Technical DJing is a sliding scale, ranging on the one hand from simple playback of songs to fully creative and spontaneous live interpretation of audio. Wherever you stand, there are ways to improve the complexity of your set by familiarizing yourself with the universal functions of most DJ controllers.
Learn your controller
Whatever program you use, there are tools out there to help your DJing be better. Software controllers are created by the most progressive developers in the game, and unless you’re on on the R&D team at Pioneer, you’re able to learn something new about your gear. If there’s a button or function that you’re not familiar with, don’t let it taunt you for years from the corner of your controller. Look it up and set a goal to use it at least once in your next set. Whip through the manual or spend a few minutes checking out one advanced tutorial video about how your piece of equipment works? Keep learning the art of DJing, improving your skills and making your vibe curation services indispensable.
The gap between live instrumental performers and DJs is growing ever closer, even to the point that the term ‘DJ’ seems a little behind the times. More accurate terms might be ‘controllerist’ or ‘music software performance artist’. These terms dictate the obvious difference between play and playback. Equipment manufacturers have increasingly responded to the growth of controllerism with functions like the Traktor Kontrol S4’s Remix Decks. In a similar fashion to Ableton Live, the S4 allows playback of loops, oneshots and samples in a creative way, opening the door for finger-drumming and Push-style button soloing to bring a new level of creativity to your set.
In some circumstances, DJing is a performance. Anyone who’s done a few DJ sets will understand the ninja-like skills involved in reading a crowd while also keeping a low profile. There are times to be invisible. But there are times to fist-pump, make eye contact and play up to the crowd. In these circumstances, the oft-criticized autoplay might rush to the rescue and be your temporary best friend. If you’ve got the energy, you want to keep it. Whether you’re mashing up the track with a beat-repeat, going mad on your hot cues and loops or even playing an instrument over it, keep them interested. Don’t worry, nobody worth anything is going to walk up to you after the set and say ‘Great one, pity about that part where you had to use autoplay to get the crowd going.’ This is entertainment, and it’s all about getting the crowd going!
Good news. You never have to start anything from scratch again. Ever. All of the templates for basically all types of software creativity have already been uploaded and shared. As we speak, hordes of creative people are competing to offer you the best they can do, at no cost. That means learning how to DJ or do anything involving software is as simple as obtaining the information from YouTube and downloading the pack to get hands-on. Instantly. Ban blank page syndrome from your life and get into the habit of downloading demo content and user-generated content to kickstart your learning curve. So, whatever equipment you’re rocking, head over their parent site and grab the demo packs. Starting with pre-generated content is a good way to test out if it’s for you.
John Bartmann is an award-winning music producer and DJ.