To put it simply, unless you’re independently well off, you should probably aim for some of the lower priced DJ gear. Try to do a lot with a little, and see how far your motivation takes you. If you find that your motivation has taken you to the boundaries of your gears’ capabilities, then you know it’s time to upgrade. Frankly, I think that it tends to be overwhelming if you’re presented with too many features and options right off the bat, thus you’re liable to lose focus and/or interest. Of course, not everyone is like that, so you just need to make that decision for yourself. The rest of this article will be for people who, figuratively speaking, want to learn to crawl before they learn to run marathons.
Unless you’re planning on bringing your own PA system and lights to the places you play, you’ll be fine to start off with a DJ controller, some software and some headphones. First and foremost, when you do a net search for DJ controllers and you come up with a decent list, be sure to sort the list by price from lowest to highest so it’s easier to see what’s available in your price range (one of the greatest features of internet shopping, in my opinion). One of the cheapest yet reputable DJ controllers I know of is the Numark DJ 2 Go. Currently priced around $50-$70, the DJ 2 Go not only carries the well-known and respected Numark name, but also comes with Virtual DJ LE and is pre-mapped to work perfectly with the software. It features two platters, a crossfader, pitch and level controls and sync buttons among a number of other beneficial things.
Or, if you want something a little different, you could consider the ION Discover DJ which is currently priced around $60-$80. The Discover DJ controller has pitch and level controls like the DJ 2 Go, but also features bass and treble controls, platters that are double the size, and the Discover DJ offers you the ability to “scratch,” like you were using vinyl. It comes with MixVibes CROSS LE software which is also pre-mapped to the controller.
The software you should choose is really a matter of preference, but again, don’t aim too high when you first start out lest you get overwhelmed and lose interest. If learning all about your controller and software seems daunting, take it down a notch or two and work your way up.
The Pioneer HDJ-1000K is one of the most popular DJ headphones on the market
As far as headphones go, you really should get a pair that’s comfortable, closed-back, and that has a ¼” plug. Ideally, you’ll also want to go for good-looking headphones (as DJing does have an element of image to it), and you’ll want ones with swiveling ear cups so you can monitor both the mix that the audience is hearing, and the next track you’re cueing up. Beyond those essential components, the DJing world is vast and full of loads of different types of gear, all with their individual pros and cons. Do your research, read reviews, even try the gear out (if you’re fortunate enough to have the opportunity), and your DJing career will expand and evolve in lots of exciting ways.
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What is MIDI?
For starters, for anyone who isn’t yet “in the know,” MIDI is NOT music.
||I know, I know; shocking, right? It is not a digital audio codec like MP3, AAC, FLAC, etc. No actual sound ever passes through MIDI cables, either. There are .mid files, yes, but they’re made up of data that when run through the proper software, one can indeed hear music and/or musical sounds. In fact, anyone who’s ever played Rock Band or Guitar Hero has a bit of experience with MIDI, whether they realize it or not. Let me simplify a bit and say that MIDI is a digital communications language.
What is it used for?
MIDI is a set of instructions that one uses to tell instruments and software what to do. The acronym “MIDI,” stands for “Musical Instrument Digital Interface.” However, MIDI can also be used to control lighting equipment and even animatronics and robotics. As you can most likely guess after reading that, MIDI can do far more than simply tell instruments what notes to play when. Through MIDI, users can turn volume up or down, open filter controls and pan around the stereo spectrum among many other things. Like most any other sync protocol, MIDI is transmitted through a Master/Slave relationship. Master devices ONLY transmit data. Slave devices ONLY receive it. What are some examples of said devices, you ask?
Why is it important? Who uses MIDI?
|Master devices are essentially tangible things: keyboards/synthesizers like the Akai Pro LPK25, electronic drum pads and DJ software controllers like the ION Discover DJ (ICUE3) as well as the various buttons, sliders and knobs on the devices themselves. DJs and musicians alike use devices like that to control software on their computers, manipulating the music (like more traditional DJs do when they “scratch” records) and thus achieving their own unique sound. Slave devices can be tangible too, like in the case of daisy chaining keyboards together, but they can also be plug-ins and software instruments like Logic’s EXS24.
What are software instruments and plug-ins? Well, that’s a whole other blog right there (maybe you’ll see that one sometime in the near future!) Anyway, through a little customization, users can assign software functions to knobs to control things like flangers, echoes, etc. so they can affect the music with a vast variety of special effects. Actually, if you’re thinking about getting into DJing, now would be a great time since we’re currently offering 15% off all DJ controllers, and a lot of them come packaged with reputable software like Traktor LE, Serato or Ableton Live to get you started.
In conclusion, I hope you’ve enjoyed this little introduction to MIDI, and I encourage anyone reading this to ask any questions you might have. Believe it or not, we’re all actual people here at Sonic Electronix, and we do pay attention to what our customers and fans have to say. Thanks for reading!
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Classic Battle Set up
These set ups are what may come to the mind of most people when they think of a DJ. As Beck said “I need two turntables and a microphone.” Since the introduction of the crossfader DJ’s have been spinning vinyl records to compose dance mixes. Traditionally found in the roots of early hip-hop performances DJ would play continues loops of dance breaks from popular music genres and blending them together to create totally new mixes. The turntables are often rotaded 90 degrees from the standard turntable in order to consaladate space and help with smoother transitions.
A traditional “battle” set up consists of two turntables usually techniques 1200 series and a 10 inch mixer equipped with a cross fader. The mixer often incorporated a microphone preamp for an MC to rap over. DJ turntables are classified by the configuration of their drive motor. Direct drive turntables have a motor mounted directly under the platter and as a result generate more torque, this is a desired feature for DJs to ensure optimum performance.
The less expensive option for turntables is the belt driven variety where the motor is mounted off to the side and connects to the platter via a rubber belt and pulley system. Belt driven turntables are considered an entry-level DJ setup and are great for practicing your skills until you invest into a more pro system.
The down side to traditionally spinning vinyl is the impracticality of lugging around crates full of LPs, although despite the inconvenience there is a sect of DJs that swear by the analog craft liken to a photographer who still shoots to film.
In recent years CD players such as the Pioneer CDJ2000 are being used in place of the turn tables but in very similar battle mixer setups but by incorperating the digital source units many more features can be explored.
Controller Based Set ups
Today Club DJs are more often operating computer based set ups. The main advantage to this set up is not lugging around your record collection to venues but instead using a Laptop with an external hard drive with virtually every song in audio history a mouse click away. This gives todays DJ the power to set up an entire show using play lists and preprogrammed cues enabling the performer to seamlessly transition, beat match, and incorporate many other sources into the mix.
The minimum set up consist of a controller, software, and a computer. The mixer and turntable functionality are replaced with digital rotary and fader encoders that send MIDI Machine Control (MMC) signals to the software on a computer via USB.
For performance purposes the set up will require an audio interface. On higher end controllers such as the Numark NS6 the sound card is built into unit itself can be used as a stand alone mixer.
Some of the more entry level controllers may require an external audio interface such as the DJio. The interface will serve as the computers sound card and all AD and DA conversions of the digital audio will be handled by the interface. Unfortunately this can lead to some advanced signal routing for the entry level DJ so there is a bit of a learning curve involved with working in the digital realm.
For the real OG DJs out there who still swear by their turn tables but require the easy set up and convenience of a digitally controlled system Serato is the perfect solution. The system consists of a standard battle pack DJ set up with the addition of a proprietary computer interface as well as two very special vinyl records.
The included records are printed with a timecode very similar to SMPTE time code that has been used in audio production for film and TV for years. The time coded disks are played like any standard record into the interface, then the code is interpreted by the software and is used to control the playback of digital music. All physical manipulation of the turntables and vinyl is synced and reproduced in real-time by the software with virtually zero latency making Serato systems the prefered choice for many of the world’s top DJs.
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At a glance you may notice the Numark NS6 is a sexy compact Serato controller with all metal construction and sharp gun metal black finish and chrome platters but beneath the durable finish lies the unique components that make the NS6 one of the most advanced controllers of all time.
The Numark NS6 is designed to work with a new 4 deck version of Serato ITCH. You are able to control 4 separate decks in Serato, but that’s not all. The NS6 also functions as a stand alone 4 channel DJ mixer with 4 independent phono amps in the back for stand alone cd players or turn tables. You may also notice a new crossfader design in the cp pro slimline crossfader designed specifically for controllers to be durable enough for blistering fast mixing, yet ultra-responsive.
Keeping with the standard set by the Numark NS7 the Virtual Needle Drop application is improved with a new Strip Search function that features an LED indication of needle position on your tracks. In combination with the mouseless navigation controls, the user can keep his or her eyes on the controller rather than navigating a laptop screen allowing for flawless execution of your mix.
The Numark NS6 features a new Skip control allowing you to fast forward tracks to the beat and tempo of your mix adding a whole other level of control and convenience for beat matching on the fly. Dual FX engines in the NS6 can be assigned to any of the 4 decks in Serato with 12 track warping effects including Delay, Crusher, LPF, HPF, Braker, Phaser, Reverb and More. All effects can be assigned effortlessly with the flick of a wrist.
The platters feature the same mechanism as the Numark NS7 allowing for 3600 ticks of resolution per rotation for ultra precise control. Unlike most controllers that operate on a forced depression mechanism the NS6’s platters are touch sensitive giving you an unreal level of precise control. The combination of the Numark NS6, Serato ITCH, and You will blurs the lines between man and machine.
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