Do you want to become a producer/work with producers or get behind a DJ booth and start producing your own music immediately via live practice? We prefer the latter.
There is no doubt about it..If you are planning to learn how to DJ with turntables or CDJs you need a lot of time and energy spent. Perfecting the art of mixing can take months, if not years. Even reading the crowd and playing two songs together, takes practice. Again, if you want to learn how to beat match prepare to dedicate many hours to your new obsession. However, the only way to get better and shave off many of those hours is to practice and practicing with small live crowds a powerful MIDI setup is our recommendation for how to get started. The pressure will be on and your abilities will rise much faster than if you were behind a studio, comfortably positioned to learn or hone in a few techniques that eventually will run you massive hours and will almost start to feel menial.
If you decide to use a MIDI DJ controller on a small live crowd you will be surprised at how fast you rise and in no time at all and you would have learned 10 fold faster then if you took the soley studio route. Using a DJ controller and your computer at a small venue day in and day out will get those juices flowing and will prepare you for your next gig. The money will roll in and the motivation will continue to rise but not as slow as if you strictly trained in a studio.
Essential DJ Controller Hacks and Tricks Part One
Back in the day when a DJ had two record players and a mixer, they were limited in what they could do. You can do some amazing things with two turntables and mixer nowadays. With a MIDI DJ controller, you can tear up the DJ rule book and do things that were previously impossible.
When you think about the things you can do with DJ software such as Traktor and Serato. You start to see endless possibilities and the lines between DJ and producer becomes a little fuzzy. When you put Ableton Live in the mix, the impossible becomes easy to perform live.
How to scratch with a DJ controller- Small Tip
If you want to scratch on a DJ Controller, the first thing you need to understand is latency. The latency is the time it takes the audio signal to travel from your DJ controller, through your computer, to your speakers. If the latency is high, you will need to anticipate the delay in the audio signal. If you fail to anticipate the delay, your scratch will always sound out of time, despite the scratch being on the beat.
Tis is why you need a low latency DJ controller if you want to scratch mix. If a DJ wants to scratch mix they will normally want to beat juggle. A DJ controller can make beat juggling easy. As you can assign unlimited cue points using your DJ software.
As your DJ controller uses MIDI you can assign any drum pads, fader or rotary knob on the DJ controller to perform any function you choose. This makes beat juggling more of a limitless task. If you use a DJ controller you can focus on the production. Rather than focusing on physical limitations. Such as the ability to find a record and put it on a record player.
Practice Practice Practice
Cheaper controllers bring a higher latency. It is possible to scratch on a cheap $100 controller. The secret is practice. If the latency is higher the more you will need to get a feel for your equipment. With practice, you can get the perfect hip hop scratch from virtually any controller.
Best Overall MIDI Controllers
If you are looking for instant results the best DJ mixing software you can buy is Traktor. If you re completely new and want instant superstar DJ results..let me introduce to you, the Pioneer DJ DDJ-SB2.
Widely regarded as the best startup DJ Controller. The DDJ SB2 is big on features and even bigger on ease of use. If you have never mixed before there are a few cheats, tricks and hacks involving the Pioneer DDJ. This includes auto beat sync, readily assigned drum pads, and low latency aluminum jog wheels for scratch mixing
Each jog wheel has a button next to it saying “sync“. This will auto beat match the tracks you are playing. All you have to do then is learn and feel what a music bar is and drop your mix in. No! Not that bar! Jack & Coke, no thanks. I am sorry to disappoint, but you won’t find drinks at the music bar. Drinking really can impede the process so abstain when possible. If you can find your moderation zone, find it!
The Pioneer DJ-DDJ series is regarded as the best controller for beginner and learner DJs. The large low latency jog wheels give excellent control and feel over your music. Although developed to support Serato, the Pioneer DDJ can be MIDI-mapped for Traktor and Ableton. Each channel comes with manual filters.
If you stick with Serato you will find some sweet features. The transport keys are easy to access and the possibilities are endless with them. We love the fact we can quickly assign the crossfader to a high pass filter. This will free up your hands to get creative on the 16 drum pads.
The 4 deck mix
When two turntables are not enough and when your mix has evolved beyond making two MP3 tracks play at the same time, you at some point will need to step up your game. How about a four deck mix?! How about 20 sample pads? With endless triggers and a ton of effects, you are not just a DJ, your a producer and you need a MIDI DJ Controller to match your ambitions.
The first time I experienced a four deck mix I was in a Hip Hop battle…with myself :D. The four-deck mix can be a beautiful thing especially when you see a DJ getting creative on 4 CDJs and a mixer. The solo DJ MIDI Controller setup is not as aesthetically or visually spectacular for some. But when it comes to audio, you can take the roof off with it.
Samples and Effects
When two jog wheels and a mixer are not enough to satisfy your creative urges. You need four decks and lots of effects. If you use Traktor and the correct DJ controller. You will have access to every studio effect and trick you need to take your mixing to the next level.
As soon as you launch the Traktor remix decks, a new world of DJ production is revealed. With Traktor, you can deconstruct entire tracks and rebuild them in your own image. Every effect is easily accessible and can be easily mapped to your preferred DJ controller.
I love the S4 and use mine on a daily basis. The Native instrument Kontrol S4 Traktor DJ controller is as good as it gets. The Kontrol S4 is a beast of a DJ controller that is portable enough for me to bring anywhere I want. The professional grade aluminum jog wheels give excellent control and 24bit 96lhz low latency. It will very effortlessly have your audio reacting in real time. The 7″ jog wheels are of the same standard as you get on a Pioneer CDJ. They are great for cueing up tracks and scratching with.
The S4 controller has a four-channel mixer, making it, the ideal mixer for Traktor 4 deck mode. The auxiliary inputs are incredibly useful for adding external devices such a turntable and a microphone. This is excellent as you can use your S4 DJ controller as a digital or analog DJ. The Kontrol S4 is packed with professional features. If you want to rock the mix across four turntables. The Kontrol S4 is the way forward.
Some of the most important things to consider when selecting a DJ controller are:
- The quality of the jog wheels
- The latency
- Does the controller have a sound card
If your controller does not have a sound card, you will need to buy one. Without a sound card, you cannot connect your DJ controller to an amplifier or use your headphones to monitor your mix. In most cases, a DJ controller will have a sound card but it is important to check.
As previously mentioned the lower the latency the better the DJ controller. A high latency will create a delay from DJ controller to speakers. The delay is only fractions of a second. When you are a DJ such small amounts of time will have a big effect on the quality of your mix.
If you do not have good quality jog wheels you will always have problems mixing. Avoid plastic jog wheels. The larger the jog wheel. The easier they are to control and the more like a vinyl record they will feel. You find better control when you cue tracks or if you want to scratch and beat juggle.
If you select a good quality DJ controller and use professional software such as Traktor or Serato. You will be rocking the party in no time. When you choose a controller. It is important to check what DJ software. Your DJ controller has been mapped to.
If you want to use your DJ controller straight out of the box. You will need to use the software pre-mapped to your controller. As a DJ controller will use MIDI. You can map your controller to work with any MIDI software.
Digital DJs Take Control
It is all about imagination and using the right equipment. If you are using Serato, Traktor or Ableton. You can take your DJ set to the next level. If you use the right DJ controller. You can get your controller to react in any way using MIDI. If you want the crossfader on the mixer to work as a delay or a start button you can. If you want the start button to be the stop button you can. All you need to do is map the controller using your DJ software.
If you are going to be using a MIDI DJ controller. It is a good idea to learn the ins and outs of MIDI. This will help you understand your controller and do more with it. MIDI is a simple concept to understand. It’s the Musical/Digital Interface that allows for playback on the synthesizer (the actual controller apparatus) which works to sync and control the sound that MIDI sound card creates. It is the essential piece that makes electronic music possible. If it was not for MIDI nearly all of the dance music you own would cease to exist besides your vinyl/turntable collection.