How-to-DJ FAQ

Last edit by djnutz, Experienced pro user on Wed 12 Oct 11 @ 1:09 pm

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Last Changed June 07/2010 BY: Hippydog

Forum FAQ
Frequently Asked Questions collected from the Forums.

Editor: Any proposed changes should be done in RED, before made permanent..

See this post for advice http://www.virtualdj.com/forums/6288/Mix_lessons/DJ_MIXING___basic_-_advanced_-_pro.html

I have read pages upon pages of questions, problems, "how-do-I's," etc that I have decided to try and bring a lot of answers to all these questions to a singular post. Sure there are a guides here and everywhere else on how to do this and that, yet the same questions are always asked. If you feel I have missed something or if you know a better/different way, send me a PM. Let's get started!

How do I get started mixing?
This seems to be a big one. The simple answer is make the down beats line up on EVERY down beat between two songs. What is really being asked is,
"How do I sound like all the awesome DJ's I have seen and heard?"
There is only one way.


Then when you think you have it down, practice some more. You can't just go out and buy the shoes that Kobe Bryant uses and just expect to play like him without putting in the time and effort. Same thing applies. Just because you go out and buy the gear and the media doesn't mean DJ'ing will just happen. Also, YOU DON'T HAVE TO BEAT MIX!!!! Song selection is WAY more important than beatmixing. Unless your name is Tiesto, Deadmau5, Etc, you are going to have to research your crowd you plan to play for and make sure you can actually pick the right songs to play. The big names like those mentioned can show up and play whatever they please and people will come to watch. But I can guarantee you that at one point they started just like you. I would also suggest heading to your local bookstore and read up on music theory. The patterns and ways songs are constructed needs to be understood to be able to mix at THE RIGHT POINT in the song. Is it a 16 count, or a 32 count intro? What key are the two songs in? What about the energy level of the two songs? Just because they have the same tempo, doesn't mean they will blend well.

Being a Professional DJ
This is a pretty common topic. To be considered professional, The brand name on the gear means NOTHING. Any person looking to book me who asks about my gear, I ask them why it matters. Unless I am going to be on a stage and it is more of a situation where I am considered a performing artist, it doesn't matter. Seriously, stop and think about the types of gigs many DJ's commonly do:

Bars with dance floors and nightclubs.

In these situations, if the venue is a bar or club, then they are in business for one thing and one thing ONLY: To sell booze. Period. If you think these places are there for you the DJ, then check your EGO at the door. These places, EVEN with a cover make NOTHING on someone who comes in and doesn't buy a single drink. A bar/club DJ's job isn't to get people in the door, that is the job for the venue's advertising. The Bar/Club DJ is only supposed to make sure those who DO show up, stick around and buy several drinks. We do that by playing the right songs at the right time in order to periodically rotate our dance floor and make sure people have a chance to cycle through the bar and get a drink.

For this type of event, as long as the gear is reliable and fits easily in the space provided, then that is all one needs. If you think you need a brand name, then again, CHECK YOUR EGO AT THE DOOR. As long as it works and gets the job done, that is all that matters. Period. The ONLY people who even give a $hit about what gear you are playing with are other DJ's. If they choose to say something to you, give this reply:

"So you think my gear is crap? Well, I am getting paid right now, how about you?"

Everyone else who goes out to these places just wants to hear great music and drink and dance with their friends. I have done club shows with nothing more than a laptop and a mouse. I have done club shows with 2 Technic 1200's. Hell, I have even used a dual cassette deck. I can count on a single hand the number of people who have said something to me about my gear choice over the last 22 years and have fingers left over. I have heard thousands of compliments on how much FUN people had. I have had bar owners say they saw results in their register ring.

The other type is the wedding/private function

With this type of event, the DJ's job can be much more than just playing music, many times it can involve planning and directing. There are timelines and certain songs and other things that need to happen at certain points in a night. Now the FUN aspect is really the only thing that matters. The challenge with this type of event is having a media library that is diverse enough to please many different demographics that are common to these types of events.

With this event, gear makes ZERO difference. It only has to work. Period. With this type of event you only have ONE chance to get it right. ONE. The gear MUST work EVERY TIME.

With all that said, here is the truth:
The only time ANY event is perfect is when it is planned out on paper. You can plan a playlist for the club with all the best songs. You can plan out every little detail for a wedding reception. A TRUE professional is one who can SEAMLESSLY fix the issues when they crop up. These guys will use gear with better reputations for reliability so they can lessen the issues as much as possible. It's not a question of IF a piece of gear will fail, it's a question of WHEN. A DJ can be working a paid gig at a club with a top of the line Pioneer CDJ and have it fail and sit there freaked out, not knowing what to do. That DJ is NOT professional. Take a DJ with an American DJ, Gemini, or any other entry level gear, have it fail, and they have a plan in place where the people in the room have NO IDEA there was ever a problem. THAT DJ is a professional.

The professional DJ has a business plan.
The Professional DJ pays taxes.
The Professional DJ uses a contract for EVERY event.
The Professional DJ has insurance.
The Professional DJ has a backup plan for EVERY event.
The Professional DJ can handle ANY situation with a cool head and grace.

How do I hook (insert gear here) to (insert gear here)?

My favorite variation to this question is the level of urgency: "Help I have a gig tonight! How do I...?"
If someone came up to you and asked you to drive their car in the Indy500 and you had never driven an Indy car, would you be completely honest and tell them that you have never driven Indy cars before? Most of us drive every single day. Just because we drive doesn't make us race car drivers. Even if you have ever raced a guy from one red light to the next doesn't qualify you to drive an Indy car. Also, you aren't going to log into a Indy forum and ask,

"How do I drive this thing? I have a race this weekend! Help!"

Now DJ'ing is not a +200mph sport. I get that. But before a driver sets foot on the track in Indy, you can bet he's done his homework. He knows his car inside and out. He knows the track. If money were no object, I could go out and buy an Indy car and enter myself in the race. How well do you suppose I will do? I have watched a lot of races. I even played racing video games. Oh yeah, I stole the gas for my car too. It's no biggie. The company that makes the racing fuel get's enough money from other teams and sources. They won't even notice the fact that I didn't pay.

Doesn't sound very professional does it?

Same theory applies yet again. Have a legal media library. Buy decent gear. Read the owners manuals! I will say it again: READ THE OWNERS MANUAL!!! If you buy a used piece of gear, Google is your best friend. Type in the name of the gear and the word "manual." The thing about DJ gear is this: From the analog source to the speakers has not changed much. Speakon, XLR, RCA, and 1/4 Unbalanced are pretty much all there is to it. Where most of the questions come in, they are about how do I get sound out of this computer and into my audio gear? That is the function of a soundcard. This next bit is very important:

A soundcard is simply an analog to digital to analog converter

It takes a digital signal (the mp3/wav/mp4/etc) and converts all those 1's and 0's to analog sound. Likewise, they can take an analog signal (like a microphone, instrument, or a live feed) and convert it to 1's and 0's that the computer understands. Soundcards can be built in (i.e. the headphone jack on your computer) or they can be external. External cards come in a variety of flavors. Some are integrated into MIDI controllers. Some are rackmountable. Some, like Serato's interface, include the software. They can be big, Like the M-Audio Profire 2626 or small like the Numark DJIO. They come with a variety of inputs and outputs. Some communicate with the computer via USB, and some via Firewire.

Now with all those variables, you can see where knowing the specific information about the gear will help answer the question. That being said, here is a simple guideline:

The computer needs a soundcard to get sound out.

If it's an internal card, look at the jacks. 99% of the time it will be a 1/8th (3.5mm) jack. These are typically called headphone jacks. They make cables that have a 1/8 plug on one end and different plugs on the other. With an internal card, most of the time you will need a cable that has a stereo 1/8 plug on one end, and two RCA's on the other. If you don't know what an RCA plug is...
The 1/8 plug will plug into your internal soundcard, usually on the headphone jack. The RCA end (typically red and white) will plug into your mixer. This is where it gets confusing for some. How you setup VirtualDJ will affect what is coming out of those RCA plugs. You can setup your sound configuration as a mono separated and send one deck to the red RCA and the other deck to the white RCA. Then you would need an adapter for the RCA end of the cable.
Most mixers will have a red and a white RCA jack for each channel. This is for stereo sound: Red is the right signal and white is the left. You will need 2 splitters. The splitter has a single female RCA on one end and two male RCA's on the other. Plug the 2 male RCA's from one splitter into the red and white RCA on a channel on your mixer. Do the same with the other splitter on the other channel. Now you have effectively turned each channel from red and white RCA's to a single RCA for each channel. Now take your cable from the computer and whichever RCA you assigned to deck one plugs into the deck one adapter on the mixer. Do the same for deck 2. Now your mixer becomes the volume control for each channel. Your headphone cueing will be done from the mixer as well.

If it's an external card, most of the time they will have RCA jacks on them. It's as simple as red to red and white to white. Now instead of a mono signal, you can send a stereo signal to each channel on your mixer. The adapters you used before are no longer needed. The attacment from sound card to computer will either be USB or Firewire. This is the desired method. Most QUALITY external soundcards offer much better performance that using built in sound.

To buy or not to buy

This is a black and white issue.

VirtualDJ Home is now available completely FREE for non-commercial use.

Designed for home DJs, VirtualDJ Home includes nearly all the features of VirtualDJ Pro, with only a few limitations.
If you don't own or don't plan to use any additional DJ hardware (mixer, turntable, DJ controller or video projector), then VirtualDJ Home will meet all your requirements.

If you do plan on hooking up a mixer, controller, turntables, CDJ's, video projector or TV, then you need to purchase the Full Pro version. If you plan on playing for the public, even if it's at your buddy's house in his basement for a house party, then you need the Full Pro version. The full Pro license also gives you access to all the sweet skins, plugins and updates. FREE! FOR LIFE! If you want to be taken seriously as a professional DJ and if you want to be truly respected as a peer on these forums, then going pro is the only way to go.


If you are still reading all this, here is my final bit of advice. Learn how to communicate with proper spelling, grammar, punctuation, etc. This is not a cell phone text message. Communicating properly will get your questions answered much quicker. I don't care if you are 14 or 40, communicating properly not only helps here, but when you sit down with prospective clients, it's important to sound professional. Walk into a meeting with a bride to be or a bar owner and spew out a bunch of street slang, you are likely to lose out on the gig. This is a business and if you expect to be treated with professional respect, you need to communicate as such.

You are ALWAYS on stage.

You never know who might be watching and listening. It really doesn't matter if it's Facebook, the mall, the gas station, or at a gig, your next client could come from anywhere. Be mindful of what you say and who you say it to. Mom's advice: "If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all." This should be your golden rule. In addition to the gigs I book for myself, I also do work for 3 different DJ companies in my town. How did I become the "go to" guy for 3 competitors? I treat them all with respect. I don't share information about any of them with the others. And I am always ready when they call.

So keep this in mind before you post on Facebook or message boards, hit send on that email, or cut someone off in traffic: That could be your next client.

The Professional DJ knows and lives by the DJ Golden Rule:

You are ALWAYS on stage. Always. Act accordingly.
I hope this helps you succeed!

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