Your Questions: How Hard Is It To Switch From Controllers To CDJs?

Phil Morse | Founder & Tutor
Read time: 2 mins
Last updated 5 April, 2018

Moving from a Traktor Kontrol S4 to this might seem daunting, but it isn't really once you break it down into the things you need to learn.
Moving from a Traktor Kontrol S4 to this might seem daunting, but it isn’t really once you break it down into the things you need to learn.

Digital DJ Tips reader Noala de Aquino writes: “Love your tips. I’ve been DJing for a while (seriously for about two years) and now I’ve decided to go pro and master all kinds of techniques. I’m taking lessons with vinyl, and soon with CDJs. That beatmatching practice is a bitch! I have a Traktor Kontrol S4 at home and I just love the possibilities that gives me with the sample decks (I’m so looking forward to have Traktor 2.5!) But my question is: How hard is for someone who started with digital DJing – Traktor, Virtual DJ, S4, Numark Omni Control – to switch to Pioneer CDJing? I’m crazy to start playing, but I’m a little insecure about the change.”

Digital DJ Tips says:

This question comes up regularly, and my first piece of advice is: Don’t be scared by it! It’s not that hard – although I guarantee you’ll miss some of the things you take for granted on your controller.

The main thing is to practise beatmatching on your controller manually without using the “sync” button or beatgrids, as you don’t have those on CDJs. You need to get used to setting the speed of your tunes using the pitch sliders. It’s fine to look at the BPM numbers (as CDJs have those), but nothing more. Don’t use the phase meters either – any visual help while mixing is a no-no.

The second thing is to practise “packing a crate” for your sets. If you’re using CDJs, it’s a probably best to use USB sticks for your music. Work out how much music you can fit on them, and make playlists containing just that amount of music. Selecting from a prepared set list is pretty essential when using CDJs, as you don’t have the great benefit of instant searching your whole collection like on a laptop. Even if you choose to take your music on CDs, try and practise on your controller with just the music you’re planning to take, in order to get used to the limitations.

Finally, while CDJs are different from controllers, it’s not a massive leap. If you can get to practise on a CDJ set-up (which it sounds like you can), getting used to the units and a hardware mixer is simple. Don’t worry unduly about that – you’ll nail it pretty quickly. It’s the beatmatching and library management where you are best concentrating your attention. It’s a great thing to be able to do, by the way. While software is streets ahead of CDJs for flexibility, DJing is about more than controllers and software – and good DJs can play on pretty much anything. Good luck!

Do you have a controller at home but play with CDJs when you’re DJing out and about? What tips can you offer to help DJs get comfortable with both types of DJing? Please share your thoughts and experiences in the comments.

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