You woke up yesterday morning, raced downstairs to look under the Christmas tree, and there it was. A gift the exact size and shape as the one you’d been hoping for… the one you whispered to Santa Claus while sitting in his lap last week… the gift you know is about to change your life. Hoping against hope, you yanked the ribbon off and tore away the wrapping paper, and sure enough, there it was: your first DJ controller. Hurray! Congratulations! You are now a DJ!
So then, you ask, now what?
I’m glad you asked that. Stick around, for in the coming months this blog will be the place for you to visit to learn the ropes and gradually go from a guy who opened a Christmas present in 2022 to a guy being paid big bucks to DJ a Christmas party in 2023.
Today I’ll start with some of the most basic of basics. Some, and maybe all, of this maybe obvious to you, but it won’t be to everyone, and perhaps there will be one or two nuggets of knowledge here that will help you on your path to DJing.
First off, open the box. Carefully! Remove the controller and all the paraphernalia that came with it, and set it all aside. Now replace the styrofoam, cardboard, plastic, and other packing materials back into that box. You should save all of that, partly because if you discover something wrong with your controller in the coming weeks you may need to return it with all the original packing materials to get a refund or a replacement, but also because someday you may want to sell this controller and upgrade to a new one. You will get more from a buyer if you present it with all its original parts and packaging. So pack that up and tuck it away in a closet, attic, corner, or under your bed.
Next, let’s gather everything else you’ll need. (For the purposes of this article, I’m assuming you are using a DJ controller, and are not starting out with turntables or CDJs. If you are, let me know in the comments and I’ll offer some advice, but also keep reading as much of what I write will still be applicable to you.) You’ll need:
1. a laptop, or other computer
2. a USB cable
Once you’ve gathered the above, it’s time to set up your home DJ booth.
First, connect the controller to the laptop with the USB cable. The controller probably came with one, though if you have a newer Mac you may need an adaptor, or a different cable. The cables that come with controllers usually aren’t very good, and can sometimes cause latency– when there is a delay between what you do on the controller and what you hear from the speaker– so at some point you’ll want to upgrade. This is the best cable in the world for DJing, so consider picking one up sometime soon. But for now, the one you have should suffice.
Next, connect the speakers. If you have powered speakers, run a cable from the master out on the back of your controller to the speakers. If you have passive speakers, run a cable from the master out on the back of your controller to the amplifier or receiver that is connected to your speakers.
Now, plug your headphones into your controller, plug your controller’s power cable into a wall socket, and everything should be wired up and ready.
Now let’s get the computer ready. What software are you using? That depends mainly upon what controller you have. My recommendation is Serato. It is hands down the best DJ software that exists today. Others may recommend Traktor, Virtual DJ, Rekordbox, or something else, but Serato is what you are going to encounter “in the wild,” most often, and what most of your DJ chums will be using. But, again, what you use may depend on what controller you have, so figure that out, and download it. Go through whatever steps are needed to get it installed on your computer.
Do you have some music? If not, that’s what Heavy Hits is for! Now that you’re a DJ, you’re going to need a source for new, and old, music, so consider signing up, but however you do it, make sure you have some music on that laptop.
And now you are ready to start practicing! Come back here for future blogs where we’ll cover other topics for beginner DJs, and get you up to speed and ready for your first public performance!