Live DJ Remixing #1 – Get The Software & Sounds

Shiftee is a famous exponent of using controllerism alongside turntablism to really push boundaries... and you can tap into hot cues and samples too to spice up your DJ sets. This series will introduce you to these controllerism techniques.

Shiftee is a famous exponent of using controllerism alongside turntablism to really push boundaries... and you can tap into hot cues and samples too to spice up your DJ sets. This series will introduce you to these controllerism techniques.

Back in January, we made the New Year's resolution to learn something new. To make an attempt to go beyond our normal realms of DJing and just try to "take it to the next level”. Some of you are already taking on this idea in our new Scratching For Controller DJs course - but this is just one way of making your DJing stand out. Another is the newer methodology of fired samples, loops, and chopped up pieces of music - a major element of what is often called "controllerism".

Today's article is the first of a three-part series where we’ll get you started and explore the world of basic controllerism, and give you some ideas on how to bring these techniques back into the basic DJ set. We’re going to start things off with software and finding sounds to use.

Go on, try your sampler!

It doesn’t matter if you use Traktor, Serato, Virtual DJ, Mixxx, or even are still on Torq or an older version of Deckadance; samplers are now standard in almost any DJ software you pick up. You don't need anything new. If you’re performing with a DAW like Ableton Live, then you have even more options at your fingertips. Some of you are already using your samplers. Some might be using them with loops and sounds, but others are more likely to only use the sampler to fire off name drops. I’m assuming many of you, like me, barely ever touched the sampler outside of playing with it at home.

Kontrol F1

The Traktor Kontrol F1 (and the Midifighter) are the only ways currently of controlling Traktor's Remix Decks, but all nearly all DJ software has sampler and hot cue functions that you can easily use for these techniques.

If you’re using Traktor, you of course have the added power of the Remix Decks, but unfortunately, trying to control them without a Kontrol F1 can prove difficult. Regardless, you still get four banks per channel even without the Remix Deck set up (the old "Sample Decks" behaviour), which can give you a lot to play with - depending on your imagination, of course!

For Serato Scratch Live users, you can pack more power into your set-up if you happen to have a copy of Ableton Live. The Bridge will give you Ableton power combined with the vinyl fun of Serato. But even if you don’t own a copy of Serato Scratch Live, you still have a multi-bank sampler at your disposal in Serato ITCH, Serato DJ Intro (a basic version), and Serato DJ (far more fully fledged). The same goes for users of other products. As I say, don’t think there is any DJ software on the market now that doesn’t have a sampler.

So in terms of using the sampler, it’s pretty straightforward. You load in sound clips you collect and play them either as one-shots or loops. Examples of one-shots would be vocal samples that play once when you press the play button on the sampler. Loops simply play repeatedly, and will now sync with your master Midi clock or whichever tune on the decks you set as the “master”. Take a look at some of the Native Instruments videos on YouTube to get ideas.

Don’t forget hot cues

Live remixing and performing isn’t just about the sampler. All the DJ software titles give you multiple decks to play with, and especially if you have four-deck software, you can easily have "sample sentences" (groups of samples in a single track). These pre-made MP3s of samples are then linked to hot cues on a deck so you can trigger them by pressing the appropriate buttons on your controller.

But why not just use the sampler, I hear you ask? Think of it this way: If you’re firing off sounds and bits in a performance, you could pull that off easily with an MP3 set up with hot cues, without even bothering with the sampler. It allows you to easily have all those sounds ready to go at a moment’s notice on one file (because hot cue settings are stored with the file).

On top of that, it frees up sample banks for loops - but even then you can also set those loops up on decks as well if you need to with some software. We do it already for straight playing, so why not this? Truth is, hot cues are another tool, and you can use them concurrently with samples.

Building a sound collection

So you’ve gotten your software figured out, now the other important piece is your collection of sounds. Lucky for you with the internet you have plenty of resources to get sounds. The first and most obvious spots are the online shops selling samples, like Beatport Sounds, Loopmasters, and even "normal" MP3 stores like Traxsource and Juno Download. Unfortunately, samples are not cheap: You’ll pay US$5 to US$50 for a package that could be just the samples from one song to a whole collection rotating around a specific sound genre.

Beatport Sounds

Beatport and similar stores sell whole sample packs for DJing with and for production, but they're not cheap, and there are alternatives.

Be smart. We’re all not made of money, and past legends more or less sampled the old-fashioned way rather than seeking out sound packs. Purchase these expensive sound packs only when you can see you’ll get the most bang for your buck. (Please, though, fight off the temptation to download illegally. Samples or songs, it only makes things harder for the DJ community in general.)

Always look into your own music for samples. Many beats, keyboard riffs, even simple blasts and vocal snaps can be easily taken right out of the music you’ve purchased. It is within your rights to do this, as long as you’re not publishing new remixes or songs for sale.

You can either use hot cues to remember spots you wish you use in performance, or chop out sounds you would like in an audio editing program and save them as new files. Some software also allow you to drag sounds as loops to the sampler.

Also keep your eyes open for free resources of samples and music. There are online forums that talk about samples and even help you gain access to free and legal samples.

Remix competitions will also entice contestants with packs of free samples. Also, sign up on mailing lists for sites that specialise in sounds. Often you’ll see massive discount coupons or even freebies. Get organised. I will later dive into ideas on what to do in your performances, but I will say now that when you save out samples, think in terms of the performance piece you wish you do.

So if you do a wicked live mashup of Call Me Maybe with, let’s say, Gangnam Style, save those bits and pieces into a crate, Remix Set, folder, or whatever is at your disposal so you can easily pull them up at a moment’s notice. The idea of what we’re shooting for is making these ideas into items you can easily pull up and perform in a set like you would play any normal tune.

Your homework...

Itching to get going? Why not spend some time getting familiar with your sampler, Remix Decks, Bridge, or whatever you have at your disposal. Also think about how you would organise samples and bits you would use in a live remix of one song. In Part 2, I will jump into the hardware you would want to consider having in order to increase your flexibility when bringing more live remixing into your DJ sets.

Check out the other parts in this series:

Do you use hot cues and sample decks / Remix Decks in your DJing? How do you use them? Do you do it all the time, or just occasionally? And what software / hardware do you use to do so? Please share your thoughts in the comments.

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  1. You guys can also check out Music Radar. They have about 40,000 royalty free samples, FOR FREE. I copped a really dope video game sample package from there.

  2. Gloomy Bear says:

    It's not that hard to create your own loops. There's a lot of free sequencers out there and a ton of free samples. Check out for sequencers (also has a great and supportive forum) and then for instance for samples. Start out with making some simple hihat loops for instance. Simple things like that could spice up a song a little :)

  3. Gloomy Bear says:

    One guy to check out is Chris Liebing. While maybe not using loops live, he uses a Maschine to program beats live. It's a good example of how a simple clap on the kicks can add depth. A drumsampler used live really adds some "cool" to a dj 😉 People love seeing shiny lights. I do.

  4. Thank's for this guys , glad to have caught part 1 on this topic as like was said above i also rarely use these tools like the sampler outside the home , I would like to break that habit and this info may just help with that, so thank you and i will continue to keep an eye on this one.

    Good work again D-Jam.

  5. This is really good timing for me since I just got an F1 not too long ago...

    Are there any other deep house DJs who do live remixing and have more experience with this? It seems like most of what I've read about controllerism online is geared towards really high-energy sets, which is kind of the opposite of what I do :)

    • DJ Forced Hand says:

      You can drive a sports car (read as: Controllerism) at any speed as aggressively or casually as you want. If you try to emulate Controllerism with other gear, you'll have the same disadvantage as a person in a luxury car does on a racetrack... it's much harder on the operator. The point here is that Controllerism is ABLE to make those high-performance changes... but you don't have to.

    • I love deep house. Smooth, jazzy, funky, jackin, etc. Traxsource is my place to buy it.

      Despite my love for house in many flavors, I also love energetic trance. Was listening to Armin Van Buuren's set from Ultra and I noticed how much of his set were mashups of new tunes he's been pushing. That spoke to me how in most genres one could do a lot with mashups made beforehand or during the set.

      I would probably tell you and others to also fathom that ideology. Not just firing off beats and such, but even just combining elements of the tunes you're really loving.

  6. Great article as always

  7. Just bought an akai lpd8 to go with my numark omni running traktor for that very reason, firing hot cues. I used to have a sampler back in the day, so I'm OK with using samples, but its still a bit of a mission setting up the mapping.

    • We'll get into more details in parts 2 and 3, but I'll say to treat these moments as an addition, an alternative to the scratch solo or something like that.

      Trying to do a whole night in loops and such will be a challenge, but even easier is to drop a fun moment for your crowd and wow them with your creativity...but you're still doing "normal DJing" through most of your set.

  8. King of Snake says:

    nice article D-Jam,
    i agree that samples or take outs can enhance a set, sometimes even becoming the highlight of the set.

    i use samples sparly and mostly using hot cues/loops while the whole song is on deck A/B. For me it keeps things easy. Some samples/snippets i created myself though, but still i would load them as a track.
    I like to suprise people with some snippets of older or even cheesy songs during a house set.
    here some (cliché) examples i used and got appreciating nodds on (from the older folks):

    generation 24/7 with MSM Conga (only he first phrase of the chorus)
    enjoy the silence of DM fits with a lot of tracks actually, especially in a quiter break
    josh wink's higher state.. works with electro house songs
    pump up the jam of technotronic with hide u

    it's realy fantastic to see the reactions of people when you drop things in like that..

    next to that, i created some samples to have easier change-overs, like latin beats, cowbels, a more rock oriented 4/4 beat with snares and hihats from live samples, some break beats ( hahaha amen!).
    with this it gives me more possibilities to switch faster or just give another feel to the set.

  9. King of Snake says:

    btw, D-Jam,
    gangnam style?

    • Sorry...first songs I could think of that I figure most people would know of.

      I mainly notice a lot of DJs who are stuck playing mainstream music (and not enjoying it) will find enjoyment by doing live remixing or making mashups at home.

      Apparently someone did make a mashup of the two tunes I mentioned:

      • King of Snake says:

        you're right on the 'getting stuck' part..
        samples/mashup do add some personal flavour to a set and makes people recognise you as a dj.
        wouldn't mind to put some scratching in as well though 😉
        at the end, it's about the result
        both me and the crowd having fun!

  10. Good read, D-Jam. I think one of the big misconceptions about the F1 is that it is only a performance controller. It seems people just expected there to be some great tracks broken up into stems for sale that they could use. There are TONS of used F1's for sale. It takes some work, but its main purpose aside from performing with loops and one-shots, is to actually MAKE loops and one-shots from one's own collection of music. With some EQ and FX on top of it, you could do tons of stuff. Traktor's loop recorder is easy to use. Make a loop, record it, then you just drag it into the remix deck and voila! I haven't rolled up my sleeves yet, as I am currently busy learning other stuff, but look forward to doing so and have already started to make some remix sets, even though I don't have an F1, yet.

    • Yeah, I'll be honest I've been tempted to get either a F1 or Midi-Fighter Spectra. However, I think I'd rather first explore (with all of you) a good workflow and thus make full use of the controller.

      I remember buying an APC40, thinking I'd use it for production and even some live performance. After a few months I ended up selling it simply because I wasn't using it as much as I thought I would need it.

      Now I'm always careful on what gear I buy. Same thing with photography stuff.

  11. Havent even read this yet and I already give it 2 thumbs up DJam.
    I've been waiting on this article for awhile now

  12. I use the remix decks all the time at home to try new things. I only have an S4 so I only use 4 at any given time. Already made and posted a remix I entitled "In the Air (DaWreked oNe Remix)" on the mixes board. Live Ive used the remix decks a cpl times. 1 way I've used them in particular is after I've blended 1 song into the other, and I find the song I went out of goes GREAT with the song I've mixed into, instead of letting the loop take over the whole deck I'll move it to a remix deck slot. That way I can continue to bring in and out the sample when I choose, AND I can cue up my next track calmly without having to rush (since the sample isn't taking over 1 of my decks).
    I want 2 F1's so bad I can't stand it. Probably get 1 to start, but I want 2 just bc of the simplicity of having 2 pieces of hardware SEPERATLY for decks C and D.

  13. I play a lot of funk / hip-hop and use acapellas to add a bit of variety to instrumental tracks people may or may not already know. For example:

    Beastie Boys released their hits as acapellas a while ago and it's simple enough to set up cue points within Serato DJ and trigger using an Akai LPD-8.

  14. On the dancefloor in real live....people do not appreciate it when you mashup, remix, add samples and fx to their favourite tracks that they want to dance annoys them and they get confused with it.

  15. I would say to people not to over complicate the gear side of things,someone on here said they only have an s4,well an s4 in good hands is a very powerfull tool.
    Alot of what is being talked about here can be done using 3 cd players,In fact in many ways it can be easier this way you just have a third deck dedicated to samples and acas and your not having to jump around in software to find your samples and stuff.Good article looking forward to the next one.

  16. Cliff Whitney says:

    I use my 2 F1's for many different purposes...

    A)I have made a mapping that allows me to use them in Reason to control 2 Kong Drum Devices simultaneously during production.... Just for fun....

    B)in Tracktor on my left F1...I use the 1st slot for drum loops I create in Reason/Ableton/Maschine, 2nd slot for bass, 3rd slot for synths, 4th slot for acapellas or soundscape textures..... Kinda like the remix sets NI sells
    On my right F1 I fill up with 1 shot samples to be played like a MPC/Maschine....

    C) in Ableton I use them to trigger clips along with my APC40

    D) I played around with mapping my first F1 like a MIDIFIGHTER

    In Maschine I create patterns and drag them into sample decks or directly into Ableton if I'm doing production remixes before shows....
    And then refill the Maschine to be played live along with my DJ sets....

    I have to admit though.... I've been at this a long time and have owned a few hardware samplers back in the early days.... MPC60/SU10....
    So when they integrated sample functionality to DJ software ...I already had been doing it for 20+ yrs....

    I also own a Kontrol S4, Maschine MK2, CDJ's......
    Because I have F1's I use the hot cue sample buttons on the S4 as 8 different cue points.... And my CDJ's to control time code


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