In part 3 of ‘How to DJ’, we take the first steps towards creating a mix
In parts 1 and 2 of the ‘How to DJ’ series, we covered the different media available to the DJ, and the pros and cons of each, and the different gear you might need for each format. Now it’s time to look at the basics of DJ technique. Before we do, it’s essential to have a little tour of the DJ mixer, and what everything does…
The DJ Mixer
The mixer shown here is a Numark M3. Whilst this is a specific model, the features illustrated here are common to just about every DJ mixer, and the mixer section of DJ controllers. So no matter what you are learning how to DJ on, this should all be relevant…
- Gain controls – these are the master input level controls for each input or channel on the mixer. The gain knob controls the level of signal being sent from each ‘deck’ into the mixer, whether physically connected (like a vinyl turntable) or ‘virtually’ connected, like a deck from Serato or Traktor software.
- Meters – the meters are your friend when learning how to DJ. These provide a visual indication of the level of each channel
- Master output level – As it says, this controls the level sent to the master outputs. On this mixer this is a rotary control, but often, this is a fader.
- Channel faders – these control the level of each individual channel after the gain has been set for each.
- Cross fader – this is used to control the relative levels of each channel. So, for example, if the fader is all the way to the right on this mixer, all that will be played through the master output is channel 2. If the fader is dragged across to the left, channel 2 will gradually disappear, whilst channel 1 gets louder, allowing one channel to be smoothly faded in from another.
- Monitor or cue fader – this allows the DJ to control which channel, (or channels) is heard though the headphones. A level control allows the volume of the headphone out put to be adjusted.
‘Plonk and Play’
It may sound a bit derogatory, but the first step when learning how to DJ is often termed ‘plonk and play’. And although it may seem relatively simple, spending plenty of time at this stage will help you to perfect the true art of DJing- selecting the right track for the right moment, learning how to perfect a ‘flow’ of music, with builds and drops that are appropriate, and create a bigger musical picture, and, well, you get the idea…
So, lets assume that you have your gear set-up in a traditional manner (i.e. not out of the ordinary, with some speakers hooked up to the main outputs) and you have a track you want to play on deck one, and another you want to play afterwards on deck 2…
- Set the gain – adjust the gain of channel 1 so that the average level is 0dB on the meter whilst the track is playing.
- Make sure the cross fader is set to channel 1 (all the way to the left), and the channel fader is not all the way down
- If your track is playing, you should now be hearing it.
- Move the cue fader so that it is all the way across to channel 2. This will allow you to hear whichever track you want to play next through the headphones without playing it through the main speakers. Audition your second track by playing in through deck 2, and when you’re happy with the track and when you’d like it to start, press stop on that deck. Check the fader for channel 2 is not all the way down.
- When the track on deck one is reaching the end (or the point that you want to change track), press play on deck 2 then move the cross fader across to channel 2. The output from the main speakers should change to the track playing on deck 2.
- Repeat as required…. 😉
Now that you’ve mixed your first two tracks, the world is yours for the taking. Well, after a bit of practice. Stay tuned for part 4 of ‘How to DJ’, when we’ll cover more DJ mixing techniques.
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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.