Your Questions: How Can I Best Record My Sets?

Record buttons

Things have moved on a bit since the analogue recordings done on real ‘mixtapes’ – but the principles are the same.

Digital DJ Tips reader Bruno writes: “I would like some advice on recording my DJ sets. I have read you saying that the best way to improve and is to record your practice sessions, so I want to start off on the right foot! Is it just a case of hitting ‘record’ in my DJ software? Any further advice you can give me to make them sound great?”

Digital DJ Tips says:

Funny you should ask this, as I’ve just got off the phone after a long discussion with one of our tutors, Steve Canueto, who’s in the process of making part of a new course we’re working on, about making great mixtapes. We were discussing this exact subject: The various recording options in DJ software, and how best to use them.

Firstly, you don’t tell me which software you’re using, and the number one rule is to make sure your DJ software can record at all – it’s one of the major limitations of “LE” (read: free in the box) software that such software often can’t record at all. In this case you have two choices: Do it using some kind of hardware recording device (by using a physical cable splitter from your sound card / controller output if necessary), or – better – upgrade your software to the paid-for version.

Assuming your software does have a recording facility, though, you’re not out of the woods yet! Depending on what you use, you will have good, OK or rudimentary control over the recording levels, and the monitoring of those levels. The best general advice is to keep all levels on screen / on your DJ controller out of the “red”, and to experiment to see if the “master” volume control affects recording or not. To be sure, once you start recording, don’t alter any master or recording level controls, and if you want to make your actual room louder or quieter, alter the volume controls on your amplifier or speakers, rather than the master output on your DJ controller or software.

We’re going to go into much more detail on this in the forthcoming course, but this general advice (along with a bit of experimentation) should allow you to get decent results right way – whatever software you’re using.

Do you have any advice on how to record your DJ sets properly? Have you had to overcome any hurdles with your particular DJ software or hardware? Please share your advice and experiences in the comments.

Comments

  1. -Watch your levels, never above 0dB, but that is a basic requierement if you record or not.
    -Use a good soundcard
    -Record in 24-bit
    -Set your peak recording level in your recording software at -6dB
    -Don’t overmodulate your soundcard (clipping red light) even if your soft is set to -6dB.
    -After recording visualy look wat the max volume is ignoring the short peaks. If that max is -4dB, change the volume with +4dB, cutting off those short peaks. You mave use a HARD limiter first to do that, but is not necesary.
    -Never, ever use a normalizer or compressor to adjust the volume.

    But as already said, most important is to watch your levels when mixing.

    • The main reason to record in 24bit is to not loose quality (dynamics).
      Because you are recording for safety not to clpi at -6dB you loose a lot of dynamics.
      To keep those dynamics you can record in 24 bit, having more music info at the underside of your dynamic range. When changing the vlume from -6dB to 0 dB, you will get back the lower side your dynamics in to the 16-bit range.
      Because at the end, everything needs to be converted back to 16-bit whatever file format.

      • as one bit doubles the dynamic range, you may recalculate what you said. 3 dB Is a voltage change of 2x so.. in order to be in the 16 bit range, you will have to lower the input drastically more that 0…6 dB.

      • correct, but it’s about having at the end a full 16 bit dynamics. instead of a partialy 16 bit.

    • forgot one. Always rcord in a raw format like wav/aiff and do your masterin/exiting in that filetype to.
      only at the very end, when everything is done, convert to a lossless compression like MP3

  2. I use an ikey + great little device records as mp3 to a USB stick just got to watch the levels.

  3. For broadcast/streaming djs – simpleripper is the best solution I’ve come across. And it’s free. A few variations available here. http://streamripper.sourceforge.net/

  4. Depending on how log the mix and how fast your computer is Put your mix through audacity goto View and tick “Show Clipping” If your mix turns red visually you been recording to loud and back to the drawing board.:)

  5. DJ Ben Blayton says:

    Irving thanks so much!!! I did everything except change the bit size and what a huge difference. My biggest problems were when I play on the medi it sounds great. Then when I switch to listen to I tunes or upload to SC the levels are off and I can hear everything from the pops and the lows and mids sounding terrible while mixing in and out of songs.I still want to check out what Phil and the course has to advise with recording mixes. I know it is going to be helpful!!

  6. what I just do (not a controller-dj here) is this

    audacity for recording. stay out of the red , peaking may sometimes occur but not beyond +3dB.

    Also, normalize the complete mix afterwards so that it’s containing less peaks as it averages it a bit. Use compression/limitng afterwards. Now convert to… mp3 whatever and publish.

  7. Virtual DJ software tells me some of the music is DRM proteced when I try to record. Does other recording software do the same?

    • audacity does not give a damn. Its open source so even if there was a DRM check in it, it would have left te code approximately 10 minutes after committing the code in source control.

      So basically — audacity doesn’t.

  8. DJ SpecializED says:

    Im still waiting for the reloop mixtape. Thing never came out for sale.

  9. lads i feel a bit stupido asking this, but can how can i record my vinyl mix straight to my macbook without having to invest in an external recording device such as the handy ikey etc… im using two stantons via my NI Z2 mixer… :) Cheers lads…

    • … what do i need goinging into my laptop from my mixer to record onto audacity?

    • Take your main (or booth) outputs (via a cable) from your mixer and run that back into your sound card (either on your DJ computer or other recording device). This should also handle any microphone use or AUX line-in recording as it’s WYHIWHG… and follow all the advice above. ;)

  10. Its just weird that last night I was recording my set and I was thinking the same thing too. I wanted to record a good set but my recording always have that little feedback when doing so.. It is quite annoying and only one time I had no feedback and I wonder how did that happen.. I use audacity to record all of my sets but lately I am in the blue on the levels on where it should be recorded at. I had the mic at 50 percent but it was very low.. but when I have it high you can clearly hear lot of feedback which is quite annoying…

    • Feedback typically happens when you have your open mic next to a speaker which is playing back what the mic is inputting. Point your speakers away from where the mic is and you should resolve this problem.

  11. I use an external recorder and the Rec out on the back of my mixer; it’s simple, cheap (depending on your recorder preference), and works well for uploading to sites like Mixcloud.

  12. DJ Majestic says:

    Use Zoom H4N. Use a line out from your controller or mixer. Problem solved. You have full control over your levels from the Zoom. Happy recordings!!!!

  13. Hi guys – I love those mixes with the sound of the audience in the background. What’s the proper way to record a mix in the club that way to capture the live mood? Has anybody experience with that?

    • Good question. I’ve never done it, but I’d definitely record the crowd separately and use Audacity or something similar to run it over the recording of the mix afterwards. That way you can audition it and get the volume of the crowd right.

  14. Chuck "DJ Vintage" van Eekelen says:

    In the digital realm, 0dB is the max … period. Everything over is clipped.

    This is rather contrary to the analogue realm, where 0dB is the safe average, with many devices having dynamic headroom in the 10-20dB

    The reason is that 0dB in digital means there is no bits left to translate the extra energy level into.

    So staying out of the red is ALWAYS mandatory in a digital environment. Some meters in (DJ) software will show 0dB as the point where green goes into yellow. This is not the true digital 0dB though, but usually a certain amount below it (typically 6-12dB).

    Something else a lot of DJ software does automatically is run a limiter over the master signal. This effectively limits (hence the name :-) to, for example, -3dB. Any higher input signal will stay at the -3dB level.

    That way you can’t make it louder, but you prevent digital clipping, which doesn’t only sound horrible but is a very serious risk for your speakers! Especially the tweeters (high frequency) drivers do not like high level block signals (which is what you get when a signal clips).

    If you record at 24-bit (as someone correctly pointed out), you get much more dynamic range. I have recorded entire sets with a MAXIMUM of -6dB and been able to mix it down to a perfectly dynamic and loud 16-bit WAV.

    Good luck & greetinx,
    C.

  15. Here is a tutorial I wrote about recording sets with a smartphone. It is a little rough around the edges, but it conveys the general info. Just thought it may be useful (unnecessary using software, but my fellow DJs often get into these big tag-team mixes and that way we can just plug in to the record out on the main mixer and go).

    https://damageddj.wordpress.com/2013/05/25/smartphone-live-audio-recording/

  16. DJ SpecializED says:

    Phil any clue as to why the reloop mixtape hasnt been out for sale yet?

  17. DJ SpecializED says:

    Really? Thats awesome. Looking forward to picking one up.

  18. I have been killing myself with my Traktor setup using my the “Booth” output of my Mixer(Pioneer DJM 909) into another computer running Protools 6 with a Digi 001 hardware box only to find recently on youtube that all I have to do was run the “Booth” output into my soundcard (native instruments Audio 4)and Traktor would record my mix straight to the desktop!!!!
    Man,,do I feel like an idiot!!! Should’ve done my homework earlier,,,,

  19. When i used Serato intro i would use the garage band app on my mac to record my mixes. A bit of trial and error to get the levels right but the mixes sounded good.

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