Your Questions: How Do I Mix Four Decks On A Two-Deck Controller?

Like many, this controller has two physical jogwheels and two channel faders. So, our reader wants to know, how can such controllers operate four decks?

Like many, this controller has two physical jogwheels and two channel faders. So, our reader wants to know, how can such controllers operate four decks?

Digital DJ Tips Read DJ Rekka writes: “I am a complete beginner, and trying to decide which controller to go for, and I have what may seem a silly question. Where DJ software has four decks but a DJ controller has only two jogwheels/pitch faders (which seems to be the case even on those that have four sets of channel faders), how can you mix four decks using it?

“I guess what I’m asking is, what happens when, say, you slow one deck down all the way with the pitch fader, then switch to another? Is the new deck (the one that you’ve just switched to) going to play as slow as possible too, because the pitch fader is all the way down? And what happens when you move the pitch fader, and switch back to the original deck? Will it “jump” to where the pitch fader now is? I’d like to be able to mix four decks when I get my controller, but I’m really not clear how this works.”

Digital DJ Tips says:

It’s not a silly question, and also actually even some two-channel controller (with only two sets of faders/volume controls instead of four, as well as the usual two jogwheels) also have those switches to allow you to use four decks. Here you have an even bigger potential issue, because as well as the pitch faders, you have all the volume and EQ controls shared too!

Luckily, the solution – “soft takeover” – is quite smart, and nearly all software / hardware combinations use it. What happens is that the shared controls are effectively disabled when you switch to a new deck, until you move them back to where they originally was when you left the deck in question. At that point, they becomes “active” again. This avoids unwanted big jumps in pitch, volume etc that might otherwise result. (If you’ve not used that deck in this particualar DJing session, they’ll typically be set to a logical starting position.)

The only real negative to this is that you have to look at the screen to remind yourself where you’re moving the fader or knob to in order to “take over” again. (Of course, onscreen there’s no problem to show you where all the controls were last “set” when you left that deck – it’s only with the physical controls that there’s an issue.)

A motorised solution…

Stanton SCS.1 Full System

On this digital modular controller system from Stanton, the pitch faders are motorised and move physically to where you last left them when you switch decks…

As a little side point, there’s a model of digital deck – the Stanton SCS.1D – that as well as having an actual spinning platter, has a motorised pitch fader too, so when you switch between two software decks, the pitch fader actuallhy physically moves back to where you left it! This is also how big desks in recording studios work too, so you can store whole banks of preset settings and dial them up again when needed, and everything just motors back into place.

Did you grapple with this issue when you started controller DJing? Do you think “soft takeover” is the best solution, or can you think of a better way of dealing with this? Please share your thoughts in the comments.

Comments

  1. When I clicked the link, I was looking forward to see useful techniques about mapping 4 decks to a 2-deck controller like Mixtrack. Turned out it’s just a soft takeover tip. Dissapointed.

    • Sorry if the link was misleading. At the weekend, we publish reader letters to help beginners nail the basics (usually) – it’s amazing the things that aren’t obvious when you’re just starting out, and it’s our mission to help our readers get past such queries as quickly as possible :)

  2. King Of Snake says:

    Hi Phil,
    I actually like it if we as a community can help eachother in these posts. Here’s my way of dealing with it: i use the pitch faders for the volume of track 3 and 4, which in my case are sample decks. For EQ and filter, i use some unused effect knobs of my Reloop controller. They’re of this ‘endless’ type and that works quite well. Takes some remapping and getting used to, but in the end this is what works best for me.
    Acyually by next week i will get my twitch and i’m looking to hook it up next to my Reloop. The twitch will then do 3 and 4 with these pads and all. Just can’t wait to see how this will work for me!

    • Nice solution, thanks for sharing.

    • DJ Forced Hand says:

      I still cannot say enough good stuff about the Twitch. There is no Pitch Shift slider, it’s an endless rotary knob on the Twitch. In ITCH (and I guess Serato DJ) the Twitch is a 2 deck controller, but turns into a 2+2 controller when used in Traktor Pro (by using the Deck Swap button listed on the overlay). IMO, the best selling points about the Twitch are the massive number of button pads and the touch strips.

      • DJ Forced Hand says:

        I forgot to mention that the Twitch also has an indicator position for volume and fader effects, a single LED lights up on the up faders.

  3. I actually mapped my denon 3700′s to have 2 layers in order to have 4-deck control. The solution is actually pretty simple, all you need to do is assign a button of your choice as your “layer” button to a modifier. Then map every single button, slide & knob with the condition of…. eg: M1=0 (Deck A) M1=1 (Deck C). I personally think the soft takeover is the simplest solution & it works like a charm.

  4. If you have a really simple controller like I do (Numark Mixtrack) you might want to try dragging whatever’s playing on Deck A or B to C or D using your mouse (the track you’re going to mess with least when bringing in a new song) that way it frees up space in the primary decks, allowing you to spin up to 4 songs with controls for only 2.

  5. I absolutely hate “soft-takeover” modes – because my purpose of using controllers was to stop looking to the screen in teh first place.
    Long live either:
    a. Motorised faders, LED rings around knobs and LED button’ indication
    b. MORE physical controls

    Actually b is way better because the way banked-controls work sometimes some combinations are not possible….because they may belong to different “banks” (layers) of controls

    • I tend to agree, hence my “wiggle the control really fast then set it to where you want hoping nobody will notice” technique to save looking at the screen!

  6. Im a bit suprised that nobody has mentioned this, but the person who asked the question is a compleat begginer Im suprised that nobody has advised him to learn how to mix on 2 decks first before moving to four as this could be a disaster.He has alot to learn before even thinking about 4 decks.

    • He was just curious abut how it works, fair enough I’d say.

      • He say quote…I’d like to be able to mix four decks when I get my controller, but I’m really not clear how this works.”

        When he gets his controller he would like/expect to be able to mix with 4 decks.A bit of a learning curve is involved me thinks!

  7. I enjoyed the bit about the Stanton controllers, never knew they had hardware pitch or that it even existed. That definitely helps when your slowing and speeding 4 different tracks :P

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