Last weekend I put my money where my mouth is, so to speak, and instead of taking a laptop-based set-up to my booking (a corporate white party), I took an iPad running djay software with me instead. It’s the first time I’ve not DJed digitally in public at a paid event without a laptop ever, so I though it’d be good to give you some of the things I learned from the experience.
(Why was I doing this, you might ask? We’re busy making a new training program for iPad DJs using djay, so I felt some hands-on experience was necessary to know what I was talking about in the training…)
So with it fresh in my memory, here’s what I learned:
- I couldn’t have done it without some hardware – I’m just not brave enough to DJ in public, at a gig where someone is paying me, with just an iPad. Yeah I know you can do it, but it’d have been fiddly, I’d have needed extra bits and pieces plugged in (audio interface, namely), and a decent stand – plus to me it’d have looked kind of wrong
- Getting the unit to the right height is ultra important – Using a DJ controller normally, you can pop your laptop onto a stand and get it right under your nose so it doesn’t really matter where the controller is. Here, because the iPad is using the controller as a stand, it’s ultra-important to have the unit at the right height, or you’ll be stooping and squinting to see the screen. This was perfect; I used a high table (the type you sit at on a bar stool)
- djay’s key analysis engine is really powerful – It works differently to Camelot and other systems, and there’s no time to go into it in detail here, but against my first impressions, it’s actually very good. Basically, sort your tunes by key, and it’ll display compatible keys above and below the current key in your list. It’s actually easier to use than all other systems – and the “key match” function is brilliantly executed, opening even more matching possibilities
- The Reloop/djay jogwheel mapping isn’t perfect – Any DJs who are familiar with CDJ-style +/- pitch buttons will know that the longer you keep your hand on a button, the more the CDJ slows down from the speed it was at. Reloop/djay’s “nudge” jog setting is mapped the same – and it feels wrong to me. Traktor/Serato jogs are mapped so if you want a track to slow down more, you have to turn the jog faster backwards (same for speeding up, of course), and that’s how it ought to be done here too in my opinion. It took some getting used to, and isn’t a deal-breaker, but – especially when you have the buttons there too – it felt wrong
- Nobody cared what I was using! – In fact, all I got were compliments. Not about the gear, but just overall compliments, which indicates to me that people saw the gear and either just liked it, or didn’t even register that anything was different to any other DJ set-up, and – surprise, surprise – all they cared about was how good a job I was doing: Just how it should be…
I love throwing myself into new DJing circumstances (probably due to having been doing it so long – I wouldn’t recommend it to most DJs…) but I have to say it was a positive experience, and I’d seriously consider such a set-up for gigs like this in the future, especially as the same iTunes work (playlisting etc) can be done for Serato and Traktor too, so your DJ set is ready to play on anything (indeed, it was – I had my usual set-up in a bag under the table, just in case anything went wrong – I’m not that gung-ho!).
Have you DJed at paid gigs using an iPad on any of the systems out there? What were your experiences? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.