90s, the Pioneer CDJs. Now we have a relatively new development; digital DJing. This form of DJing has become extremely popular in the last 5-10 years. However,it is not without it's criticisms; many DJs denounce this form of DJing, preffering traditional turntable methods, or the use of CDJs without a laptop. Despite this, there are a lot of advantages to this form of mixing tracks. The first thing you need is a laptop, which needs a form of digital DJing software. In this article I shall discuss two of these software programs. After all, you can not learn to DJ if you do not have the equipment!
Virtual DJ Pro 7
Virtual DJ seems to be the program which every digital dj starts out with. It is a pretty basic program, but a basic program with a lot of versatility and options. The big thing about this program, particularly the newest version, is that you can have any number of decks you want! You can have any number of decks up to 99. This means there are a lot of options, for a lot of creativity. However, it can also mean a lot of clutter, and a lot of confusion if you don't know what your doing. Generally, the program is for beginners, however this new feature means pro digital djs with a lot of creativity can have a lot of options; and a lot of fun. Apart from that it has a basic mixer and basic effects. Overall, a good program, but personally, I think there is a much better program out there for digital djs.
Traktor Pro 2
This is my favourite software program for digital djing. You can not have up to 99 decks like in Virtual Dj, just up to 4. However you can have sample decks with short pieces of music, which can be useful for drops and breaks. The waveforms of the tracks are a lot clearer in this program than in Virtual DJ, and the mixer looks a lot nicer too. There are four ways to view the program, essential, extended, browser, and mixer. Personally I use the extended view, as this works well with my controller.You can not see the mixer on screen with this view, but you don't need to, as you have a physical mixer in front of you. That is the next step, once you have purchased and got to grips with your software, to properly digital dj you need to get a controller.
Numark Mixtrack Pro
This is the controller which I have. Despite not being one of the newest models of controllers on the market, it is certainly one of my favourites, and a favourite of many digital djs around the world. The main pro is that it does all the basics well, and does so at an affordable price. I purchased mine early in 2012 second hand for €120 ($150). New they cost around €200 ($250). Another pro is the built in soundcard. This really does make a noticable difference to the clarity of the music, which really helps in improving your mixing. I can not stress how much of a difference a good soundcard makes, and the soundcard in the mixtrack pro is pretty damn good. The main con would be the build quality. All the knobs and buttons are relatively sturdy and can take a good bashing, however, the mixtrack's body is made of plastic,and not metal like some other, better built controllers. This means the durability of the controller is not on par with it's metal built peers. However, it does mean it is considerably lighter, which is good for transport. Overall it is a very good controller, for a very good price.
You Have Your Equipment, Time to Start DJing!
Ok so basically, as a DJ, you want to be able to seamlessly mix an array of songs together, to create a continuous mix. On a controller, or any set of decks for that matter, you have a set of basic functions. These are the crossfader, the volume faders, and the equaliser knobs. The eq knobs control the bass, mid and treble of the songs. You use these to mix between the two tracks.. However to do this, the two songs must be in sync with each other. You can do one of two things to do this, you can beatmatch them, or you can press the sync button which many controllers have. Personally I like to beatmatch; it is often considered a necessary skill for any dj, and by learning this skill, you are improving your perception of music overall, thus making you a better dj.
To beatmatch you need to move what are called pitch faders, and the jog wheels. The jog wheels are the two round platters which will more than likely take up a lot of the space on your controller. You move the pitch faders until the BPMs of the tracks are the same. BPM stands for beats per minute, and is basically the tempo of the song. So for example, you could say the tempo of this house song is 128 BPM. When the songs' BPMs are the same, you lightly move the jog wheel until the beats are in match. There you have it, a beatmatch! It does take a bit of practice to be able to do it quickly and efficiently. There are a lot of varying opinions on the use of the sync button, so really it is up to you to form an opinion on it and decide for yourself whether you would like to use it or not.
Once the songs are beatmatched, you need to transition from one song to the next. You can do this using the volume faders or the crossfaders, which ever you prefer. Personally I feel the volume faders give more control. While transitioning from one song to the next, you need to change the eqs so the songs do not clash and overpower your mix. For example, when fading in your second song, gradually bring out the treble of the first song, and bring in the treble of your second song. However the bass would be down on the second song while doing this, so you can then change this and drop in the kick of the second song when you feel ready; and voila, you are mixing up two different songs! Gradually fade down the volume fader of the first song until theres a break in the second song, so that it sounds like it has seamlessly mixed to that part. It takes practice to make your transitions smooth and flawless, but once you get the hang of basic transitions, you can move on to looping, beatmashing, and filtering to drop in and mix songs in exciting and diverse ways!
Ok, so now that you know the basics, you're ready to start DJing. Get out there and show the world what you've got. Remember, the number one aspect to becoming a good digital DJ is practice. Thank's for reading; put your newly learned skills to good use!