General music-related topics, overly personal opinions, and potentially useful life advice from 3 hairy idiots.
You can’t DJ properly if you can’t hear what you’re doing or gauge what the audience is hearing. This is why a top-class pair of headphones is essential in any DJ setup. There are hundreds of great headphones on the market, but what you need to factor in when buying is whether they will be in-ear or over-ear, the cup size, orientation, comfort, and durability, among other things.
If you haven’t got some already and need to add speakers to your shopping list, you’ll want to avoid cheap brands and opt for some which are powerful but suitable for your DJing environment. You wouldn’t go out and buy a huge PA system if you live in a cupboard under the stairs, and you wouldn’t invest in some tiny desk speakers if you are mixing in a large room with thick walls and high ceilings. A set of speakers that fit somewhere in the middle is best.
If you’re looking to play solely digital, you’re going to want to invest in some good software. Some DJs who play from USB still do not use software, but the truth is, it can seriously help you stay organized. Software not only allows you to prepare your tracks into neat and tidy playlists, but it also detects the BPM and key of all your tunes, lets you set hot cues, make loops, mashups, and other really cool stuff that wouldn’t be possible if you simply stuck all your tunes on a USB stick or burned them to CD. If you’re just starting out as a DJ, there’s no question that using a high-quality software program will make mixing easier and your sets sound better.
DJ controllers are highly convenient because they are an all-in-one setup that you can carry around with you, then plug in and play right off the bat. They also eliminate the need to spend thousands on individual pieces of gear. There are many different types of DJ controllers that are ideal for beginners, each with different functions, personalities, and more. Some are fantastic for multi-deck mixing, changing the volume, tempo, track settings, looping, panning, playing drum pads, and even scratching.
For any analog DJ setup, a mixer is an essential bit of kit. Besides being used to make seamless transitions from one song to another, they also have a wide range of other functions. The crossfader can be used to make epic scratch performances, while the vertical sliders control the volume levels, panning, and can be used in conjunction with effects. They also act as a soundcard to process the music signal you’re sending out to your audience, and let you cue up your next track in your headphones while the current song is playing.
As mentioned, mixing on turntables is the classic way of DJing, and even some digital DJs still have a vinyl player or two in their repertoire. Turntables are ideal for those who want to get into scratching. They also allow you to switch between songs and albums, slow down tempos, alter the pitch, and do other creative tricks. While laptops and digital DJ setups are the most popular in this day in age, we still recommend learning how to mix on vinyl, even if you don’t plan to buy turntables or use them in your setup. The saying is true – if you can play on wax, you can play on anything.