The 7 Dirty Secrets Of Digital DJing

7 dirty secrets of digital DJing

Like it or not, digital DJing has put some awesome tools into the hands of today's generation of DJs. No surprise the old school get up in arms about some of them.

Digital DJing has put the once expensive, elitist art of DJing right into the grubby hands of the masses. Now anyone with a laptop and a free copy of Virtual DJ Home can spin in their bedrooms, at parties, and even at "proper" gigs. But while the new tools of digital DJing give true music fans the chance to spin great DJ sets when otherwise they probably wouldn't even have tried, the same tools in the wrong hands can wreak havok in the DJ box.

Digital DJ Tips is all about helping you to DJ properly with portable digital DJ gear, so you can avoid making the mistakes beginner digital DJs (whether they've been vinyl or CD DJs before or not) often make with digital gear.

So here's our round-up of seven great features of digital DJing software that can be used for good... or for evil!

1. Sync

Ah, the ubiquitous "sync" button. Hit it, and your two tunes not only snap to the same BPM, but even line up beats-wise, allowing you to whip the crossfader across with everything sounding tight. Some say it's taken the skill out of DJing, others say if a computer can do it instantly, was it ever really such a great skill at all?

Whatever, the sync buttons is the number one dirty secret of digital DJs, and practically everyone at least BPM matches with it, if not using it for full sync.

  • Why do it manually when a button can do exactly the same thing for you instantly? Frees up time to do more interesting things with your music
  • If your software guesses the BPM wrong, your mix is still going to sound awful, and what's worse, if you've never learned how to beatmatch by ear, you won't be able to do anything about it

2. Looping

Looping and effects

Looping is built into all DJ software and pretty much all DJ controllers too.

This one actually came in with CDJs, but with digital it became ridiculously easy. You just hit "auto loop" or similar and the software gives you a beat-perfect looped section of your track, at any one of the obvious lengths (a bar, eight bars, a beat etc.).

From creatively building up elements across multiple decks or even sample decks to create something genuinely new, to looping some beats at the end of a track while you search for/mix in a new song, this one is used by nearly everyone. Dance music is based on loops anyway, and this is an immensely powerful feature for any DJ with any ounce of musical understanding to use to enhance his or her sets

  • Not everyone has an ounce of musical understanding! This can lead to badly executed loop rolls, and to highly tedious sets as rookies loop the end of every track as they try and elbow in the next tune

3. Waveforms

Those visual representations of your music, sometimes coloured to show frequencies, always showing volume, and sometimes overlaid or parallel so you can see your tracks playing together. Their presence in virtally all DJ software shows how useful they are.

  • Instant feedback on your tracks: What's coming up, where the beats are, even what they sound like. Allows you to quickly correct drifting beatmixes, even without headphones. Easy way to see elapsed/time left
  • A prop for DJs who can't mix by ear, encouraging "waveriding" at the expense of properly listening. Can lead to screen gazing, so the DJ looks less like someone conducting a party and more like someone checking their email

4. Instant downloads

NetSearch

Virtual DJ has a system built in where, with a subscription, you can access music online while you're DJing..

DJs don't even need to turn up with all the music they end up playing any more.

Someone requests a tune you haven't got? Just go and buy it online and drag it onto one of your decks, and you're ready to go. Some DJ software even has online music sources built in to it.

  • Can get you out of a hole if you've forgotten something essential or a VIP requests a tune you haven't got
  • Can involve using another program as well as your DJ software, increasing the chance of a crash; you don't have a chance to properly learn the tune before using it in your set; you may inadvertently play a low quality version or the wrong version of a tune; "A DJ is not a jukebox"

5. Instant search

Even as you type, modern DJ software organises your collection under your fingertips. It's one of the main reason you see digital DJs tapping away at their keyboard (except checking their emails, of course ;) ) and one of digital DJing's trump cards over flicking through record boxes or CD wallets.

  • Lets you get to music in a second and get back to rocking your crowd rather than crouching over a record box with a torch, or nosing into a badly organised CD wallet
  • Encourages DJs to not sort out their sets, leading to screen staring and paralysis as they frantically search through a ridiculously bloated tune collection looking for the "perfect" next song. Can lead to overuse of #2, looping.

6. Autoplay

Drag a load of tunes to a playlist, hit "autoplay", and hey presto! Your software DJs for you. Remove the need to even be there or do anything, and let the computer do all the hard work. Most serious DJs would never, ever do this, yet many mobile DJs rely on it under certain circumstances.

  • Can genuinely help when the venue is empty, or you're a wedding DJ asked to eat with the party while playing "something in the background", or you want to listen to your set at home while doing something else
  • Erm, it's not DJing! Plus software always does atrocious mixes. If you think they sound great, you need to listen to lots of examples of good DJ mixing, and right away

 

7. Keylock

VCI-300 keylock

Once you understand musical keys, you can use keylocks to make great harmonic mixes. Pic: skratchworx.com

Tap the keylock button and your tunes keep the same musical key as you alter their pitch. Suddenly you can play tunes really slow or fast without them going all baritone/chipmunk on you, and with your tracks' key information (from a program like Mixed in Key) you can do perfect harmonic mixes. Some digital DJs ignore keylock completely, others never turn it off.

  • Permits bigger tempo changes than analogue, leading to more adventurous sets - not to mention allowing easy key mixing without doing tedious mental arithmetic as used to be the case with vinyl or CDs
  • DJs who don't listen to the results can inadvertently degrade the audio quality unacceptably as the algorithms work harder to keylock complex material far from its original pitch; anally keylocking every mix in your set above all else can lead to bad set programming

So there you have it. In the right hands, these tools can make DJing more fun and a lot easier, and make the end results sound better. But misuse them and you can really mess up. It's basically a case of knowing what they're doing for you before you rely on them - and remembering that tools don't make the DJ.

What's your "dirty secret" of digital DJing? Do you do regularly use some or all of the above? Are you a digital DJ who has pledged never to use some or indeed any of these features? Let us know your thoughts and experiences in the comments.

Comments

  1. The Record function in Traktor 3. Not only would it record the audio, it also recorded every action you did in the software.

    This way, if something would’ve gone wrong in a specific part of your mix, you could just pause, rollback, and do it again. This allowed for “perfect” DJ sets. This feature was dropped in Traktor Pro.

    It was useful when you had to record a set, only had a laptop and couldn’t even use headphones to preview a track.

    Now, with cheap audio interfaces and dj controllers, I can’t help to feel that feature was and is cheating your own performance.

  2. Beautiful article Phil. You said it best.

    All this new stuff are only tools, you still need to know what you’re doing with them to make it effective.

  3. Great article. I can proudly say I’ve never hit a Sync or Keylock button. But those waveforms — they are very tempting to watch. Must…….look……..away……

    • I’ll admit I use sync now when I make mixes to post…as well as other editing tricks to make my mixes sound solid. Bigger names have been doing it since before digital.

      Does it mean I can’t play live? No.

      What it means is that I simply would rather be happy with results than any notions of “keeping it real”.

      I don’t knock you or others who don’t use any of that, but I also think there is nothing wrong with using sync if the end result is a creative/solid set. The tools in the hands of amateurs will still sound amateurish in the end.

      • Maynaic says:

        This is a great point D-JAM. I learnt to beat mix on Technics 1200’s. I got rid of my Vinyl a while ago and didnt mix for a few years, then i got an “all in one” unit a couple years back and had to beat mix everything (not even a TAP function) and recently i got a Denon MC-6000 with Traktor Pro and always use the Sync. It allows me to use the midi’s other functions a lot more and chop tracks up with specially prepared loops and FX. Yes I can beatmix but do i want to use Sync to concentrate the other funky functions my midi allows me through Traktor. Hell yeah! Do i care what anyone thinks about it. Not. In. The. Slightest.

    • I rarely use anything but sync. I decided this a while ago by comparing the beatmatching experienced DJs could achieve manually with the beatmatching a good beatgrid can achieve, and decided that sync gets better results.

      The trick is to understand that sync isn’t automagic, and that you need to beatgrid your tracks properly before it’s at all useful. I would never use sync on a track I hadn’t previously beatgridded, as I can better results myself by ear.

      I also leave keylock on all the time, as I feel that the slight quality loss is less bad than having a track playing at the wrong pitch.

      • Phil Morse says:

        Problem with blindly syncing is that just because you’ve beatgridded and lined up your kicks, doesn’t mean the hi-hats will sound great together (for instance) – to get a good groove, you may want to kill the bass on one track and nudge another out of sync to come up with some interesting syncopation. That’s why I like auto BPM but personally am not so keen on auto-sync – I can’t be bothered manually matching BPMs but I like control over phase.

        • Yup. I use softsync to achieve this, as I play breaks and the snare is often shuffled forward or back from the kick.

          Depending on whether I want to match the kicks or snares, phase adjustments are crucical.

      • I do the same thing. If I don’t use sync, I end up tapping the tempo fader lightly to get the BPM readouts just right. Instead, I just use sync to get things lined up, then play with the phase by ear. I can mix that much faster, so I can get into the good bits of mixing and effects faster, which I think is a much better use of my time.

        I have tried beatmatching purely by ear (laptop screen locked to avoid temptation) but it takes me too long to be practical.

  4. Electroartist says:

    Interesting subject as ever. I remember years ago when Mac computers came in. We designers got pissed off because it gave everyone with no skill or knowledge a chance to have a go, in the end, the market was full of shite. But the best people just stood out and quality has prevailed and good work distances itself. Same can be said now fir DJ culture, I’m learning at 40, but what I do know is, anything goes, as long as you can make people feel great, end of story. The shite will sink to the bottom.

    • Phil Morse says:

      “The shite will sink to the bottom.” This is why I am mystified why so many people feel threatened by digital DJs and digital DJing. Concentrate on your own game, don’t worry what everyone else is doing! Works for most things in life.

      • Electroartist says:

        Hi Phil.
        I think the comments I made weren’t expressed too well especially written on my phone on a train. What I meant from my provocative use of vocabulary is:

        I wrote this from my point of view as a creative person learning a new skill I liken to any art form (i’m an art director by the way). I’ve read many articles where DJs from a solely vinyl period get frustrated by the fear that new technologies are dismissive of the skills needed to DJ with decks.

        I also believe that some of these particular DJs are afraid of the ‘new’, I see it all the time in the world of design. What I know for a fact is, new technology means that DJs have to adapt with the times, (parallels I drew when Macs came in and top designers got worried that this period announced the death of typography, DTP was how it was coined, craft was never the point, sell to as many people as possible was the manufacturer message) which is why people got pissed off, It felt like their knowledge was being tossed away. In fact what happened was that the more talented and educated designers got better. The less so drifted away.

        The worry was that quality was being undermined by fly-by-nights ‘playing with the medium’. Cluttering the landscape. You might say that there was a fear of losing one’s livelihood to a medium they hadn’t yet embraced.
        Djing is very similar. Im not musically trained at all but I believe if you can practice enough and input passion then your own quality will rise. So I agree with your view about keeping an eye on your own game because quality shines through.

        The message is don’t look to hard at the past, move forward, It;s something I’ve done as a mandatory throughout my career, you can’t afford to be left behind. Find your own methods of distinction:)

        All the best.

        • Phil Morse says:

          You misunderstand me I think, I’m agreeing with you – it is the same with digital photography – hell, it’s the same with journalism vs blogging. :)

        • Electroartist says:

          Yes, totally.
          Loving the discussion on age by the way, judging by the response, it’s touched a nerve. It’s brilliant to hear of DJs finding new passion with technology!

  5. Maximus Moretta says:

    The only thing that matters is that you keep the Dance floor packed! Do you think the party goer/ dancer cares about what the DJ uses or how ? the only thing they care about is that it sound great! and that you provide a great performance/ show!

    • This is a website of DJs, though, so it does matter.

      Some people, believe it or not, actually play for their contemporaries, other musicians and DJs..

      Besides. It is easy to keep a dance floor packed. Just play bangers all night. Like many DJs now do.

      • Phil Morse says:

        “Besides. It is easy to keep a dance floor packed. Just play bangers all night. Like many DJs now do.”

        That I respectfully disagree with and to me, it demeans the job of the DJ.

        Not all crowds will respond to that – My friends and I certainly wouldn’t. The art of DJing is to play what YOU like, but in a way that it also makes everyone else like it too! And to have a taste that at least partly overlaps with that of the audiences you choose to play to. That is a lifelong art to learn, and has absolutely nothing to do with what you use to play it on.

      • Maximus Moretta says:

        I also repectly disagree with you too Kerry, Do you think I really care what da contemporaries, other musicians and DJs think. if you do, then that’s you! then that mean you’re gonna play it safe, because “what are my friends and da contemporaries, other musicians and DJs gonnna think”…

        The crowed I DJ for does not repond to Club bangers all Night either! I’m a Latin DJ where your mixes have to be flawless, where they go wild for a classic Hector Lavoe and see them clear the floor with any new bangers comes on and you’d never seen an angrier crowed of people then professional latin Dancer, when your mixes aren’t on point

        So I’ll say it again the only thing that matters is that you keep the Dance floor packed! the party goer/ dancer don’t care about what the DJ uses or how ? the only thing they care about is that it sound great! and that you provide a great performance/ show!

        I bet your one those band wangon DJs that use SSL with a Rane 57 and two 1210s.
        You keep doing what the status quo is doing and be as unique as everybody else…ROTF…LMFAO! and I’ll keep doing me!

      • I completely understand Maximus on his response. I’m a musician and I am also a producer at a major radio station company. It would be safe to say that there is music for musicians and there is music for the masses.

        Once there was a time where I couldn’t stand listening to reggaeton but after a while I grew an appreciation for it.

        Most music is great but when you want to continue to do what you love, you’ll have to adapt and figure a way to do the “hard” stuff as easy as possible.

        Lord knows that radio’s play the same programming over and over and over and I cringe at the fact that even after hearing “LMFAO – Party Rock Anthem” at least 12 times in one day, the crowd still goes bananas on the dance floor.

        Whatta you gonna do?

  6. One small thing: you aren’t changing the pitch but the tempo with keylock. The whole point is the pitch stays the same!

  7. Being a digital DJ coming from a producer/engineer background and using Pro Tools, if there were no waveforms I wouldn’t be a DJ. That is what connected me. Although I feel I use my ears in conjunction the waveforms are part of my process.

    Since they are all just tools, skills are still a prerequisite for true mastery of anything technology has to offer.

    • Honestly, for me the only thing that the waveforms helped me on was timing a mix… After listening to thousands of songs I generally know what to expect as fas as timing goes, but being able to glance at the screen so I know I have 64 beats or 32 beats or whatever left until the end of a build or something like that actually helps from time to time…

      As far as the dreaded sync button goes, I hate to say I’ve become too used to it… Granted I never beatgrid any song to perfection but I almost always immediately sync the next song, only because it gives me more time to throw in that extra effect I wanted to use, or a little more lead time to prepare for the hot cue jump that I tend to use more and more these days…

      I can honestly say I’ve used key lock maybe twice in my life and the auto mix function always felt completely pointless to me…

      Instant downloads??? You must be crazy… There is no way I’m going to let something like that risk crashing my system… Plus who has WiFi during a gig???

      • Yeah.

        Coming from a vinyl background, You get to know music structure and phrasing quite well.

        • Coming from a vinyl background as well, I have to say that I would always look at the grooves to determine where in a song I was, especially with some of the more repetitive trance stuff I have. Waveforms just made it that much easier to do the same thing.

          • Phil Morse says:

            Me too, I could work out so much from crouching down and checking those grooves!

      • Phil Morse says:

        There’s a difference between full sync and BPM matching too – personally I’m happy to match the BPMs with a button then keep things in sync manually, because I like to be able to fine tune things.

      • I totally agree with you on that one Phil. I usually use the Sync button to keep both tracks on the same bpm. Then I rely more on myself than the computer for the beatmatching

  8. Kesterboy says:

    I started DJing back when CDJs were the norm, and I must say having jumped on the digital DJing bandwagon, has helped and at the same time showed a lot of limitation.

    In my opinion, while all the above do make it more interesting for someone to get hooked onto DJing, they’ll never learn the real skills it takes to get them far. I for one have become quite reliant on the sync function, but some tracks are too pesky to get it to beatmatch right!

    Oh, and on no.6, the autoplay thing? Most rubbish thing I’ve ever heard of for a DJ program. Never used it before for fear of clashes. Rather swap in a mixed CD than lining up a playlist.

    • Traktor has the cruise feature. It takes some setting up as you need lead-in and lead-out markers on your tracks. I have to admit I’ve never used it though. Much rather just quickly fade in the tracks myself. :)

    • Phil Morse says:

      You’re right, but is the “new” beatmatching actually learning to beatgrid correctly beforehand (Traktor hasn’t got elastic beatgrids yet, but Serato and Ableton have)? Is that the skill that is going to replace manual beatmatching? Quite possibly.

  9. Chris Argueta says:

    SYNC: completely useless to me. If I can’t beat-match the tracks perfectly by ear, the program sure as hell can’t. You can’t “sync” Disco, Funk, Soul, Surf Rock, etc. The kicks and snares are from live drummers, not a drum machine. Sync works for about 10 seconds on Virtual DJ when trying to sync the genres I mentioned. Sync only makes sense for EDM. And I haven’t done a regular club in over 5 years.

    Looping: God-sent for me. Some House tracks have extremely long intros. In the vinyl days, you had to time it just right or you’d bore people to death. Some New Wave tracks barely give you 16 beats before the vocals begin. Looping allows you to finish a mix and loop out right into the tasty part of the track.

    Waveforms: Useful if you are in a situation where there are no monitors. Most of the time they can be useful, but there are always exceptions. DJs spin music, so let’s use our ears. I don’t rely on them too heavy and neither should you. I use Virtual DJ, only two colors. What are all those crazy colors for in Serato, anyway?

    Instant Downloads: Never done it. But have always wanted to have the ability to do so. I carry two laptops. Maybe I’ll try it sometime.

    Autoplay: Virtual DJ calls it Automix. I’ve never used it. I make my own skins and I don’t incorporate Automix. During the dinner at weddings, I use an MP3 player that has a pre-programmed dinner set. Why would you use “Autoplay” at club or bar?

    Keylock: I love it and use it constantly. I never turn it off. I tend to play music at events and bars for older crowds (late 20’s to mid 40’s). The music they listen to got radio airplay. They remember music in the key they heard it on the radio. They’re use to it sounding a certain way.

    I have my pitch faders set to -/+6%. Most of my tracks are 320kbps. So, I don’t have to worry too much about degrading the audio with Keylock overuse. Also, what’s the point of harmonic mixing if you aren’t going to lock the key of the tracks?

    • In regards to the keylock, I fully agree, even I am used to the way a song sounds and generally I use this memory to decide what song fits best with the last. Also with the jog wheels on the Hercules RMX being rather sensitive, it’s nice to not have that lovely little annoying pitch change mid song.

      P.S. synch is the work of the devil :P

    • Phil Morse says:

      Thanks for your detailed reply! Broadly agree with you – auto BPM can be useful but you’re right, sync is not much use for non-EDM.

      Harmonic mixing is still useful because +/-6% increases or decreases the pitch by 1 semitone. So even when we used to use vinyl, as long as we knew the key of a tune, we could sometimes pull off harmonic mixes by doing a quick calculation. the minus is that keylock without doubt degrades the sound quality.

  10. “…In the right hands, these tools can make DJing more fun and a lot easier, and make the end results sound better. But misuse them and you can really mess up. It’s basically a case of knowing what they’re doing for you before you rely on them – and remembering that tools don’t make the DJ.”

    That’s what I’ve been saying all along.
    Bottom line, if you suck as a DJ all the digitals in the world won’t make you better.

  11. thisisian says:

    If you’ve learnt your DJing skills on vinyl, then you’ve probably already been used to using one of the advantages of waveforms.

    When I played on turntables, I would literally “read” the records surface. You can see by the change in colour & texture of the grooves, where the intro ends, where the break is, & where the mix out is.

    Ok, you’ve got a lot more detail on the waveform view in software, but it’s essentially the same thing!

  12. Wesley says:

    This is great. Thanks alot. I am a upcoming DJ and I am releasing my debut mixtape this summer.

  13. One of my dirty secrets – flange!
    If I know one of my mixes is not pretty, I hit flange on my DJM500 – range the EQs back and forth and then come out of it into the new track.
    I’ve only done it a handful of times and I’m pretty sure no-one noticed what I was fixing (isn’t that the skill!).
    However, one DJ I know locally uses flange between 50-60% of his mixes – problem is, you start listening for it and then you know how bad his mixing is. Ho hum :(

    • Phil Morse says:

      Thanks for admitting it! That’s what we want – a bit of dirty honesty. Might try that when I’m trainwrecking next time… ;)

  14. Djbrian says:

    O can honestly say that moving the pitch slider on the numark ns7 till the light in the middle of the controller turns white actually made me a better Dj. From using it from the start and not ever using sync I developed listening now have used friends cdjs and other gear, I actually beatmatch by ear. It’s extremely rewarding to Dj like this… Although sync saves so much time, I’ll continue to beatmatch by ear

  15. panÓptiko says:

    Very nice post! As the rookie I am, the negative comment about looping was quite disheartening. So that is what the crowd is thinking! Fortunately the reply by Chris Argueta give me some hope. Those less-than-four-minute tracks of Latin rhythms made without mixing in mind would be a no-no for the dance floor, no matter how everybody likes them. It would be nice to explore in the future that thin line dividing good and bad use of loops.

    Best,

  16. This has been an interesting read, and I’m happy it’s been civil even if people have different opinions and setups and ways of working.

    I use Traktor and I use sync these days. I love the visual aspect of it, I use the different colour markers as visual cues, seeing where everything is in a glance is so nice. Having played out with various live and DJ setups for 12 years I feel like I don’t have to prove my beatmatching skills to myself or anyone else. I never really spun vinyl professionally and early on when I came to the clubs with my own Pioneer DJM600 and CMX5000 setup I was sometimes openly dissed, sometimes trash-talked behind my back by the old school vinyl jocks, even some big names a couple of times. I didn’t care much though, as I’ve always thought it’s the music that matters, not the media it’s played off of. Anyway, I love technology and my MBP + Traktor + Otus (controller) combo is something I dearly love, it’s both convenient and flexible, allows me to rock in a hotel room or 10k people arena. I prefer a real mixer (DJM800/900) vs. mixing in Traktor, but having that option has proved invaluable on the road many times.

    Regarding to harmonic mixing: I plan my sets around it, but never too religiously so that the flow doesn’t suffer. Sudden changes and surprises done right spice up the set nicely. I almost never play two tracks together that are more than 2 BPM apart, because that difference in pitch is still small enough to pass as in-key mix, and I personally really dislike the key-lock sound, the transient smearing just sucks. However, I absolutely understand someone using it all yhe time from the convenience point of view. I use it in extreme situations at times, and on purpose change a track from Am to A#m for eg. over 16 bars in a build-up to create more urgency and to be able to slam in the next track’s bassline which is in that key at the take off.

    Like many already said, I think that if you’re a good DJ you have nothing to worry about. The tools are getting better and anyone who has real skills can rock the dancefloors and the others can try, maybe learn some stuff on the way and become great. A software beatmatching for you does not make you a DJ, though.

    Ville / Darude

  17. I still use my 1200’s over the Pioneer cd players because I’m just a turntable kind of guy. Don’t get me wrong.. the Pioneer decks are fantastic!!!! . i just like the real feel of things . lol. Auto sync should be used if your having a hard time mixing. but it can make your life a lot easier. I try so hard not to look at my waveforms but man do they look sexy. Not every dj is perfect in mixing. Take a peak here and there but don’t make it constant.

  18. I still beat match manually as I love to hear the intro coming in and how it will mesh with the other song. I find that I managed the transition that way

    I can also do 1 beat drops during the matching process as well just to mix things up.

    I have nothing against Sync but its just I like to practice my beatmatching just in case if its ever needed as well.

    But I will not be shy to push on Sync if needed during a gig to free myself to do other creative stuff.

    As for waveforms, I will rather turn off the whole darn thing cos its seems that I cannot really feel the music as I stare at the waveforms.. This is just me..

    Peace :)

  19. I use Traktor but I still use my ear to beatmatch as well as the sync feature. I find that you have to rely on what’s going on in the moment. I’ve just recently used cue points and realize that it can help you to focus in on other creative uses, freeing me up for more improvisation. I never ever beatgrid/plan out a whole set, because I dont believe that’s DJing….DJing relies on the present moment and if you plan out a whole set with everything planned, then you run the danger of obsessively following that plan, ignoring what the crowd wants and playing a boring self involved set, or making a mistake(because something goes awry with you plan) and you get thrown off.

    People don’t realize that you still have to use your ear; just because two tracks are at 140 or at 125 doesn’t mean its the same feel, key or rhythmic compatibility.

    There is a lot of pressure from other DJ’s who refuse to believe that you can make people dance with just a laptop. Since it takes a lot of work to use vinyl and CDj’s they make you feel that you have to do somersaults behind your laptop to feel that you are really DJing and not playing a planned out set. I am assuming that 10 -15 years from now when people are doing holographic sets, dj’s will start seeing the validity of using laptops (not mac’s, but windows XP because its HARDER)!!

    I use the Beatcrusher function in Traktor for looping, breakdowns, etc.

  20. I started my DJing life with a friend when, with a friend, we downloaded a software (Virtual DJ) just to play for a while, and hence, I always DJed digitally. I confess at first, now knowing even what a turntable was, I just pressed Sync and used overused flangers horribly feeling like a real pro DJ with mixes that at the time, I thought were extremly cool. I even had a small gig with this precarious knowledge and it did turn somehow right (it was a party with my school buddies, all only 14 years old and as there was music playing nobody really cared lol) Sometimes I remember this and think, everyone can be a digital DJ without training.
    However, years of practice proved me wrong, I’m still young (18) and with a lot to learn (and I thank you Phil for these really useful articles)
    ‘Dirty’ Digital DJing Tricks may be cool for begginers but at the end of the story, they won’t get anyone too far.

  21. I have to be honest. I’m a pretty geek guy and I started djing purely on digital. I love what technology has to offer. Carrying lots of vynils or CDs is just too cumbersome to me.

    I heavily rely on sync, as I like to do the homework and correctly beatgrid my tracks. But rarely throw a new track in sync without listening in my headphones first. Maybe I rely too much on sync, yes… but I play trance music and if I have beatgridded everything, there’s a 99% chance that the sync will sound just great.
    I don’t find manual beatmatching fun honestly. It just spending time lining up beats when you could be doing something else, something that can actually be heard by the crowd. No one cares if you’re beatmatching by ear but if you’re using that time to add effects, beat juggle, looping or whatever, you’re adding a personal touch to the mix and that to me it’s great.
    Anyway my respect for the vynil djs out there cause beatmatching there is really hard. I can’t do it. On CDJs where you know the BPMs is a lot easier, you just need to match the phase, that’s not a big deal. But matching the tempo, without knowing the bpm of the song… god that’s hard.

    Keylock is great. I never noticed any degradation in the sound. Just play 320kbps mp3s and avoid going higher/lower than 6% on the tempo and it’s fine. And by the way, playing the song in the original key is much more important than avoiding the un-noticeable quality degrade. People can notice something “weird” about the song being played in another key, particularly in trance that has lots of melodies that get stuck on people’s head forever.

    And last but not least, harmonic mixing. To me this is fantastic. Since I have started mixing in key everything just sounds great. Maybe it’s not important on other genres, but in trance you need to keep the trance (duh… =P) and this helps A LOT. I rarely mix something in an incompatible key.

    Thanks for all the great information here Phil, you’ve done a great job. Keep it coming.
    Greets from Argentina!

  22. I am both new to this site and dj-ing, and by reading a lot of these post although I see a lot of disagreements and sarcastic comments, I also see passion. There are several factors to keep in consideration though, like when a person began dj-ing. Should a new dj just starting out go back in time purchase records, a record player, and needles, just to fit in with jocks or preps? In other words, we live in a digital era and utilizing the tools of the present shouldn’t be disparaged against. Besides isn’t the point of dj-ing to get people on the dance floor, having fun mixing music, and that (everyone) ok most people like what you do?

  23. a small clip describing each would be of great help..just a suggestion though

  24. I LOVE MY KEY LOCK FOR ACAPELLAS!
    If you pitch up a acapella and turn on and of the keylock to a nice beat that goes well with the accapella ….you’ll get a cool little chipmunk to deep voice-ish effect (depping whut acappella YOU USE )adding a little bit of a build up to the song and you can add a filter to make it creative

  25. I have recently been playing around with the Traktor demo. I have found that there are some niggly problems when using many of the automatic functions. Niggly, in that, some things just don’t sound right. For instance, I noticed when automatically setting a loop that even with the snap to beat, and quantize functions enabled, sometimes the loops are not quite aligned with the beat properly and when the loops jumps back to the start, the first beat of the loop might play slightly too early or slightly too late. I find that I sometimes move the waveform and set the loop in/out manually. It might mean that millisecond difference to the loop sound great to it sounding off.

  26. lizzystancliffe@gmail.com says:

    Wow! Tons if great info! Im so brand new to djing that i dont have gear or a laptop yet, just a passion for music and performing. Ive been reading and watching ravenously so I can start out confidently and with somewhat of an understanding. Based on the articles, videos and forums, I really feel like Im in good hands. Thanks, everyone for being so willing to be active and vocal with your knowledge and opinions :D

  27. Wow, I’m learning so much just from reading all these posts! It’s all about the music..

  28. anyway for me it looks like i have plenty to learn, not like am new in the djing world i have been a dj for over 20 yrs, but in the digital world of djing am almost new it just a year ago i started using virtual dj with my many years of music experience, am loving it because am mixing many genrn of music, not even 50 percent good yet, but with all these tips,secrets and comments i think i will get there pretty soon. by the way can anybody tell me anything about numark mixdeck quad cause i need to know a thing or two about it

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