What Are Hot Cues?

What Are Hot Cues?

If you’re new to DJing, or honed your skills on vinyl, hot cues might be a mystery – here’s what they do…

When DJ equipment started to move from traditional, vinyl based rigs, to digital setups, a whole raft of new features started to appear- Hot Cues were one such feature.

All DJ’s were familiar with the concept of ‘cueing’ – it simply meant readying the next track to be played by ensuring the stylus was sat at the beginning.

What was to be gained by increasing the temperature of a cue, then? Hmmmm…

Hot Cues - Native Instruments S2

Jump to a cue instantly, at the push of a button

One of the biggest advantages of digital media for the DJ is that a computer is simply reading a list of numbers when it plays back a track. This means that rather than, say, having to physically mark a record to show where points of interest within a track are (a particular break, for example) and pick up a needle to move it from place to place, the computer can store a whole track in RAM, and instantly jump from one part of its ‘list’ of numbers to another.

One application of this was to offer the ability to create endless loops from played tracks at the touch of a few buttons- the user simply sets the start and end points.

The next use of this technology was to offer Hot Cues. Put simply, a hot cue is cue point that can be set on any track on the fly. Usually, multiple hot cue points can be set an individual track.

Traktor DJ Hot Cues

What would I use a hot cue for?

There are lots of different uses for hot cues. Firstly, if you’re playing a set, you can have tracks set up with hot cue markers to indicate where different parts of the track start. If you want to say, drop a track into a mix at a point that isn’t the beginning, you can then do this by pressing a button to instantly jump to a previously hot-cued point. Useful, eh?

If you spend a bit of time choosing hot cue points judiciously, you can use them to create your own extended edits of tracks on the fly. Crowd going wild over when you hit the bass drop? Jump back and do it again- and if you’re handy with effects, you can ramp it up even more by adding variation to it.

Traktor Hot Cues

Another main use of hot cues was to use a track almost as a sampler. As the track will instantly jump to a particular point, DJs realised that this could enable them to complete break, and rebuild music as they see fit, live.

This has evolved into a new breed of modern DJ, loosely called ‘controllerists’, who effectively perform live mash-ups and remixes in real-time.

These days, most DJ controllers feature facilities to trigger plenty of hot cues, along with separate sample triggers (Native Instruments Traktor software features entirely independent sample decks, for example) along with loops and more.

If you’ve fancied playing around with tracks beyond starting at the beginning of a track, and want to rearrange a track in the midst of a set, then hot cues are your friend… 😉

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Joe is a contributor for the Dawsons Music blog. Specialising in product reviews and crafting content to help and inspire musicians of all musical backgrounds.