I Wanna Be A DJ! Equipment Essentials: DJ Software

In case you’ve been living under a rock for the past few years, DJs are now the new rock stars.  The DJ industry has seeped into every aspect of pop culture, and now learning to become a DJ has become what becoming a rock guitarist was in the 80’s.  From TV advertisements to reality shows, DJing has clawed its way into the mainstream and is here to stay.

Because of the rising popularity in EDM, the numbers of people wanting to learn the secret art-of-making-booties-shake is also on the rise.  From beatmatching (synchronizing different BPMs) to mixing (because when you just hit stop on one track and play on another, it’s called Paris Hilton), there is quite a lot to learn about this craft.  But most importantly, getting the right gear can save you a good deal of time and money.

Over the next six weeks, we’ll take a tour through the business, checking out all the major players in the DJ gear industry today.  We’ll be providing a comprehensive review of the major categories.  From headphones to MIDI controllers, we will cover it all so you can make the most informed decision kitting out your DJ arsenal.

If you missed it last week here is Part I:

Week 1: All-In-One-Controllers

And now onto today’s topic…

Week 2: DJ Software

Digital DJing is now found in almost every club worldwide.  This new art has given a lot of power to DJs, allowing them to carry thousands of songs into a club using just the hard drive on their computers.  Because digital DJing is an emerging craft, there are a lot of options for new DJs, and if youserato ask most existing DJ’s you will probably get a different answer from each of them.  There are a lot of choices out there, and we aim to educate you on what some of the important features are of each.


Serato Scratch Live was the first digital DJ software I used.  It’s a very well put together program.  This software has garnered a lot of support from its digital vinyl users.  While the program is free to download, it requires a supported audio device to run the digital vinyl features.

Users can choose from soundcards such as the Rane SL2, SL3 or SL4 to connect the Serato Scratch Live software to any DJ mixer with RCA inputs.  In addition to this, Rane has engineered mixers such as the Sixty-Four, Sixty-Two or Sixty-Eight to work seamlessly with Serato Scratch Live, so that users can control the features of the software from the controls of the mixer.

Serato Scratch Live is chalk full of features such as cueing, looping, keylock & a sample player.  While all of these features are found in most DJ software, the Serato Scratch Live’s interface makes them very accessible.

If you are a digital vinyl user, I would look here.  This is the choice for many hip hop DJs and can be very easy to use if you are new to DJing.

Price: Free (Must purchase compatible hardware)

Product Page:  http://serato.com/scratchlive



When I originally used Traktor, the software was in its infancy and the interface intimidated me.  Being new to digital DJing, I felt there were too many features for the type of DJing that I wanted to do.  Fast forward a few years, and I now feel that Traktor has EVERYTHING I have ever wanted as a DJ. TRAKTOR_PRO_2_intro_CE_05

Over the years, Native Instruments has come a long way in developing their DJ software. Year after year, they have listened to their users and have added, tweaked and fixed features that give customers even more power in their DJ sets.  In addition to their software, they have developed a series of MIDI controllers, which enable users to control the various features of Traktor with their hands.  From the X1 to the S4, Native Instruments’ hardware has always developed their controllers as a true hardware extension of the software.

Traktor comes with all the standard DJ software features such as looping, cueing and keylock.  But in addition, Traktor has a robust set of effects such as Beatmasher2, Delay and Reverb.  Traktor also can make use of FX chains, which can allow users to create custom combinations of FX.  I use these a lot and the results can really take a crowd to the next level.  To top it all off, Traktor uses a “beatgrid” to ensure that your effects and loops are all time synced.

In my opinion, Traktor gives you the most features for the money, but you could have a steep learning curve ahead of you if it’s your first attempt at digital DJing.

Price: $499

Product Page:  http://www.native-instruments.com/en/products/traktor/digital-vinyl/traktor-scratch-a10/software-timecode-kit/



Now, my choice of Ableton here can be quite controversial.  Ableton Live wasn’t developed to be a piece of DJ software, but it functions just the same.  Ableton Live was developed to be a Digital Audio Workstation.  DAW’s are normally aimed at creating and editing audio, but Ableton took that notion to the next level by developing a program in which you can both write and perform your music.ableton

I want to offer a warning here: If you are new to DJing and want to strictly DJ your music, Ableton may not be the best choice.  Its robust set of features can be very daunting to the beginner.  But, if you have ANY experience using a DAW, you will find that the Ableton Live interface is very easy to use and has many configurations in which to use it.

One main feature Ableton Live has which makes it attractive to DJs is it’s clip based audio.  Users can trigger audio clips with a mouse click or button press.  Even furthermore, Ableton has teamed up with hardware manufacturer Akai and Novation to create MIDI controllers, which capitalize on this feature.  The Akai APC40, Ableton Push (developed by Akai) and Novation Launchpad have all pushed the envelope when dealing with clip based audio in Ableton Live, giving users the ability to remix and DJ their music on the fly.

In addition to the clip-based approach, Ableton Live has a large library of sounds, FX and various MIDI tools.  Most of the included features are aimed at production, but you can get interesting results when tried in a DJ set.  Many producers today are finding new and interesting ways to DJ their music using this powerful program.

Out of all the choices covered in this article, with Ableton Live you will have the opportunity to experiment the most.  If you are a DJ with aspirations of being a producer, I would definitely recommend taking a look at Ableton Live.  It’s ease of use, included features, and versatility make it one of the most advanced pieces of performance software on the market today.

Price: $799

Product Page:  https://www.ableton.com

I hope this has helped you aspiring DJs out there and don’t forget to check back next week for Part III.


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