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

Phil Morse | Read time: 2 mins
beginner digital dj tips jogwheels
Last updated 16 November, 2017


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.

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