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How to DJ with a Controller


Once you've kick started your career as a DJ, you will find yourself on the move quite often. I don't just mean different clubs, but different cities, different countries even. And when you travel, you'll soon learn to make do with easy to carry, portable equipment. Which is why learning to use a DJ controller hooked up to your laptop could be the best trick in the book.

Even better, if you’re only just starting out and learning how to DJ then combine the DJ Master Course with your controller and your entire music library and nothing will stop you!

How do DJ controllers work?

The logic behind it is really quite simple – controllers allow you to manage your chosen DJ software while giving you a vinyl or CD deck-like experience. These controllers imitate the traditional mixer/turntable-deck set-up. The Pioneer controllers for example use all the best functionality and parts including the look and feel from its CDJ and DJM products.

DJ controllers give you the ability to leverage the power of DJ software without the need to touch your computer/laptop while performing. Your laptop is simply used as a screen to help you perfect your DJ mixes.

Most controllers are compatible with most DJ software since you can manually map their controls. Controllers also come with loads of quality FX tools sampling ability which if used correctly can help take your mixes to a whole new level. It’s not uncommon for DJs use more than one controller to manage various applications while performing.

Tips how to use a DJ controller effectively

1. Do your research – Before opting for a new controller, do your research and check out some online manuals to compare which controller and software can work well with your laptop.

2. Take it easy the first time round – No matter how much you practice, using a new set-up live can be a daunting task. So keep things simple the first time around. It’s certainly not the time to push the limits.

3. Make sure you have a sound card – Most controllers have a built-in sound card. If your controller does not come installed with one, make sure you get one – you will need it to handle the controller.

4. Be prepared – Make sure you carry some CDs in a reliable format. You can also bring some of your music stored in a USB drive, but again make sure it’s compatible with your controller.

The upside and the downside of DJ controllers

Let’s face it – the best advantage here is that this is a compact and mobile system. You are also free to pre-load your playlists and don’t have to worry about carrying your entire collection of records and CDs. You also have a wider range of effects and more sampling options because you can use the laptop’s processing power to manipulate sound.

The main disadvantage with controllers is their latency. It’s the time taken by the jog shuttle controllers to have an effect on the audio file. But you can control this downfall with your computer’s speed, and MIDI and sound card latency. You can solve any latency issues by either altering configuration settings or even by upgrading hardware.

At the end of the day, you probably will take time to warm up to the idea, especially if you are a vinyl turntable or CD deck fan like most DJs, but it pays to learn more about all modern DJ gear to give you the upper hand in any situation.

If you do decide to take the plunge into the world of DJ controllers you’ll never look back. They open a whole new stratosphere of possibilities when learning how to become a professional DJ.

They’re the absolute ultimate beginner DJ setup!


Ben Drohan

About the Author: Ben Drohan is the original founding partner and creator of DJ Master Course. His entrepreneurial skills have been recognised by major music industry leaders including CEO’s, A&R label executives and some of the world’s most prolific DJ talent including the Stafford Brothers.

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