DJ Equipment For Beginners: 101 Start From The Bottom

TurnTable Anatomy: Lesson 1

  • The  platter is where the   the vinyl record to be played and it is also used for scratching.
  • The pitch increases or reduces the BPM of a track when moved up or down accordingly
  • The needleis attached to the tip of cartridge it is what plays the record. A bad needle produces a distorted and an unclear sound.

 First thing to do is lift the turn arm with the cartridge and needle gently and place it on the record, press the start and stop button and put the turntable in motion. To speed the record up or slow it down, move the pitch forward or backward respectively. You can turn the turntable off by pressing the stop button.

DJ equipment is limitless depending on the needs of the audience or the desires of the DJ.  It is however advised to find the equipment and software which works best for you and your audience to get optimal results from any DJ setup.

Beat Juggling and samples

The all important BEAT. The beat is an essential factor to learn on your journey to greatness. A digital DJ controller can take a hip hop DJ to the next level. If you can cut and scratch on a vinyl or CD.  You can start to add loops and samples to your mix.

I know you never miss a beat, just in case you do. Traktor will quantize your loop or sample to the beat you are mixing. The rubber drum pads are similar to what you find on any professional drum machine. When you start juggling with beats and samples. You can create a complex mix. That would need lots and lots of Technics turntables.

Beat juggling and edits. Push the button

When you cut and edit with jog wheels. You spend most of your time holding the track in the cue position, before releasing it. You will also notice you do very little work with the faders other than the cross fader. If you think about it. It is easier to perform the same function with buttons.

You push a button and trigger a MIDI command. For beats and edits this is much more practical than holding a jog wheel. Just consider what you can do with all that time you spend holding a jog wheel. When you could simply push a button, trigger the sample. And move on to your next loop or sample. Before you know it, your mix will be big.

Basic Composition Of Your Controller

Controller Diagram

Can I DJ with a Controller that has no jog wheels?

Yes you can, you need to think about what the jog wheel does. The jog wheel will let you manipulate the track you are playing. But you can manipulate a track in other ways. There are excellent DJ controllers available that use touch strips.

With the touch strip you can move, scratch and hold the track as you would with a jog wheel. The only difference being you are using a touch strip.

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What is the latency?

The latency is the time it takes the audio signal to travel from your jog wheel to the speakers. You need to consider the audio frequency has a long way to travel. The signal from the jog wheel needs to be processed by your DJ controller. The signal needs to travel to your computer. Before being processed by your DJ software. Before the audio signal eventually travels to the speakers.

If your MIDI DJ controller has a high latency. The signal will be delayed traveling from your jog wheel and through the DJ controller. This means your ears will need to adjust to the slight delay. This makes getting your scratch on the beat is a little more challenging. Before you ask, yes. The equation, the more expensive the DJ controller the lower the latency does apply.

Being a Progessive DJ is all about Space

                        

The concept of mixing is space. No space, no mix. I understand the word "space" has many meanings. When referring to mixing music. Space refers to the amount of headroom you have to mix in the next track. You create space by using the graphic equalization (EQ). To remove frequencies from one track, while replacing those frequencies, with the frequencies from the other track.

For example, remove the bass from "deck A" and replace with the bass from "deck B". You will do this by rolling of one frequency as you add the other. To master the art, you need clarity in your headphone mix.

You can mix other frequencies besides the bass. This is why a pair of good quality DJ headphones is important. The more you can hear in the mix. The more you can affect the mix. If your headphones are not clear. You will never have a true understanding as to what the dance floor is hearing.

DJ Controller Anatomy: Closer Look

Controllers are a combination of the mixer and the turntables with knobs and buttons. They are devices that help DJs mix songs using a DJ software. The controller has evolved and gets more complicated by the day but the basic setup remains; two decks on either sides, 3 channels in the middle, as well as aux input and knobs etc. First let us look at the parts and functions of a controller

  1. These are the ports to connect to a PA system with the XLR, RCA and ¼ cables
  2. Controls for the sound FX. These features are primarily for use with a DJ software
  3. The pitch. It is found on all controllers and used to control the tempo of the song playing. To increase the tempo of the song, that is to make it play faster and increase the BPM, slide the pitch towards the + sign.
  4. The platter. It can be used to adjust the speed and tempo of a song to match another momentarily or to produce a scratching sound like with vinyl.
  5. This may not be found on all controllers but it works like the pitch, or better.  Using the tempo fader, it can be used to adjust the tempo quickly and drastically or smoothly and slowly. It gives you the power to customize the sensitivity and range of your tempo.
  6. This switch allows you to add more decks from the DJ software as most software come with more channels than the controller. If you find two channels too boring and comfortable, this switch will help you add more channels and use your controller like it had 4 channels.
  7. This button enables a switch between the two features of the platter.
  8. This button allows you to stop a song smoothly using the drum pads.
  9. This row contains four buttons with different functions:

Hot Cue– this button allows you to quickly jump through and use each of the pads on the row.

Auto Loop– this pad enables you create loops or parts of a song that are repeated over and over again

Manual Loop– unlike the auto loop pad, the manual loop allows you to create, mark the start and end as well as adjust loops.

Sampler– this pad enables you scratch while looping

10. This row contains four buttons with different functions:

Play/ Pause– play or pause a track

Cue– using this button while music is not playing will cause the track to start from the cue while it stops a playing track at the cue.

Sync– this button syncs the BPM of a current channel with the BPM of the opposite channel.

Shift– this gives access to a second function when held down.

A Tiny Lesson

To begin, we will concentrate on the decks, channels and the basic buttons. Set your controller to play either cd or aux input which could be from your smartphone or other hand devices. Assuming we are playing CDs or vinyl, we will push a switch to cd. Deck 1 is connected to channel 1, deck 2 is connected to channel 2 while channel 3 is connected to the aux port. All channels not in use will be blocked to avoid interference. We can push the pitch button up, down or centralize it to reduce, increase or normalize the BPM of the playing track respectively. The aux on the other hand is to play whatever external device you desire and the switch will be pushed to aux…And you are off and running!

Mixer Anatomy & Lesson

Mixers are basically as the name sounds. They are used to control and manipulate tracks from various music sources and equipment. The layers may not be the same, but all mixers have standard features and functions.

  1. This is the main volume knob, the knobs on either sides are for the channels respectively. Each of these knobs has a purpose.

Mic treble– controls the clarity of the middle-higher tones of your voice.

Mic bass– controls the loudness of the deeper tones of your voice

Mic gain– this simply turns a mic up or down

2) These set of knobs controls how your music sounds and the set on the right or left controls that channel.

Treble– this makes the higher frequency louder

Mid- this makes the middle range frequencies louder

Bass- this makes bass louder

3) This button works with the crossfader. The CF SLOPEallows for a slow and smooth or quick transition when moved to the left or right respectively. While the CF MODE switches the crossfader to work in reverse which some DJs find easy for scratching

4) This is a volume bar for each channel.

5) These lights are to indicate how loud the music is. There is a column for each channel and the goal is to avoid the music getting into the red light which will require you to clip your music and may cause damage to your equipment.

6) This switch controls what you hear in your headphones. It could be set to CH1or CH2 to hear an individual channel or on master to hear both.

7) The CUE GAINcontrols the volume of the music in your headphones while the fader below controls what channel is heard.

9) This switch works with a specific set up. The phone works with vinyl while the line works with CDJ

10) The crossfader determines what channel is heard when moved to either side and plays both channels in the middle.

Check to see if your mixers have built-in effect such as the contour which allows you to have a soft or hard fade in or fade out with your signal. A trick to the effectiveness of the mixer is that it is connected to the DJ’s headphones, allowing the DJ to listen to the next song and to mix and match seamlessly.

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