Watch our live show on recording your sets
We recently dedicated a whole weekly Tuesday Tips Live show to this topic. Hear me talk through all of these options and show you many of them, and hear what the Digital DJ Tips community had to say too, in this recording of the show.
Every DJ should record his or her DJ sets. There’s a very simple reason: there is only one person in the whole world who doesn’t hear your DJing how it really is, and that person is you.
Why? Because you’re too busy doing it. Ever heard your own voice on a recording, and thought, “Urgh! Is that REALLY how I sound?” Well, guess what? It’s just the same with your DJing!
I don’t mean that you’ll think “God, that sounds terrible!” (although you might – I did the first time I heard one of my “live” sets recorded), I just mean that you have to hear your DJing like a member of your audience hears it in order to really know what your mixes sound like.
Stuff you didn’t like at the time, or thought was too obvious, or too rough, may sound fine. Stuff you were proud of may not hit the mark. You may spot that you have a tendency to bring tracks in too quiet, then correct, or you play with your kick drums too loud, or one of countless other tweaks that only you can make. But only after hearing your sets how the rest of the world hears them will you spot these things.
Convinced? Good. So now the next thing you’ll be thinking is: Why not just hit record on my DJ software? Job done!
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Well, yes – many times, that’s exactly right. But as you’ll see, it’s not always possible. Let’s start with that, though, as we run down seven ways to record your DJ sets…
7 Ways To Record Your DJ Sets
- Use your DJ software – The most obvious way. Works well if you’re recording music that you own (ie not streaming services – they all disable this button), and you only want to record what’s running through your software. For instance, it often can’t record microphones, or other DJs playing alongside you on their gear
- Using a USB drive plugged into the DJ gear – If you’re using a standalone DJ system (Denon DJ’s Prime 4 for instance, or the XDJ-XZ and others from Pioneer DJ) you can plug in a USB drive, hit “Record”, and record everything you do on that unit straight to USB. Same streaming limitations apply where the hardware has streaming available, though (such as on the Prime 4)
- Using your phone – This is a classic old school way. You plug a cable from the mixer or controller output into the required adaptors to feed the audio as a Mic In on your phone. A bit of volume tweakage can usually give you an acceptable recording, albeit in mono. Fewer phones have a headphones/mic socket at all nowadays, though, forcing the purchase of an additional adaptor. You also need a “TRS to TRRS” cable to get the mic part of the equation to work (Rode has a good one, the SC4). You could also try this cable from Headset Buddy, that matches the phone’s mic input to your DJ gear’s line out a bit better. Bit of a hack though, this one
- Using a standalone recorder – Classic recorders come from companies like Tascam (their DR-05 has been in my kit bag for close to a decade), and a newer mode to consider, the Reloop Tape 2 (which is kitsch, being shaped like an audio cassette, and not particularly cheap, but it works well). You get the finished audio file off of it, usually via a card, into your laptop etc
- Using an audio interface, into (usually) a laptop – Any 2-in audio interface will do the job, such as the iRig Stream. Again you feed an output from your controller or mixer into it, and then plug the audio interface into your laptop via USB, your Android device via (usually) USB-C, or your iOS device via a Lightning or USB-C cable. You then record on any recording software (Quicktime, Audacity, Voice Recorder on a phone, etc). A solid way to do it, as long as you set it up right
- Using a dedicated recording system into your phone or tablet – There’s actually only one we know of, called Evermix Mixbox (now up to v4) – it is a bit like the audio interface above, but it comes with its own app and sharing software, which greatly simplifies everything from volume level (to get loud records without clipping) to getting your mix out there. Available for iOS and Android. A good route for beginners wanting to break out from using their DJ software for recording
- Using Pioneer’s DJM-REC app – If you are DJing on a Pioneer DJM-series mixer equipped with the send/return feature, you can plug a single USB-to-Lightning/USB-C cable from that mixer to your iPhone, and the DJM-REC app set-up will behave very much like the Evermix above, but without the need for extra hardware, as the audio interface in the mixer is being used. Obviously only good for iOS/pro-end Pioneer users, though. Works very well if that’s you
However you do it, do try to record your DJ sets, whether live or practice. You’ll improve immeasurably – especially if you record everything, not just your “run through” at the end of a practice session. Sometimes the good stuff comes when you’re not really trying too hard…
Read this next: Mixtapes: 5 Questions To Ask Yourself Before Hitting Record
How do you record your sets? Let us now in the coments below…