The iconic image of turntables has changed as new technical solutions have entered the game. Digital DJing has now become the trend taking performances to new heights and supercharging the atmosphere of the crowd. So how can a beginner understand where it all came from, where we are now and what awaits us? Here we present a The History of Digital DJing: Past, Present and Future Perspectives.
Where it all began
It is pretty well known that the concept of digital DJing dates back to the very end of the twentieth century, when the first digital audio files were introduced to the public.
Then, about two decades ago, audio coding formats like MP3 revolutionized the storage and distribution of music.
The development of technologies and prevalence of digital audio was very rapid. It was only a matter of time before it became an alternative to traditional turntable mixing.
The millennium marked the beginning of the digital DJ era. First, was virtual DJing software, released back in 2002. Final Scratch and Scratch Live were then called ‘the ultimate solutions for professional DJs’, as they could now control the records virtually.
Back then, the software was pretty clunky and had a huge latency, meaning that the interaction between the hardware and the computer was slow. This meant that every live performance was either a big hit or a big miss.
To improve compatibility, companies started to develop specific DJ hardware for the digital environment. This is when DJ controllers hit the scene – they were much more portable, easier to set up and cheaper compared to traditional set ups.
The decoding technologies of audio file formats also improved rapidly. 320KBPS files became the ultimate standard for DJs. DJ software developers adapted their engines to suit a variety of formats from MP3 to WAV and from FLAC to AAC.
DJ software now fully emulates traditional set-ups, with advanced auto-warping algorithms and trustful performance engines. The choices range from beginner solutions like Virtual DJ (see below) to professional tools like Serato and Traktor.
Most advanced DJ controllers like DDJ-SZ enable so much more variety and flexibility in terms of performance than standard stand-alone hardware solutions like CDJ-2000 and DJM-900.
What the future holds
Recently, Native Instruments has come up with a brand new futuristic form of DJing – Stems files. Stems files allows DJs to control separate elements like vocals, bass, synths and vocals independently, expanding live performance possibilities to the maximum.
For those seeking unique performances and a signature style, external MIDI devices will be the main drivers of the craft. In recent years DJs like Madeon (see featured image above) have hugely popularized Launch-pads and MPCs within the DJ community.
Finally, there are some future trends towards holographic tables. Deadmau5 has already done amazing performances on large transpiration glass touchscreen decks. It looks futuristic and is purely based on modern touchscreen interfaces.