Learning to DJ: Your Guide to DJ Software
As part of your journey learning to DJ and into the music industry, you will need to become familiar with the different DJ software options out there, the benefits of each one and how to use them.
There are many online courses and videos that offer crash courses in DJ software and how to use the different interfaces. While some of the courses on offer are free, others are not.
Whichever option you choose, it’s most certainly worth the time, effort and potentially money invested to ensure that you learn to mix and create the music you want. In this helpful article, we’ll introduce you to some of the most well-known and industry-standard software options, including the big four: Serato DJ, Rekordbox DJ, Traktor and Virtual DJ.
DJ Software: An Introduction
At the end of the day, just about every DJ software option has the features and capability you’ll need for DJing. Of course, there are always personal preferences that might make one more suitable than another.
Fortunately, many of the leading software manufacturers offer free versions so you might be able to even try them before you buy. We also recommend watching YouTube videos on any software under consideration so you can see them in action.
It is also a good idea to research and settle on the right software before you choose a DJ controller, as the different interfaces and compatibility might affect your choice of controller.
The team here at DJ City are always on hand, so if you need more guidance or advice make sure to reach out today by giving us a call.
A Brief Guide to DJ Software
Serato is among the most commonly used DJ software options for DJs. With a smooth interface, this software is designed to work well with tons of third-party hardware. If you’re looking for tight compatibility and seamless integration with little to no setup, then Serato is a good option.
Like many software developers, the team behind Serato have also made a free version, called Serato DJ Lite. This intuitive software allows for two-channel mixing and works with a variety of controllers as well.
With the Serato DJ Pro version, you get access to many more features and a full professional suite of options. If you’re after the Pro version but not sure you have the budget, there are free trial versions available. Plus, some licensed hardware can come with Serato DJ Pro included for free as well.
The software interface of Serato is designed to allow for digital music mixing and digital vinyl mixing. The visual interface offers waveform beatmatching and additional information about the system’s sound production.
Uniquely, Serato also has a mobile app called Pyro which offers some stellar features including automatic song fading and access to a huge list of collected songs and tracks from other artists.
Virtual DJ has been around and used in the industry for a long time. Thanks to a series of software upgrades, the current version is excellent. Don’t worry though, when you purchase Virtual DJ, you get the upgrade for free. This isn’t always a given for DJ software so it’s a real bonus.
There are multiple versions of the software including personal and professional versions, which cost different amounts. Many DJs who are just beginning or are new to DJ software, in general, opt to use Virtual DJ for several reasons, one of the main ones being that they offer over 100,000,000 downloads.
In fact, the layout of the interface includes two turntables for mixing vinyl or CDs, a view bar for the multiple audio tracks and a central mixer. The graphical display on the screen visualizes the live sound in waveforms allowing you greater management of your music.
Importantly, as well, Virtual DJ can be used with a variety of controllers, generic or custom.
Mixx is one of the only DJ software options that are completely free in its full version. While there might be other software better suited to your needs and music-making ambitions, Mixx is an excellent choice for cutting your teeth and getting started and is compatible with heaps of DJ hardware, but you will need to buy the control vinyl.
In terms of its interface and features, Mixx is fairly standard with a display/control at the top for easy access to waveform displays, decks, mixers, effects, and your inputs. Over the years, developers have helped to enhance this free software by including things like harmonic mixing and beatmatching. Additionally, Mixx can read just about all the commonly used audio formats, so this free software is a good starting point for just about any DJ.
djay PRO software is available in both a free and paid version, including a free downloadable app for iPhones and iPads. What’s the difference between the two versions? The free one is quite basic in its features but does offer an auto-mix mode and five foundational effects. While it might be good for house party playlists, a serious DJ will probably be looking at an ongoing subscription (there is no once-off fee option) to access the full range of performance features. Fortunately, djay PRO is very affordable as far as DJ software goes.
What does the full version of djay PRO offer? In addition to the basic loops, hot cues, and rolls of the free version, you can plug and play the software with dozens of DJ controllers and access a variety of settings and mixing features.
As far as interfaces go, the two virtual turntables come with a working motor stop/start and a tonearm. There are two deck view options including a four-deck and a two-deck view. While good for preparing a single deck with an easy-to-use interface, this piece of software doesn’t allow you to load any of your own loops or samples.
Ableton Live offers a lot of benefits but it’s not for everyone. Why? Ableton, unlike other software such as Serato or Traktor, requires a significant amount of track preparation. This means that if you’re the type of DJ that focuses on your mixing, Ableton will work great. If, however, your set is emphasized by the tunes you choose to play, Ableton might be too restrictive.
For the creative mixers amongst you, Ableton has plenty to offer with two main screens as part of its interface, dubbed the Arrangement View and the Session View. The Arrangement View displays a horizontal timeline of your music clips and tracks like more traditional types of software. Whereas the Session View is arranged in grids to represent all the tracks that make up your live set. These two viewing options make for convenient and intuitive production of remixes and other exclusive tracks.
Ableton also allows you to exercise flexibility in the arrangement of your tracks on the interface and connection with a range of DJ controllers.
Rekordbox is up there with the most popular options for DJ software on the market. Excellent for music management including importing music, playlist creation, setting cue points and other set preparation work, you have the option of using the digital interface to virtually mix your music or connect it with a compatible hardware device. The interface includes 2-channel audio for easy music control and scratching.
The best part is that all of that can be done in the free version. While there is a paid version with extra features like cloud sync, performance features and DVS support, there’s plenty you can do with the free version.
A product of Pioneer DJ, one of the largest manufacturers of hardware for DJs, Rekordbox is a reliable and reputable option for mobile, home, and professional DJs.
Traktor, along with Rekordbox and Serrato, rounds out the most used DJ software. Particularly popular for techno music mixing, this piece of software offers excellent features for performing DJs.
While you will have to pay for the Traktor Pro, the demo version is free and available for you to try. Once you do upgrade to the Pro, the software can work without hardware or in conjunction with compatible controllers and the like.
Traktor does have some limitations thanks to its tight software-to-hardware compatibility, and while some features that are ubiquitous to other software are missing, it has a range of excellent FX and innovative features. All of this is accessible through an excellent interface of 4 virtual decks, track alignment in grids, phase alignment options and waveform display to help with visual mixing.
Contact DJ City Today
If you’re still unsure which DJ software or interface is best suited to your needs, we’re here to help. Just give the team at DJ City a call and we’ll not only talk you through your options but also help you find the right online courses and video tutorials to get you up and mixing as soon as possible!