Your Questions: Best Way To Practise CDJ-Style DJing At Home?

Gemini CDMP-7000

The Gemini CDMP-7000 is an analogue mixer with two effectively separate media players, all in one physical box. It’s a cheap and effective home CDJ stand-in.

Digital DJ Tips reader Jake writes: “So far I’ve followed the modern day route into DJing, ie downloaded software and messed around with a keyboard and mouse, bought a cheap controller, played a few parties and got completely hooked. I want to start playing in clubs and bigger parties, but to do that would mean ditching the laptop / controller setup and learning to use CDJs. I have a fairly basic grasp on beatmatching by ear, but I feel held back by the short pitch faders on my controller, and want to upgrade to something closer to CDJs to practise on. Only problem is my budget cannot stretch beyond about £700, so actual Pioneers are just a pipe dream.”

“My question to you is what’s the best standalone controller/CDJ set-up I could get in that price range? I’ve looked at the Numark Mixdeck Quad, the Gemini CDMP-7000 and the Pioneer XDJ Aero, but I’m put off by the lack of hot cues in the last one.”

Digital DJ Tips says:

Firstly, you don’t have to ditch controllers to play in clubs – you could go down the modular route (ie something liker the Kontrol X1). Then you could either add DVS system to use the club’s gear to control Traktor Scratch or Serato Scratch Live, or alternatively just use a small sound card and the X1 on their own and ditch jog control completely.

However, learning to DJ “CDJ” style has its merits too. The CDMP-7000 gives you a lot for your money and is a solid unit, although the touchscreens are a bit gimmicky, while the Mixdeck Quad feels less like CDJs but has more of a blend of controller and “traditional” in the one unit, making it more flexible. If you’re trying to get the “CDJ feel”, of those two I’d say the CDMP-7000.

The XDJ-Aero is an interesting wildcard. It feels nothing like CDJs in use, and it still has pretty short pitch faders – none of which sounds promising. And as you say, it seems you can’t save cue points on it – I am sure this will be addressed though. But crucially, it is a rekordbox controller. That means it uses Pioneer’s library management software as its main mode of operation. If the club or clubs you wanted to play in also had Pioneer gear, this would be a distinct advantage, as you could prepare and practise at home and take your set with you on USB all ready for the gig.

And while the XDJ-Aero doesn’t have the CDJ feels, it doesn’t have waveforms or insist on there being a computer attached either – so you would be forced to DJ in a more traditional way with this unit – all good practice if your ultimate aim is to ditch the laptop and just use the gear you find in the clubs you play in.

I hope that’s given you something to think about, but of course as always I’d love our fantastic readers to help out too – we must have several who’ve faced the same challenge.

So, is this you? Have you decided to make this transition, and if so, what did you do, or what gear do you recommend? Please share your thoughts in the comments.

Comments

  1. The best way to practice without actually having one is just turning off your computer screen and trying to sync up everything just by using ur ears by counting phrases and bars

    • agree with this. I first learnt CD mixing on an old KAM KCD960 (google it!!) and you know what – the principles are the same no matter what cdjs you use. Ive also used real cheap cdjs, and aside from little things such as bpm display resolution (which you shouldnt rely on anyway) and loop/effects etc they ALL work exactly the same. Even CDJs without a jog wheel, that just have pitch bend buttons are easy enough to use once you got the basics down!

      the first time I ever used CDJs I was perfectly able to use them, just takes a couple of tracks to get used to the platters (how fast/slow to rotate to achieve desired result).

      Also, the first time I ever used vinyl I managed to mix perfectly first time (took a tad longer to match tempo tho!)

      Just buy the BEST you can AFFORD if you decide to get cdjs, you could even just buy 1 and use your controller as the 2nd deck… Or just use the controller with sync turned off.

  2. Buy second hand cdj 800s! You will get those easily in your budget, and it will give you the feel of those big jog wheels. Although not exactly the same as in any club, will massively increase your confidence when faced will a pair of 1000’s or 2000’s

  3. ^^ This!

    Buy second hand, you could probably get 800’s and a second hand mixer from 700. If not you could always get 100’s! :D

  4. Chuck "DJ Vintage" van Eekelen says:

    I have to say I have mixed feelings here. On the one hand, sure practice makes perfect and practicing on what you’d be using most is beneficial. On the other hand not EVERY place has Pioneer and most definitely not all places have 900s/2000s. You may be faced with real antiques or low end pioneers and just about any other perceivable brand and model.

    My point is, if you get to focused on one platform it may very well hurt your capacity to be flexible, to be able to adapt to whatever it is you get thrown at you.

    Say you become a specialist at using hot cues and auto loops and you get booked at a place at really short notice (trust me it happens) and there are some old, worn CD-players with no or limited cue/loop options (may be as simple as a busted button). What are you gonna go? Cry baby to the owner, decline the job and walk away because things are not up to your professional standard? Or do you shrug it off, say that’s what it is and get cracking?

    I think it is perfectly possible to learn how to beatmatch on a controller with smaller jogs, set the range to 6-8% and you should have enough “runway” on the pitch fader. It may require a bit more “fingerspitzengefuhl” as the germans say, a bit more finesse,
    but if you then hit a place with 2000nexus players, you’ll discover the right knobs quickly enough and just enjoy the big platter.

    The other way around (practice on 2000s and then find old rickety, smallish jog wheel players at a gig) is gonna be a LOT more difficult.

    I think one of the trademarks of a good DJ is that flexibility to deal with any given situation and to be able to build a party with whatever equipment is available.

    It is such a luxury these days. Couple of hundred bucks buys you a set like the mentioned Gemini’s and you can easily carry thousands of songs in your pants pocket on a single 32GB USB stick WITH playlists all prepared.

    Running the risk of sounding like the old hand that I am lol, if you started in the 70s, you could not afford SL-1200 turntables and there was no real alternative, so any old turntable had to make do. Music came on vinyl and no alternative there either. Carrying 500 songs with you was good fitness in itself.

    No cuepoints, no autosync, no filters, efx channels or even crossfaders. Still DJs from the day managed to get steaming hot parties going.

    I understand that as DJs got better gear and the possibilities expanded, the crowd got more spoiled and demanding, but in the end it is the man (that goes for you ladies too) that makes the party, not the collection of buttons, faders and blinking lights.

    Greetinx,
    Chuck “DJ” Vintage

    • Any club worth it’s salt will have either decent CDJs or Turntables and a mixer. If not, you can bring your own gear, at least you don’t have to carry any other gear..

      • Chuck "DJ Vintage" van Eekelen says:

        Agreed, unfortunately as a starting DJ on your first gigs you don’t always get a club “worth its salt”. And especially now, (smaller) clubs too are suffering and replacement of gear is often postponed. So finding older and/or problematic gear, “even” if it is Pioneer, isn’t all that uncommon.

        My broader point was really that rather than spending a lot of extra cash on gear that resembles “standard” club gear you could spend it on other things. I think if you are not making much money DJ-ing yet, 700 is a hefty chunk of cash and you might be better off spending it on expanding your collection (as said elsewhere in the post, song selection trumps all) or marketing (flyers, business cards, t-shirts, see other post by Phil) which should help you get more work = more life practice and more money :-).

  5. I would not buy Pioneers unless you’re planning on making bigger money on them doing mobile work. They’re a huge investment for a hobbyist. I used to own CDJ-1000 Mk-2’s and I ended up selling them simply because it was more than I needed.

    I’d either think about upgrading your midi control, or if you would rather not, perhaps remap it. If your channel volume sliders are bigger/longer than the pitch sliders, switch them in the midi mapping just to learn. You honestly can remap your controller any way you see fit. Make the jogwheels into knobs if you wanted.

    I also agree with Chuck “DJ Vintage” van Eekelen. The less-expensive controllers can still give a hobbyist a lot for his money. Maybe the jogwheels won’t work as well, but I’m pretty sure most DJs could easily jump on a Gemini controller and rock a room as well as they would on an S4 or high-end Numark.

    • Yeah, we’re really in the sweet-spot of DJ controllers being able to do more AND costing less than traditional CDJs / turntables… even the big name DJs are making the move to digital controllers.

  6. You could easily get some second hand 800 or 1000’s and a decent mixer if you are prepared to search them out for that budget. Check local paper’s, gumtree, ebay, local second hand musical equipment shops etc… That said I was at a bar a few months ago and say a lad absolutely smash a disco / 90’s era deep house set on the in house gear which was Denon dn-2100f and some no name mixer. I honestly could not play as good a set on the same gear. Practice makes better.

  7. Surprised I didn’t see the S2 recommended in here. You can turn off sync with traktor and even disable the waveforms by djing in browser mode. The faders are super accurate and can be adjusted and using traktor will let you plug up to the CDJ’s in a club if they’re up to date with no worries to stay portable.

  8. Pbryandrums says:

    When i first started playing a promoter friend hooked me up with a dj at a big club who was gonna take time and give me pointers/advice. he plays and books in the bigger clubs around town. so i show up at the time playing on my mixtrack. :-) took all of 2 mins to hook up to a banging sound system. Had this whole set where i did some mashups and creative mixing blah blah blah. anyway after i was done. All he wanted to talk about was song selection and song audio quality. He was like yeah mixing is fine everything worked but… Why did u play this track or sound quality in this track suffered.. Point is he really could care less what I was playing on. I say buy the cdj’s if that’s what you wanna play on for your main rig. But the old song selection cliche trumps all. Problem is its just not fun to talk about I guess. That being said it’s a Great time around my area to pick up used pioneer gear. A lot of established Dj are having a hard time finding gigs. I just pieced together a dvs setup.
    Rane sl3 =$250
    2xStanton 150= $125
    Pioneer djm500=$50
    People Are strapped for cash after the holidays. So i got a set up for $425. But still gig with my twitch :-)

  9. I recently traded my S4 for a pair of 350s, yeah, I was lucky but otherwise I would sell the controller and buy second hand CDJs with that money.

  10. I anticipate more flexibility within the clubs as to them allowing you to use your specific device. I got rid of my CDJ’s because of practicality reasons and never looked back. Most controllers adhere to basically the same physics and should help you with your goal to become a club dj.

  11. I’d suggest looking at a pair of the numark ndx 400’s accompanied by a behringer ddm 4000 if you’re wanting to get your feet wet with cdj’s. Here’s one thing I will say though, i can get waaaay more musically creative on my Vestax Vci-300 and the Vestax Vfx-1 than my cdj’s. However, there’s something about mixing without a screen…My current setup allows for the best of both worlds. The one thing I seriously enjoy is when heading out to a gig, all I have to take is my controller, the Vfx-1, laptop, and some jump drives. When you arrive at the gig, throw the jump drives into the cdj’s provided and run your Vci 300 into one of the open channels on the mixer: fast, simple, easy. You have now made an all-in-one controller modular; consequently, maximizing your creativity. The question you might want to ask yourself is what type of DJ your wanting to be (not knowing is totally fine) and the type of set your wanting to create. The truth is controllers/cdj’s/laptops are just tools. What matters most is the music, and your ability to express the love you feel towards it. Don’t get caught up in all the bull shit that can be involved when trying to decide what hardware suits you. Decide what your wanting to create, how you would like to grow, and your overall goals…then make a decision accordingly. I wish you the best of luck mate, and heed my warning: this stuff can be addicting. ^-^

    • “The truth is controllers/cdj’s/laptops are just tools. What matters most is the music, and your ability to express the love you feel towards it.” Very true words.

    • Allan Musisi says:

      How would you rate Vestax 380 when it comes to having a feel of both worlds, Controller and CDJ? Am planning on buying a Vestax 380 and I would love to have a piece of both worlds.

      Thank you.

  12. I really wish people would stop buying into this “I have to have CDJs to be taken seriously” false premise. People used to say “You have to play with vinyl to be taken seriously”, before that, they said “You can only play live music to be taken seriously” and guess what? They were all wrong.

    You know how you get taken seriously? Take your craft seriously and go MUCH further than the people in your scene go, become that Entertainer you know you can be but most importantly never let anyone or anything get between what you love to do and the people you want to entertain. The people that are taken seriously did 2 things; They got exceptionally good at their skill (what type of gear almost doesn’t matter as long as it works) and they got really in touch with their crowds needs. When you can do both of those things you become a serious player. You deliver more than you ever dreamed possible and you keep running with that… that’s how you get taken seriously.

    Yeah, I know that sounds all “Motivational Speaker” and all, but who are these people telling you “The only way to be taken seriously is to do things this way…” They’re people in a local scene who typically know what’s “safe.”
    I know plenty of average-to-bad DJs that play with CDJs and just settle into Average, and just a few “Controllerists” who are becoming AWESOME. Why? They don’t care what the rules are (by definition) and they don’t care what other people tell them they must do. As long as what they do draws new fans and keeps the old ones coming back, that’s what matters.

    To put it simply, If you want to be respected, you have to take bold chances and back those choices up by what works with your fans… be worthy of their respect. Oh, and Leaders seldom follow.

    • Thanks! Nice post. Leaders never follow, sure, but all racing drivers climb into cars. I think there’s merit in wanting to learn club-standard gear – going to extra mile, though, might include learning to competently use ALL DJ gear, whatever it may be.

      • I believe you’re right Phil, it’s good to know how to do things, not just because it’s a good back-up plan but because it teaches you more about your craft.

        That being said, I think it’s time to recognize that there ARE people out there doing a lot more than what they’d be able to do with back-up standard DJ gear. Simply offering someone a standard DJ kit when they are known for their Ableton DJ kit with Button-pushing skills is not going make your entertainer very happy… nor the fans. I’m sure Madeon’s fans would not be very happy if he was just using a CDJ set-up.

        Everyone will face one of those “(some of) my gear doesn’t work, what am I going to do” moments. If you’re going to play in a way that CDJs simply cannot perform, it makes sense to take your gear to every event you play and even more sense to have an exact duplicate back-up kit (right down to the second computer’s music library) just in case something happens, complete with a kit full of cable (and even power) converters. This is just how Controllerists are going to have to be now.

    • It really is about the music, not the tools, but I think the problem with people thinking DJing with controllers isn’t ‘real’ DJing is down to there being so many poor DJs at the moment that have bought a cheap controller, auto-synced a few tracks and think they’re the next frankie knuckles! If someone has only spent a few months practicing their mixing they’ve also probably only spent that long researching music etc.

      I’ve seen great DJs on controllers, and poor DJs on CDJs and, god-forbid, even vinyl! lol.

      It’s not about HOW you do it, but WHY you do it…. :)

  13. B.B. Koning says:

    I took the plunge on the advice of people here and elsewhere hen first getting into the game:

    I bought the best controller to that I felt fit my needs (denon mc6000) and a pair of used 400s that I picked up for a song via local seller ads.

    The idea was obviously to get a feel for how CDJs worked in the event I actually got a chance to play out.

    Also, I was interested in beatmatching manually.

    I can honestly stay that I am no better at manually doing it than when I started, and I get easily bored practicing it.

    I would much rather spend the time in a live practice environment while matching via the slider and the Traktor ahead/behind readout on my controller.

    I personally feel I get more feedback using these tricks and mixing with an audience versus messing about without one and not accomplishing anything meaningful and wanting to throw my CDjs through the wall.

    Also, I get easily frustrated with the 400s lack of ability to store cue points.

    At the end of the day, I think it is important to make an attempt to be as well rounded as possible.

    If you can pick up some used CDJs and a decent controller like the Denon 6000 that serves as a standalone mixer, then you would have all your bases effectively covered.

    If practice works better for you than me, good on you.

    At the end of the day, it is all about what Phil and everybody else has said: what works for you, reading your audience, passion and a killer crate of things you love and want to spread to the world.

  14. Foldable disco says:

    I bought myself a secondhand pair of CDJ2000 an a DJM900 nexus, they are less then a year old and in mint condition. It’s true it a lot of money (although, I paid a really nice price for this set), but I love it!!! It chanced my djing and makes my sets sound more organic and less predictable.
    No more staring at laptop screens, just looking what is happening around you. More fun and excitement to mix. I still have my Traktor/S4 set up, but don’t use it that much anymore

  15. I had also same question before, but after lots of research ( portablity, price, weight and many more) , M getting Numark mixdeck quad as m a mobile dj ( 90% of my gigs are wedding parties)

  16. I use a NI Kontrol S2 to do the same things. I mix only in Browsing mode and turned the BPM Counter and Phasemeter out. It works quiet well, my beatmatching gets better from day to day and also i have many possiblitys to go on with that setup. I can recommend this method!

  17. Hello!

    Why not play with your controller at home and use HID when you have a club with Pioneer 900/2000? :)

  18. pioneer actually do refurbished ddj sx’s but you have to contact them direct think they’re around $600 you have to fall lucky though as they don’t have many but hey its worth a punt :)

  19. I’m a little confused – I play out most weekends at assorted club / bar / party / festivals, and I use my S4 / F1 setup every time! No questions or problems.
    I actually borrowed a friend’s CDJ400s a couple of years ago just in case I ever needed to use them, and I always carry a USB stick as back up, but the only skill I’ve ever needed is the ability to disconnect a CDJ and put it somewhere safe to make room for my gear!

  20. I think the biggest, and maybe even the only advantage to owning your own set of pioneers (any model with the big jog wheels ever made will do..) is getting comfortable with the layout of the players so you can find each button with your eyes closed as they are the club-standard. If your looking to buy a set for practice at home I assume you would only do so if you don’t have a lot of experience performing. So when you do have a gig you’re obviously a bit nervous. Not having to look at the cdj’s every time you want to press a button probably makes it a lot easier for you to focus on your set.

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