There are loads of ways to become a DJ, but one of the cheapest ways that I have come across is by using a laptop. You may need to buy a few things, but you probably have some (if not all) of them already. This guide will show you one way of becoming a DJ and mixing your favourite tunes in no time at all.
First of all, what do we mean by DJing? Well what I really mean is mixing. The idea is to mix two or more tunes together to create a smooth progression from one track to the next and so on. You might also want to create a new and interesting section in the music by looping parts of your tunes and adding sounds from other tracks or even adding effects. I'm going to be using this blog as a way to show you some of the techniques I use when mixing and maybe even to learn a few new things (and share them with you) as I go.
What you'll need:
A computer or laptop
Obviously, the better your computer, the quicker it'll be able to deal with the processing needed to DJ. If you are planning to DJ at parties/clubs or anywhere away from your own house you'll want a laptop. If you are just planning on making mixes to give out on CDs or post on websites then a desktop is fine.
Some speakers or headphones
Never use your built in laptop speakers. They are (or 'it is' if you are really unlucky) probably very shit. You are a DJ so start acting like one! Listen to your tunes through some fairly high quality speakers or if you don't have or can't afford any yet, use a pair of good quality headphones.
You might be able to hook your computer up to a Hi-Fi you already own by using the 3.5mm jack output on your computer and an input on the system. This could be the cheapest way of getting a decent sound for a small price. It'll need to be in the same room as your computer and preferably in a room away from other people. Your housemate/mum/dad/wife/husband/partner/other person won't thank you for playing incessant dance music while they're trying to watch their favourite T.V. programmes.
Don't forget that if you are making a mix for other people to listen to, then you probably want it to sound as good as possible. Make sure your speakers are at head height (and pointing towards your head) and are equidistant if possible.
I love Ableton. Don't get me wrong, I'm not 'IN LOVE' with it. No. I just think that it is easy to use (once you get the hang of it) and you can create some really neat stuff straight out of the box. Plus there are loads of free and non-free VSTs out there (some of which I will cover) so the possibilities are pretty much endless (in a confined sort of way). Ableton wasn't really created with DJing in mind at first, but loads of people caught on to the fact that it lends itself very nicely to the task. Later incarnations are loaded with features for any budding DJ to utilise so if you don't have it already, there is the free trial version over at the Ableton website. You might use a different program (Logic, FL or whatever) and that's cool, man. Each to their own. Some of the stuff I cover will be pretty Ableton specific, but some of it will be cross platform so don't be put off just yet...
Some tunes to mix
This is where using a laptop excels. External hard drives are getting smaller (in centimetres), larger (in Gigabytes) and cheaper (in price) and if you don't have one already you should probably invest. It's now possible to carry about 250,000 songs on a one terabyte hard drive that fits in your pocket (if you were mixing with vinyl you'd need an army). You probably have loads of tunes on your hard drive already, and most file formats can be played on Ableton. You might want a converter for some of the more abstract file types but there are loads of free ones online. I'm not condoning anything illegal ;) but you can get loads of free tracks online and I'm sure you do already. Also, sites like beatport or itunes offer single tracks or full albums for lower prices than buying a CD. Upload all the tunes you want to mix to your hard drive if you haven't already.
These are the minimum requirements but there is also an almost unlimited amount of extra hardware and software that can be used when DJing.
Here's a list of some of the extra things you could buy...
A nice set of speakers with an amplifier or a set of powered monitors
If you don't have any already you could really do with these. There are so many variations of ways of setting up sound for your computer that my fingers would probably fall off before I could explain them all here. Obviously it'll depend on how much money and space you have, and also how serious you are. It's not a good idea to spend over 9000 (insert readers' currency here) on equipment if you are just a beginner, but you can find some really nice set ups for a reasonable price. Shop around, and don't rush into anything you might regret.
An external sound card
If you want to DJ live you're probably going to need one of these. It'll give you the option of listening to one tune on your headphones whilst playing another through your speakers. If you like creating your own tunes it could be handy to have one with an input on it but these can be more expensive. The basic models are pretty cheap and most are powered by USB so you won't need an extra power socket.
A midi controller
Midi controllers are a very helpful addition to any laptop DJs set up. You can assign any parameter on your to to any button or fader on your midi controller. Again these vary greatly in price, quality and usability depending on what you are looking for. Some are made specifically for DJing and some aren't. I use the Behringer BCR 2000, which is not made specifically for DJing, but has loads of rotary faders and buttons which can be programmed to do whatever you want. Plus, I like making and playing my own music, and it's handy to have so many assignable controls. Even with 32 faders and 20 buttons I still sometimes run out (but maybe I'm just greedy). It's all about figuring out what works for you and setting boundaries.
A decent pair of headphones
This is important for any DJ because if you can't hear your tunes you'll find it hard to mix. As always, prices and quality range greatly so go with your gut (or ear).
And that's pretty much it, stay tuned for my next post when I'll be getting to actually mixing tunes!