So you want to DJ? In this document are all the basics you need to start â€“ learn to set up your DJ rig, mix records, play tricks and make your first live mix! I have been playing out for over 15 years and love it, I hope you will find this introduction a great help in starting you off on a new and exciting hobby or career â€“ Good Luck! Master Mix
Part One: Getting setset-up: attaching carts, balancing tone arms, wiring everything up etc Wire it up Decks
3 3 4
Part Two: Cueiing up; the drop mix; basic beatmixing
Part Three: Advanced mixing
Part Four: Tricks: spinbacks, phasing, EQ tricks etc
Phasing or Flanger on Effects Mixers Delay Spinbacks EQ Part Five: Advantages of CD Quality control Part Six: Getting to grips with CDs Cueing up
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Part Seven: FX and tricks
Part Eight: Eight: Advantages of MP3
Part Nine: Software overview and tips
Software Production Part Ten: Hardware overview and tips
Part One: Getting setset-up: attaching carts, balancing tone arms, arms, wiring everything up etc Okay, what we’re going to do here is start at the very beginning. I’m going to assume you’ve just got your first set of decks and have no prior mixing/DJing experience or knowledge whatsoever. So the first thing we’re going to look at is how to get your decks and mixer set up properly, because if you don’t get this right, you could have all sorts of problems later on. The first thing to do is work out where you’re going to put your decks, mixer and so on. So before you plug anything in, plan out on a piece of paper how you want your set-up. Ideally, when you are mixing you need to be standing in the centre of your speakers for best monitoring. As regards your decks and mixer, try and place everything centrally so you can visually see and reach everything. If you are going to use two turntables and two CD players – an increasingly common set-up these days – then try and raise the CD players above the decks/mixer on a stand or shelf. If you have the CD players either side of the turntables it becomes too much of a stretch and you won’t be able to mix comfortably – which won’t encourage the hours of practice you’re going to be putting in! Also your head will be leaving the direct sound from the speakers when mixing, which isn’t ideal.
Wire it up! Once you’ve worked out where everything’s going, it’s time to start wiring it all up. Get everything in place, but don’t plug anything into the mains yet. First off, connect the turntables to the mixer’s phono inputs – not forgetting to connect the earth cables as well, or you’ll get a horrible buzzing sound. Then connect your CD decks to the mixer’s CD/line inputs. Remember that phono level signals are much weaker than line level signals, and the channels on your mixer are built accordingly – so your turntables will be inaudible if plugged into ‘line’ sockets, while plugging CD or other line-level equipment into ‘phono’ sockets could easily blow the channel. Finally, run another RCA phono cable (the ones with two red and white or red and black connectors at each end – confusing that they’re called that, isn’t it, given that they carry a line-level signal?) from your mixer’s main output into a spare input on your amp/stereo – but not the ‘phono’ channel if there is one. Your mixer contains a pre-amp and hence outputs a line-level signal, so use the Aux channel or, failing that, one marked Tape, Tuner or CD.
A couple of tips on cables (also known as ‘interconnects’) while we’re on the subject. First of all, it really is worth shelling out a few extra quid for some decent leads: you can get interconnects with gold-plated connectors for about £4 each (and up) in any hi-fi or electrical store, and you’ll get vastly improved sound out of your system if you do. Secondly, it’s a good idea to attach a small label to each lead, saying what it is. Believe me, when you start adding other equipment like samplers you’ll be glad you did! Finally, it’s also a good idea to keep your phono leads bundled neatly together (and perhaps loop up any slack with a cable-tie), and to keep all your mains cables bundled together. I know this sounds very anal, but it reduces the risk of getting electrical interference – buzzing!
Decks on the brain Now we need to get your decks set up. These days, many turntables come with cartridges pre-fitted (or in package deals with carts included) – do check when you’re buying though! If you do need to install the cartridges yourself, you’ll probably need to remove the headshell, wire up four colour-coded wires, screw it all together and then replace the headshell on the tonearm. Increasingly common these days, though, are all-in-one cartridge/headshells like Stanton’s famous Trackmasters – if you’ve got this kind of carts you simply need to align the slots, push them into place and screw the holding bracket together. Gently does it mind! Next, balancing the tonearm. Most people don’t have a clue about this! But it’s important to get it right, otherwise the stylus will be skipping all over the place when you touch the record. There is a misconception that if you simply bung loads of weight on the arm, then it will stop any skipping. But all this does is push the stylus too hard onto the record, causing excessive wear and tear on both and possibly leading to poor sound as the deck picks up the ‘rumble’ of the contact between the stylus and the record. So you need to adjust the height and weight of the arm properly to fit in with what cartridge and slipmats you are using. So, put your slipmat in place. Find a one-sided record and put the blank side on the deck facing ‘up’ (not playing, of course, as you haven’t plugged it in yet). Now put the stylus on the record, and adjust the arm’s height adjustment so that the arm slopes slightly downwards. Now you need to set the counterweight. This is the large round weight at the back of the tonearm. Move it back and forth and the arm will ‘seesaw’ up and down. Do this until the arm hovers with the stylus just above your blank record. Now you need to apply a certain amount of extra pressure so the stylus tracks the groove. How much depends on what cartridge you’ve got – the box should tell you the recommended counterweight setting. First, with the arm balanced as above, turn the
inner dial on the counterweight (but not the weight itself) so that ‘0’ is in the 12 o’clock position. Then, turn the whole weight until the appropriate setting (usually 3) is at that same 12 o’clock position. Your tonearm should now be perfectly balanced, but if you do have problems with the needle skipping later, simply add a little extra pressure by turning the whole weight in increments of 0.5. Finally, there’s your anti-skate, situated at the side. I generally keep this set to 0, but some DJs prefer to have it set to the same setting as the counterweight. What the anti-skate does is make sure that your stylus is heading in the right direction, ie to the centre of the record! You can see how much pressure the stylus is under by closely looking at the stylus to see if it is swaying. If it is, it’s trying to veer outbound, the wrong way! The anti-skate will pull the stylus back in the right direction. That’s it: your decks are set-up, everything’s wired together and you’re ready to plug it all in.
Part Two: Cueiing Cueiing up; the drop mix; basic beatmixing Before you can learn to mix two records together, you need to learn the basic art of counting beats and learning the structure of music. In most forms of dance music (house, techno, trance etc) there are four beats to a bar, with a kickdrum on each beat – that’s why they call such styles ‘4/4’ or ‘four to the floor’. What’s more, the vast majority of dance records are written in eight-bar sequences, with something new happening every eight bars. Sit and listen to your favourite records: absorb how they’re structured, and try and predict what will happen. Learn your records! For your first mix you should try and find two minimal records with a clear 4/4 beat and without too much else going on. This will give you the chance to practise playing two records together and keeping them in time. Before we do this, though, you need to practice cueing up. You would usually do this through your headphones, but for practising purposes, have both records coming through your speakers (so have the crossfader in the middle). Play the intro of your first record: you are waiting to find the first beat of the record. This will be the cue point. When you hear it, stop the record by lightly touching the vinyl with your fingertips. Now spin the record back gently so that it takes you back to the first beat/cue point. This will sound weird because you are unnaturally hearing the music being played backwards, but you’ll soon get used to this. Once you find the cue point, practise rocking the record back and forth on the cue point.
Next up you’re going to let go of or ‘drop’ the mix in time with the beat on your outgoing tune. Don’t push the record hard, as this could make it skip. Instead, naturally feel the turntable pulling the record from under your fingers. I usually count four beats then drop the mix – you may find it helps to do the same. So, rock the record back and forth at the cue point, counting 1-2-3… then on the fourth beat, lightly move your fingers in time with the turntable torque and let go. When you’ve mastered this, do the same thing, only playing the ‘new’ record through your headphones while the other record is playing through the sound system. You’ve mastered the ‘drop mix’! You then need to get the record at the correct speed in order to mix it in smoothly. What you need to do is use the pitch control slider on the right of the deck to get the two records playing in time. With the outgoing tune playing over the sound system, drop in the second track in your ’phones (as above) and listen to how the beats of that record sit against the beats of the other. Too fast? Use the pitch control to slow it down! Or of course, to speed it up if it’s too slow. Keep practising ‘lining up’ those beats until you’re happy that the two records are in time, then drop in the record over the other as before and let them both play at once. You will need to make small adjustments from time to time: you can do this by nudging the speed of the record by touching the platter, twisting the centre pin of the platter or, like me, simply using the pitch control. See what you’re comfortable with. Keep adjusting the pitch small units at a time until you feel the beats matching, and nudge occasionally if the mix starts to slip away. Practice holding those tracks playing in time from start to finish: the more time you put in, the better you will get! You’re effectively listening to two different things at the same time, which can get very confusing.
So, a Master tip! When listening to the track in my headphones, I hum it in my head so that it goes with the music that is playing over the sound system. I can instantly tell it’s not in time… try it! You have now successfully learnt to cue up a record. Now try all the aforementioned but this time actually play the record and practise holding those records playing together. It’s a personal preference if you continue to listen to the cued/incoming record in your headphone to keep it in time, simply listen to the overall sound system or do both! See how you get on and what you feel comfortable doing. If you’re new to this it’s going to take some time to get your head around all the above, so don’t worry if it doesn’t all come together in the first week!
Part Three: Advanced mixing (more theoretical stuff, e.g. e.g. using acapella’ acapella’s, mixing in key, etc - what works, what doesn’t) We covered the basics of beat mixing, and presumably you’ve spent the intervening time practising how to get two records in time with each other. Is it getting easier? Good, because now I’m going to move things on a bit and look at other things you should consider beyond simply lining up beats. Firstly, and I can’t stress this enough: you need to purchase a decent pair of headphones. A workman is only as good as his tools, and you’re working with music so you need to hear it properly! Cueing up the record is the most important stage of the mix: this can dictate if the mix goes right or horribly wrong, so spend a little extra and get some professional quality headphones. You won’t regret it. Before mixing in your next track you have to prepare it and plan ahead for the mix, and there are many things to take into consideration at this stage. Firstly remember that pressings of vinyl can vary, and the last thing you want is to lift the fader and the record blast out at twice the volume of the one currently playing! I always set the volume of the new track in my headphones. I do this by skipping simultaneously between the two tracks using the cue on the mixer. I then adjust the trim setting until I’m happy they’re at the same level. Depending on what mixer you are using you can also monitor this by reading the LED’s on the display. Once you’re happy that you have the correct volume you must listen to make sure there are no offending frequencies. For instance, the new track may have a weaker kick drum than the one playing. If you simply mixed without planning, the new track would sound weak and empty compared to the big powerful track you’ve just been playing – and this could kill your dancefloor. So you slowly cut the bass of the current track playing as you’re mixing, to compensate for the weaker track coming in. Also listen for clashing high frequencies like percussion: these can be controlled by cutting the hi-end EQ, making for a smoother mix. It’s also important to make sure that the two tracks won’t clash musically (in key). Some musical notes simply won’t go together and it sounds bloody awful when they don’t! Again, listen in your headphones to make sure this doesn’t happen. Imagine trying to do this in a club with a booming sound system – this is where you’ll be thankful for those professional headphones! The most important advice I can give, though, is to learn your records. Get to know what happens and when. This will make your life easier when you’re actually mixing. Think of it as reading a map: you’ll know where to go if you have one, without you’ll get lost! The last thing you want is something jumping out when you weren’t expecting it, like two vocals or riffs clashing at the same time. They’re your records so learn
them. And if you’re unsure of the structure of a track you’ve only recently picked up, simply skip through it to refresh yourself before you play it live and work out your mix in and out points. There are no rules to how you mix: it’s part of what makes every DJ’s character. Some like smooth mixing, whilst others may chop and scratch a mix. Some DJs use the cross-fader whilst others simply use the faders. See what suits you. Just remember to respect the controls on the mixer. Don’t turn all the gains up on the mixer until the levels are in the red. Red means danger! You’re actually driving the levels too hard in the mixer and distorting the sound that is going to the sound system. When faced with dodgy sound when they play out, many people blame the club’s set-up and don’t actually realise that it is them that are killing the sound. Most clubs have professional companies or an in-house sound engineer to set up the sound system, The rig will be set up perfectly with the mixer’s controls set to a neutral level. For some reason, some DJs will then tweak up the EQs to get more volume out of the soundsystem. This will sound awful out on the dancefloor, and not only that, this is also where you get that terrible ringing in your ears from too many high frequencies. You’re actually damaging your ears, so avoid doing this! Well, that should give you a few things to think about as you continue to get your beatmatching nailed.
Part Four: Tricks: spinbacks, phasing, EQ tricks etc There are an endless amount of tricks that you can perform using your turntables and mixer. It’s down to you the individual to think of new tricks, invent them: it will make your set individual. But for now I’m going to quickly run through a few of the family favourites with you.
Phasing or Flanger on Effects Mixers This is where you play two copies of the same tune at exactly the same time. The effect sounds wild! Because both tracks are playing at exactly the same, the frequencies clash with each other and cancel themselves out, and the result sounds like the track is going through a trippy effect: all the sounds are swishing around the room and the bass frequencies come and go. We’ll imagine you’re doing this in your set. So, grab two copies of the same record. When you’ve mixed the record in that you want to phase, you need to quickly cue in the duplicate copy. You need to find the exact same place as the one that is playing (use the shaded areas on the vinyl as a ‘map’ to lead you to the exact point). When you have the track playing in time and the same speed you need to lift the fader so that it is playing through the sound system along with the other. Make sure the EQ and volume are at the same level. Now adjust the pitch control a tiny bit (2 mm) and get ready to bring the track back in time. This will pull the track slightly in and out of time giving you a more wild phasing effect. Remember not to play with this for too long, as you have to get ready to prepare your next record for mixing! These days there are a number of mixers with effects on board, and the “Flanger” does this effect without the need to use two copies of a song.
Delay While you have your two duplicate records to hand, try this live delay trick. This sounds especially good on vocal tracks: it sounds like there is a delay on the track and creates a cool trick as if it is repeating itself… re-re, pea-pea, ting–ting, it–it, self-self (get it?). As with phasing, cue the second record at the exact same point as the other. This is the tricky part, you need to pause the record that you have cued by one or two beats, then play it again. Now it’s playing slightly behind the other in your headphones. It sounds weird but practise keeping it in time. Here comes the fun part. It’s best to use the cross-fader for this; you need to skip from the track playing to the duplicate track then back.
You’ll hear the same part being played back on itself, then skip back to the original track. Keep flicking back and forth and remember to move the crossfader quickly – we only want one record playing at a time The more you practise the more you feel ‘rhythms’ within the delays, and you’ll soon find yourself completely changing the groove of the track, creating a magic moment.
Spinbacks A spinback pretty much explains itself: you literally stop the record playing and spin it back with your fingertips. This creates a crazy effect, as if the whole track has stopped and gone backwards into hyperspace. You need to practise this before you try and perform it live in a set. There’s no rule to where you use one or how you use one, it’s up to you to experiment, but the natural place to perform one is at the end of each bar as it will sound more natural here. Whilst your track is playing, count yourself in 1, 2, 3, 4 then stop the record with your fingertips and flick it backwards. DON’T flick too hard, otherwise you’ll skip the stylus. Make sure you perform the flick instantly otherwise there will be a short gap between the record stopping and flicking backwards. You can extend the spinback by continuing to spin the record backwards with your fingertips. A favourite place to perform a spinback is at the end of a track. As you are mixing in a new track and you are ready to mix out the old track, spin it back! It can create a mini crescendo to introduce the new track. Remember to keep an eye on the volume of the track that is spinning back, as due to the track playing at high speed it can sometimes leap up in volume and be ear-piercing, so prepare to drop the volume of your outgoing track if needed.
EQ You can create some magical moments by simply using the EQ on your mixer. By cutting the bass of the track playing, you make your own breakdown. You can make it more intense by slowly adding more midrange, creating an intense build, then at the right moment slamming the bass back in and getting the midrange back to neutral. The weight of the bass cutting back in will rock the dance floor! Depending on how good your mixer is, you can create a filter type effect by adjusting the high and mid frequencies. This works well on a chunky track with plenty of percussion. Work the two EQs against each other; it actually sounds like you have a filter over the track. This can liven up a minimal track.
Perhaps the most important thing to remember is do all the aforementioned tricks in moderation. Thereâ€™s nothing worse than someone fiddling around with all your favourites tunes â€“ it can make for sonic overload and kill your dancefloor. But used sparingly, tricks like these can liven up your set no end
Part Five: Advantages of CD; why itâ€™s crucial to be CDCD-competent; increasing domination of the scene by the CDCD-R rather than the white label; taketake-up among top DJs Technology has made a massive impact on the trusty DJ, especially in the past couple of years. Go back a few years and you would have been hard pushed to see any DJ with a CD wallet in his record box, though you'd occasionally see a DJ testing out his new track on a CD-R. But now the days of big record boxes and crates are gone: you see today's DJs carrying around shoulder bags with a handful of records and a wallet full of CDs. I myself haven't played vinyl for over two years! It makes sense: why lug around heavyweight vinyl when I can fit all my music on a CD? And no more lost records at airports because I can take it on as hand luggage! Pioneer were responsible for this change, with their release of the awesome CDJ-1000. Not only was it a groundbreaking piece of kit that emulated vinyl, but it was a big full-size machine. It had presence about it, and CD DJs actually felt that they were performing rather than playing music from a 2U rack-mounted face-plate that you had to control with your fingertips. The CDJ looked daunting. It had lots of functions, tricks and coloured lights. Punters would now look at you playing a CD and think, wow, how does he know how to work that beast, a bit like looking at a pilot in the cockpit of a plane. The DJ instantly got respect, rather than the punters thinking they were cheating when they looked in the DJ booth and had nothing visually to see. It now looks 'cooler' to see 'CD-R' in a DJ's chart rather than 'white label' because punters know that the CD-R will be newer and more upfront than the vinyl, which will be a few weeks old due to the time it takes to reach the pressing plant, then the post office! So it's imperative that you keep up with today's technology. I think it's crucial for any DJ to be CD-competent to ensure they don't get left behind. I will get shot for saying this, but I believe that there will soon come a day that a DJ will look old-fashioned when he steps up to the DJ booth holding a 12-inch piece of vinyl. We must remember that today's teenage budding DJs are bought up owning computers. They have various programs they use to edit tracks to personalise them to fit into their sets. They also have music sequencing programs and make their own music. They are used to working with waveforms and digital files and don't forget, these are our next generation of professional DJs. This format is more convenient for everyone in many ways. You can now go record shopping on the internet. You can download your music, then burn your tracks onto a CD and play it in a club the same evening! I myself now have my promos sent to my server. I can retrieve my
promos from anywhere in the world, so I no longer have to wait until I get home to get my new music. I can only do this because I play from CDs.
Quality control There is an age-old argument with purists saying that vinyl sounds better than a CD in a club. But this may be the case purely because the sound engineer has set up the soundsystem for vinyl. Yes, vinyl does have a slightly warmer sound but there is a downside: any specks of dust or damage to the disc and 'rumble' can be heard as noise or static. During quiet spots in songs this noise may be heard over the music. Digital recordings, on the other hand, don't degrade over time, and if the digital recording contains silence, then there will be no noise. After time a worn record (vinyl) will sound 'woolly', so most sound engineers will add a little extra top end EQ (treble) to compensate for this. They also don't go too heavy on the bottom end EQ (bass) because vinyl is warmer. The results are disastrous when you play a CD: it sounds too tinny, with no bass. CDs don't need the extra treble and need a little more bass! Forward thinking clubs such as Godskitchen have the sound engineer work with the DJ, EQing the soundsystem as he plays. When the soundsystem is set he will give the DJ a personal 'pin' so that the system resets itself for the format he plays inâ€Ś brilliant! Now play a CD in a club that has been set up for CDs and it will sound crystal clear and powerful. Many people comment to me how clear my sets sound and ask how I do it! Hopefully now you understand now why I think learning to mix from CD is important
Part Six: Getting to grips with CDs; setting cue points Now I'm going to take you through the basics of CD mixing. There's a fair bit of ground to cover with CD DJing - But firstâ€Ś when I made the transition from being a vinyl DJ to a CD DJ a few years back, I found the main obstacle was how to organise my music. I'd had a set system within my record box, but now that was out of the window. My biggest problem was recognising the tracks I wanted to find. I'm useless at remembering record titles or artist names, and I'd recognise many tracks simply by their covers. But now I found I suddenly had loads of CD-Rs with black marker pen scribbled on themâ€Ś they all look the same! With my vinyl, I used to separate my tracks into little sections, from warm-up music through to the harder stuff. I find it's best to do the same with my CDs. The trouble was, many labels would send me all their tracks on one CD, so there would be a mixture of all styles of music on one CD. This confused me, as I didn't know where to place that CD in my CD wallet, and I kept forgetting to play certain tracks because the CD was in the wrong section! So now I burn those tracks onto single CDs and place them in the correct section in my wallet. This is just a Master tip to feel more organised. I also use one of those big CD wallets that shows you a page of 12 CDs at a time. I now recognise tracks by certain markings on them, and you could even put little stickers on them if it helps.
Cueing up Okay, so let's get on with it - time to start learning to mix from CD. Thing is though, you've never touched a CD deck in your life - how on earth do you use the thing? Today's CD players can look pretty daunting because they have so many different features, so for now, let's just concentrate on cueing and playing a track. Newer machines now have an emulated vinyl mode, which I'll come to in a minute - these are very easy to work - but first let's go through the 'traditional' cueing process of a regular CD deck. First up you need to set up the 'Cue' point of your track (usually the first kickdrum beat). This will be the point from which the track that will play when you press the 'Play' button. It's just like when you find the first kick when you're mixing vinyl - the difference being that when you let go of vinyl, you then have to find that point again once you're ready to mix, whereas your CD deck stores that point and returns you to it every time you press the Cue button! Most CD players have the same procedure, but some older machines do vary, so it's best to ask before you use it.
First we need to find your Cue point. The controls are pretty much the same as your home hi-fi: you press play and skip forward or backward through the track. We need to do this to find our first kickdrum (Cue point). Press play, wait until you hear your cue point (you can skip forward to speed things up), then once you hear your kickdrum, press the pause button. You will now hear that part of the track being constantly played. This will sound like a digital noise, like when a CD gets s-s-s-s-s-stuck. You have to get used to listening to the track like this. As we pressed Pause after we heard our kick, we now have to rewind the track until we hear our beat again. You can use the 'skip' buttons but most machines have a jog wheel that you can carefully spin round. Ease the jog wheel back until you hear the very beginning of the kick. Once you can hear the kick clearly, press the 'Cue' button. This will store that exact point that you have selected. Now press Play and the track will play from that point. If you got it slightly wrong, simply press the Cue button again, then adjust the jog wheel: the track will automatically start adjusting (no need to press play again). Adjust the track until you can hear the kick in the correct place, then press the Cue button once more to store the new cue point. Now every time you press the Cue button it will go back to that exact point of the track! If you're using a newer machine with a vinyl emulator, cueing up is even easier. You simply find the Cue (first kick) the same way you would using vinyl, by spinning the track back and forth until you find your first kick. Once you have it, hold the track at the correct point then press the Cue button. As explained before your Cue point is now stored. It's much easier this way as you can hear the track in real time and not d-dd-d-d-d-digital s-s-s-s-s-s-stutters!
Part Seven: FX and tricks: using your CD deck as a basic sampler, using Hot Cues and loops, etc When you first look at a CD player it can be quite daunting - there are so many flashing lights and buttons! Well, I'm here to help and will run through what the different functions do. But I can only advise you on the basics of how these functions work: it's down to you to explore new tricks and functions using these tools. The combinations are endless and will give you hours of fun exploring and experimenting. This is why it's so important to be CD-literate: it really is our future. Today's CD players are so advanced, they are more like 'live' remixing machines. They take you beyond the realms of basic DJing and let you entertain your audience with production-like skills. Let's start with using your CD player as a basic sampler. To do this, cue up the part of the track or acapella that you want to trigger as a sample. Press and hold the Cue button and it will trigger that moment. You control how long the sample plays by holding down the Cue button. You can also 'tap' the Cue button in time with the other track playing. This sounds awesome when using a vocal. If you have an FX unit on your mixer, you can have fun routing the sample through a crazy delay. Also, try adjusting the pitch as you trigger: you can create a melody taking the sample through different musical notes. I've had many people asking me what the Donna Summer remix was that I played, when it was me using an acapella triggered by the CD player over the top of another track! Next, Hot Cue points. Not all machines have them, but I'll explain those on the Pioneer CDJ-1000. There are three of them: A, B and C. They work in the same way as the regular Cue button but the difference is that once they have been triggered they instantly play from that point. If you set these up before you play the track, you can have fun making a track jump from various sections within the arrangement. You'll also find a Loop feature on most CD players. I suggest you practise this at home for many hours before you try one live, as loops can sound awful if you get them wrong. The Loop feature explains itself. You can catch a four- or eight-bar section (usually no more) of a track and it will continuously play in a loop. To do this you must tell the CD player where you want the loop to start and finish (using the Loop In and Loop Out or similarly-labelled buttons). These have to be 'tapped' in manually, so you must be quick and in time! Play the track a good minute before your chosen loop point, so that you can get into the time and groove of the song. At the right moment hit the Loop In button. This will mark the start point of your loop. Now get ready to hit the Loop Out button to mark the end point of your loop. With a bit of practice you
should be able to get the loop bang on time. If not, you can 'trim' the loop to size. You can store your loop points in the machine or on a data card that you can take to clubs with you. Loops can be useful in a number of ways. For instance, if you have a track that doesn't give you enough outro to mix out of, you could trigger your set loop. This will last for as long as you want it too, so you now have an everlasting outro! If you get a chance to play on one of the new Denon machines, you'll come across a clever Alpha Track feature. This allows you to play a track from the same CD that's currently playing, or even the same track! The CD player has two outputs. When you are in Alpha Track mode the second track will be played from the second output and appear on another channel on the mixer. This is very useful if you have a few tracks on the same CD and you really wanted to play one of the other tracks. In a normal situation you would have to wait until the CD was free again. Be vigilant and remember which machine is in Alpha track mode as you may pull down the wrong fader. Master Tempo is a clever function that keeps the track in its original key (note/pitch the track was produced). You may be playing a vocal track pitched right up and things are starting to sound like Mickey Mouse! Just press your Master Tempo button and the track is taken back to the original key, so it'll sound normal even though the track is banging away at +8. The Brake controls allow you to personalise the machine to your style of mixing. Remember, these machines have to appeal to hip hop DJs, drum & bass DJs, trance DJs, commercial DJsâ€Ś and we are all different. So the Brake controls let you adjust the sensitivity of the jog wheel and how much it reacts. You can make it have an abrasive reaction, slowing the track with a small amount of spin and literally making the track stop. Or you can go the other way.
Part Eight: Advantages of MP3; why you should get into it; hardware vs software: software: which wayâ€™s for you? As we move into the 21st Century, the world of the DJ is undergoing a radical transformation. The equipment we use, and what format we play from, are changing to such an extent that some DJ booths now look like the flight deck of a spaceship! With these changes and developments, inevitably, comes criticism. But are the critics simply showing their fear of technology? I believe the answer is 'yes'. The digital revolution is upon us in all areas of our lives. We now live in an age of electronic gadgets that make our lives easier. We take it for granted that our TVs are interactive, we want satellite navigation in our cars and our mobile phones are more like PDAs. We're all pretty much computer literate; we couldn't live without our e-mails or internet! It was surely inevitable that modern technology would have an equally revolutionary effect on DJing. But I believe this digital revolution is a good thing, both for the music industry and for DJs. Must of us either own or have access to a computer, and this tool is the most priceless thing we DJs can have to find our music. We can find out anything about our favourite record labels and producers. We have access to release dates and artist news, and the best thing is that it is bang up-to-date (if people have been updating their websites properly!). Not only can we explore and find information about the music we love, we can also listen to tracks, and now buy them on-line. The best thing is that this happens instantly. I myself now buy all my music online as a download. My hectic tour schedule limits the time I can take off to go record shopping, and even then it can be frustrating to find out that the tunes I want are out of stock. But now I can hook up my laptop and connect to the internet from anywhere in the world, buy my tracks online and play them out that very evening. I even get my promos sent to me via my server. No more wading through envelopes when I get home, I simply browse through my inbox! As more and more of us are buying our music in this format, we start to find ourselves with hard drives full of music. So it makes sense to be able to play our sets playing direct from our hard drives, rather than getting costly dub plates pressed or burning hundreds of CD-Rs. This is easily possible because of the many DJ software programs that are now available (I'll go through these next month). I can turn up to a gig and play a whole set from my laptop, and have access to my whole music collection on my hard drive. This makes sense, as I don't have to lug around stupidly heavy record boxes. Yes, the critics make noise,
saying performing from a laptop just isn't the same and that it will never be accepted. Just remember, the same critics said the very same about CDs, and look how they've become the norm: most A-list DJs now play at least half (if not all) of their set off CD. Every club in the world that I've performed at has professional CD decks, and any DJ turning up at a gig with two big record crates is starting to look a tad old schoolâ€Ś Now think to the future, when our mobile phones will hold 5GB memory sticks and will have access to 'wifi hot spots'. We will be able to download music onto our phones at lightning speed. Our cars will have satellite radios with 100s of dance channels, where we will be able to hit our red interactive buttons and buy the current tune playing, and this will then be sent to the hard drive in the boot of the car. The slightly scary thing is that this technology is just around the corner! This is why it's so important to be up-to-date with this technology. Don't forget that the new breed of young DJs are being bought up computer literate, and they're used to working with MP3s, WAVs and waveforms. Using these new formats, they can make their own edits of tracks and perform amazing groundbreaking tricks. They are our future - and you don't want to get left behind!
Part Nine: Software overview and tips There are currently two ways that you can do this. Firstly, you can use a programme such as Final Scratch or Serato, where you use software working in combination with hardware, giving you a 'hands on' approach (and you still get to use the trusty old turntables!). The second way is to use a program that is solely computer-based, such as Ableton Live or Reactor. It's purely down to personal preference which one to use. Most companies will allow you to download a demo version of their software, and I thoroughly recommend that you do this: that way you can really try them out to see which one suits you best. Most of these mixing programs have their own structure/menus, which you must learn to get your head around before you even attempt a mix. It's a bit like choosing a mobile phone: some people find it easier to use Nokia menus and some people prefer Motorola. There's no correct choice, it all comes down to what works for you. There is a certain amount of logical thinking involved when it comes to mixing digital music files. Remember, just because your prime cuts are stored in a computer doesn't make them easy to find, so make sure you label files correctly and store them logically. The more organised you keep your music files the easier it will be to find them when you are playing your set live. Think about it: you could have up to 8,000 songs on your hard drive, so imagine trying to find one particular track quickly if your labelling is a mess! Let's look at the Final Scratch/Serato (or similar) set-up first. Here we use two dummy records or CDs that relay a time-code back to the computer. This time-code lets the computer know exactly where the stylus is positioned and relays this to the music file inside the computer. This is an ideal system if you want to make the transition to digital but you don't want to take a complete leap into cyberspace, because it enables you to still physically manipulate the tunes in a way you are already familiar with. At the bottom of the screen you have the view of your hard drive. You also have virtual record boxes where you can add your songs for your set and name them: Trance, Drum & Bass, etc. You simply 'drag and drop' the song you want to play into player A or B (left and right turntables). You will then see the waveform of each track in the player's window on your computer screen. Once the stylus/CD hits the first time code it will start playing from the beginning of the song. The faster you play the time-code (by adjusting the pitch on the turntable) the faster the music file plays. You stop it, it stops too. Think of it as a mirror image: whatever you do to that vinyl/CD time-code it relays back to the music file. It is just like playing vinyl or CD. I promise you won't even notice the difference. It's that easy!
Software Production If you simply want to be able to mix tracks inside the computer, on the other hand, there are now quite a few programs available, the difference being that you have to control everything using your mouse and computer keyboard. The most basic ones perform pretty much like DJ CD players. You simply add the music file, search, cue and mix as you would on any CD machine. Not difficult at all. However if you want more, Ableton or Reactor are a little more complex. These programs, aimed at the advanced or professional user, bring the world of the producer and DJ closer together, something that has been happening for a while now - most DJs working today produce too, and vice versa. When producing a track in the studio we're used to the luxury of having access to the hundreds of plug-in FX that are available to us. With Ableton, you can use these very same plug-ins in your DJ set. Ableton is really a sequencing program that can also be used to perform DJ mixes. You're physically mixing two waveforms together and you must treat it like that. Rather than using a traditional pitch control to adjust the speed of the track, Ableton uses a clever 'warp' time stretch function that you set to the correct BPM. The sequencer then cleverly 'quantizes' the track to start at the correct moment when you hit the play button. Sounds like it's cheating but you still have to physically find the correct mixing point, make the mix smooth and programme the set! Taking away the worry of keeping the track in time allows you to concentrate on using the plug-ins to enhance your sound. You also have multi channels on the mixer so you have endless options of adding more tracks, acapellas, dub, loops and more to play throughout the track. It's like performing one long remix! This truly is a program for the 21st century DJ and it redefines the concept of DJing which is no doubt why Sasha used it to mix his 'Involver' album'. Things can get a little fiddly using the mouse and computer keyboard, though, so I highly recommend using a USB MIDI controller (I'll chat more about this next month). And speaking of kit, all of the systems I've talked about also need an external soundcard. This is because most computers only have one set of stereo outputs.
Part Ten: Hardware overview and tips The first and most important thing you need is a decent computer. The last thing you want is your computer cutting out or crashing in the middle of your set! Don't even think about cutting corners when buying your computer: it's worth spending a bit extra and getting a powerful, stable machine. If you're looking to perform your gigs using software it makes sense to get yourself a laptop, as this the most portable option carrying a desktop computer, monitor and keyboard to your gigs is definitely not a viable choice. Once up and running, you need to set up your computer so that it is streamlined to run your music program and nothing else. You need to turn off anything that could interfere with your software: simple things like screensavers, automatic software updates or emails could suddenly spring into action in the middle of your set and crash your computer - it happened to me! So set up a 'user profile' where the computer is streamlined to run the music program only (get help if need be). Then all the processing power of the computer will be focused on running the music program and all other stuff will be turned off. I restart my computer in 'Music' mode for a gig and then switch back into 'Office' mode when I get back home. Once you get into your newfound love of digital mixing, you'll soon find that your hard drive starts to get very full. Most laptops have an average of 80GB of space: that sounds a lot but if you're using big .WAV files you'll soon eat it up. And it's not a good idea to fill your hard drive with music files in any case, as your computer needs a certain amount of space for its general running. Get yourself an external hard drive. Again, don't cut corners and buy a cheap and cheerful one as this is the source that your computer will be reading your music from. Make sure that the connection speed is fast (Mac users opt for Firewire) - we don't want any latency. You can pick up external hard drives for a very good price: I run a 160GB drive that has more than enough space. If you're not very good with computers, the next two things can be the most complicated to set up. But over the years hardware/software companies have addressed this fact and developed the 'plug and play' USB system which should take away the pain. The first 'plug and play' device is a soundcard. This is a device that turns a digital signal into audio that us humans can hear. Some software programs like Final Scratch and Serato Scratch come complete with an external soundcard as part of the package, others like Ableton Live and Tractor don't. Your computer will have its own built-in soundcard, but the problem here is that it only probably has one 'stereo out' socket that plays the master output. We need two (or
more!) so that we can monitor the second track that we are cueing in our headphones. So we need to buy an external soundcard with multiple outputs. Because home production has become so popular, there are now plenty of soundcards that are available to us from various manufacturers. This means that they're competing with each other so prices have dropped dramatically over the past few years. If you're only going to be using your soundcard for your DJing software then buy a basic soundcard with the basic things you need: multiple outputs, and if you plan to record music or vocals/MCs back into your computer then get one with multiple inputs, too. It's pointless spending out on something that you won't use, though: top of the range cards offer digital sub groups (32-channel) for professional digital mixing desks, but you're never going to use that, so why pay for it? The second 'plug and play' device is a USB/MIDI controller. When in the mix, it's just not possible to control everything at the same time with your mouse, especially in programs like Ableton Live or Traktor. So you get a little portable unit with faders, buttons and knobs (like a mini mixing desk), with each control assignable to any function on the software. You can set this up the same as any classic DJ mixer, with two faders and EQ. But the beauty is that it can do more and you can make it control anything you want: FX units, filters, BPMâ€Ś anything! There are plenty of USB/MIDI controllers available out there. It's down to you which one personally suits you or the software program that you are using. Take your time and choose carefully. And that's it! we've covered all aspects of DJ technique and equipment. Hopefully you've enjoyed it as much as I have. Now choose whatever format suits you personally and remember the most important thing the love of your music. Happy mixing! Master Mix