Not to sound overly dramatic, but being a DJ is kind of like being a party GOD. Think we’re exaggerating? Not necessarily…
Ok, not all DJs reach “godlike” status, but even for up-and-coming DJs, there is that feeling of connecting with a whole lot of people. You are the conduit between the music and the people, and that can feel pretty damn good, not gonna lie.
A good DJ can work a crowd in a way that brings people together like almost no other medium.
Whether its a wedding, a house party, or a huge outdoor festival in front of thousands of people, people are there to party and they are looking at you – the DJ – to bring it hard and don’t stop.
As any good DJ can demonstrate when they’re putting on a show, DJing is a skill, and it comes from within. It is your connection to the music and your understanding of a crowd’s specific wants and needs that will make or break you as a DJ.
Your familiarity with the technology, and the software must be such that you understand exactly what’s going on, and you must be able to bring the hardware and software together in such a way that it creates a mood of excitement and keeps the crowd wanting more the entire time.
At the same time as DJing is almost a spiritual connection between you and the crowd, its also something else – a job.
And to do a job well, you need to understand how everything works as much as you can. You need to understand your audience, plus the hardware, PLUS the software, and this can be a lot for a beginner DJ to take in.
The Best (And Easiest) Beginner DJ Software Programs
Today we want to speak to beginner DJs, and talk a little bit about the essential software that is needed in order for you to become a master DJ.
If you’re dipping your toe in the huge ocean of current DJ software, allow us to lend a hand and give you a few suggestions for software you should investigate as you start out.
Essentially, all DJ programs do the same thing, which is allowing you to play multiple tracks, mix between them and working with controllers to enhance control and playability.
Also, they might offer sync capabilities, helping you play tracks that have different speeds and making them synchronize.
Although the basics are the same, each program has its pros and cons, with some being shifted towards live remixing, others offering more hardware integration, etc.
Beginner DJ Starter Pack
Here’s some of the best software and other gear you’ll be needing if you’re getting into DJ’ing.
|What It Looks Like||Name||Price||Features||Buy Now|
|Denon DJ DN-MC6000 Professional Digital Mixer Controller||$$$||
|Native Instruments Traktor Audio 2 DJ Audio Interface||$$||
|Numark Party Mix – Starter DJ Controller||$$||
|Cable Matters 5-Pack 1/4″ Adapters||$||
|Oldboytech AUX Cable||$||
|Native Instruments Traktor Kontrol Z1 DJ Mixing Interface||$$$||
|Korg KP3+ KAOSS Pad Dynamic Effects Sampler||$$$||
Laptops For DJ’ing
There are many ways to approach DJing, but one simple way is to play music off your laptop.
In case you didn’t know, you kind of need a laptop to connect with both the hardware and the software.
A Macbook pro does the job nicely, although nowadays PCs offer all the specs you need and can easily do the job if you configure Windows just right.
In both types of systems it’s advisable to have an SSD drive, since their read/write speeds are a lot higher than regular hard disks and, while still more expensive, they have gotten cheaper over the course of years.
Also, the more RAM you have, the smoother your software will run, and with a good processor (Intel i7 would be ideal) your tracks will process faster.
At the moment of setup, if the club you’re at has a mixer of its own, it can be as simple as needing an auxiliary cord to get hooked up. You may need an adaptor to go from 1/8” to 1/4”, and those are pretty cheap to get a hold of.
This is as easy as its going to get in terms of logistics, but more often than not you’re not going to just be able to bring your laptop and an auxiliary cable. A seasoned DJ is probably going to pull up with a truck or van full of gear, but if you’re just starting out, you probably don’t have that…yet.
But let’s stick with the laptop scenario for a moment. At the very, very least, you can make an iTunes playlist, but we wouldn’t really call that DJing. To kick it up a notch, you’re going to need some dedicated DJ software that will let you do 100x more than just your laptop on its own.
Serato DJ Lite
Serato DJ Lite (previously Serato DJ Intro) is the little brother of Serato DJ Pro, a classic DJing program with a lot of history on its back.
Although Lite is a reduced version, it’s surprisingly complete, giving you all the basic functions you need to start doing some wall-shaking DJ sets.
Here’s a quick overview of Serato DJ Lite and what it can do. Visit the Serato website and download Serato DJ Lite for free.
As you can see from the above video, Serato DJ Lite can actually do quite a bit. It offers a very clear interface, six effects to have fun with your tracks and a very useful interactive Help section that will guide you through the software on your learning quest.
Aside from that, you can sync tracks, change BPM’s and setting up up to four cue points, which will help you organize your tracks and their more useful parts. Like with any other DJing software, you’ll be needing a compatible controller to make Serato DJ Lite shine.
The good thing about Serato DJ Lite is that whenever you feel ready, you can take it a step further upgrading to Serato DJ Pro ($99).
The classic Pro version is famous for its tight audio engine (featured in the Lite version too) and its vinyl control capabilities, which allow you to control your digital tracks with vinyl turntables. Awesome, especially if scratch is your thing!
What does Serato DJ Lite do? Here are some of the main functions and features of this free DJ software.
- Create tight grooves using Serato Sync, which locks tracks together
- Stay organized with Serato Crates, a simple file management system
- Comes with advanced iTunes integration
- Features classic DJ controls like nudge, bend, scratch, and EQ
- Jump to a specific part in a song using cue points
- Looping feature to repeat specific parts of songs
- FX bank containing Phaser, Reverb, Echo, Flanger, HPF, LPF
Traktor Pro by Native Instruments
Another great piece of software that is perfect for beginner DJs is Traktor Pro by Native Instruments.
Now, with Traktor Pro you should know it it is not a free download, but also it is not just geared at novice DJs.
We would say that if you are willing to invest in software, this would be a great place to start.
It’s around $100, not too bad for getting a professional piece of software that’s been in stages and booths since 2001.
Some have said that the interface for Traktor Pro is quite busy (eg. confusing), but we take that as a good thing because really at the heart of it all this is a simple, great piece of software and once you get the hang of it you’ll love it.
Think of it like this – its versatile, not even kidding. Also, Traktor offers you several interface layouts that you can change at any moment, from an extended browser to see your library more comfortably to an advanced mixer mode that shows all the controls that a virtuoso DJ may need.
Here’s a great tutorial you can watch, to get a feel for how Traktor Pro looks and feels. It goes over many of the main functions of the software and if you’re willing to put in 12 minutes to watch it, it will definitely be worth your time.
It may be useful to consider that Native Instruments – the crazy germans behind Traktor – manufacture a whole lot of controllers for the software, from small and portable decks to full-fledged flagship controllers.
Traktor can also make use of the STEMS technology, a multi-track audio format where you can find separate instruments (drums, vocals, keys) and mix them with other songs.
This brings DJing to a new level, allowing you to remix and mash-up on the fly!
Here are some of the main selling points of Traktor Pro:
- Lot of super-compatible controllers to choose from
- Sync capabilities
- Looping feature to repeat specific parts of songs
- Great FX and filters
- STEMS allow you to remix on the fly
- Several interface layouts
After showing you two established DJ programs, one with a free version that expects you to upgrade and the other with a full license right off the bat, we thought we could show you a totally free, full-fledged mixing software.
Given that computer DJing has been around for 20 years or so, it’s no surprise that a few “new kids on the block” would appear to dispute the traditional heavyweights. Mixxx is one of these, and it’s been stepping harder and harder since its first versions.
This short video gives you a tour of Mixxx and what it has to offer.
Don’t get fooled by its modest interface, Mixxx has all you need to start banging awesome tracks, just like on any paid program.
You can change track speeds, mix with up to four decks and even use it in Linux.
Like many other free software efforts, Mixxx has a very cool and helpful community and developers willing to listen to users’ suggestions.
- Several skins to choose from
- Cues, loops, sync and everything you need to fine-tune your DJ set.
- EQ, crossfader and effect chains of up to three simultaneous FX
- Four decks
- Comprehensive MIDI system that you can customize and even program
Native Instruments Traktor Kontrol Z1 DJ Mixing Interface
This is an entry level controller for Traktor Pro, which means that it will put you on your way to rocking the decks in no time and without much configuration process.
It includes audio interface capabilities so you can route your audio to your PA and your headphones directly from this gadget.
Notice that it doesn’t include jogwheels, which may look annoying for experienced folks but seems reasonable considering the price, compatibility and the presence of the audio interface.
Korg Kaoss DJ
Korg is known for offering budget-friendly solutions that work amazingly well.
Small and cheap, the Korg Kaoss DJ is Traktor and Serato compatible.
It comes with a kaoss pad, the classic korg tactile interface to add effects on the fly to your DJ set.
Coming with audio interface and hardware inputs (in the case you want to plug a phone or another audio source), the Kaoss DJ is perfect for a very mobile equipment DJ setup!
We hoped this inspired you to get some of this software, and kick start your DJ career. Who knows where it will take you!