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Learning to DJ? 125

cloudkj asks: "Being a geek and a music fan, I've played with various applications for creating and mixing music. DJing has always been an interest of mine, but I've never had the time nor the resources to take it up as a hobby. Now that I've left college and started working, I have the time and the funds to allow me to explore DJing. What are the best ways to start learning how to DJ? Are there any spectacular pieces of digital DJ software out there that a aspiring DJ needs to have? How does a DJ transition from digital to the real thing?"
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Learning to DJ?

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  • Where to start. (Score:5, Informative)

    by babbling ( 952366 ) on Saturday March 18, 2006 @06:07PM (#14949491)
    I always start with the Wikipedia article [wikipedia.org] whenever I want to learn something new.

    It seems you might be interested in a program called Final Scratch [wikipedia.org].
    • Re:Where to start. (Score:2, Informative)

      by dzark ( 961054 )
      Final Scratch is pretty good for playing digital music while maintaining the vinyl feel. Check out Ableton Live and Native Instruments Traktor (imho the best). Both support timecoded vinyl a la final scratch but offer a lot more features. I love being able to hit the 'back 32 bars' button in tracktor and seamlessly repeat the chorus.
  • by zappepcs ( 820751 ) on Saturday March 18, 2006 @06:07PM (#14949493) Journal
    Is it just me that thinks this one is odd, or should this have been posted to slashdj.org
  • by Anonymous Coward
    I'm sure there are lots of people out there that are going to dissagree with me, but one of the easiest ways to get into digital music creation is with Garageband on a Mac. It's pretty damn good, and if you play around with it for awhile, you'll have no worries moving up to logic or logic express.
    • I don't think that this is what he is looking for. He isn't looking to make his own music, he is looking to DJ, which, when you break it down, it just learning to mix/blend songs as you go from one song to the next. Garage Band will do that, but you are doing it to make music and tracks. Maybe something he would use in the future (when doing his own mixes), but not at the start.

      RonB
      • "...he is looking to DJ, which, when you break it down, it just learning to mix/blend songs as you go from one song to the next."

        Even assuming that we're talking non-broadcast, there's a lot more to it than that. Specifically, the audience. You have to be able to read and work the crowd, even if you never say a word. You have to know which song to play when. A smooth segue ain't worth much if you choose the wrong music for the moment.

        You aren't really playing music, you're using the music to play the cr

        • Which is completely unrelated to the OP, which was asking for the *technical* skills and tools required...
          • "Which is completely unrelated to the OP, which was asking for the *technical* skills and tools required..."

            User 213492, rblancarte, claimed that DJ'ing is just "...learning to mix/blend songs...", when it is actually much, much more. I pointed that out to rblancarte and anyone else who might have been misled by his/her post.

            That's why I replied to rblancarte's post and not one at a higher level.

            • Well realize this - I was breaking down DJing to its very basic level. Playing and mixing song.

              Now that being said, I know there is much more to DJing than just playing music. I know a number of DJs, more than of few of whom are not that good and can clear dance floors faster than the house lights, because exactly the reasons you listed (or not knowing them).

              But the goal of my original post was just to point out what technical requirements were being targeted. And in this case, he was looking for softwar
  • by linguizic ( 806996 ) on Saturday March 18, 2006 @06:12PM (#14949506)
    You could do what my brother did and start taking tons of ecstasy and pass out in a puddle of your own vomit on the courthouse lawn. I think that was the secret to his success.
    • I used to put my faith in worship
      But then my chance to get to Heaven slipped

      I used to worry about the future
      But then I threw my caution to the wind

      I had no reason to be care free, no no no
      Until I took a trip to the other side of town

      Yeah yeah yeah, you know I heard that boogie rhythm
      Hey - I had no choice but to get down down down down

      Dance, nothing left for me to do but dance
      Off these bad times I'm going through just dance

      I got canned heat in my heels tonight, baby!
    • This is a true life horror story of being a DJ:
      http://www.pomosideshow.com/geekcomix/geek_comix_ 0 030.html [pomosideshow.com]

      Being a DJ is fun, except for when it's not. If you're playing to a receptive crowd, it's awesome. It doesn't matter how good you are or how great your music is if the crowd is a bunch of terds (and there are many varieties of terds). It's a better job than most, though.

  • by Teetow ( 603838 ) on Saturday March 18, 2006 @06:14PM (#14949524)
    Well, there are a few. I'm sure links will pop up later, so I'll stick to the info part.

    The first step, obviously, is learning to beat match. This involves working up a sense for tempo and rhythm, and also for listenting to two simultaneous songs and determining which needs to be slowed down / speeded up in order to match the tempo of the other. Most modern DJ software (and a few CD drives) does this automatically, but it's still a required skill to have.

    Next comes harmonic matching. This involves learning about keys and chords, and making sure the two songs don't interfere harmonically. There are less rights and wrongs here, it's more a matter of "do the two songs blend?".

    Finally, there's music selection. DJ:ing isn't just making sure everything is in place, it's also about using two songs to create a third. This is where taste trumps theory, so you just have to take inspiration from other great DJ:s and learn the "groove."

    Going from DJ Software to CD:s is a minor change today, most CD:s can even play the same mp3:s directly. You lose a lot of information (such as the scrolling waveform or the handy playlist search function), but you're not ready to hit the floors until you know your selection by heart anyway.

    Hitting the vinyl requires a lot more tactile training, and you're also immediately stripped of any beatmatching, looping or cue point facilities. It's you, the needle and the track.

    A great segway, however, is getting Stanton's Final Scratch. This product comprises a special soundcard and two specially encoded vinyl discs with timecode information. The timecode is reported to the software, which then plays the appropriate part of any song you choose. This way, you get most of the benefits of digital music playback, but you also teach yourself how to handle vinyl. The move to real analog playback is then made much smoother.

    Personally, even though I'm well past my active DJ years, I'd love to give Final Scratch a go. Given a small enough buffer size and some clever interpolation, it'll be at least as good enough as the real thing, and in many aspects far superior.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      Any DJ following your plan would bore the hell out of me.

      The first step, obviously, is learning to beat match.

      The first step is to buy some decent records, otherwise the question's answer is, "Why ask? Any bonehead can DJ with an iPod or some off-the-shelf software your BestBuy salesperson will point you to." Beat matching usually creates a seemingly interminable section of music without any hook or chorus. The music is faceless, just some FruityLoops, Logic or ProTools BS with poorly chosen pads and
      • Uh, it doesn't matter what you're playing, you need to be able to mix the two songs together when one ends and the other begins. I have never heard a DJ other than at a wedding just let one song end and then start the next one afterward.
      • And DJs should stop playing MP3s
        I'd rather say: And DJs should stop playing bad MP3s. You know, it's like the 'digital quality' crap, an MP3 is as good as the one who encoded it made it to be.

        Just because you haven't heard of a good MP3 yet just doesn't mean that they don't exist.
    • The first step, obviously, is learning to beat match.

      Basically most music uses a factor of 4 in a bar. In order to beat match you have to start the new track at the start of a bar .

      Remember bars have a multiple of 4, usually 16 or 32 beats. Learn to count beats. You can spot a bar change because something other than the beat will change.
      So after 16 beats, vocals may come in, or after 32 beats you get some 303 sounds.

      In order to beat match, you have to align tempo obviously, but you also have to mat

    • "Going from DJ Software to CD:s is a minor change today, most CD:s can even play the same mp3:s directly."

      Sorry to tell you this, but switching from Software to CD's is not at all a minor change. Software you're playing around with a keyboard, the real thing means manipulating a job dial with your hands and requires quite a bit of practice just like using turntables.

      If you learn on software, don't expect to ever make the switch to hardware like turntables or CDs, the learning curve will be pretty much the s
      • What you train when you learn to mix is your ears, not your fingers. I learned how to beat match with software / mp3. Professional cd players have a slower start than software so you have to get used to that (took me about 5 minutes the first time I touched cd players). The first time I tried to mix with turntables after DJing for 4 years with software/cds, I was able to do it as if I used vinyl all along
        • Sorry to call BS on you, but there's no way you mixed a tight beat on your first try with vinyl. I know many DJs, most of them are crap and they've been at it for years. I've never seen anyone master a turntable in anything less than a few months.
          • I did not say I mastered a turntable. I cannot beat match with turntables as fast as cds or software but I did it on the first try. My ears are trained enough to detect which track is faster, which track is ahead of the other so if you give me even the most weird piece of machine that can play music and can change pitch and pitch bend, I will eventually beat match with it (just give me 10 minutes). The hard part of beat matching is if the sound is crappy or the headphones aren't loud enough...
      • Or for those not willing to move away from MP3's, but wanting to get their hands dirty, there's always these [gizmodo.com]
    • I'm an amateur DJ myself and would definately recommend the FinalScratch to anyone who can shell out the cash for it.

      It costs much less than a good mixer (I use a djm-600), and only slightly more than a brand new top of the line deck (1210M5G).

      After dumping TONS of cash into my vinyl collection, using FinalScratch is a breather..

      You can download the same tracks from BeatPort [beatport.com] for a fraction of the price of a record =)

    • A great segway

      Ooh. I get to be grammar Nazi and IP lawyer at the same time.

      The word you're looking for is segue [dictionary.com], not Segway [segway.com].
    • Good points, and agreed on all counts.

      One thing that I would add though, based on my experience of working as a DJ briefly for university goth/metal clubs is that lighting is very important.

      I've worked in many clubs & university setups where the cd-decks were old, the turntables were nasty, but they had ultra-modern lighting rigs setup for the times when bands would perform.

      I hate being in a club where the DJ is doing a good job with the music, people are dancing/drinking and the lights are setup on

    • Steps in wrong order completely.

      First is track selection. A DJ that plays the right tracks and blows an occasional mix is far more interesting to listen to than one that mixes flawlessly and plays tracks that don't make sense together.

      Then comes beatmatching and phrase matching.

      Harmonic mixing isn't always that important. Some gabber for instance, key is an afterthought- some of it is just loud and distorted and you wonder if the speakers are blown. Noize, well, I don't think you could find a key there n
  • by creimer ( 824291 ) on Saturday March 18, 2006 @06:17PM (#14949529) Homepage
    If you're going to brag that some hip-hop punk DJ, make sure your equipment works. I been to one end-of-the-semester campus party of 300 people where the DJ spent all night trying to get the equipment working. It was 10pm when he got it working that the cops showed up to send everyone home.
  • by thegnu ( 557446 ) <thegnuNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Saturday March 18, 2006 @06:18PM (#14949533) Journal
    I would go find a DJ I like locally and ask him that same question. Talk to EVERY DJ you can, and ask him what you have to ask. Having somebody real in front of you is way more valuable than all of Slashdot. No offense, dear reader.

    You can get practical software solutions, practical hardware solutions, and really get a lot of comprehensive feedback where a Google search will fail you. And if you're lucky/friendly and find a DJ who's interested in YOU, you could get actual feedback on your performance. Sometimes, a Pro will let you touch their gear, and that's thrilling, too.

    Good luck!
  • As you state you are already a music fan, you probably have a nice collection of MP3s already, and have acquired an ear for beats, tempos, etc. This will help, as mixing is all about knowing your tracks (BPMs, drops, etc). However, if you want to start DJing for events or whatever, I would advise starting a collection of tracks that you have legally purchased and can be used for public consumption. IANAL but you want to keep your limewire collection seperate, i would think.

    When it comes down to equipment

    • Ah, I was just wondering, is there really no nice program that can do simple mixing of songs on a pc?

      I would like to use something like that, how limited it might be, just to get an ear for beat/tempo and playing the right songs after each other. I am just interested in this from an amateurist point of view, I don't want to impose this on my fellow humans ;), and I'd like to learn and start somewhere, without having to invest loads of money on equipment or software. Maybe there is even software that can h

  • by brownsteve ( 673529 ) on Saturday March 18, 2006 @06:35PM (#14949621) Homepage
    I've ventured into the realm of DJing much over the past few years. I do dances for my church and raves for my friends, and I've found, for practical purposes, that the computer beats the pants off a traditional system.

    My amateur rig is a laptop running Traktor DJ Studio and a visualizer called G-Force. Traktor DJ [native-instruments.com] is leaps and bounds ahead of any pro DJ software out there. It's a commercial package with anything a DJ or amateur could ever want. Beatmatching, streaming, looping, it's all there. It will even help you "work up" to a level of mastery until you go out and buy real turntables. G-Force [soundspectrum.com] is a great shareware app that will give a set-it-and-forget-it light show with nothing but an ordinary projector.

    Finally, here's some advice from when I first started. Learning "how to DJ" involves three things you must master. First, learn the equipment, which isn't too tough if you're already an ubergeek. Second, get familiar with a whole spectrum of music, which can be hard if your tastes are polarized against genres like rap or country. Last, and most importantly, you must refine your skills to "work a crowd" and respond to your audience's tastes. Developing that charisma is by far the most challenging aspect of becoming a DJ.

    [shameless plug] For more tips, I set up a pseudo-DJ tutorial at my website [byu.edu]. [/shameless plug] Good luck.

    • If you are DJing, and one of the participants at high school prom (aka me) gives you a petition claiming "WE believe you should play some FUNK" with 40 signatures, you know you are doing a bad job.
  • Saw a segment on this DJ School on Current. Looks like a great way to get started without dropping tons on turntables. They also have a training DVD.

    http://www.scratch.com/ [scratch.com]

    http://www.current.tv/studio/media/1468855 [current.tv]
  • Required Listening (Score:3, Informative)

    by NilObject ( 522433 ) on Saturday March 18, 2006 @06:40PM (#14949650)
  • by The Ultimate Fartkno ( 756456 ) on Saturday March 18, 2006 @06:43PM (#14949666)
    ...is what do you consider a DJ? Do you want to scratch for a nu-metal band like DJ Lethal? Do you want to back a hip-hop act? Do you want to produce your own beats and DJ for crowds like Tiesto? Do you want to be one of those guys who plugs his iPod into a sound system and says he's a DJ? Do you want to use vinyl, or take the digital way out?

    Answer that question, and then you can start down the road.
  • Final Scratch 2 (Score:2, Informative)

    Final Scratch 2 [stantondj.com] and Traktor DJ Studio 2.6 [nativeinstruments.de] (3.0 will work too) is a killer combonation.

    Go get yourself a set of inexpensive direct drive turntables and a 2 channel mixer, hook up a Final Scratch 2 to a Firewire port, fire up Traktor DJ studio 2.6, let it analyize your mp3's, and you'll be mixing within a few hours.

    Traktor 2.6 works with the Final Scratch 2 and let's you do everything you would normally do with records with your mp3 (pick up the needle, move it forwards and backwards and set it down, spin i
    • 10K for a basic setup?

      Top end Techs: ~$1,500
      Rane Empath: ~$1000.00
      Good Headphones: ~$100.00

      That's a basic high end setup for $2,600.00 unless you're talking about an amp and speakers as well.

      Take that extra money and spend it on music.
  • Direct Experience (Score:3, Informative)

    by ALeavitt ( 636946 ) * <aleavittNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Saturday March 18, 2006 @06:50PM (#14949697)
    A few years ago I became interested in DJing and making my own electronic music. A friend recommended that I buy a program called Acid, which allows for the creation of loops and sequences, and I started learning to use it. I figured out that it makes it possible to DJ digitally, albeit not at all in real-time, and started putting together mixes. Once I figured out what I was doing, I talked to a friend of mine who was a DJ and sent him a few mixes. He helped me pick out a pair of turntables and a mixer, recommended a few records to me, and all of a sudden I was a DJ in real life. This is where things got a little harder. Learning to DJ can be difficult and frustrating. It takes a few months of regular practice and effort, and you really have to love the music you're DJing. I recommend that you take your time with this step. Get some records that you like and practice, practice, practice. Once you feel confident, record yourself. You'll feel the need to practice a whole lot more. Slowly start getting records. Make sure that you know the songs that you get - it's better to have a handful of records that you know really well than a ton of records that you can't even identify. Anyway, it sounds like a lot of people are recommending Final Scratch. I don't have any direct experience with it, but I've heard very good things. I have no doubt that if you start with Final Scratch and learn to DJ, and then move onto turntables, it won't be a difficult transition at all. Teetow's comments are excellent - remember, A DJ doesn't just mix from song A to song B and then to song C, all while trying to keep transitions subtle. A good DJ uses the music that he has to take listeners on a journey and tell a story. He (or she) uses individual pieces of music the create an entirely new piece of music. Once you've got that figured out, then you're really a DJ.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Are you trying to Dj in clubs, art galleries and hip bars? Make some cool friends, preferably those who promote events. There's really no other way in, it's a popularity contest and DJ slots are highly coveted. If you don't have any friends and/or people don't think you're "cool" you're probably SOL, no matter how much you know about music (and by the way, there are a LOT of people who know a lot about music, and almost all of them are cooler than you. For starters they don't go to Slashdot looking for
  • My advice... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by DuranDuran ( 252246 ) on Saturday March 18, 2006 @06:56PM (#14949726)
    My advice to you is as follows. This is coming from someone who has DJ'd around the world, supported big acts like the Prodigy, had residencies.

    Your first step is to learn to play music that people want to hear. Don't worry about beatmixing, cutting, scartching, all that can come later. If you want to be popular, the kind of Dj that gets asked to play regularly and has a good following (regardless of whether it's underground or mainstream), learn first to read the crowd and play music that you think they will like. Some of the world's best DJ's are technically awful. But they play upfront tracks.

    Then, when you're ready, buy some turntables. They don't have to be Technics - in fact I recommend some rubbish old ones first. They will improve your technique.

    Then practice, practice, practice.
    • Either that or you could do it for the love of the music and be able to sleep at night. It's true that music selection is probably the biggest part of what makes one DJ different from another, but if you just play the same old poppy tracks that everyone has heard over and over again you're only going to attract people with no musical taste.
      • I will walk out as soon as I hear poppy crap, I do not come to a dance floor to hear top 40 even if it is 20 years ago. DJs who do not diffentiate themselves from the crowd might be popular in some places, but if you want to do niche work like Goth or Industrial clubs, good fucking luck they will spit in your face as they roast you alive.
        • Sad to say, that's 85% bullshit. The goth/industrial clubs I've been to (primarily Manray, may it rest in peace, but there are another 3 or 4 around) play only about 10-15% new content in a given month. It's not standard top 40 by any means, but it's still the goth equivalent of top 40. DJs who won't play the goth favorites are the ones who get handed their ass and asked to leave.

          On the other hand, there is a definite expectation that a good DJ will try out that 10% of new stuff, most of which gets canne
          • Well considering I am not Indie/Goth I guess I have no idea what the top 40 is the only stuff I have at home like that is throbbiing gristle/swan/dead can dance/dresden dolls and some others I won't name. So when I go to a gothy club unless it is 80's night and I'm drunk it is all new to me.

            Good DJs at some places are expected to mix more than 10%. In some of the more experimental clubs I have been on noise and electronica night it can get pretty crazy.

      • Thanks for proving my point! Where did I say that you should play "the same old poppy tracks"? I said "play to the crowd". Now, either the crowd (and you) are fools, or they (and you) know what's what. You should read what I wrote, then think about it a little.
        • Ok, I hear that.

          All I'm saying, though, is that if you don't play for the love of the music then there's no point. Find some other way to make money if that's all you're looking for. If the music you love is good enough, then find a venue that will appreciate it instead of just catering to whatever people want to hear.
    • Re:My advice... (Score:2, Insightful)

      by blisspix ( 463180 )
      Agree, it's about the songs first. Last year I DJ'd in New York and copped grief from our co-DJs who thought we amateurs because we brought CDs and not a million 45s (we play 60s stuff not hip hop or dance). We were travelling the US and had already been on the road for a month by the time we hit New York and wanted to travel light, and many of the songs we had on CD were from albums that we didn't want to bring because they are too fragile/rare.

      At any rate, predictably, our songs from humble CDs got the cr
    • Someone mod this guy up! This is the most correct and succint answer to the question asked I've seen. Ultimately, nothing matters if you don't play what people want to hear, and song choice will overcome B-grade equipment (but not C-grade!) everytime.
  • I have done some DJing. I use PCDJ. http://www.pcdj.com/ [pcdj.com] It does beatmatching, mixing, and you can even set up turntables without styluses, and scratch using a webcam. Check it out!
  • Check my sig, and you can watch video of my show (just click "the stage" on the site)

    Just remember, there is a difference between a KJ and a DJ. If you ever find yourself doing karaoke, remember what I have to say...

    The huge difference between KJ's and DJ's is how a playlist is handled. A DJ's playlist will generally try to work with the mood of the crowd, thier goal is to get the crowd off thier feet dancing and having a good time. This absolutely warrents using 2 turntables, crossfader, and a bit of an
  • What is a DJ? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by phaxkolumbo ( 572192 ) <phaxkolumboNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Saturday March 18, 2006 @07:04PM (#14949759)
    Just a quick and highly biased an opinionated, well, ummh, opinion on the subject at hand. I might be talking out of my arse but this is how I see it, and how it applies to DJing as I practice it. Technical matters are all dependent on what kind of music you play, and I'll let other people duke it out when it comes to their favourite software/controller/turntable/stylus/cd-deck/etc/e tc/etc...

    A DJ is someone who plays music for people, this means only two things:

    -Access to a suitable music collection.

    -Knowledge of the crowd or listeners you're playing to.

    Nothing else.

    Now... depending on the style of music you're playing to people this might mean picking up some technical skills, but these are not really mandatory, if you can read the crowd and play just the right tune you'll be alright.

    Skills you might need:

    -Beatmatching

    -Harmonic matching

    -Needle dropping

    -Scratching

    -Doing voice overs (for instance, in radio work)

    -Putting on a show, in the visual sense, might mean video screens or maybe costumes, maybe even (shudder) dancing

    Listen to some mixtapes, radio shows etc. of suitable variety to see what you're aiming to. Talk to people: DJ's, listeners, music geeks, partygoers, the list goes on. Once you're aware of what you're trying to do, just practice. As much as you need to. Also, if you're a DJ of the bedroom variety,and have no other feedback: record your sessions/sets, and listen after some time to hear all the mistakes you've made. It's painful but there's no way around it. Maybe play them to people who might give some insightful comments.

    Again, in my opinion, what you're aiming for is entertainment, something that is seamless and builds up to a cohesive whole. Something that keeps people dancing, listening, tapping their toes and nodding their heads. Tell a story, you can line up your records by tempo, theme, artist, melody, intensity etc. To do this you need to know your music well. Listen.

    Don't let your ego rule your thing, people aren't going to be there to watch you (unless you dress up in drag and do spastic dancing for show), they're there to dance or listen to music, make it worth their while. Audience comes first.

    Hmmh, but then again... maybe i've got it all wrong. Plus I'm slightly drunk. Take this with a grain or two of salt.

  • get this book (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Sathias ( 884801 ) on Saturday March 18, 2006 @07:08PM (#14949777)
    How to DJ Right by Frank Broughton and Bill Brewster [amazon.com] is easily the best text I have read about DJing. I had been DJing for quite a few years when I read this book and there was a lot of information which I found very useful.

    My advice would be that if you are serious about learning, buy yourself some good second-hand technics decks. They have excellent re-sale value because they are built to last for years. I have some old second-hand 1200 Mk2s which I bought when I was living in England, and they have been moved around countless times and still are as good as the day I bought them. Even if you buy a cheaper mixer to start with, get the turntables right.

    I'd also advise to get in with an online community of people that play the same sort of music as you want to. Not only is it handy for finding gems which you might not know about, when you get confident enough to start hosting your mixes online you will get some useful advise and criticism of your mixes.
  • Getting Started (Score:5, Informative)

    by spoonboy42 ( 146048 ) on Saturday March 18, 2006 @07:12PM (#14949796)
    Welcome to the wonderful world of mixing. The first thing you're going to need is gear. Absolutely essential are 2 good direct-drive turntables (direct drive is essential, belt-drive won't have nearly the torque you need). The industry standard is the Technics SL-1200 [panasonic-europe.com] (the MK2 is the normal baseline model, the MK5G is an updated version with selectable +/- 8/16 % pitch adjust and updated styling). Some other acceptable models (which are themselves heavily influence by the 1200) are the Stanton [stantondj.com] ST-100 and STR8-100, the NuMark [numark.com] TT1600 and TTX series.

    Now, I know you're saying "Turntables? Vinyl?!! Are these the dark ages here?" Well, the fact is that most dance music is released primarily to vinyl, for DJs just like you. The good thing is that, since LPs are an analog technology, incremental improvements in quality are possible without breaking compatibility. In fact, record mastering is an art which has advanced considerably even after the invention of the CD, and well-taken-care-of LPs played back with professional-quality cartridges blow the sound quality of CDs away. Believe it.

    Speaking of cartridges, that brings us to the next set of kit. There are a wide range of pickup cartridges, ranging from $20 entry-level models to the superior Ortofon Concorde [topdjgear.com] at over $100. Honestly, get the Concordes. The cartridge itself is extremely high quality and delivers amazing sound quality without distortion, and the actual needle tips are replaceable (for much less that the cost of new cartridges), and can even be swapped out with different styli for different purposes (ultra high-fidelity vs. scratching, etc.).

    The next piece of gear is the mixer. Here's another area where there is a vast range in price. The extremely expensive models feature loads of inputs, multi-band equalizers, full banks of filters, several effects loops (and possibly some integrated effects), quadraphonic mixing, optical faders, and maybe even full-digital mixing. The truth is, you probably don't need all those feature while you're starting out. The important features you want are a seperate 3-band EQ on EACH CHANNEL, nice smooth (and user-servicable) faders, and maybe an adjustable curve on the cross-fader. I use a Stanton mixer with these features, and an optical scratch fader, and it set me back only about $250 new.

    Now, I know I said earlier that Vinyl is the DJ's medium of choice. That has been the case for several decades, but to be perfectly honest, there ARE some viable alternatives now. Stanton's Final Scratch [stantondj.com] system is a pretty amazing box that plugs into your existing DJ setup and your PC, and allows the playback of MP3s which are controlled by real, physical specially-encoded Vinyl. There is a slight latency involved with playback of the special discs, which is fine for mixing and even light scratching, but more complex scratches aren't really possible. Even then, the system is truly amazing, and it hooks in with the excellent digital DJ software package Traktor [nativeinstruments.com] from Native Instruments.

    CD turntables are also a major new technology. This field was pioneered by Pioneer [pioneerprodj.com] with their CDJ-1000. The first model featured a large mechanical jog wheel that can be used to manipulate CD tracks like Vinyl (the platter doesn't spin on its own however, so it is slightly more limited than Vinyl). Since the introduction of this product, Technics and NuMark have both introduced their own CD turntables with full 12" platters that actually rotate. If you must use CDs, there are some good options out there (be aware that they are very expensive, however).

    OK, by now, you're presumably kitted out and you've bought a couple dozen records that you like. Now, h
  • chestnuts (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward
    There's enough decent advice upthread on the learning part that I'll just dive into little chestnuts and nonobvious things without pretending to give you a comprehensive tutorial.

    (A) You'll want one good vinyl turntable, even if you plan on spinning vinyl. Here's why: lots of releases for DJs are still vinyl-only, so despite the best efforts of the p2p ripping squad restricting yourself to mp3s and CDs will restrict your ability to use good music in your sets; furthermore, if you start buying up older class
  • by AEther141 ( 585834 ) on Saturday March 18, 2006 @07:28PM (#14949869)
    That's about the long and short of it. DJing is not a technical skill - that's turntablism. There's a minimum level of proficiency required to DJ some kinds of material, but basic beatmatching can be learned in a couple of weeks. The best way to learn is to find someone who can show you the ropes and then head for your bedroom and practice. What really matters is that you play music people want to hear and that you are reliable in doing it. Computers are generally out of the question on grounds of reliability, but you need to be comfortable working on technics because they're the common ground of DJing - 95%+ of clubs use technics decks, very few of them will have CD decks, BPM counters or anything else. Having a box full of vinyl and traditional skills means you can turn up at a friend's party and do a set. Learn the basics and hone them until they're perfect. Be the kind of guy promoters like to hire - consistent, punctual and reliable.

    The real meat of DJing is records. If you're serious, you'll be spending tens of hours and hundreds of dollars a month shopping for records - much more time if you play obscure stuff, much more money if you do contemporary pop or commercial dance. The DJ is the lord of the meta; acting as a metafilter and selecting the best of the kind of music the audience wants to hear and arranging it across the length of a set, forming a metanarrative for maximum emotional impact. Learn about music, about classical composition, about artistic lineage and the history of movements and styles. See the connections that no-one else sees, hear the subtext that no-one else hears and make them obvious to an audience. In short, be the guy who always finds cool new music and play it to people.

  • OK, so now you listened to all of your Beatles, Bee Gees, Beach Boys, and B-52s ("the four Bs") LPs over and over. Well, it's now time to become a Disk Jockey! (aka "Platter Head", "Vinyl Veteran", "Shellac Spinner")
    First off...go and find a radio station. Just drive around and look for the big antennas, then go knock on the doors of the building and show them your collection of 45s. They are sure to hire you on the spot.
    OK, now on your first work day make sure that your turntables are set up correctly
  • Shameless product plug of the best visuals a DJ could have at a party.

    Best of all its free

    http://www.beatharness.com/ [beatharness.com]

  • ... on what exactly you want to do or learn.

    My aim was to set-up a simple DJ'ing system using only laptops for live music at a local student dance event hosted by the SCI catering to an audience of about 150. With no prior experience with mixing software , or for that matter, DJ'ing basics, I started out looking up on the net, tried out a few, and learnt as I used.

    I really liked, and finally used, Sam Party DJ [spacialaudio.com]. It offers a full-featured trial, has an easy, configurable UI, and two virtual decks to easi

  • by CokoBWare ( 584686 ) on Saturday March 18, 2006 @07:52PM (#14949985)
    I'm sure there are lots of different kinds of terminology for what you're looking to do. Some people call it "DJing", some people call it producing, and some people call it composing. Whatever you call it, I have a very good notion of what you're looking for in terms of software. Even though I have 10 years of piano lessons, it doesn't necessarily prepare you for all the other interesting aspects of electronic composition (constructing and mixing beats, learing how to use effects, mixing and engineering your instrument tracks, sampling, VST plug-ins, etc.), including music gear.

    For picking a software package to get started with, it depends on how hands on you want to get with constructing the melodies and configuring instruments. You can either use a MIDI sequencing tool, or a loop-based sequencing tool. Most modern day sequencing tools have both MIDI and loops sequencing features, but some are more tuned to one way or another.

    A MIDI sequencer requires a good foundation in understanding how to construct melodies, baselines, drumbeats, and effect tracks with MIDI or VST instruments plugged into the sequencer. It's a lot of work, but gives you the ultimate flexibility.

    A loop sequencer is more for people who want to dive in and get constructing music right away, and is more rapid than MIDI sequencing. For the power that loop sequencing gives you in the "pick-up-and-go" category, it sometimes lacks in flexibility, depending on your tool.

    My recommendation is that if you want to just start working on music in the next 5 minutes after you install your music sequencer, try a loop-based tool. As I said before, most tools nowadays have the best of both worlds to offer you some flexibility, but in reality the best tools for loops sequencing are gounded in their history as loop-based sequencers.

    My suggestion for a loop-based sequencing program is something like FruityLoops or Sony's Acid to get started. Even eJay is a very easy to purchase from the local software store and start using right away. I personally use Acid since I've been using it for years. It has a slick interface, easy MIDI integration, execellent loop handing, and a ton of other features that make your loops less canned. Acid's loops are just specially tagged .WAV files that often have beat and pitch integration. One of the nice features of Acid is that with proper WAV loops, all of your loops are perfectly synced and in key with each other automatically. The ease of using Acid comes from "painting" the instrument loops into the timeline and breaking it up to add variety. There are also effects gallore you can introduce to your instrument tracks, and various other wonderful tools to use.

    Whatever tool you choose, explore it's features and try creating a few tracks with it. You'll find as you use the software, you'll get better (like most software packages) over time, and your tracks will reflect your skill with the tool. If you find that the software just doesn't feel right, try another package and work with that. Eventually you'll find something that works for you and your approach to "DJing".

    I view DJing as like Beck says: "I got two turntables and a microphone"... everything else is just making music to me.

    Good luck!
  • Get thee to your local community radio station! Often this is at the university or community college. Also look for dj groups/clubs that may exist. These are usually the best places to find easy to approach people who will readily share their experiences.

    Depending on what kind of media you are planning on investing in, your equipment costs will vary. If you are mixing tunes for your own consumption then you would do well with just software on your own pc. Being able to pitch-shift is the only necessity
  • That's the software you wan't, I think. Head along to the website [ableton.com] and download the free trial, play around with it. It comes with tutorials and a helpful forum. It's like DJing with an infinite number of decks, and the ability to add your own loops, instruments and entire original works of music. It's the best, I totally love it :D

    As an aside, I'm surprised so many people on here are referring you to turntables or even Final Scratch. This being a techie site I was sure people would be talking about Ableton
    • Ableton is awesome software. It's the way to go with digital DJing. The problem with digital, is there's just something soulless about it. It's great software that requires as much or more skill than "physical" DJing, but there's just something missing from it... Part of being a good DJ is having a good stage presence, and being behind a laptop kinda ruins that.
  • Okay. If you want to be a "top40" club dj, you don't need to really have many skills anymore. Just the ability to use some crappy software and knowlege of the latest 40 tracks. Most top40 clubs nowadays just have mp3 and "auto beatmatch" stuff turned on. What you do also really need is to know someone who's on the "inside". Also, you've gotta have a thick skin, because you're not gonna get much respect in "real" DJ circles (This next part is on being an electronic dance music DJ, I have no experience real
  • by pen ( 7191 ) *
    Remember to drink plenty of water.
  • Uncommon Advice (Score:4, Insightful)

    by dr.badass ( 25287 ) on Saturday March 18, 2006 @08:52PM (#14950223) Homepage
    Here are some things I wish someone had told me when I learned to DJ:

    1. Do not spend your money on mixtapes/cds or DVDs made by other DJs.
    2. Do not spend your money on music you can't use in a set.
    3. Do not spend your money on drugs. It bears repeating: do not spend your money on drugs.

    In fact, maybe you should just forget about ever having money for anything but records ever again. Records are always going to be an expensive addiction. It's kind of like a puzzle that never really ends -- some records work well with some but not others -- so you're always going to be searching for new stuff that has the sound (hopefully your sound) that you're trying to play. The drugs thing should be obvious, but I've seen so many people for whom it's not that I think it's worth mentioning.

    4. Do not spend your money on cheap equipment.
    5. Do not spend your money on more equipment than you need.
    6. Extra equipment will not make you suck less.

    Cheap equipment won't work as well (turntables with too little torque, etc), won't last very long, and will have no resale value whatsoever. If that means waiting six months to save up the money, so be it. Also, you do not need anything but two turntables (or CD decks, if you're one of those people), a mixer, and some cables. If you find yourself looking at samplers, drum machines, DAWs, MIDI stuff, effects boxes and so on (and you will), walk out of the store or turn off the computer and go practice instead.

    7. Practice every day. Not every other day. Not when you feel like it. Every day.
    8. You are not going to get laid because you DJ.
    9. You might actually get laid less because you DJ.

    Practice is really the most valuable part, but it's the only one you can't buy. Books and DVDs won't really help you much, so don't waste too much money on them. You need to know what to practice, but there isn't much that one book will tell you that another won't. A lot of how-to DVDs are actually just an hour of showing off with maybe ten minutes of instruction: fun to watch, but useless for learning.

    8 and 9 will spare you some potential embarrassment. These days you can throw a rock and hit a DJ (please do!), so as a general rule people are not going to be impressed by that fact alone. If you want to learn to DJ because you want people to be impressed by you (and there's no shame in that, it's only natural), you're going to be disappointed.

    10. Stop doing it when it stops being fun.

    This applies to just about everything.
  • A good DJ exchanges energy with the dancers...and learns how to keep that energy flowing with what they are playing. All the software or hardware in the world will not make you a good DJ, it takes practice, lots. And like other musicians, you have to learn your instruments, your hardware and software, so well you don't need to think about it to use it.

    So offer to DJ at parties, throw parties to DJ at, go to places where people DJ, and learn!

    And never stop learning!

    ttyl
    Far
  • Know your music (Score:4, Interesting)

    by DarkDust ( 239124 ) <marc@darkdust.net> on Saturday March 18, 2006 @11:00PM (#14950561) Homepage

    I'm a hobby DJ myself and do a monthly (former weekly) event for about four years now together with a friend of mine who has about seven or eight years of DJ experience, and this is my opinion on this topic (I'll first rant about DJ'ing itself and then about the software/hardware we use):

    I think the most important thing for DJ'ing is to know your music. You must know the bands and names of your songs and vice versa you must know how your songs sound like when you hear their names. And you must learn how to combine them. The bigger your reportoire the better. Be prepared to buy a lot of CDs over time... my collection is currently about 400 CDs right now and that's not very much, IMHO: other DJs I know have more, some have MUCH more. Most DJs I know could have bought a car with the money they've spent into CDs. (Yes, there are P2P nets, bla bla, but I like to hold something in my hand; and I also know some DJs which still only use vinyl)

    We do a gothic event and that means to know a lot of different music genres, from medieval to gothic rock to 80's pop and wave to industrial. In short: all kind of different rock and electronic genres from the 80's to now. DJ'ing for those events is probably different from DJ'ing a techno or hip hop event, but you haven't said which music you're into so I just assume my opinion could be useful for you ;-)

    Our concept is to do blocks of one genre and try to slide into another genre and only sometimes do "breaks" where we change e.g. from noise into "heavenly voices" from one song to another. That means if I play a song from some band I have to come up with songs of other bands that fit in the same genre and are good follow-ups to former song. Other DJs have other concepts, for example another good DJ I know normally only plays songs one or two songs of the same genre and then breaks into a completely different genre. Those concepts depend on a few things, e.g. how many guests you have, how many people fit on the dance floor at one time and also your target audience, just to name a few.

    Whatever your concept is doesn't matter though, what matters is that you can come up with songs that fit your concept and that people like, and that means you really have to know your song reportoire. And to do that you don't need any fancy software for that. I personally normally work with CDs, I need the inspiration from seeing the CD backs in my DJ cases. A simple list of songs is not very inspiring for me... other DJs think otherwise, like my co-DJ.

    But my co-DJ used AtomixMP3 [atomixmp3.com] and now the successor (AFAIK) Virtual DJ [virtualdj.com]. Both are very easy to use and affordable. While I rarely use the computer for DJ'ing myself I think they're very good. They also have automatic beat mixing and stuff which may be more important to DJs for electronic music (for non-electronic stuff beat mixing and effect are quite useless, IMHO...).

    We also have a console [virtualdj.com] for Virtual DJ which includes a sound card and generally makes the software usable like DJ CD players. It's very nice, IIRC we paid 200 Euro for the console including the software but it's much cheaper now, I think 100 Euro or something. Together with an USB 2.0 harddisk and a notebook you're set.

    Ah, and some other important advises: Have fun ! Don't let others stress you. Especially don't listen to song requests from annoying guests, you'll see that the dance floor will be empty when you play that damn song and the annoying guest is nowhere to be seen. And remember that a DJ creates trends, if you only play the songs on the current top 100 you'll probably bore your guests...

  • A number of years ago, when I was starting to DJ, I spent a lot of time on the news group alt.music.makers.dj [google.com] (and also uk.music.makers.dj [google.com]). There were a number of very knowledgeable people who offered lots of useful advice. I don't know the current state of these groups, but at least you will find a lot of information in the Google archives.
  • IANADJ but I found the film Scratch [imdb.com] to be very informative. It's also well made IMO.
  • but I'm a dj, and no, i don't mean radio. I mean a real DJ.
    I'm sure I'll get flamed for this..
    but I use vinyl.. yes, they still make vinyl.. most anything released these days, gets pressed to vinyl too still.
    I don't use cds, and i don't use mp3s. personally, i think you have more control over the mix with vinyl
    and it's more of an art form getting the mix right, than just standing there playing cds or mp3s..

    but that's just my 2 cents.
  • IRDJ (Score:5, Informative)

    by Chitlenz ( 184283 ) <chitlenz.chitlenz@com> on Sunday March 19, 2006 @12:40AM (#14950826) Homepage
    Strictly trance and downtempo on vinyl. I've been mixing records like this for (holy shit!) 17 years now as a secondary hobby to my first life as a programmer. Anyhoo, I bought a pair of Numark TTX-1s about 4 years ago when I wanted a change from my technics, and I LOVE them. What the guy said above about mixing without the fader is a very good tip. This knob twiddle mixing is a reflection of really having an idea of what sound you are trying to produce for your audience. In other words, some records need to be beaten into submission by the mixer, so to speak (so make sure you also pick a good mixer, Numark also makes a good entry level dj mixer if you aren't into 600$ for a Pioneer). I follow the sound in the current crop of records that most corresponds to the idea that I'm after, so a NuNRG - Casino would need to be matched with something suitably uptempo, maybe as a lead in to a hard trance set. Learn which artists sounds have the best familiarity to you. I find Above and Beyond to be very good at the moment in the trance world, but everyone's ear is different. Someone also made the point about accurate beatmixing, and YES it is important, but selection is the real key, Especially in electronic music where more often than not the lyrics are washed out into pan samples, etc.

      Who was it, AVB that said you have to play to the women, cuz all the men are just there to get laid heh. That, and you know you're doing OK if the bartender gets into it. Last tip, don't get all flustered if you don't go out and make a million. Go into it as a hobby, enjoy it as a hobby, leave it for a month if you feel like and if you go back to it know that its what you truly like to do. As a new folk, you should aim for not only recording yourself, but making sure you are recording a suitably long set. The average set length is (duh!) 60 - 80 mins so that it fits on a CD, and while going much much longer without a trainwreck is great, you need to be able to mix a seamless set at least that long to get anywhere.

    Oh and Go here:

    www.tranceaddict.com (Amature DJ forums)
    www.chemical-records.co.uk (a really good vinyl store)
    www.juno.co.uk (another really good vinyl store)
    www.3beat.co.uk (another good vinyl store, smaller, but with some odd tunes)

    -- chitlenz

    PS - NEEDLES MATTER!
    PPS - NOT all mixes are created equal, look for the best mix on each record you buy and stick with it, even if it IS the B side =)
  • by DrEasy ( 559739 ) on Sunday March 19, 2006 @12:45AM (#14950835) Journal
    ...some advice from someone who DJ'ed for fun. Part of the fun of DJing is the exhibitionism that comes with it. You want to show off your music taste while keeping your audience entertained. The two might clash if you're not careful!

    I'd say don't worry too much about the technical ability at first, just play stuff you like at parties and such. Create a podcast or whatever they call them these days. Or create radio shows and have them hosted online. Publicize your creations! Get your mom, your friends, your neighbors or whoever else to tune in and listen. If they like what you do they'll brag about it. If you're good and/or having fun there should be some following, and at the same time you've built up a small portfolio. Now head to some small trendy new bar that is compatible with your taste and style, and show them what you have. Like every other job it's the experience that'll get you hired. From there you can make your way up if that's what you want, and that'll give you plenty of time to hone your craft in the meantime. But in my case, this is as far as I got, and I was happy that way.

    I started by DJing at friends' parties (well, as the resident nerd I wasn't gonna flirt with the chicks the straighforward way, so I had to find a way not to get bored at parties, while playing the music I liked and maybe getting some attention). Later on I headed to the local community radio station, got a regular gig there, and finally got a regular gig at a local bar (psychedelic music, indie rock and some trip-hop in my case, no scratching or crazy mixing involved). That was a blast, I earned some pocket money and free beer and yes I even managed to score once that way! Once I finished my studies I had to get a real job and that was it as far as I was concerned (well I did a bit of internet radio for a while, but I just didn't have the time and motivation anymore). Good memories...

    Anyway, my point is, don't let the other posters here freak you out. You can DJ with a laptop and a cheap MP3 player if that's all you got (all the software you need can be found for free). Just start with a small audience and as you get better your audience will grow and so will your budget and equipment. That's the DIY ethic I would have expected the slashdotters to show you.
  • I've been djing for 16 years now and I can tell you from experience that you need to learn the basics before you get into "digital" djing. Get yourself a cheap pair of direct drive turntables, a mixer, and a bunch of vinyl (used vinyl can usually be had for $1 or less) and learn how to beatmatch. Once you get decent at it, start blending different songs together to see what works and what doesn't. Learn how to control the sound usig the decks, learn how to recover from drifting pitch.

    Being a DJ is more than
  • Now, being a self confessed linux geek is one thing i am, however, when talking audio of anyway shape or form you have to go analog. if you learn how to dj on real vinyl, you can dj on anything.
  • First, choose the genre you want to play. It's going to be hard regardless, if you don't truly love the music, you aren't going to get any good. Don't go by any "whats easier" lists. For me, the hardest I've tried is trance. I can spin UK hardcore fine... trance I'm lost in. Other people are different, can spin trance with no effort but can't spin UK hardcore to save their life. So with no really reliable way to judge whats going to be easy, go with what you love.

    Mitigating that is the fact that A DJ'
  • For Technique, I recommend none other than Scratch DJ Academy [scratch.com], with Locations in NYC, Miami, and Los Angeles. They have week-long bootcamps in the summertime if you don't live close enough for their once-a-week class. You can learn on your own, but you take the chance of learning things incorrectly and it will take you much, much longer (one hour a week for six weeks equated to six to nine months of on-your-own our instructors told us). My experience there was very positive [blogspot.com], I plan to return for more classe

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