Starting to DJ
So you are getting into DJing. First of all, congratulations! Contrary to common belief, there cannot ever be too many DJs, I firmly believe there is always room for one more. But what about the DJ software? What should you use when starting out?
With the amount of available DJ software out there, it’s easy to get lost in the jungle of DJ Software as a beginner. This article aims to offer you some options & ideas on where to start, but in the end, and that is as with all things in life, you will need to experiment with different options yourself, and then decide what works best for your particular situation and djing style.
But where to start?
These days, starting with DJing means in most cases to buy an entry-level controller and learn the software that comes with it. You could also go fully old school and buy a mixer and two turntables, but that means you will have to invest in records and that can be quite an investment. Unless you use DVS and digital files on your computer, but that’s a bit too advanced for now.
So let’s assume you go the software/controller route, at least for now. There are hundreds of entry-level controllers out there, and they come with different DJ Software packages, so you just pick the controller that looks the coolest and learn the software that comes along with it in the package, right?
I wouldn’t recommend that approach.
This is my first advice to you:
Learn to use DJ software first to understand the basic DJ workflow and the basics of music selection, then move to pick a controller that suits your style.
DJ software trials are available out there and many of them work without controllers, so you can get the full experience of DJing digitally before you have to invest a single cent.
Doing it this way, you don’t tie yourself to a specific controller workflow, but keep your options open. It’s cheap to have several DJ software packages installed on your computer and try out between them, it’s much more expensive to buy several controllers.
By trying before you decide, you will also be practicing a key skill of any good djay: adaptability.
Later in your DJ career, you will face situations that you need to play on gear you never saw before, and your audience won’t be “understanding”. They will demand you rock the party regardless of your familiarity with the gear you need to use.
By getting to know several DJ software packages from the get-go, you automatically practice this key skill that could be a lifesaver later on.
So what packages do I recommend for you to check out?
Mixxx is true DJ freeware build by a community of developers, and currently, it’s at version 2.0.
The MIXXX Interface is very mature and highly customisable, and you don’t need a controller to get mixing, just your keyboard. Import your music collection or just connect it to your iTunes, and you can start working on your first mix.
If you decide to stick with it, MIXXX 2.0 is compatible with 85 different controllers, so you will for sure find one that suits your needs.
MIXX 2.0: Download
Mixvibes Cross DJ
Mixvibes Cross DJ is commercial software, but they offer a basic version that is ideal for the beginner DJ. This version delivers the basics such as 2 decks and a mixer, and iTunes support.
The interface is not very different from Mixxx 2.0, but Cross DJ has the advantage to also have IOS and Android versions, so if you feel like starting to DJ on your mobile devices as well, this is a good solution to choose.
If you decide to stick to djing (and I hope you will) you can even evolve within the Cross DJ ecosystem as they offer a pro version called Cross that you can even use with CDJ’s in the club.
Mixvibes Cross DJ: download
If you are a Mac or IOS user, then Algoriddim djay is a strong contender for you to check out. The IOS version djay 2 is an excellent piece of software and will get you djing in seconds, but the Mac version djay pro is excellent as well and is so easy to use especially if you use iTunes to manage your music.
djay is not free but very inexpensive (the IOS version will set you back a couple of dollars) and the djay pro Mac version has a trial version.
Algoriddim djay: download
The last DJ software package I would like to bring to your attention in this piece is Virtual DJ, one of the original packages for digital djing and around since 2003.
Virtual DJ is free for home use and if you use it without a controller, so ideal for your first venturing into djing. Also when you purchase a controller, chances are it will come with Virtual DJ, so you will already be a step ahead on the learning curve.
The interface is quite particular here and can get very busy with all the different settings and configuration options available. Even so, if you stick to the basic options, you will be mixing songs from your library in no time.
Virtual DJ: download
So there you have it, no less than 4 options to turn your computer into a dj station, for no cost at all!
As you can see, I didn’t discuss the more advanced professional software packages like Traktor, Serato DJ or Rekordbox. The reason is very simple: you need to invest considerably to acquire them, and they typically don’t work without an external midi controller.
Stay tuned for further articles for beginner djs!
So what do you think of the DJ software packages discussed in this article? Are they any other options I miss? Are you pro/advanced DJ and you have some tip for anyone wanting to get into djing? Comment below!