Most modern DJ software can be controlled by the keyboard as well as by the mouse / trackpad (and of course by a DJ controller). While many DJs never bother the learn even a single keyboard function, smart DJs realise that there are many advantages to taking the time to learn these shortcuts.
You can protect yourself against emergencies, pull off tricks that have people wondering how you did it, have more than one music program running at once yet control them both simultaneously, and achieve other power tricks that it’s simply impossible to do otherwise. Want to know more?
Our five solid reasons to master shortcuts
- In case a key or knob breaks on your controller – Things break all the time. You may transport your controller without enough protection only to discover a bent on broken knob or fader when you get to your gig. A button might push through the casing, or stick from splashing a drink on it. Whatever, knowing the exact keyboard replacement for an offending control means you can gig on – and after a while, you may even forget you’re having an issue
- In case your controller fails completely – What if your USB cable is defective? What if your controller is dropped or knocked? What if some idiot spills a whole drink over it? As most DJ software (Serato ITCH / Intro excepted) can reasonably easily be controlled with the laptop, it pays to know how to do this in order to cope with just this kind of circumstance. I DJed for years with just a laptop, so I know that great beatmixing and other tricks are all possible without a controller, and I never used the mouse either. It just takes practice
- To give yourself extra buttons – Once you start to think of your keyboard as extra buttons, it’s like having a whole new instrument at your disposal. Instead of carrying around another Midi controller, why not start assigning functions that your software has but that your controller maybe hasn’t got room for? Extra cue points, banks of samples, detailed effects control, sample decks – all can be memorably mapped to your keyboard
- To do things it’s not possible to do in other ways – How about triggering samples from another program while DJing with a controller? Or programming multiple effects, cue triggers, EQ variations etc on a single key? By getting your head around Midi mappings and assigning your heart’s desire to keystrokes on your laptop, all of this is possible. I used to have a key that reset all EQ to 12 0’clock at once, for instance
- To play impromptu gigs or gig where you don’t want to take a controller – We can lump “practising on the plane” in here, too. If you can DJ well without your controller, you can whip out your laptop (and a DJ splitter cable or DJ sound card) wherever you wish and play there and then. Either for impromptu gigs or gigs where you can’t be bothered taking your full set-up, it’s great to be able to do this
How to start…
Begin by simply printing off the keyboard shortcuts for your software and keeping them handy. You can set them as your wallpaper, or have them open as a PDF in the background when DJing (learn the program switching shortcut for your OS to save you using the mouse when you want to glance at them).
As you get more confident, you’ll start to see the possibilities and can look at custom mapping your own shortcuts. The acid test is to try DJing without your controller at all one day, Best to do it when it’s your choice, not when the choice is made for you at a gig!
Do you ever DJ without your controller? What’s your favourite use for keyboard shortcuts? Do you customise your software to have the keyboard doing special things for you? Please share your experiences in the comments.