All beginnings are hard. But no rule says that they cannot be fun as well. It’s all about the attitude. And the right equipment. Being a DJ means a lot of work. You will need to pick amazing songs, mix them, remix, exercise, and exercise until your own style and vibe become that specific something people are expecting. This job requires a lot of talent, but cannot be done barehanded. You’ve seen the DJs. You probably have a favorite one already. They have complicated controllers with a lot of buttons and switches and special functions that allow them to scratch. You know the sound. They also have headphones and, in some cases, you can hear them animating the party with a mic and some powerful speakers.
But will you need all of these if you are just starting? It does seem a bit complicated. Isn’t it too much? The truth is that a DJ’s set is built in time, and you will only need the basics at this point. But setting up combination is essential to creating quality music, so stay with us as we present vital pieces of equipment every DJ should have in their arsenal, even beginners.
Renting sounds tempting, doesn’t it? It does have its advantages. One of them is that it always offers up to date technology. At the pace things are changing these days, the risk of your equipment becoming obsolete fast is just the reality, and you may not afford to update it every time an important change occurs. Renting, however, allows you to use the last technologies and for a pretty good price. It also allows you to make the greatest equipment setups, depending on the gig you are playing at.
It can be a good try for a beginner as well. It will allow you to experiment with different pieces and decide which combination works best for you. But if you are going to take this thing seriously, buying your own equipment is mandatory. You will need to practice many hours every day, so you will need your gear always at hand. If you were to rent it, your expenses would soon go too high to afford to do it anymore, and you may end up practicing more seldom.
So, yes. Even if you are just starting, if you have decided that this is your dream job, and, even more, if you already have some confirmation that you have talent, it’s time to buy the gear. And even if no one has expresses their admiration towards your work, there’s no worry. The great artists of the world turned things around, so it took some time until people got accustomed to their amazing style.
This section will help you familiarize yourself with the most popular tools. Before combining them into the set of your dreams, it is important to know what are they used for and how they can fit in your ensemble. While some can function on their own, some are complementary pieces, so you will need to buy them together for your practice and gigs to be successful.
This being said, it’s time to get down to some serious business and see what the market has to offer in this field:
This is the ground piece of every DJ system. Actually, if you don’t have it, can you call yourself a DJ? You would be like a singer without their voice. So, at least one of these tools is mandatory. We say at least one because you may end up including one more, or even two, as you advance in your career. This unit allows you to play your tracks, either on vinyl or compact disks, and cue full albums or tracks up. This is easy to perform when the tracks are on a computer, but this machine allows you to scratch the discs and leave your mark by creating new vibes suitable for the craziness of the moment.
Moreover, turntables have evolved a lot over the years, and digital or analog-digital combinations have appeared. This means that you can now use a software to create scratches or cues with the push of a button. This opens you a broad array of possibilities. Still, if you want to be noticed, you should practice with an analog unit and get some good scratch movements to have something to show off at your gigs.
This tool works as your base station, namely, every single tool gets connected to it. As the name says, it has the purpose to mash tracks, but it has many other functions as well. This is easy to see only when you look at it, as all those buttons and knobs can seem intimidating. Nevertheless, once you get accustomed to it, you will learn that this is your best friend. It will help you make shifts between tracks, adjust the sound, or add diverse characteristics to it and will offer you a slider to scratch at the best level. Also, it will allow you to link your laptop and speakers.
You will only need one mixer but you can connect multiple turntables to it. Another thing we should mention is that you will also find it in analog and digital variants. The second one has the advantage that you can save your work at the end of the day and take it from there the next day. Nevertheless, digital means that a computer is involved, so the sound that enters the system needs to be transformed into code for the computer to read it. Therefore, some of the original modulations can be lost and the authenticity lowered. This will not happen with an analog system which only uses wires and electrical mechanism to mix the tracks.
If you are not into that old-school DJ-ing stuff like vinyl disks or CDs, then a controller may be the right choice for you. It is sort of a combination between turntables and a mixer, all mounted on a single piece, which means that it is highly portable. Nevertheless, all is digital here and the controller connects to a laptop, which is actually the device that stores the tracks. No more CDs, no vinyl disks, the music is digitalized and ready to be mashed and mixed, and here’s where your talent comes up. The set includes trigger pads, mic contacts, MIDI controls, and essentially everything you want. You can even do some scratching, as the system includes jog wheels, designed to reproduce the effects and the feel of a turntable.
As a novice DJ, the first gigs you’ll get will probably be small events or weddings. In this case, your purpose won’t be only to produce quality track mixes that will keep everyone dancing but to animate the crowd. In short, you will need to put your voice out there, and, for this, you will need a suitable set of PA speakers. These units are designed to make you heard over crowds and come with heavy subwoofers that amplify the sound. Nevertheless, if you are planning to play at clubs exclusively, you will perhaps not need to invest in this tool, as most clubs have their own sound system.
One thing that needs to be mentioned, still, is that you will be rehearsing a lot before getting your work out into the world, so a set of studio monitors can be a great idea for this activity. Even if you can just use the headphones and allow your neighbors to enjoy their quiet, it is not the same as hearing directly what your listeners will hear.
DJs wearing a set of headphones over their ears isn’t just a marketing strategy, but a significant part of the job. In fact, what you have seen is the DJ holding only one headphone on the ear, while the other one is kept free. This is a sign that they are listening to something you cannot hear but which is going to be mixed in next. Yes, the DJ job is a lot about multitasking, and it is difficult to do it without this gear. Plus, they can prove of real help during practice. If you don’t want to invest in studio monitors, you can listen to your mixes in your headphones. This can also prove practical if you have roommates, who may stand a few hours of music a day but not for a long time.
Controllers are dependent on specialized software programs, which are the ones enabling you to generate playlists, keep your files ordered, or allocate control your trigger pads. If you don’t have the right software installed, you won’t be able to use the functions of your controller.
Nevertheless, most models include their own software or a basic edition of a popular program, so you will get all you need from the start. As the software has been thought to respond to all the functions offered by the physical device, it isn’t always a good idea to replace it. Instead, you can upgrade your software by adding the newest functions and characteristics to your existing system.
We have presented you with the most popular gear, but, to get the best results, you will need to combine the pieces into a setup. Although you can choose to personalize yours, as you are just starting this activity, picking one of the ensembles that have already been tested and used by some of the greatest names in the industry may be a better idea.
So, here’s how you can mix your equipment pieces:
This is a basic setup and is usually picked by beginners. You can use it to learn and exercise your skills, and even at your first gigs. It is super tactile, as you can do the scratching manually, but later you can link a soft to it and get additional functions.
This system implies taking a step further towards digitalization. It still preserves the tactile feel but offers the option of playing both vinyl disks and digital files. It is actually one of the most popular among professional DJs.
This version is often picked by club DJs due to its versatility and increased control. Some CD turntables come with USB ports, which allow you to play your tracks from external digital sources like hard or thumb drives. As the system uses CDs, you can customize them and add the track you like most.
Many professional DJs pick this setup as it allows both the playing of CDs and digital files, with the possibility of customizing the playlists.
One of the most manageable setups, it is the best if you are looking for advanced manipulation of music. Everything is highly customizable and it still allows for tactile control.
If you’ve made it to the end of this article, you must be truly determined to start your DJ career. We just hope we managed to shed some light on the specifics of this industry and help you familiarize yourself with the most common tools. Now it’s your turn to combine them into the best setup and start practicing. And, while it is said that practice is the key to success, you shouldn’t wait too much to put yourself out there. Real-life gigs are the ones that will help you evolve, as you will come in contact with your listeners and see what truly sets them dancing.