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How to DJ with a Laptop


Not so much now but early on when DJs first began using laptops, in some corners it was almost frowned upon.  It took some of the purist’s time to get used to it, much like the evolution from vinyl to CD.

Djing with your laptop gives you the ability to micro manage your music library and become more creative through experimenting with your mixes.

For me nothing will ever compare to pitch riding a mix on my Technics or CDJ’s but it doesn't have to, Djing with a laptop is just an added element to my Djing setup. It just doesn't make sense to lug around decks and turntables for a simple party with friends, horses for courses as they say.

What will you need?

Laptop with a large hard drive

Reliable DJ software

Quality sound card

A surge protector

Speakers (ideally powered studio monitors)

Getting started with your laptop

The barest minimum that your laptop needs to be equipped with is 2 GB RAM and a Core 2 Intel Processor or better. It certainly wouldn't hurt to have some free space in your hard drive too. A few other finer details when it comes to choosing an ideal laptop are listed below.

Size does matter – Squinting at a small laptop screen during a performance can be trying for your eyes. So choose one that you’re comfortable with.

Software and screen resolution are related – A 13" laptop usually has a resolution of about 1280 x 800. And that’s good enough if you’re planning to use either Serato or Virtual DJ. But when using the Traktor software, I’d suggest the 15" screen with a resolution of 1440 x 900.

Above: Traktor laptop screen shot:

USB drives –While most laptops come with three USB drives, there are still some with just two – keep an eye out for that, there more USB drive options when using a laptop to DJ the better.

Tips to help you set up and get started with your laptop

Install the sound card drivers and the software you need into your laptop well ahead.

Take the time to familiarize yourself with the software and other settings, practice makes perfect.

Test everything from the playlist to all your equipment regularly.

Organize playlists; rip your CD collection to the laptop. Always take a few CD's to gigs for software emergencies and malfunctions. In which case you can DJ using the CDs while fixing the problem.

Make sure that your laptop is connected to the surge protector. Use RCA leads to connect the amplifier to an audio output in your laptop and connect the amplifier to the surge protector.

The speakers too need to be connected to the amplifier (unless using powered studio monitors in which case they would already be connected in the previous step) with RCA leads before being plugged into the surge protector.

Now you are equipped with the basics on how to become a DJ using your laptop remember your style doesn't come from your equipment or selection of software it comes from your music selection, your dynamic mixes and perhaps most importantly your connection with the dance floors you are playing to.

Take your Djing to the next level with DJ Master Course

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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