The thrills of being in charge of the entertainment, deciding the sound and looking cool on turntables and those pretty awesome headphones have made a lot of people want to be DJs, either for fun or as a career. The ability to mix songs with the right tempo, flow, beat and even the right pitch is not a skill that comes easily to everyone so it only makes sense to learn.
Using traditional DJ equipment like turntables, mixers, etc. as used in the ’90 and early 2000s before the emergence of computers and software in the DJ world, continues to be prevalent but has taken a small turn towards digitization. As it is today, many DJs no longer make use of turntables and traditional mixers and prefer to use the less bulky, less expensive and more mobile computer software. For the older generation DJs, making the switch to modern day technological advancements in DJing can be a bit tough. This is what we will try to explain in this article.
After that goal has been set, it is pertinent that you proceed to understand the basics of DJing. Understanding the little tricks and nuances that make an exceptional DJ and getting in tune with the flow of music, the beats, the speed and how the transition from one song to the next should be of top priority. Feeling the music, as they say, is very important.
FEATURES OF MOST DJ SOFTWARE
1) DJ software Itself comes with most of its features inbuilt to enable multiple mixing of tracks and inputs. The DJ software interface is programmed to contain all the needed controls as is available in a traditional DJ setup. That notwithstanding, external hardware can be used to enhance its performance. These features are:
- Virtual turntables– these have the same effects as the turntable hardware. It can be moved forward or backwards to add the scratching effects like a real record.
- Crossfaders– these are essential for mixing between sources through the sliding controls.
- Control for EQ and gain– the control for equalizers are used to tweak sounds with settings such as bass, treble; highs and mid frequencies. The gain feature, on the other hand, is for balancing the audio output from each deck and sometimes in connected external hardware.
- Transport control– these are functions such as start, stop, pitch, cue, BPM etc.
- Real-time effects– an array of sound effects is available in the DJ software to be used to the pleasing of the DJ.
Of course, at this point, it is expected that you know some or even most of the DJ equipment whether traditional or software. By equipment we mean mixers, turntables, controllers etc. but just in case you do not, a brief definition of the components of DJing will be summarized.
2) REQUIRED DJ HARDWARE
While DJing today can happen comfortably on a PC or MacBook or even on an iPad and smartphones, it will still require the right hardware if you are serious about your art. The hardware required when using DJ software are controllers, mixers, of course, output like decks and headphones.
Consisting of knobs, encoders, jog wheels’ faders, backlit buttons, touch strips and other components, controllers are devices that help DJs mix songs using DJ software. They sometimes have up to four output which provides the DJ the chanced of listening to a mix via headphones before sending it out to the main sound channels.
Controllers are flexible in their use and can help make a DJ software do a lot more. However, sometimes they are specialized i.e. they are specifically made for a particular software and may not function at all or as well with other DJ software so it is important to get one that is compatible with the software to be used.
The mixer is the mixing console in the DJ setup. It’s essentially a box with buttons and knobs which are used to dictate the sound produced on the speakers and decks. The mixers also produce a new sound, mix tracks without the effect of a start and a finish.
A turntable is a circular rotating equipment for playing tracks and recordings. Turntables can manipulate and alter the sound of the music, alter the beats, and transition music with the help of crossfaders.
THE BASIC FUNCTIONS OF DJ SOFTWARE
6 ) Beatmatching
The first thing you should learn is how to beatmatch and sync songs so that transitioning from one song to the next isn’t hellish. While the emergence of DJ software has made the act of beatmatching obsolete, since many of the software do that automatically, it is still important to know how to beatmatch and sync songs.
Beatmatching includes the tempo of the songs and syncing at least two musical beats within phase and time. Transitioning from a song with a fast tempo to a song with a slow one may not be smooth and may cause displeasure, thus it is important to mix the songs based on tempo correctly. The tempo of a song is the speed of the song. Many software now shows the tempo of songs, however, it is important to know how to use them.
7) Good Track Selection
This function is pretty understandable. What we mean is of course to be a kick-ass DJ, the first thing you need to know how to do is selecting the right songs for each occasion and songs that flow well, this goes without saying.
A key to song selection is the kind of DJ you want to become. For example, a club DJ needs to be able to keep the dance floor full and the people dancing with preferably loud and fast paced music. While a turntablist will need to learn how to scratch and alter music to keep the audience interested in the act and even though it is not as easy on the software it is very doable with the right instruments.
The mobile DJ is a calmer and more cooperate-like DJ. Not so much interested in the loud dancing music and not about scratching and altering the songs. This is however not as simple as it looks. Therefore, on the road to determining what kind of DJ one wants to be, it is right to get in tune with songs that fit that criterion.
Another important skill to know is the art of Equalizing. In mixing, equalizing is very important. Dropping the frequency of one song while raising that of another to blend them with ease without sounding like a train crashing. Usually, DJ mixers have different EQ ranges, such as low, medium, high and some have four ranges such as low, mid-low, mid-high and high. The DJ software also have the equalizing ability. Different software and DJ apps have equalizers too making it a lot easier as well to use.
Mixing songs is the basic function of a DJ. Mixing songs based on tempo, flow, pitch etc. it is now a lot easier on DJ software to mix songs. Making sure the transition from one song to the next is seamless. Using songs of similar tempo and like beats to keep the flow of the music going. Software nowadays makes this easy for new DJs. No hassle trying to manually match songs like it used to be.
10) Switching Songs
Most DJ software allows you to assess the songs on your PC or iPad or smartphone. When the songs have been selected, it is a pretty easy ride. The basics of mixing, syncing etc. Will come in handy at this point. The DJ software that has the crossfader feature allows you to switch from one song to the next very easily. Using DJ software, the timing of switch is very important.
The sync button located on both turntables on the screen will afford the DJ the chance to conveniently synchronize the tempo of two songs and make for seamless transitions. The crossfaders allow the DJ to play only one song on the main output whilst selecting the next song which they can hear through their headphone and then select the beat and then use the crossfader again to change the song on the main output to the one they want.
To add the scratching effect, many DJ software has virtual turntables. When using the software, scratching becomes as easy using the trackpad on the PC to go back and forth on the turntables. When controllers are available, for more serious occasions, they can be used to communicate with the computer to carry out the same functions. The scratching is one of the easiest things to do on the software.
Looping in DJing is the act of selecting tracks and letting the software play them back to back. It used to be a bit tougher to loop songs on the CDJ plays but with software, it is a lot easier as well. Software in DJing today computes a lot of analysis of beats, bars, tempo etc. it has made it easy to loop songs while DJing by just syncing the songs. The software will do the looping. It used to be done manually, using the loop in and loop out buttons on CDJs while DJ had to perform perfect timing.
When we listen to DJ mix songs, we hear a distinctive sound being played over and over or even a phrase, this is achievable using loops to just replay that sound. Another reason why looping is done is it allows the DJ play a section of a song as many times as they would like to give it a fun feel. When a song is “unlooped”, it will go back to the point where it was first looped and play on from there.
Looping song is the best way to break tune without changing the song. On software such as Serato, it has a loop feature that will allow you to loop songs while still playing the track in the background. The most important thing about looping is timing. And as a note, when looping songs, it is best when it goes as unnoticed as possible. Do not loop songs when the audience is having a lot of fun, as this will cause displeasure, only loop to increase excitement.
As you already know by now, most DJ software has an inbuilt sound effect to make the job a lot more entertaining to both the DJ and the audience. The FX add a certain pizazz to the whole set. Using this sound effects is actually pretty easy. Some sound effect would have to look for by the DJ as they do not come free. But the software will show you how best to apply the effects.
It’s fun to mix songs on a laptop, iPad or other devices with compatible DJ software and apps but to get the best out from it in say party situations or more serious gigs, it will be best to get controllers that work well with the software you are using.