Your Questions: Best Way to Record A DJ Set?

We all know how important it is to record our DJ sets - but what's the best way of doing it? Pic from: Soundscape Studio

We all know how important it is to record our DJ sets – but what’s the best way of doing it? Pic from: Soundscape Studio

Reader Edgar Nieto writes: “I was searching on your website about recorders to see if you have any reviews but I didn’t see any. I guess my wider question is: How can I record my sets using my laptop, or what do recommend for a beginner to do this?”

Digital DJ Tips says:

This is a common question and there are lots of ways you can do this, depending on your circumstances. First thing to be said is: You must record your DJ sets. That’s a given. If you don’t record and listen back to your DJing, you’ll get better far more slowly. So now we’ve got that straight, what options are there?

Recording DJ sets

  1. Record direct from your DJ software – This is the simplest way. Most full-strength DJ software will allow you to do this. The software will record a WAV or MP3 direct to your hard drive as you’re playing. All you do is hit record. So why look any further? Because a lot of software supplied with today’s DJ controllers is “LE” software, or cut-down software with features disabled, designed to make you buy the full version – and this is typically one of the disabled features. Or you may have performance issue when doing this
  2. Record using free sound software – Depending on your computer, it is sometimes possible to use software (such as SoundFlower on the Mac) to re-route audio around your system. This all depends on your set-up and on whether you are using an external sound card or a controller with a built-in sound card, the latter meaning it’s harder or impossible to do this. But if you’re using an external card, you can sometimes set things up so that a third-party program, such as Audacity (free audio manipulation software) can record directly what you’re doing. It’s fiddly though
  3. Record the audio output from your DJ controller – If your DJ controller has two audio outputs (say, 1/4″ jacks and RCA, or booth and master), you can plug something into the spare one and record the output that way. That “something” could be an external recorder (which is what you asked about), or just a smartphone with a recording app, of which there are several for iOS and Android – search in your app store. You’ll need the right lead, but it’s easy enough. This method can also work if you route the audio back into your computer and use Audacity to record your computer’s input.

How do you record your DJ sets? Is there any software or set-up you swear by, or have you come up with novel solutions to sticky recording problems? We’d love to hear your views, experiences and suggestions in the comments.

Comments

  1. The best 3 ways to record a set are:

    1. have two laptops, one playing traktor/serato, the other using ableton and an external soundcard and record it on ableton/protools etc.

    2. Using the internal recording functions of your software is not limited to recording sound, it also records movement (if you are using ableton). So rather then record actual audio you record your real time adjustments to the sound, enabling for limitless (and more importantly SEEMLESS) editing as one is not actually adjusting a single recording.

    3. And the last one was already listed, using traktor and one of the audio 10/8′s inputs to record right off your mixer.

  2. Zoom H4n to record the line (rec/master) out of the mixer (Pioneer DJM800/900) and the crowd/ambience with the built-in mics, 24bit/44.1k.

    A lot of times I briefly skip thru the recording just to check on some mixes that I remember were great or iffy, and then delete the files, as I don’t need all of the sets I play.

    When I decide to keep a mix, I drop it on my computer hd, then in Logic where the files line up perfectly and stay in sync because they were recorded with the same device. Seems trivial, but recording with 2 separate devices will often lead to sync drift over a long mix as their clocks are slightly different. I use EQs and compressors (with and without sidechain) to balance the mixes, and to mix the live sound very lightly on the full-on parts and louder in the breakdowns. I mainly use these recording in my radio shows.

    • There’s good advice from a pro! BTW Darude, I’ve emailed you at the address you gave us :)

    • Wow…there’s a name I haven’t heard in a while. Still carrying memories of Mickey’s and that Decateur, IL gig where the kids all wanted rap music…and here we all are playing dance.

      Glad to see you’re still going.

    • Great follow-up article:
      how to record your audience and layer it on top of your mix recording.

    • What if you don’t want the crowd ambience involved? Just your set. I’m trying to get my boyfriend something to record his sets and it’s been frustratingly difficult to do for some reason (perhaps because I’m clueless, ha!). I know I want something with a 1/4″ in and WAV capable, which I believe the zoom h4n is, but I don’t want the crowd to be heard.

  3. What I’ve been doing lately is recording from Traktor to Ableton Live. Dubspot has a great tutorial on how to do this on their website. They mention an app called Jack for routing the audio internally but I’ve had success using Cycling 74′s SoundFlower too. All Four decks can be routed separately to corresponding tracks inside Ableton Live.

    The best part is you can sync the clock of both apps and use Lives effects and third party VST(i)s in your mixes, additionally it allows you to make perfectly beat matched edits after the fact. You can also record your Cue/PFL mix and use it to teach yourself what you did wrong if a mix seems sloppy when you’re done. It’s likely that this technique could be adapted to Logic or another DAW too.

    Besides the obvious recording possibilities you can setup a program like MidiStroke to switch app focus with your controller. I flip from Live to Traktor and back with the press of a button on my X1.

    Ableton is also pretty much set up like an infinite bank of perfectly synced samples so this setup takes what you can do in a traditional DJ set and blows the possibilities WIDE open. You could even use a small midi keyboard and jam along to a favourite song, sample that in real time & use it later in the set. (or better yet, use it in your own productions later)

    Went off on a bit of a tangent, sorry. If you have a DAW and Traktor (other DJ software may have external sync too) recording sets is only the start of the amazing things you can do.

  4. Just recorded a gig last night,I used an extra laptop to do the recording, trouble is when I listened back the audio skipped in a few places probably latency on the recording laptop.
    I dont want to have to cart around 2 laptops Im interested in an android ap for my phone can anyone recomend one? or a relativly cheap hard drive audio recorder pocket sized. Used to use mini disc for this years ago. Cheers

  5. I’m not really sure about using your smartphone for recording, they usually have mic input and only one channel. How do you hook that up to mixer output?
    Compared to this, minidisc still seems like a viable option.

    • Also in caffes and small venues, the mixer’s record-out is usually taken by another amp (ie. to power a pair of external speakers), so bring a pair of RCA splitters.
      That is, if they even have the darn hardware DJ-mixer.

  6. I use Audacity and the Behringer U-Control UCA202 and with my laptop and it works great. At first i was using the input on my laptop, but the soundcard that is installed was not good. Very deep bass notes would be distorted. After purchasing the Behringer usb hookup, everything is perfect now.

    • You were recording via MIC input. Hence my smartphone comment.

      Risking to start trolling, but I’m fascinated how many people don’t read the very basics about their equipment.

      • How did you get audacity to recognize the USB mixer. I can’t get it to see the DJM T1 as anything other than Line 1 and it doesn’t pick up sound.

  7. Here’s how I did it before Traktor Pro… outputs of mixer back to line in on the desktop, then outputs from desktop into amp. I had audacity/Sound forge in the background doing the recording. There was a lot of latency tho……(between monitor output and amp output)
    Now I’ve started use Mixlr as well, so I now have wired mixer to amp and loopback the amp lineouts into the laptop mic in. (there is no line in). I still hit record in tractor on the live mix but mixlr gets the raw mixer output. NOTE: always always ALWAYS check your levels before you start recording a set for the first time. Once levels are set usually can forget, but I never trust them and always check anyway! Hope this helps someone! 8)

  8. Using t2 pro and audio 4, ddm4000 rec out rca to audio4 channel b input, on traktor settings go to recording choose external channel b, then adjust rec input volume on recorder, once finished with mix open audicity mastered it using balance effect saved as mp3 or wma, go folder and burned it with itunes or windows media player :)

  9. You dont recommend using an external device such as ikey and m audio recorders

  10. Like one of the posters above, I used to use my minidisc for this back in the day. Couple of years ago, I picked up a M-Audio Microtrack which has been great. It has 1/4 inch and mic inputs, so I’ve used it to record my sets AND interviews etc with artists. Nice to have something small that I can connect with USB to my computer.
    Here’s a little more on the rest of my set up & why I chose it all. http://reggaedelgado.blogspot.com/2010/12/equipment.html

    Definitely recommend using SOME method to record your sets & listen later, it’s a hugely effective way to practice!

  11. What are you guys referring to when you say a “line in” port? I have an HP laptop running Windows Vista and I have 1 mic input, 2 headphone inputs, 1 HDMI, and 2 USB port.

    If it’s the mic port, I have an RCA to mic cable…will that work>?

    • Your Mic in should double up as a Line in. There should be an option to choose what that input is used for somewhere in your sound configurations.

    • StrangeMatter says:

      “Line in” refers to audio signal level. Your mic port will be at line level. Your RCA to mic cable will work OK but I suggest you invest in what’s called a ground loop iscolator. They aren’t expensive (about £10) and they clean up any interference. Something I always suffered with using my old laptop’s inbuilt soundcard.

  12. I am recording utilizing Torq LE and once I’m done I copy the wav into Protools to master but mastering is a whole nother animal. Mastering ones music is alot easier than mastering about 10 to 15 songs of others who have varying degrees of sound quality by themselves. I try to make as many adjustment with the eq in torq during the mix. Than I use slight compression and eq’ing in protools. Anybody got any nuggets on MASTERING?

  13. The Vision says:

    I have audacity, 1 laptop, crappy amplifier and a mixer, 2 turntables etc. Im trying to record mixes. I usually plug a cord from the tape out in my crappy amp to the mic input in laptop to audacity but its teriible sound quality. Is it my amplifier that makes the sound quality bad?

  14. Hi Phil,

    I have a question regarding on how to record a mix.
    So I have one behringer ddm4000 mixer and a couple of cdjs 700 from gemini. What options do I have to record my mix?
    Do I need an audio interface or can I use a midi usb cable from the mixer to my laptop and running traktor but the mixer not in midi mode and use traktor as a recorder? or that option is possible just if I run the mixer on midi mode?

    Thank you

  15. i cant record a mic when i do a dj set on my mac.im running tracktor pro and numark total control audio interface with a dj io soundcard .i can record my dj set but not the mic what am i doing wrong and can i do it

  16. dr zapata says:

    So what about any android apps?

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