Let me paint a picture for you – you’ve got the best laptop for DJing from the market, you’ve downloaded the first software you found on the internet, and now you’re sitting in front of your screen, confused about how to start your career in DJ.
Sounds about, right?
Alright, we may be exaggerating a bit, but if you are reading this guide, you are interested in music – particularly, in creating and mixing your music, right? That’s a good thing.
DJing is one of the most rewarding careers as it pays the bill while you do something that you enjoy.
Fortunately, nowadays just about anyone can become the master of DJ night by practicing at home on their laptop.
In this article, we’ll guide you through everything that you need to know to become an expert DJ.
What Kind of Laptop Do I Need?
The market is cluttered with laptops catering to different requirements. However, an average DJ software wouldn’t require a whole lot of specifications on your laptop. Any decent system with a good processor and CPU would do.
Earlier, if you wanted to get into DJing, you needed excessive equipment like turntables and whatnot. Nowadays, only a laptop would do as digital DJing is very much a thing.
However, many experts would recommend that you still purchase some additional equipment to up your game. Still, others would advise that you shouldn’t hamper the flow of your music-playing by incorporating too many devices.
Do you know what’s our advice? Decide yourself.
Don’t listen to anyone else about this, it’s all about your vision and music. If you want to keep it simple and smooth, simply use a laptop. If you want to tweak and add a certain amount of pizzazz, get turntables or a DJ controller to pair it up with your trusty laptop.
Anyway, as far laptop specs go, you should ideally aim for these to have a smooth DJing experience:
Processor: i5 or AMD Equivalent with at least a 2.0 GHz processor.
Resolution: Not important, but 1280×720 or higher is recommended.
RAM: Ideally, more than 8 GB.
Hard Drive: At least 1 TB as you’ll be storing a lot of songs and mix-tapes for your job.
What Software Should I Use?
Next up, you’ll need appropriate software to back your DJ skills. Let’s talk about some of them:
Popular Choices (Tractor and Serato)
As far as popularity is concerned, there are two clear choices that you can opt for – Traktor, developed by Native Instruments, and Serato.
There are several differences between the two, especially in the departments of how they look and feel. However, in terms of functionality, the two are pretty similar which is why we’re mentioning them together.
For comparison, both Traktor Pro 2 and Serato DJ allow users to mix and prepare their music up to 4 different decks. It also gives them the freedom to slice, loop different sections and tinker with effects.
The automation used in the software is good as well. It can automatically read the tracks that you have created to sync different elements, detect musical keys, and so on.
There is one department, however, in which Traktor has a slight edge. Its exclusive feature, the Stems Deck, is unique in how it functions.
Stems is a music format that the company Native Instruments came up with. The idea was to allow the users to get access to different kinds of music in four parts – vocals, bass, drums, and melody.
Thus, it allows DJs to mix, edit, and manipulate different sections easily. This bolsters the creative license of the DJ significantly.
In terms of pricing, both are available around the $99 mark. However, you can get the SeratoLite version for free, but the feature set will be drastically reduced. Although, it’s good for beginners as it has all the tools to get your career started.
This is a more recent addition to the DJ industry. The software is developed by Pioneer DJ and has been in the market for over a decade, despite not being as popular as the above mentioned alternatives.
Initially, Pioneer DJ used to cater to old-timers who needed to prepare, organize, and mix their music before transferring it into a CD. But when the company launched Recordbox DJ in 2015, they opted to expand the software’s functionality to make it a full-fledged tool for DJs, allowing users to play and mix music easily.
Rekordbox is a great option for people wanting these software on a subscription basis. Users can purchase this for about $14.99/month.
Although the software is great, it feels like an imitation of Traktor and Serato. The overall pricing is $129 if customers don’t want to opt for a subscription model.
The big three of the DJ industry are often too complex or expensive for beginners. They can try other options. For instance, Mixxx is the cheapest alternative as it’s an open-source tool.
Apart from that, they can also try out AlgoriddimDjay Pro and Cross DJ if they want to go for a premium version, both of these being priced at around $50.
Read Also: How to Download a Virtual DJ on a Laptop?
Do I Need to Purchase External Hardware or Equipment?
Technically, you can be a pretty great DJ without investing in anything other than a laptop and good software.
However, if you want to unleash your creative side and become a professional, you’ll need to concentrate on some side equipment as well.
The very basic additional equipment that you can invest in is a good audio interface. If you are a DJ, you’ll mostly be working with a decent sound system that will require the audio output to match its capability. For this job, the built-in output of your laptop is not enough.
The second primary need of most professional DJ artists is a decent controller. The software that we mentioned in our article can be accessed, played, and worked with using a mouse and keyboard.
But honestly, how boring and average would that look?
To up your game, and to ensure smooth transitions during your mixes, a controller would be great, especially if you like to play around with effects and transitions.
There are tons of DJ controllers in the market, each in different shapes and sizes. You can either go for the cheap, compact, and portable options like Pioneer’s RZ Line. Or you can also opt to spend a lot of money on high-end alternatives.
There’s a piece of good news hidden in the above requirement. Most DJ controllers, even the slightly less-expensive options come with a built-in audio interface.
So if you purchase a controller, you won’t have to invest in the first requirement separately. Two birds with one stone – that’s what we call smart shopping.
There are some other pieces of equipment that many consider an essential part of any professional DJ setup.
Some of them are –
- Monitor speakers.
However, we’ll not get into the details of these add-ons as they’re only required by extreme professionals. For a beginner, even a laptop and good DJ software would do. If you want to take it up a notch, purchasing a DJ controller should be more than enough for now.
Where Should I Get My Music From?
Getting high-quality music and soundtracks is essential for any DJ artist. The software that we mentioned can play and organize music in various formats like MP3, WAV, and so on. Finding audio tracks in these formats is easy.
However, most of the music that we download off popular platforms like Amazon Music, iTunes, or Spotify is not of the highest order. They make it a habit to compress the music to reduce the file size. In the process, the audio loses some of its quality which is not noticeable while listening on headphones or earphones but would be a pain to work with when you are using a powerful external sound system.
There’s a way to overcome this problem. All you need to do is select and work with tracks that come in a loss-proof format like WAV or FLAC. If you want to opt for MP3 only, then ensure that it’s of the higher order at 320kbps.
There’s a simple way to obtain soundtracks of this quality. Go for DJ-centric download stores that sell different music and tracks in high-quality formats.
One popular name on this front is Beatport, offering the largest collection of tracks for DJ aspirants. Others, such as Juno Download, Bleep, or Boomkat can work for you as well.
If you want to get music and tracks for free, go for Soundcloud. It’s completely legal and you might find a decent collection.
Preparing and Organizing Tracks
For a DJ, having an organized set of tracks is the key to providing a smooth listening experience to the users.
Fortunately, the digital age has brought many solutions for helping DJ artists prepare and organize their tracks.
Traktor is good on this front, saving information like bpm, genre, tags, key, and so on. The interface is a little outdated, but it’s good to get all the work done. The software can also offer an integrated solution with iTunes for better safekeeping.
There is other software dedicated to organizing as well. For instance, Rekordbox offers a free solution for this problem.
But it boils down to one important point – organizing tracks is important for a DJ artist. Otherwise, the live experiences will just be rough and unpleasant.
Starting on a DJing career can be pretty daunting. After all, it involves a lot of technical details that beginners might be scared to face. But with our guide, beginners can start their venture with ease as well. All they need is a decent laptop and one of the DJ software that we recommended.
Vishal is a founder of the ElectronicsXpert.com, and loves to play around different electronics gadgets and share his real life experiences on the website to help people make the right choice and buying decision.