Digital DJ Tips reader Andre writes: “I’ve been DJing on for over three years now just as a hobby. For all this time I’ve used external mixer and Midi controllers with no jogwheels, so I always use the sync function, which I’m fine with. But now I’ve decided to take DJ more seriously, and I want to learn beatmatching manually. Since CDJs are rather expensive I’ll probably buy a Pioneer DDJ-SX for home, hoping that I can learn on the so-called “industry standard”, but my idea is not to take it to the venues I play at; instead I want to go very light and just carry a USB stick with Rekordbox-analysed files.”
“So for my question: Do you think would be practical for me to use the DDJ-SX at home / small parties, and use USB sticks / rekordbox in clubs, despite having not practised with the USB / Rekordbox / CDJ system at all beforehand? Would it be too much risk to use a different set-up just at the time I need to perform at my best?”
Digital DJ Tips says:
Firstly, I think you’re asking the right questions of yourself: To improve as a DJ you need to learn as many of the skills as you can and get familiar with as many types of DJ gear as you can, as well as collecting great music. The best DJs I know keep a really open mind about the gear, and also always work on their skills. That said, you’re asking an awful lot of yourself. Firstly, manual beatmatching. Expect that to take months of effort and years for you to get comfortable at (say one or two years before it becomes “instinctive”, and that’s assuming you practise loads). However, once you’ve nailed that, the rest will become possible.
So now moving on to gear for use at home. Don’t get hung up on whether Pioneer is the industry standard away from the DJ booth; it isn’t – indeed, there isn’t an industry standard really. Pioneer’s DDJ-SX uses Serato software, and although you can mix using both the “sync” method you’re used to and manually using it, it is in no way compatible with Pioneer’s club gear or Rekordbox, any more than anyone else’s software controller are.
You might want to look at one of Pioneer’s own Rekordbox home DJ controllers, and the new one – the Pioneer XDJ-R1 – might be a smart move. This lets you DJ using Rekordbox-analysed files on a controller, meaning the whole library side of your preparation will be similar at home to in the clubs (ie you’re not using Serato or Traktor to prep your tunes at home, then Rekordbox or clubs). It won’t be the same as using club CDJs though.
Also, bear in mind that clubs need modern, Rekordbox-compatible gear for you to use Rekordbox in them at all. If they’ve got old Pioneer CDJ-1000s or worse, or any other types of gear, you won’t be able to use Rekordbox there. Have you thought about what you’d do in those circumstances? For top DJs Rekordbox is becoming a viable alternative; for many more, not so yet Would you be happy to burn CDs and DJ from those as a backup?
Your alternatives then? Keep saving for a Rekordbox-compatible CDJ set-up for home, on which you can also practise mixing with CDs, so you’re ready for all eventualities. Try one of Pioneer’s Rekordbox DJ controllers, so at least you’re not duplicating the work you do on your music library. Or do what many do and go down the Serato / Traktor route with your controller, and use timecode and your laptop in the DJ booth to take Serato or Traktor with you, and avoid Rekordbox altogether.
Whatever you choose, rolling up into a DJ box having never used CDJs or Rekordbox before is not a good idea – at least try and get familiarised with the system and have some practice on it first.
Do you DJ on Pioneer gear using Rekordbox in your venues, and something else at home? Or do you use Traktor or Serato when out and about? Please share your thoughts in the comments. How would you advise Andre? Please share your thoughts in the comments.